by Harry McArthur
Stirling Clansmen 13-6 Loughborough Students
The Clansmen’s first home game of the new season saw them play host to one of their bitter rivals, the Loughborough Students. The match was a tight, low scoring affair with both defences running the match.
It was a cold and wet day in Stirling, which impacted on the offensive gameplans of both teams. The weather was a significant factor in the first half in a very dull display, the first two quarters remaining scoreless for both teams.
Both offences struggled to move the ball, primarily sticking to the ground game and rarely throwing the pigskin. Even when both offences looked like coming to life, their momentum was halted by flags and ensured a quiet first half.
In spite of the uneventful first half one man shone through and took the spotlight; Clansmen free safety Ashley Hopkinson had a field day, racking in a hat-trick of interceptions before the halftime whistle blew. There was also an interception in favour of the Students in the only other real talking point of the half.
The third quarter followed a similar path as the previous two and the game remained tied at 0-0. There were numerous punts from both teams, and whilst in Loughborough territory the Clansmen went for it on fourth and three but could not convert, meaning the match was scoreless going into the final quarter of regulation time.
The fourth quarter finally saw some action and the game came alive. Stirling took the lead through a reception from last week’s man of the match, Nathaniel Prince. Garcia saw that Prince had outwitted the press coverage and threw the ball deep into the endzone, where Prince caught it and stayed in bounds for the touchdown. The PAT was not converted, meaning that Stirling only held a narrow 6-0 lead, with only seven minutes left on the clock.
The Students took advantage of the time they had left and manufactured a well-constructed drive, which resulted in a touchdown. After making some good gains on the ground the Loughborough Students converted on a pass from the 28-yard line, which caught out the Stirling defence and saw Loughborough tie the game with only a few minutes left on the clock. However, the special teams of Stirling forced a fumbled snap and Penny crashed through and made a tackle on the kick-holder from Loughborough, meaning that with not long to go the score was tied at 6-6.
The rest of the quarter was uneventful, until the final play. On the last play, from just inside the Clansmen half, Loughborough tried a hail-mary. This resulted in Hopkinson’s fourth pick of the match, a truly astonishing figure in such a tight match. This resulted in the game clock ticking down and expiring, leading to the Clansmen’s first overtime battle in over four years.
The overtime system works the similarly to college rules in America, so both teams have an equal opportunity. The Clansmen offences took to the field first, from 25 yards out, and were presented the chance to score first. They did just that and to full effect.
The team moved the ball steadily towards the endzone, taking nine plays, before eventually punching in. Prince again beat his man and did magnificently well the catch the ball and keep possession of it to confirm the score for Stirling. The PAT was good and one final defensive stop was required to grant Stirling the win.
After some great defensive efforts on the first three downs, Penny made a great stop on third by swatting down the ball in the endzone, Loughborough needed to convert on fourth down to keep the game alive. However some great pressure by the defensive line led to defensive tackle Conner Rimington forcing a fumble on the snap, and was a game winning play, that ensured Stirling’s 13-6 victory.
A tense game that was down to the wire saw the Clansmen strike victorious after a near impeccable defensive display. Despite some terrific plays from Prince, catching both touchdowns, Penny, who made some key defensive plays from cornerback, and Rimington, who commanded the D-Line all game and made the game winning play, this game’s MVP has to go to Ashley Hopkinson for his incredible defensive display.
After their first win of the season to go 1-1 the Clansmen now have two weeks off before playing host again. This time they will face off against the Durham Saints, in a match you really do not want to miss.