Clyde Valley Blackhawks @ Manchester Titans 8-8-10
The Clyde Valley Blackhawks made the long coach ride down to Manchester knowing that only a win would keep them in the hunt for a playoff spot. Meanwhile the Titans could clinch the division and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with their 9th victory of the season.
Clyde Valley won the toss and elected to receive. Manchester’s defense held the Blackhawks to zero yards on 1 rush and 2 incomplete passes to force a punt and WR Adam Simms took a fair catch to start the Titans on their own 33 yard line. But disaster struck on the first play as RB Nick Copley swept left on a 6 yard gain before fumbling which the Blackhawks recovered.
The Blackhawks offense then drove 39 yards in 10 plays, led by former Titans QB Jim Keogh who went 4 for 4 passing on the drive, before a one yard run TD by RB Darran Sharp gave the Blackhawks a 6-0 led. Titans DL/LB Rick Hurst blocked the attempted extra point.
With the Titans trailing for one of the few times this season, they refused to panic and went back to work. A good return on the ensuing kick-off by Copley gave the Titans the ball on the Clyde Valley 40 yard line. From there Titans QB Alan Mead led them down-field with passes of 9 yards to WR James Dean and a 26 yard TD pass to TE Chris Heap to tie the scores. Copley added the 2 point conversion for a 8-6 Titans lead.
Despite the Blackhawks early score the The Titans defense stiffened on the Blackhawks next series and continued to hold Clyde Valley’s Offense in check for much of the rest of the contest. Despite picking up 2 First Downs, a sack of Keogh by LB John Flynn forced a Blackhawks punt to end the first quarter.
A promising Titans drive that featured a 28 yard catch & run by Simms ended prematurely on an over-thrown Mead pass that was intercepted by Blackhawks Safety Gordon Lockwood.
Again the Manchester Defense forced a punt but it was tipped and then muffed by DL Paul Welsh giving the Blackhawks the ball back. But they were unable to capitalize and a tipped Keogh pass was intercepted by LB Rob Bainbridge and returned 27 yards to the Manchester 40 yard line.
The Titans drove to the Blackhawks 29 yard line but the drive stalled and Mead’s 4th down pass intended for Simms was batted down. Clyde Valley’s offense went 3 and out and Manchester drove down to the Blackhawks 7 yard line behind the running of Copley and RB Tim Barton. But a penalty and dropped pass left the Titans with a 3rd & Goal from the Blackhawks 6 and 2 straight Mead passes to Heap fell incomplete allowing the Blackhawks to run out the clock trailing by 2 points at half-time.
The Titans began the 2nd half on their own 25 yard line and picked up 3 first downs whilst driving 50 yards through an 11 yard Simms reception plus runs of 9 and 11 yards yards by Barton, 15 by RB Niall Sweeney before Sweeney took the ball down to the Clyde Valley 2 yard line only for it to be called back for a penalty. The Titans continued to go backwards through foolish penalties and a sack on Mead, eventually forcing a punt on a once-promising drive.
However DE Phil Cowey’s sack of Keogh on the next series put the QB out of the game and a disastrous punt gave the Titans excellent field position on the Blackhawks 20 yard line. 2 plays later, Copley scored from 9 yards out. Dave Barnett’s extra point attempt was blocked and the score was 14-6 Manchester.
Things got worse for Clyde Valley on their next series when their back-up QB was intercepted by Veteran LB Chris Harwood and he returned the ball 24 yards to the Blackhawks 4 yard line. Copley ran the ball in on the next play for his second TD in as many touches. The 2 Point Attempt was no good giving Manchester a 20-6 lead to end the 3rd Quarter.
A pass deflection on 3rd down by Titans DE Andy Burridge forced another Clyde Valley punt. The Titans followed that up with a 50 yard drive that moved the ball from their 18 yard line to the Blackhawks 22 yard line and featured some good running by RB Ross Profit and a key 13 yard reception by WR Rik Lowthion on 3rd & 8. However an errant snap was picked up by Blackhawks Darren Darroch and he ran 68 yards to score. The extra point attempt failed leaving the score at 20-12 in favour of the home-team.
The Titans went 3 and out on there next drive giving the Blackhawks the opportunity to tie the game but they were unable to do so and there final chance was snuffed out when they were tackled short of the marker on 4th down allowing the Titans to run out the clock.
For the Titans offensively Nick Copley (71 yards rushing, 2TDs), Adam Simms (5 catches for 62 yards) stood out. Meanwhile defensively Phil Cowey and Rob Bainbridge led the team with 8 tackles each.
The 9-0 Manchester Titans’ final game of the season is the return match against the Lancashire Wolverines in Blackburn on Sunday 15th August with the Wolverines needing to win to clinch a playoff spot.