Stirling Clansmen 10-7 Durham Saints
Before the match it was predicted to be a classic, between the two best university teams at the moment. On the field Durham were unbeaten in ten games, despite their controversial 2-6 record and the Clansmen were appearing in their fourth consecutive national final. The game certainly did not disappoint.
A low scoring first half saw the Clansmen lead 3-0 at the end of the second quarter. Kicker Kerr Thomson converted a 31 yard field goal to put up the only points in the first half, which was scored on the Clansmen’s first drive.
Despite the low scoring, the first half contained a lot of talking points. The game, especially in the first half, was all about the run game. Powerback Thomas Campbell looked unstoppable as he consistently picked up first downs.
Clansmen QB Donat Garcia also gained his fair share of yards on the ground. The Clansmen had the chance early in the second quarter to give themselves a 6-0 lead; however a missed field goal, which went narrowly to the left of the goalposts, kept the score at a slim 3-0 in favour of the Stirling outfit.
The Durham QB throughout the game gained a lot of yards by scrambling out of the pocket and gaining rushing yards. This seemed to be the only way Durham could move the ball, and late into the second quarter he managed to get the Saints into field goal range. However Bence Kovacs blocked the kick, which Penny caught and returned to midfield, from which the Clansmen chewed out the rest of the clock before halftime.
The only other talking points of the half came from the Clansmen defence. Emmanuel Bawa, running back as well as safety, got an interception, and Josh Penny broke up a certain touchdown in the endzone. By the second half, the scoreline remained unchanged at 3-0.
The second half continued with the same intensity, and the same game plan from each team, ground and pound the football. A methodical drive from Durham saw them eventually set up with a first and goal on the Stirling 6 yard line. After some solid stops and a flag, Durham was set up on 4th and goal, from the 11 yard line. They opted to go for it instead of kick the field goal. Will Underwood was the cornerback who ensured the pass went incomplete.
After the long drive from Durham the following Clansmen drive took the game into the final quarter. Stirling punted the ball and the Saints punt returner set their offense to start on the Clansmen 42 yard line. This drive saw Durham put up their first score of the game.
For their only passing gain of over 10 yards in the game the Durham QB managed to find his wide receiver who managed to come down with the ball in a double team, after running a post route. This play, a throw from midfield, set them up with a first and goal from the four yard line. On their first play, a QB draw, saw Durham punch in for the first touchdown of the game. A converted PAT saw Durham lead 7-3.
The Clansmen had 10.55 left to claw their way back into the game. Through some clutch play from QB Donat Garcia and running back Thomas Campbell they did just that. Campbell just could not seem to be brought down and powered through the Saint’s defence to pick up several first downs.
The offense was so clutch they managed to convert on three fourth down opportunities in the one drive, the most clutch was from tight end Felix Klein who caught the ball on a drag and made the first down by mere inches. The eventual score was a QB draw from Donat Garcia, who hit the outside and barrelled into the endzone for the Clansmen touchdown. Thomson was good on the PAT, which gave Stirling a 10-7 lead, with only 3.15 left on the clock.
The Durham offense came to the field in great field position. A great kick return set up Durham on the Clansmen 39. This confirmed one thing: This was going to be an epic finish.
By the time the two minute warning came the Clansmen defence were pinned to their own 22 yard line, it was second down when the two minute warning struck. At this stage each team had two timeouts left.
After some quick gains on the ground the Saints had first and goal from the Clansmen six yard line with 1.11 on the clock, whilst the clock was ticking. A holding call on Durham eventually set up third and goal from 16 yard out. After a fade to the endzone was well broken up by cornerback Penny, Durham was on fourth and goal from the 16 yard line.
The field goal unit, and the Clansmen’s field goal block unit, stepped on the field. A converted field goal meant that the game would be going to overtime. A miss would result in the Clansmen winning the title.
Before the climax of the game there were some other talking points of notice. One of the most clutch plays of the final came from a combination of Donat Garcia and wide receiver Prince. The QB precisely threw the ball on a plate for Prince, who had burned the cornerback defending him.
This helped the Clansmen chew a lot of clock, as they were set up in good field position. The other two talking points of the game came on defence. The first saw the Clansmen’s ‘muscle in the middle’ Masayila mark his final performance with a heavy hit to the Saint’s running back for a loss of four yards. A massive Kovacs sack in the third quarter halted a Durham drive.
Now for the final play of the game. With only four seconds left on the clock the Saints called their final timeout and opted to kick a field goal. However some immense pressure from the Clansmen field goal unit forced a fumble on the snap and the kickholder was blown up in the backfield. With this the Clansmen won the British National Final.
There were great plays on both offense and defence, so a lot of players could have been considered the MVP. Penny was immense on defence, preventing the receiver he was covering to any catches and breaking up two potential touchdowns in the endzone.
Campbell was elite on the ground, broke through several tackles ad posed a constant threat to the Durham defence throughout. However the MVP was awarded to the man who ran an efficient offense on the ground and made some clutch passes in the air, and even scored the winning touchdown, was the Clansmen quarterback Andres Donat Garcia.
A superb performance, that showed the resilience, character and bravery of the Clansmen, that already been demonstrated throughout the season, seen the team win their third National Championship. This marked Coach Victor Peredo’s first Championship whilst being Head Coach and winning is a tradition that he has vowed to continue.