Thrashers start with a win
Sunday was 19 months in waiting for the Thrashers. After a bitter ending to their 2009 season where the Gladiators manhandled them in the quarter final, Hampshire finally had their opportunity for revenge and a chance to show that they were deserving of their premature promotion to Division 1.
Heavily viewed as the underdogs the Thrashers started in dominating form. The Gladiators received the ball first and declined the field position from an illegal procedure penalty and opted to force the Thrashers to re-kick. The decision cost them yardage as their kick return was halted at the 22 yard line. The opening offensive play saw the Gladiators fumble the exchange on a reverse for a loss of 13 yards. They could only muster 8 on the following 2 downs and were forced to punt.
The Thrashers showed no evidence of any kind of early season rust with their offence. Their opening drive mixed the run and the pass well to generate a 9 play 42 yard drive that finally stalled when a failed 4th and short turned the ball over at the Gladiator 17, coincidentally exactly where the first Colchester drive ended.
The second Colchester drive didn’t fare much better another 3 and out could only net a 2 yard loss and the Gladiators punted again. Starting at the Colchester 35 the Thrashers looked to be in a good position to open the game’s scoring. However 2 fumbled centre exchanges took Hampshire back 20 yards and the second fumble was recovered by Colchester.
The Gladiators couldn’t take advantage of the good field position, starting at the Thrasher’s 30. Again Colchester could only achieve another 3 and out this time losing 4 yards. The punt forced the Thrashers back to their own 9 yard line, but undaunted by their earlier error the offence mustered an 81 yard drive, including a blistering 49 yard run down the Colchester sideline by running back Orion Modebe. Fellow running back Ayman Abd-Elaziz capped the drive with a 15 yard run off left tackle and then added the 2 point conversion following the same path.
As the second quarter got underway an ineffective Colchester offence still couldn’t move the ball, however, a 5 yard penalty against the Thrasher’s defence gave the Gladiators their initial first down of the day but this wasn’t enough to give the drive any momentum and the Colchester punter was called on for the 4th time.
The punt set the Thrashers back at their own 19 but it only took them 2 plays to cover the 71 yards to the Colchester end zone. On first down veteran quarterback, Nick Watson, found Stealey Wills on the right side line. Wills could not outpace the pursuit and was run down at the 1 yard line from where Modebe went in through the middle of the Colchester defence untouched. Modebe was forced wide on the 2 point conversion and the Gladiators brought him down short of the goal line to keep the score at 14-0.
On Colchester’s ensuing drive they still could not muster an offensive first down, however, there was some small consolation as the 8 yards the drive produced increased the offensive yardage to a positive figure for the first time in the game.
Following the punt the Thrashers continued to move the ball freely against the soft Colchester defence. On the 5th play of the drive Watson found receiver Kyle Latore wide open on the right sideline for a 26 yard touchdown. The 2 point after pass was wide of receiver, Paul Brady, at the front of the end zone and the Thrashers settled for a 20-0 lead.
Colchester finally looked to have their offence in gear on their next drive. However, drops by their receivers and sideline to sideline coverage by Hampshire safety Josh Amis conspired with an offensive penalty to stall the drive after only 5 plays. However, this played in to the Gladiator’s favour when Watson misread the defence on first down and threw an interception directly to Colchester safety Crabbe who raced the pick back fro 20 yards and Colchester’s first points. The extra point was wide but Colchester had narrowed the deficit to 20-6.
Shaken, Hampshire failed to move the ball on their next drive and suffered their first 3 and out netting an 8 yard loss. Starting at their 31 and seemingly buoyed by the apparent turn in favour Colchester moved the ball 26 yards on 2 quick plays before the time expired in the half.
Hampshire received the ball to start the half and a good return by Modebe gave them the ball at their 33. However, the offence now looked ineffective and failed to produce a first down after their initial conversion was brought back due to an offensive holding call. Hampshire could not overcome the third and long and were forced to punt.
Seemingly thrown a lifeline, Colchester failed to take advantage and produced another 3 and out. Once again pinned back inside their own 20 the Thrashers finally got back in to gear and a 6 play 73 yard drive was aided by 23 yards of penalties from the Colchester defence and was finally capped by a 14 yard pass from Watson to Brad Sawyers at the front of the end zone. Watson found Latore again for the 2 points to take the score to 28-6.
Colchester were quick to respond and required only two plays to cover 57 yards. On first down quarterback Curtis Bourke scrambled for 19 yards before Casey Campbell raced for 37. However, he was denied 6 points when Amis forced a fumble that was recovered by the Thrashers at their 3 yard line.
Playing conservatively due to the field position the Thrashers were unable to move the ball out of danger, and on second down Abd-Elaziz was brought down in his end zone by Dave Hogarth for a safety, reducing the Hampshire lead to 28-8.
After receiving the kick-off the buoyant Colchester offence mounted a 9 play 47 drive culminating in an 8 yard strike from Bourke to Colchester’s import signing, Emanuel Ezejiofo. The extra point was unsuccessful but Colchester now only trailed by 2 scores at 28-14.
The following Thrasher drive moved 20 yards over 6 plays before finally stalling on 4th down just outside of the Colchester red zone at their 22. Colchester were unable to move the ball and with time fading in the game they were again forced to punt.
Looking to control the clock Hampshire took to the ground and a 5 play 42 yard drive was capped by Abd-Elaziz with a 15 yard touchdown run. The 2 point pass to Soheil Maleki was ruled short of the end zone and the Thrashers closed their scoring at 34-14.
Colchester held the ball until the end of the game. Time expired on a 10 play 38 yard drive on the Thrasher’s 20 yard line