by Harry McArthur
Stirling Clansmen 27-21 Derby Braves
The game started off in the best possible way for the Clansmen. After Josh Penny made three tackles on the first four plays of the match, free safety Ashley Hopkinson managed to get an interception.
This set up the Clansmen offense in excellent field position, just inside the Derby half. Soon enough the Clansmen had the ball in the endzone, however it was brought back due to a penalty. The team then went for it on fourth down and failed to convert, meaning that Derby started with the ball on their own 17 yard line.
Derby built on the momentum of this fourth down stop and ended up scoring twice in quick concession. A methodical drive saw them move the ball fluidly through the air. They scored a touchdown on this drive; a fade thrown to the back of the endzone was brought down well. A two point conversion was then completed giving them an 8-0 lead.
Then the Braves quickly added a field goal to make the score 11-0. This sparked some life into the Stirling team, however, and they responded with a touchdown. Some great work on the ground by running back Campbell saw the offense move up the field with ease.
It was Campbell who scored the touchdown. From the 12 yard line Campbell burst through the defence and into the endzone. The resulting PAT was not converted meaning an 11-6 lead for the Braves.
With hardly any time left on the clock the Braves added to their tally. Another touchdown in the air, this time a receiver found on a corner route punched it in for a touchdown. A missed PAT meant that going into halftime the Clansmen were behind 18-6.
There were flashbacks of last season’s match against Durham, the team was down at halftime and hadn’t got going in the first half. However that was all about to change.
Stirling got the ball to start the third quarter and immediately cut into the deficit. Some massive gains on the ground from Lightbody and Campbell set the team up with a first and goal from the six yard line. On first down Samuelsson ran a post route and caught the ball for a touchdown. The PAT was good and the score was now 18-13 in favour of the Braves.
That was the only score of the third quarter however after forcing a punt the Clansmen got the ball at the very start of the final quarter. On this drive Stirling took their first lead of the game.
Again utilising the running game the Clansmen fluidly moved the chains, and the Braves were beginning to tire. From the Braves 20 yard line it was the quarterback, Donat Garcia, who scored the go-ahead touchdown. On a power play the QB darted through the defence like a bullet, nobody got anywhere near catching him. The PAT was again good and the Clan were ahead, a score of 20-18.
Derby were quick to respond. A clever trick play, a pass to the running back who then through it downfield, got a massive gain for the Braves, setting them up deep in Clansmen territory. They failed to score a touchdown, but regained the lead by converting another short field goal, making it 21-20.
One of the Clansmen’s big play men stepped up on the very next play on offense. The Stirling offense started on their own 40 after a good kick return. On their first play Lightbody carried the ball on a jet sweep, bounced to the outside and managed to go all the way for a touchdown, a whopping 50 yard rushing touchdown. The PAT was again good and this meant Stirling lead 27-21.
Then the Braves marched the ball down the field, knowing all the needed was a touchdown and a PAT to take the lead late in the game. They managed to get the ball to the Clansmen 6 yard line for a first and goal. However some solid defence held them to fourth down. Just before going for it the officials signalled for the two minute warning.
On the biggest play of the season, that would decide who would go through to the national final, up stepped Josh Penny. He read the play beautifully, intercepted the ball away from the receiver he was covering and took the ball all the way to the Derby 16 yard line before being brought down. The Clan then chewed out the rest of the clock and the match finished 27-21.
This win was an excellent example of the spirit and heart of this Clansmen team, it was this determination that saw them through to the final. There were too many solid performances to whittle it down to a man of the match, however the play of the day has to go to Josh Penny with his clutch interception, if he’d never got it the Clansmen’s season was potentially over.
The Stirling Clansmen now have the final to look forward to on March 26, where they will make the trip down to Worcester to face off against the Durham Saints.