Sport

Champions start off excellently to see off Braves

Derby Braves 19-28 Stirling Clansmen

For the third consecutive season, the Clansmen started off the season with a tie against the Derby Braves. The last opener ended in a 40-37 thriller in favour of Derby so everyone was anticipating another great game.

Stirling started on offence but the first drive had nothing to show for it. Derby failed to respond and the action never started until Stirling’s second offensive drive. Starting on their 37 yard line, after a terrible Braves punt of only eight yards, Thomas Campbell took control of the game. On the first play of the drive Campbell powered through the line and got loose for a 40 yard gain. Then a few plays later Campbell found his way into the endzone; an excellent power run to the left side from 11 yards out for the score. After converting the PAT it was 7-0 Stirling and Campbell had all seven points.

D-line hungry

Credit: Katie Stepk

Derby responded well and soon levelled up the game. After looking dangerous in the passing game, with two passes of over 20 yards caught, the Braves were set up in the redzone.  From the 13 yard line they ran a sweep to the right from the left hash and after a missed tackle the running back had an open route to the endzone. Converted PAT, 7-7.

The only significant play for the rest of the quarter was a great catch down the sideline for sophomore Antonio Capasso for a massive gain. However this drive resulted in a recovered fumble for Derby and led to the end of the first quarter in a tied game.

The next drive for the Braves was not well worked at all. First down was an incompletion, followed by a run for loss on second down. On third down they fumbled the ball but recovered it and on fourth down they fumbled the punt so gave Stirling possession in their own redzone. A second rushing touchdown for Campbell ensured they were punished for their mistake. A second good PAT for Campbell meant 14 points for him and the score 14-7 in favour of the boys in green.

The Braves had three minutes to get back on level terms but things went from bad to worse for the offense. After chunking together some nice plays free safety, and last season’s team MVP, Ashley Hopkinson grabbed an interception with an incredible return. He picked off the loose throw in the Clansmen’s redzone and ran it to the Derby 17, on the way he juked out a Derby O-lineman with a majestic spin move and followed his blockers up to the two yard line. On the second play on this short field drive QB Alex Crowe kept the ball on a read option play and dived in the endzone for a touchdown. Another good kick meaning a 21-7 lead.

Ashley spin move

Credit: Katie Stepek

Going into half time Stirling were good value for their lead, a 14 point swing within two minutes of in game time helped massively though. The last talking point of the first half was a last second fake field goal attempt for Derby being snuffed out, ensuring the Clansmen took a two touchdown lead into the halftime break.

The start of the second half was much like the start of the first, back to back drives for both teams resulting in punts. Then on the third drive of the half, Derby scored their second touchdown. After an incredibly long drive that started from their own 36, the Braves methodically marched down the field, and with some help from the referee’s flags in the redzone, punched in a touchdown with a pass up the seam from the seven yard line. A long snap on the PAT kept Stirling eight points ahead halfway through the third quarter.

It went from bad to worse as on the next Clansmen drive starting quarterback Crowe went down injured. It was a blatant facemask that was overlooked and Stirling were forced to punt the play after giving Derby good field position. The next drive ended up being decisive; and it swayed in Stirling’s favour.

After some nice plays in the air Derby had moved the ball into Stirling territory. It had gotten to fourth down with only seven seconds left in the fourth quarter. Some intense pressure from the D-line and some good coverage the pass attempt went incomplete. From there the Stirling offense took over and the Campbell train started moving again. A massive play resulted from his initiative, after a fumble on our jetsweep Campbell picked up the ball and reversed the run for a 20 yard gain. However only a few plays later, confusion in the backfield caused a fumble, which resulted in a Derby scoop and score, a fumble recovery that went nearly 60 yards for a touchdown. The resulting two point conversion failed so the Clansmen held a slender two point lead (21-19) with around eight minutes to go.

Bawa touchdown

Credit: Katie Stepek

After this mishap it seemed Derby had all the momentum but Campbell just could not be stopped. He trucked through the defence and eventually into the endzone. On this touchdown drive Campbell bullied the Braves with his sheer power, and juked them out with his slick footwork. The touchdown was scored on a seven yard run to the left where he just barrelled through two helpless Derby defenders; it seemed nothing could have stopped him on that drive. Again Campbell converted on the PAT, meaning he scored a whopping 22 points himself, and this ended up being the final score of the match, in a 28-19 victory.

The rest of the match was just solid defence from the Clansmen and chewing the clock with the running game, the other two backs Bawa and Lubangu seeing some touches. The highlight in the final five minutes was Bawa converting a third down on the ground; converting a third and 25.

A fantastic start to the season for Peredo’s men sees them take a comfortable win in one of their hardest matches of the regular season. MVP had to go to Thomas Campbell; he looked different class from the start and fully deserved his three touchdowns. Next up for Stirling is a home matchup against division new boys Leeds Carnegie Beckett.

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