MATCH REPORT: Phoenix 51 – 21 Merseyside Nighthawks

Tamworth’s third game of the season saw them on the road again, this time at Merseyside Nighthawks who like the Phoenix were two wins from two this season. The Nighthawks will be looking to improve on their impressive debut season in the Premier Division after they finished 2nd behind Tamworth and lost to eventual Britbowl winners London Warriors in the semi-finals. The ‘Nix, who were making the trip comparatively light on numbers, would have had to have been on their game to avoid their first regular season defeat since 2015.

Any potential nerves were settled early on however, when #5 Elliot Walters caught the 17 yard pass and snuck in at the pylon for the score, after he made two first downs during the drive to get into the red-zone.

RB Elliot Walters breaking away on another run.

RB Elliot Walters breaking away on another run. Photo courtesy of Nick Mortimer.

Merseyside would have keen to grab a quick response and they got down the field despite some excellent pressure from the defensive linemen giving the opposition QB no time whatsoever. The Pressure eventually paid off when defensive talisman, #68 Stephen Gregory, got to the quarterback and forced the fumble that was well recovered in a pile of bodies by Wayne Drew.

Momentum was well with Tamworth now and they doubled their lead soon after despite some sloppy penalties. QB Pat Daley throwing the 53 yard touchdown pass to wide receiver #87 William Hussey who expertly got ahead of the cornerback to catch the ball coming over his shoulder as he sauntered into the endzone.

The defence were on fire and they handed the ball back to the O after only two plays when the Nighthawks QB rifled a sloppy pass way over his receivers head which was well picked off by #19 Hilton Forsyth who managed to grab the ball despite being unsighted and with minimal reaction time. With such a short field it wasn’t long before Tamworth had their third score of the 1st quarter, Marcus Boswell getting his name on the score sheet with the 12 yard catch.

Merseyside did get points on the board in their first drive of the second quarter however; it took some hard work and some trickery to do so with a fake punt rescuing the drive at its midway point. The quarterback kept the ball for the 1-yard run to the endzone.

The second quarter ended up turning into a shootout when Tamworth scored again, this time after a good return on the kick off by #25 Deji Ali, putting the offense past the halfway line and Marcus Boswell catching for his second touchdown of the game. The Nighthawks had an almost instant reply with an absolute peach of a pass to a wide-open receiver, going from deep in their own half to the goal line. The ball was punched in on the next play and that completed the scoring for the half leaving the score at 27-14.

First blood of the second half was drawn by the Nighthawks, which left them within touching distance for the first time in the game but this was to be the first and last time they came close to the Phoenix as it was to be the last time they crossed the goal line.

The Phoenix began to turn the screw. That man Elliot Walters again marching the offense forward with a nice 38 yard run helped by some excellent downfield blocking. We were still yet to have a rushing touchdown however as #89 Will Hussey did well to hold on to the 6-yard touchdown pass.

The defence came very close to getting their own points onto the scoreboard when #44 Chris Thacker, on a blitz, waltzed through the Merseyside offensive line and hit the QB who fumbled the ball. Defensive End Wayne Drew picked the ball up and made it to the 4-yard line before being brought down. The first rushing TD of the game was scored by #9 Adam Hope.

It was all about Walters and Daley for the final touchdown of the game. The former getting into opposition territory with a nice 25-yard run only stopped by the last man forcing him out of bounds or it would have been to the house. Pat Daley threw successive long passes for a combined 50 yards to put the ball on the goal line. Elliot Walters fittingly getting the points for a well earned touchdown.

Completing the scoring late in the game and grabbing the second “50 Burger” of the season was #17 Alex Lenkowski with the short field goal.

The eventual score line of 51-21 was a fair reflection on the game, a game where the linemen reigned supreme, the offensive men giving the backs all the room they needed, creating channels, and the defensive front 7 constantly pressuring the opposition QB into making costly mistakes.

The defensive front were dominant throughout the day.

The ‘Nix defensive front swarm the Nighthawks QB. Photo courtesy of Kevin Jefferson.

Tamworth, who now stand clear at the top of the Premier North at 3-0, welcome a new look, and bottom of the table, Sheffield Giants side to Atherstone on June 4th for a 14:30pm kick off.

Written by Dan Myatt.             

MATCH REPORT: Phoenix 52-0 Lancashire Wolverines

After a long wait and much anticipation Tamworth Phoenix kicked off their 2017 season with an emphatic 52-0 win at home to a Lancashire Wolverines side who are in a rebuilding process after a tough season last year. There have been a few comings and goings at the ‘Nix too, with several of last year’s squad now plying their trade in Europe as well as some new talent aiming to make a name for themselves at the highest level in the UK.

It didn’t take long, on a glorious afternoon for Tamworth to notch up their first points of the year with a delightful pass from QB Pat Daley to #80 Tom Morris in the first play from scrimmage for a 67 yard touchdown.

Tom Morris snagged 2 TDs in his Premiership debut.

Tom Morris snagged 2 TDs in his Premiership debut. Photo courtesy of Nick Mortimer Photos.

Phoenix had the ball back soon after kick off when a poor pass from the Wolverines QB was picked off by LB Andy Mortimer deep in opposition territory,  with such a short field Tamworth doubled their lead in no time with a 5 yard catch by the wide open Marcus ‘Patches’ Boswell.

Lancashire, looking for any way to get a foothold in the game made a nice pass under pressure downfield to put their offence in the Tamworth half of the field for the first time, but they couldn’t make it count as the Nix defence were all over the Wolverines run game and they were forced to punt.

Soon it was 21-0 and three touchdowns in three series for the offence. After some good work by the talented stable of running backs in the Phoenix arsenal it set up for a delightful three passes for a combined 50 yards for the third and very well worked touchdown as James Hossack provided the catch.

The Tamworth defence remained stingy as ever with some nice tackles in the backfield by the linemen and good coverage down field meant the Wolverines had to punt again handing the ball back to the offence for the fourth time in the 1st Quarter. A beautifully lofted 34-yard pass by the very well protected Pat Daley in the pocket, gave Tom Morris his second TD of the game and the Phoenix a commanding lead and it was only the end of the 1st quarter.

Safety Ant Naughton with his 2nd pick of the day.

Safety Ant Naughton with his 2nd pick of the day. Photo courtesy of Nick Mortimer Photos.

The second quarter was filled with both sides exchanging possession before a muffed punt by Lancashire gave Tamworth excellent field position and another touchdown, this time punched in by #30 Sam Lori-Skinn, the two point conversion was good.

Phoenix were unlucky not to get another score before half time with an excellent 54 yard screen pass only matched by an equally good last ditch tackle by the Wolverine defence.

Former London Blitz man Deji Ali bought an unusually quiet period of play to life at the end of the 3rd Quarter with an excellent 55 yard rushing touchdown made possible by some excellent work by the offensive line in setting the edge and blocking downfield. The PAT was blocked making it 42-0.

Some nice work by new QB Oscar Russell and the running backs gave kicker Alex Lenkowski nice position to make his first field goal of the season mid way through the 4th quarter.

Elliot Walters finished off the scoring and brought up the 50 burger with a nice run down the touchline after the offence had been helped down the field by some silly penalties by the frustrated Lancashire defence.

Tamworth travel to Premier Division new boys Edinburgh Wolves next week (Saturday 13th May, 2.30pm kickoff), who promise a tough game after narrowly missing out on beating Scottish powerhouse East Kilbride in their last game.

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Match report by Dan Myatt.

Phoenix Ready to Continue Their Rise in the 2017 Season

With many teams across the league already opening their season, the defending Premier North champions are yet to play a game. In fact the Phoenix don’t kick off their season until Sunday 7th May. However, that doesn’t mean the team hasn’t been hard at work preparing, with the memories of 2016 still fresh in their minds.

2016 was a season of long awaited highs and gut wrenching lows. Taking the Northern Premiership undefeated was an incredible achievement for the team, something that had been two hard years in the making. The players, coaches and backroom staff had put such effort in to turn the team around. The semi-final defeat at the hands of the Blitz has only fanned the Phoenix flames. The 2017 pre-season has been a great success so far, with the Phoenix adding young talent who are looking to take on a challenge, top coaches around the league joining the club, and a committee that are motivated by success and pushing the standards of American football forward in the Midlands.

As is the case every year, some great players move on from the Phoenix, many of whom this year have gone on to play in Europe. This is very much in line with what the club want to do – develop players to play at their highest possible standard. This season safety Will Hobbs, cornerback Ben Hoban, linebacker Christian Holmes and offensive tackle Jamie Gallagher all moved on to play in Europe. All of which are massive players either side of the ball, but the club couldn’t be happier for them and are always excited to see the next man step up and take on the mantle.

With departures also comes new arrivals. Players from around the country who are looking to challenge themselves at the highest level, receive coaching from some of the best, and compete against the top teams every week. The offence have added majorly to a backfield that was already stacked as Deji Alli (London Blitz), Ryan Reid (Staffordshire Surge) and Dwain Haughton (Sandwell Steelers) join the likes of Adam Hope, Elliot Walters and Alex Lenkowski to make one of the most talented stables of running backs in the country. The defensive line has added some talented depth with the return of Ash Miller and transfers Ovie Jacob Omueda (Sandwell Steelers) and Wayne Drew (Coventry Jets). On the backend of the defence Ant Naughton (Gateshead Senators) and Leos Mikulka (Coventry Jets) are looking to make their marks too.

Phoenix D-Line

The Phoenix have added talent across the defensive line. Photo courtesy of Adelie Hernandez.

As ever though the Phoenix are extremely fortunate to have great links within the university leagues and there’s an exciting amount of talent coming up from the likes of the Birmingham Lions, Loughborough Students, University of Nottingham, Nottingham Trent, Coventry and Warwick who’re all looking to make their marks in the senior league.

After the success of Midnight Mass II, a great team event which helps to build bonds between teammates from the start of the season, the next big event on the calendar was camp. An intense weekend residential which helped put the ‘Nix in the best possible position to succeed from the start of the season.

Coach Hilton continues at the helm to keep the team focused and on course to achieve the clubs long-term goal. Coach Scott is excited to unleash #ProjectHAVOC 3.0 on the league, as last season the Phoenix D outscored 2 Premier North teams and Jason will be looking to do more this year. Lastly, coach Smith. He’s often the unheralded cog in the ‘Nix #R1SE, and is definitely now one of the top offensive minds in the country. Coach Smith is deadly every year with whatever pieces he’s given, and this year he’s got quarterback Patrick Daley under centre again and some scary additions to an offensive that put up 50-burgers for fun in 2016.

Who to Watch Out For

Offence

  • Patrick Daley (QB #7) – The dual-threat QB heads into his third season having already turned heads around the league and at GB. 2,043 passing yards, 34 total TDs (30 passing, 4 rushing), 218 rushing yards (regular season)
  • Ben Burslem (WR #11) – Ben never takes a rep off, at practice and in a game, he’s just as deadly on the deep ball as he is on a jet sweep or even blocking downfield. 557 passing yards, 14 TDs (11 passing, 3 rushing), 15.5 yards/catch.
  • Elliot Walters (RB #27) – An elusive back that has continued to light up the uni league with the Lions. 867 rushing yards, 8 total TDs (7 rushing, 1 passing), 8.6 yards/carry.
Quarterback Patrick Daley

Patrick Daley will be back under centre for this third season. Photo courtesy of Adelie Hernandez.

Defence

  • Tom Tandurella (CB #26) – The veteran cornerback is back for another season. The Phoenix youth product has become one of the nation’s top defensive backs over the years and as the all-time interception leader for the ‘Nix it’s difficult to argue with.
  • Jake Harbon (LB #56) – GB linebacker Harbon is deadly in all phases of the game, a dominating backer that is the stuff of RB nightmares. He led Project Havoc in tackles in 2016.
  • Stephen Gregory (DE #68 (BOOM!)) – Stevie continues to be a dominant force on the d-line, he spent much of last season in the opposing team’s backfield as he led the defence in TFLs.

The road ahead is set to be as much as a challenge as ever. The East Kilbride Pirates always bring a challenge, as they’re a great, well-drilled squad who are always a contender. Merseyside surprised everyone last season and they’ve got some great players on their team. The Giants also seem to be making strides in the off season. As a whole the Premier North improves every year and that’s exciting, as the Phoenix want to keep competing against the best and challenge the London teams for dominance.

“Pre-season has been even better this year with another strong recruitment campaign helped by our off-season OTAs. We went into camp in a much better position than this time last year, and the weekend gave us a fantastic opportunity to get better and closer as a team.” – James Hossack, Club President

Next Sunday sees the annual Inferno (Offence) vs. Havoc (Defence) practice. Kick-off is at 12pm at Atherstone Rugby Club, if you’re interested in joining the team you should absolutely get down to see what the ‘Nix are all about in 2017. You can also get all the latest updates over on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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