Hampshire end their losing streak in a repeat win over Colchester
On a hot a scorching day in Winchester the game gave the spectators a 62 point shoot out that couldn’t separate the teams until the fourth quarter. In the end Hampshire rallied to end their five game losing streak and drop Colchester to the conferences basement.
Colchester started with the ball and set to immediately make a statement. After being blanketed by the Hampshire defence in their first meeting, the Gladiator offence had no such troubles away from home. The opening drive took 8 plays to march 59 yards for the game’s opening score, a short touchdown run. Linebacker James 'Tetley' Tildsley blocked the PAT leaving the score line 0-6.
Hampshire, started the next drive at the own 15. Tildsley again got involved with a kick by receiving the short kick, however he surrendered 9 yards trying to outrun the Colchester pursuit across the width of the field. The extra yardage didn’t prove to be an obstacle because on the seventh play of a 75 yard drive running back Ayman Abd-Elaziz outran the pursuit to get around the left corner for a 31 yard touchdown run. Brad Sawyers slotted through the PAT to give the Thrashers a slim 7-6 lead.
Both teams then started to struggle offensively as the defences got to grips with the heat. Three sets of three-and-out ensued before Hampshire clicked in to gear first. Starting from their 31 yard line they took 7 plays to cover 59 yards before young quarterback, Dayle Greenfield, pulled the ball down on a passing play and ran in for his first points as a Thrasher. Sawyers tacked the PAT again to pad the Thrasher’s lead to 14-6.
Colchester looked to respond quickly. Starting from their own 28 they picked up a quick first down before the drive stalled on 3rd down with 6 yards to go. Hampshire were called for an offside penalty and Colchester gambled on the 4th and short by electing to go for it. The Thrasher’s defence held strong and turned the ball over to Hampshire at their own 42.
The Thrashers failed to make any progress from their advantageous field position. Fumbles and sacks drew the offence back 28 yards to their 14 yard line. On the punt Williams was dropped with the ball in his possession 5 yards in the backfield to give Colchester the ball at the Hampshire 9 yard line.
The Gladiators levelled the score in 3 plays. Colchester quarterback Curtis Bourke rolled to his right and fired a high pass to his receiver. He took a punishing hit from a Hampshire defensive back but held on the ball. However, on the ensuing tackle he fumbled the ball in to the end zone where Colchester dropped on the ball to record the score. The two-point conversion was a success and the score stood tied at 14-14.
Over the next five possessions neither team could move the ball and the half ended with nothing separating the two teams.
On the next drive, veteran quarterback Nick Watson came under centre, however, the drive stalled when Paul ’Toast’ Brady was unable to hold on to a short pass at the first down marker. The veteran wide receiver was quickly able to make up for his error. A short Dom Williams punt was accidentally touched by the Colchester return team and Brady quickly dived on the loose ball to return possession back to Hampshire. The renewed drive could still not advance the ball and Williams was called on again to punt from just inside his half. Brady was on hand again to down the ball at the Colchester 2 yard line.
Backed up against his own end zone Bourke was not offered his usual freedom to evade the blitzers. Under pressure his third down pass strayed and safety Josh Amis collected his second interception of the season at the Colchester 26 yard line.
The Thrashers took just two plays to respond. A first down screen pass to receiver Muhammad Giquina netted 16 yards to the Colchester 10. From there another screen pass to running back Orion Modebe covered the rest of the ground to the end zone. Sawyers’ kick was blocked to hold the score at 20-14.
Colchester could not reply on their next drive and were forced to punt, the 43 yard effort sailing out of bounds at the Hampshire 8 yard line. Watson picked up a quick first down to receiver Tommaso Bendoni but the drive unravelled on the fourth play. Misreading the defence he forced a ball to Brad Sawyers only to see it intercepted by cornerback Adam Dickens.
The Gladiators ground out a short drive before finally running in the touchdown. Linebacker, Nic Jones hurried Bourke on the 2 point conversion forcing the rookie quarterback’s pass to sail out of bounds to leave the score tied at 20-20.
As the game entered the fourth quarter Hampshire could not move the ball on offence and were forced to punt after three plays. Colchester then staged a convincing 10 play drive that covered 46 yards to add their third touchdown run. Their 2 point conversion was successful to give the Gladiators their first lead of the game at 20-28.
Needing to respond quickly the Thrashers did just that. Greenfield commanding his offence over a quick 4 play drive that netted 52 yards. The final play being a 1 yard touchdown strike to Abd-Elaziz in the middle of the end zone. The 2 point conversion failed and Hampshire trailed 26-28 with the end of the game in sight.
Colchester failed to take any meaningful time off the clock. Their three play drive ending in a punt. Any chance of a win nearly escaped when returner Modebe muffed the punt return; however, cornerback Adam Cleaver was on hand to recover the loose ball at the Hampshire 30 yard line.
With time ebbing in the game and needing to reach the Colchester 25 yard line to get in range for a Sawyers field goal the Thrasher offence took to the field. The drive was marked by an impressive 43 yard reception by receiver Stealey Wills, Greenfield hitting the wideout in stride. Wills then capped off the drive with a 14 yard reception. Modebe ran in untouched for the 2 point conversion to restore Hampshire’s lead to 34-28.
Sawyers’ kick off reached the end zone untouched leaving Colchester only a few minutes to march 70 yards from their 20 yard line to the Hampshire end zone. On third down any chance of an away victory was extinguished when linebacker, Paul Kelly intercepted Bourke.
With three minutes left in the game Hampshire had to hold on to the ball to secure their first home win of the season. The offence took 8 plays to crawl the ball forward 20 yards and run out the clock and give them a deserved 34-28 victory.
Hampshire now has a week off before facing East Kent at home to hopefully erase the painful loss they suffered in week 2.