Cambridge Holds Strong in American football Varsity

CUPAFC – Post – VARSITY Match Summary, Saturday, May 17, 2014 vs. Oxford – at Coldham’s Common.

 

Cambridge Holds Strong in American football Varsity

 

The calibre of a finale is a testament to the performers and all that came before.

Whether the final touches of a brilliant new architectural feat after years of design and building, a headline act at a music festival in the upswing of a band’s exploding career, or a final academic project after years of study, these showcase finales serve two functions.  They honour the planning, work, and achievement that led to success; and they feature the key performers, hopefully at their peak.

Following an outstanding 7-1 regular season and a playoff loss to the National Championship runners-up in just their third year after re-forming, the Cambridge Pythons American football team hosted their season finale: Varsity. 

By all accounts, Cambridge was the favourite; and yet, their coaches and captains knew far better than to underestimate their opponents.  In addition to the usual uncertainty surrounding Varsity Match outcomes, Oxford’s VM preparations are historically very strong; they promoted the match widely; and they intimated that they had recruited new players just for the match.

Without a doubt, Oxford was coming to win.  The game appeared to be Cambridge’s to lose, but nothing short of an impressive finale would win the day and cap off the Pythons’ season. 

After winning the coin toss, the Cambridge captain uncharacteristically chose to receive, wanting to put his offense on the field and strike first.

The opening kickoff bobbled out of bounds and men in light blue began the game from the 50 yard-line.  The Pythons immediately set the offensive machine in motion, beginning with a 25-yard pass from quarterback Joe Yarwood to speedy Joe Moore.  Then the mighty Cambridge offensive line and running attack took over with three successive runs advancing the Pythons to the Oxford 1 yard-line. 

Running back Jonty Richardson powered in for the first score of the day and Cambridge successfully converted the extra point, upping the tally to 7-0.

The kickoff resulted in Oxford taking over at the 40.  A sack on the first play and two dropped screen passes forced the Lancers to punt.  More discord followed as the snap sailed over the kicker’s head and Cambridge prepared for another assault with good field position.

A 15-yard Oxford penalty followed by a 12-yard pass to Canadian wide receiver Jaason Geerts quickly landed the Pythons in the redzone for the second drive in a row.  The Lancers’ defense was not about to crumple easily and they pressed Cambridge into a precarious third and 12.  An impressive run by Jonty Richardson earned him his second touchdown of the quarter and upped the score to 13-0 Cambridge. 

The extra point was no good.

On the ensuing drive, the Pythons’ tidal pressure on the quarterback caused him to lob an errant toss, which was intercepted by Jack Stafford.

Straight away, Yarwood once again found one of his favourite targets, as Joe Moore acrobatically reeled in a pass despite excellent defensive coverage.  A couple of first downs marched Cambridge closer to the mark, but an incomplete pass on fourth and 8 turned the ball over, ending the quarter.

The first of two turning points in the game came on the first play of the second quarter when Cambridge linebacker Sebastian Funk picked off a pass and dashed through the defenders for a touchdown.  The two-point conversion was good, setting the Pythons ahead 21-0.

The Pythons’ pass rush continued to punish the Lancers and stunt their progress.  After a big sack on third and very long, Oxford was again forced to punt.

The next two series on both sides were ineffectual with both teams alternating three-and-out drives.

With two minutes left in the half, Cambridge launched a final attack, led by running back Jonty Richardson.  The last play involved Richardson and a Lancer defender clashing with such force that it removed Richardson’s helmet!

The half came to a close with Cambridge still up by three scores, 21-0.

Despite their sizeable lead, the Pythons knew that the finale was not yet decided and that this was not the time to let up. 

Sure enough, Oxford came out in the third quarter firing with a good return and two quick first downs. 

The second major turning point of the game occurred as the Lancers were advancing.  Cambridge linebacker Tom Carr stripped the ball from the quarterback as he was scrambling and returned it 40 yards before being brought down by a speedy Lancer lineman.

Cambridge was quick to capitalize thanks to two successive runs by Richardson including his third touchdown of the afternoon.  The extra point was flagged back 10 yards then blocked as Cambridge found itself leading 27-0.

Oxford return again to the air, making two long completions for first downs, but a penalty at a clutch moment eventually forced them to kick. 

Cambridge Cats defensive end Tim Allen powered his way through the line and blocked the punt.

After Cambridge fumbled on the ensuing drive, Oxford finally was able to penetrate the iron Pythons defense for a touchdown. 

Cambridge captain and blues rugby player Nick Roope bolted through the line and blocked the extra point, holding the score at 28-6.

The next drive could effectively be described as the Nick Roope show.  After a mammoth kickoff return, Roope darted around and through the Lancers defense in a series of runs that finished with an easy score.  No two point conversion for Cambridge, increasing the total to 33-6.

The last big play of the day was a devastating open-field tackle on the ensuing kickoff.

Perhaps out of reverence on both sides for such a collision, there would be no more scoring on this day. 

Cambridge did justice to its achievements this season by performing well in the ever-important season finale.

Outstanding performances were had by offensive MVP Jonty Richardson with three touchdowns and two lost helmets, defensive MVP Sebastian Funk with an interception and a TD, special teams MVP Guy Peters, Nick Roope and Alex SJ in their final performances as Pythons, Tom Carr, and both the offensive and defensive lines.

Cambridge finishes with eight wins on the season and remains undefeated in Varsity Matches since the team reformed three years ago. 

Final score: Cambridge 33, Oxford 6.

The Pythons would like to thank their coaches who were instrumental in the season and finale’s triumphs: Julian Fuller (head coach), Lennie Scott, Martin Steers, Gary Villiers, Steve Guy, Craig Driver, Jat Sahota, Peter the heart of Pythons football, and all the fans who attended, especially the Cambridge Cougars cheerleaders.  Special thanks to Alistair Gempf, Ru Merritt, and Helen Spokes.

Cambridge would also like to salute its graduating players: Nick Roope, Jonty Richardson, Alex SJ, Pete Campbell, Sebastian Funk, Tom Reynolds, George Bickers, Stefan Arridge, blues rugby player Sam Alderson, Hao Wang, Ram Sarujan, and Brahma Mohanty.

And of course, Cambridge would like to thank the Oxford Lancers for once again proving themselves to be gutsy, classy competitors and gentlemen off the pitch.

In closing, the calibre of finales reveals a third thing: it gives a sense of the future of the organisation.  Though many Pythons are graduating this year and will be dearly missed, enough has been built to give strong hope for the future of Pythons football. 

That being said, the Pythons now turn their attention to the 2014 – 2015 season.  Anyone interested in learning more about playing for or supporting the organisation is welcome to visit our website:  

 

http://www.pythons.org.uk/

 

Jaason Geerts

Cambridge University Pythons American Football Team

All photos copyright Garry@GLNPhotography.com