Manchester Titans made the long trip up to Durham for their first ever game with the DC Presidents. It was the Presidents first home game at Esh Stadium, which they had dubbed “The White House” and it proved to be an excellent venue for football with the bright sun shining on the 3G turf, a miked Referee and several hundred paying spectators.
DC won the toss and elected to receive but on their second play from scrimmage Manchester DE Matt McCormack broke through and forced DC RB Ollie Manning to fumble, which the Titans LB Ste Lowry recovered. However, seven plays later, the Titans fumbled the ball back to the Presidents after driving to their 23 yard line.
DC went 3 and out on their next series, punting the ball to Titans WR Adam Simms who returned it all the way to the endzone but a penalty brought the ball back to the Titans 42 yard line. From here QB Alan Mead led the Titans on a 4 play drive, culminating in a 24 yard TD pass to TE Chris Heap. Kicker Matt Nelan missed the conversion but the Titans had taken an early 6-0 lead.
The Presidents started their next drive on their 37 yard line and thanks to some good running from Manning moved to the Titans 23 where they faced 4th & 7. They elected to attempt a field goal but a bad snap forced holder Ben Winstone to attempt to pass, and a fierce hit from Titans Safety James Dean on intended receiver Jonathan Bateman knocked the ball loose, turning it over on downs to Manchester.
A great play by Presidents LB Kevin O’Reagan, who shot through the gap to drop Titans RB Nick Copley for an 8 yard loss, had put Manchester into a tough 3rd and 18 situation. But Mead hit Simms deep and the speedy receiver outraced the DC Defense into the endzone for a 58 yard score. Again the XP was missed leaving the score 12-0.
At the start of the 2nd quarter, DC’s veteran QB Jeff Rutter drove them to the Titans 42 yard line but his 3rd down pass sailed incomplete forcing a punt which Manchester LB Dave Oakley partially blocked but the Titans were unable to take advantage when they went 3 and out on their next series.
Bateman replaced Rutter at QB for the Presidents and led them on a promising drive to the Manchester 12 yard line when DE Erivaldo Guimaraes tackled Bateman before he could hand-off the ball, forcing and recovering the fumble at Manchester’s 21 yard line.
Mead immediately threw long to WR Will Kinghorn who made a great catch before his momentum carried him out of bounds after a 25 yard gain. WR Ben Barker caught an 11 yard pass on the next play before Simms caught a 25 yarder to move the ball to the Presidents 8 yard line. RB Scott Waterworth’s run gained only a yard but Simms thought he had scored on the next play only to be ruled down at the one. But then DC’s defense made two great plays – firstly stopping RB Niall Sweeney for a loss then knocking down Mead’s 4th down pass to force the turnover on downs.
The Presidents then had an 11 play, 57 yard drive which seemed destined to finish in the endzone until Titans Safety Greg Michael tackled DC Running back Matt Caley and ripped the ball loose for LB Pete Rowlands to recover.
With less than 2 minutes to play in the 1st half, the Titans looked to add to their lead but President’s DB Andrew Brown stepped in front of Mead’s pass to Simms and ran it back 33 yards to paydirt. Bateman’s extra point attempt was wide right but the Presidents were on the scoreboard – 12-6.
Undaunted, Mead led the Titans from their own 20 yard line and with the aid of a 15 yard roughing the passer penalty and 2 completions to Barker totalling 51 yards moved the ball to the DC 9 yard line but time ran out before they could get another play off.
Manchester received the 2nd Half kickoff and promptly went 57 yards to score with a mixture of runs by RB Dave Barnett and pass completions to TE Heap, the latter scoring his 2nd TD from 14 yards out. Kinghorn caught the two point conversion for a 20-6 Manchester lead.
Manchester thought that McCormack had sacked Bateman for a huge loss on the next series but it was ruled out by a face-masking penalty. Instead the Presidents drove the ball down to the Titans 18 yard line, where they faced a 4th & 1. Manning ran the ball to the outside but Titans DB Stewart Hay stepped up with an excellent solo tackle stopping the runner short of the first down.
However the Titans failed to capitalise as Brown made his 2nd interception of the game returning it to Manchester’s 34 yard line. After a 26 yard catch by DC WR Matt Logan, Bateman hit TE Davey Fairgrieve 2 plays later in the endzone for a touchdown. Manning caught the 2PAT to make the score 20-14.
On Manchester’s next drive they turned the ball over again, this time a fumble by RB Nick Copley was recovered by the Presidents. After a short run by RB Aaron Arkley, Bateman found Winstone in the endzone from 26 yards out. On the extra point attempt, Winstone picked up the bad snap and flipped the ball to Bateman who evaded Dean’s diving tackle attempt to score the go ahead points. 20-22 to the Presidents.
The Titans Offense entered the 4th Quarter trailing by 2 points but determined to make amends for a sloppy 3rd Quarter and they drove from their own 22 yard line to the DC 15 until a holding penalty pushed them back. Facing a 4th and 16 from the DC 33, Mead hit Heap down the home sideline for a 31 yard gain and a 1st & Goal from the 2. FB Jonathan Gago scored on the next play with Simms catching the 2PAT putting the Titans back in front, 28-22.
This fired-up the Titans Defense and in particular, DE Andy Burridge who, on consecutive plays tackled RB Manning for a loss and then sacked Bateman, forcing the Presidents to punt. Again Manchester drove the ball down the field, this time relying more on the running of Copley and Gago to chew up the clock. Then on 3rd & Goal from the DC 9 yard line, Mead hit Simms for his 2nd TD of the game and with Nelan again missing the XP, the score was 34-22.
Down two scores and time rapidly running out, DC was forced to pass and Bateman was forced to run for his life as the Manchester pass rush pinned back their ears and went after him. 2 QB hurries by Burridge forced incompletions and a last second pass knock down by Dean turned the ball over on downs to Manchester. Mead took a knee to end the game and the Titans moved to 2-0, with DC dropping to 0-2-1.
Manchester’s next game is away to the Crewe Railroaders on May 26th whilst the Presidents host the Staffordshire Surge on May 27th.