Mavs get revenge for last years play off loss, with a 40 - 26 victory over the Sussex Thunder.
Last Sunday saw the latest instalment of one of the fiercest rivalries in British gridiron football as the East Kent Mavericks hosted their bitter adversaries, the Sussex Thunder at their homeground in Aylesham.
Over and above the usual air of intensity that surrounds rivalries from teams in neighbouring counties, Sunday’s match had an added level of meaning for a Mavericks side hellbent on revenge, having been knocked out of the Division I semi-finals in 2012 by the Thunder despite beating the Sussex side twice in the regular season. For the away team, their 2013 campaign had fallen far below expectations, entering Sunday’s contest with a 3-6 record; with the match against the Mavs being the final match of their season, Sussex were left with only pride to fight for, in an attempt to finish their season on a relatively high note – no doubt cherishing the opportunity to potentially derail East Kent’s own playoff push.
With the stage set for a ferocious battle, it was the homeside who struck first, receiving the ball on the opening kickoff and marching their way down the field before capping off their opening possession with quarterback Josh Adamson finding receiver Mark Hughes on a short pass for a touchdown, which after Hughes’ successful conversion kick put the score at 7-0 just minutes after the game began. The momentum carried over to the defense, who quickly shut down the Sussex side’s offense to force an early punt. Unfortunately, the Sussex defense were able to come up with a turnover on the next Maverick drive, which led to a touchdown of their own to tie the score up.
Undaunted, the Mavericks returned fire on the very next possession, making their way deep into Sussex territory with relative ease, with the drive culminating in a second Maverick touchdown on a QB keeper by Adamson, with another successful conversion making the score 14-7. Sussex responded with a sustained drive of their own, managing to put themselves into scoring position in the Maverick red zone. The Thunder offense were unable to close the deal against the staunch Mavericks D, as a Sussex pass was snatched out of the air by defensive back Bij Fard and returned over 60 yards to close the first quarter.
The interception return had put the Mavericks in good position to start the second quarter, but were unfortunately unable to capitalise on the opportunity; nonetheless, the defense remained as solid as always, snuffing out the Sussex offense after a brutal, literally helmet-breaking (yet legal!) hit by linebacker Matt Power stalled a Thunder drive at midfield. The Mavs rewarded the defense’s performance on their next drive, with receiver Chris Townsend catching his first touchdown of the season on a fifteen yard pass from Adamson. Down by fourteen points, the Thunder managed to get a score of their own just before the close of the second quarter, though the home side blocked the subsequent conversion to send the game into half time with a 21-13 scoreline.
The second half began as a quieter affair, with neither side able to initially sustain an offensive drive. Eventually it was the Mavs who claimed the first points of the half, with receiver Luke Jones – who would have over 100 yards receiving on the day – making an end zone grab to extend the Mavs lead to 28-13. Trailing by fifteen points, the Thunder attempted to mount a counter-offensive, but the drive again ended on an interception by Fard on what would have been a touchdown pass. Despite the momentum being on their side, the Mavericks offense failed to find the endzone again in the third quarter, and Sussex took full advantage of their next possession, scoring a touchdown of their own to narrow the score to 28-20 as the game clock turned to the fourth quarter.
Now just a single-score game, Sussex were able to force a punt from the Mavs’ offense to begin the final quarter, before managing to find their way into the endzone. With the Mavs leading by just a two-point margin, Sussex attempted a riskier two-point conversion in an effort to tie the score up, but the Mavericks defense tightened up and quickly shut the play down, preserving the 28-26 scoreline. Buoyed by their teammates’ defensive stand, the East Kent offense hit back on the very next possession, with a long drive down to the field to set up running back Richie “All Day” Bowen to plunge across the goal line for six points, though Sussex were able to block the conversion kick.
Leading 34-28, the game remained tense as the Thunder marched their way deep into Mavericks territory. The defense, however, remained firm once more, and stopped a fourth-down attempt in their red zone to give possession back to their offense. The Mavs quickly found themselves far on the opposite end of the field as Adamson found receiver Robbie McDonald for a 70-yard catch that was stopped just one yard outside the Thunder endzone. With the ball on the Sussex goal line, the day’s scoring for the Mavericks finished the way it began, with Adamson finding Hughes on a short pass for the team’s sixth touchdown of the game.
With time running out in a hurry for the Thunder, the game was effectively sealed on a botched snap by the Thunder’s center in the face of furious pressure from the Kentish defensive line, with the loose ball snatched up by Mavs lineman Sasha Kolakovic. Though Sussex would get one last possession of the ball, the visitors were unable to score again, leaving the final score at 40-26.
The victory not only marked revenge for the Mavericks, knowing they sent their rivals into the long off-season with a loss to cap their year, but also represented the most points, and the most touchdowns, East Kent have scored in a single game all season. More importantly, the win improved the Mavericks’ record to 6-1, guaranteeing them a winning record in their first ever season in the Premiership, keeping them in third place and on-track for a playoff berth. Sunday’s game was the first in a four-game stretch the Mavericks face to end the season; they host the London Blitz at the Aylesham Welfare Leisure Centre on Sunday 18th of August, admission is free.