Stirling Clansmen 34-22 Nottingham Renegades
by Harry McArthur
For such a high scoring affair, it was a very slow first half. Clansmen kicker Kerr Thomson put the only points on the board by converting a field goal midway through the first quarter, meaning Stirling went in 3-0 up at halftime.
The only other talking points came on defence, where Hopkinson added to his incredible interception rate this season by picking off two passes in the first half, and Conner Rimington got two sacks and caused havoc non-stop for the Renegades playing on both the offensive and defensive lines.
After a slow first half, the action really started getting interesting in the third quarter. The Clansmen received the ball and it was not long before they punched the ball into the endzone. From the 5-yard line a fade pass lofted high to the back of the endzone was magnificently plucked out the air by wide receiver Prince above a Nottingham cornerback. The PAT was fumbled so the score stuck at 9-0 in favour of Stirling.
Then saw one of the longest drives of the season for the Renegades, as they marched from their own 5 yard line, with multiple flags on both teams and third down conversions to score, their running back scoring from a passing play from the 6 yard line. A blocked PAT meant that Stirling held a 9-6 lead.
However, just before the end of the third quarter, the Clansmen scored again. Running back Thomas Campbell, who has played really well throughout the season so far, powered through the Nottingham defence from the 40 yard line for a rushing touchdown. The PAT was good, meaning that Stirling ended the third quarter with a slender 16-6 lead.
The Renegades refused to back down and kept fighting, soon finding themselves on the scoreboard once again. After recovering a fumbled punt return in the Stirling half, which set them up in great field position, they took full advantage. They scored a touchdown, the QB finding a wide receiver on a slant route from the 8 yard line. This time the PAT was kicked but missed to the left, meaning the score was sitting at 16-12.
Following back to back punts, the game seemed to have settled down. Despite this, the starting QB for the Clansmen on the day, Alex Crowe, found the regular starting QB, Garcia, who was filling in at wide receiver, for a massive 40 yard gain down the sideline. This set them up in field goal range, where Thomson converted his second field goal of the game to make it a seven point (19-12) lead with less than five minutes to go.
The end of the game was centred around the game’s MVP, Ashley Hopkinson. On the Renegades first play on offence they tried to throw the ball to the flats. Hopkinson recognised this, hopped onto the ball before it got to the receiver, and on his third interception of the game he scored a pick six. With Thomson applying the point after the score stood at 26-12.
After this play, back to back punts saw the Renegades with the ball on their own 5-yard line, and the Clansmen captain Kovacs scored his first points of the season. Great pressure from the defensive line saw a Nottingham running back forced back into his own endzone, where Kovacs wrapped him up and threw him to the ground for the first Clansmen safety of the season. A safety scores two points so the Clansmen lead by 28-12.
A quick touchdown scored by the Renegades, a deep lofty pass thrown towards the endzone followed by a smart two point conversion, left Nottingham with a chance to still win the game. After a failed onside kick, which gave Stirling possession, the game seemed over. However a forced three and out by the Renegades gave them the ball backed up deep in their own territory, meaning they had the chance to potentially go up and tie, and maybe even win, the game.
After a flag brought them back even further, there was only eight seconds left on the clock, meaning they only had one play left. Ashley Hopkinson got his fourth interception of the match, and second pick-six, this one being a walk-off touchdown, leaving the final score to be 34-22.
There were some magnificent plays from players on offence and defence; Klein got recognition for his consistency of picking up key first downs, Calvache, at middle linebacker; played controlled and smart football the entire game; and Rimington got three sacks and played on both sides of the ball. However, the MVP must go to Hopkinson, who scored 12 points on defense and is now averaging over two interceptions a game this season.
A second win of the season leaves last year’s national runners up in the second seed for the playoffs at the midpoint of the season. There is still a lot to play for and, in a division as sporadic as this one, the Clansmen still have ambitions of retaining the Northern Championship after the winter break.