A young Wildcats squad put up a good fight against the much larger Farnham Knights team in the first round of the Youth Britbowl in Keepmoat Stadium in Doncaster but it wasn’t quite enough to get them through to the next stage.
The current Scottish Conference Champions, the Highland Wildcats started their journey to Keepmoat Stadium on Friday last week in preparation for competing in the National Finals on 21 September. Their first match up was against the South West Champions, a strong Farnham Knights side.
Farnham got off to a good start with a massive run from their running back, which was stopped short of the goal-line by Wildcats player Stephen Mcmeechan. This was only temporary as two plays later the Knights found the endzone opening the scoring.
The Wildcats took over for their first offensive drive and struggled to establish in their running game on the first few plays against the much larger Farnham squad. However an endzone to endzone pass from Quarterback, Jordan Anderson, to Wide Receiver, Haris Ryalls put the Wildcats on the board.
Once again the Knights kept the ball on the ground and powered it up field. The Wildcats defense held them off and eventually Anderson took advantage of a fumbled snapped and dived on the ball to give the Wildcats possession. This was quickly followed with a full field run from Highland Running Back, Mark Pyper taking the Wildcats into the lead.
Farnham felt the pressure from the Wildcats defense again on their next drive and failed to score. The Wildcats struggled on offense and fierce pressure from the Knights Nose Tackle cause a fumble but quick reactions from Wildcats Centre, Colin Hamilton kept the Highland side on offense. However there was no score on the drive and Farnham immediately took control with a full field run for a touchdown.
An interception from the Knights – which was run back for a touchdown – stopped the Wildcats in their tracks and took Farnham into the lead. The Highland offense continued to fight but failed to score in the remainder of the game. Some impressive tackles from Erem Demirel and Chris Shaw and a fumble cause by Mark Pyper ripping the ball from the Knights running backs hand held off the Knights attack but it wasn’t quite enough to give the Wildcats the victory.
FINAL SCORE: Knights 20 – 12 Wildcats
The Wildcats now found themselves against their fellow Scottish team, the Edinburgh Wolves. They decided to rotate their roster around to give some rookie players some valuable game time and experience.
Edinburgh started on the ground with two strong run plays but the Wildcats defense managed to pin them back. A pass from the Wolves placed them in great field position for their Running Back, Jacob Ramsay to power it into the endzone to open up the scoring.
Wildcats back-up quarterback, Euan Crawford stepped onto the field to lead the Wildcats first drive. On the opening play a fumbled snap was quickly recovered by Crawford who managed to get the ball to Pyper who ran the full length of the field to tie the game back up.
Ramsay immediately responded with an endzone to endzone run to bring the Wolves back into the lead.
Both teams failed to score on their next few drives but the Wildcats got a spark when Stephen Mcmeechan made an outstanding full field run to tie the score back up. Then on the extra point Crawford found Demirel in the endzone to bring the Wildcats into the lead.
Just before the end of the first half a pass from Crawford to Pyper set up a Mcmeechan rushing touchdown to extend the Wildcats lead.
The opening drive of the second half saw Quarterback, Euan Crawford evade a strong Edinburgh rush to find Mcmeechan, 25 yards down, field for a completion. Pyper and Mcmeechan continued the drive behind strong blocking from Ewan Sime and Colin Hamilton but failed to get into the endzone.
Edinburgh took over and started to drive up field but pressure from the Wildcats forced the Wolves Quarterback to throw the ball which Pyper took advantage off and made the interception which was returned for a touchdown.
Both teams managed to pick up touchdowns on their next drives.
FINAL SCORE: Wolves 18 – 31 Wildcats
Chris Shaw and Loudon Wheeler were made captains for the third game against the Burnley Tornadoes as they are the longest serving players on the 2013 roster and this was their final game in the Youth Wildcats.
Burnley started on offense and just two plays into the game, Jordan Anderson stripped the ball from a Tornadoes running back and returned it for a touchdown. Demirel caught the ball in the endzone to pick up the extra point.
On the next drive Burnley once again struggled to get started and Demirel picked the ball off and ran back for a touchdown to put the Wildcats two touchdowns in the lead. However Burnley picked up their game and threw the ball long to pick up their first score.
Wildcats took over possession and started with a pass to Centre Colin Hamilton. The drive continued with powerful runs from Stephen Mcmeechan and finished with a Crawford pass to Wide Receiver, Haris Ryalls for a touchdown.
Some great defensive play by Chris Shaw and a tackle in the back field from Ewan Sime held the Tornadoes off in the last drive of the first half.
Burnley got going quickly in the second half with a long pass downfield for a touchdown. They also forced a fumble on the Wildcats next drive and recovered.
Later in the game Burnley once again broke free for another touchdown but some great coverage from Wildcats Defensive player Chris Shaw denied them the extra point.
FINAL SCORE: Burnley 20 – 19 Wildcats
Wildcats Wide Receiver and captain Erem Demirel commented, “Although we lost out in some of the games, I’d definitely want to go back and do it all over again. It was the 3 best games this team have ever played both in performance and enjoyment.”
After the event was finished, Head Coach, Robbie Paulin said, “Although we were knocked out in the first round the team put in an outstanding performance. Our players this year on average are relatively young for this age group so it was a great chance for them to develop against a competitive team like Farnham in the first round. It was good to be able to get a win against Edinburgh today as they were the only Scottish team to beat us earlier in the season. I was really pleased to see Edinburgh making it to Britbowl this year as they’ve worked hard for a number of years and really stepped up in 2013. The Burnley Tornadoes match up was another tight game and it was fantastic to get some of our rookie guys a lot of playing time in the game.
“Steve Whitter (league coordinator) did a fantastic job of organising the event and I’d like to thank him and all the volunteers and officials for the work they put in. I’d also like to thank the other teams coaches and players for making the day such a great atmosphere.”