The Manchester Titans took their division leading 3 & 0 record to Sheffield to take on the Predators in a game that could go a long way in deciding the Central Division title.
The Titans started strongly, with QB Alan Mead hitting WR Adam Simms behind the Predators secondary, with Simms running to the endzone to complete a 67 yard TD pass play after being freed by a devastating block by TE Chris Heap . Ric Pennington’s extra point was blocked so the Titans had to settle for a 6-0 lead on the first play from scrimmage.
Sheffield took the following kickoff and drove the ball 67 yards on 6 plays to score on a one yard run. The 2 point conversion was successful and the Predators went ahead 8-6.
A good return by Simms gave the Titans good field position at their own 41 yard line. A 14 yard catch by Simms, plus two runs by RB Nick Copley moved the ball to the Predators 28, where another Simms reception, this time for 24 yards, gave the Titans a First & Goal. 2 plays later Mead hit Simms in the endzone for a 6 yard score. The 2 point attempt failed leaving the score 12-8.
A great tackle by DB Colin Boyle prevented a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff, but Sheffield still had good field position as they started their next drive at Manchester’s 32 yard line. The drive ended on their first play however, when Titans’ DL Andy Burridge recovered a fumble to give the ball back to Manchester.
Mead quickly moved the ball into Sheffield territory with a 12 yard completion to Heap and 2 Copley runs. Completions to Simms and FB Jonathan Gago were offset by a 5 yard sack but the Titans were offered a life-line when, on 4th down, a hard count caught the Predators offside and gave the Titans another first down. A second QB sack pushed the Titans back and an intended pass to Simms on 3rd down fell incomplete, despite apparent interference by the Sheffield defender, forcing Manchester to punt.
The Titans defense held strong on the Predators’ following drive, inspired by LB Sandy Kyriacou (who had a game-leading 11 tackles) and CB Joe Hutton, who made a crucial pass deflection on 3rd down and forced Sheffield into a punting situation.
Manchester then ended the 1st quarter confidently, driving from their own 13 yard line through a series of Copley runs. An 11 yard catch by WR Danny Caballero on 3rd down moved the ball to the Titans 45 and five more Copley runs gave Manchester a 1st & 10 from the Predators 29 yard line. From here Mead went long to WR Will Kinghorn and the Titans’ #82 made a great catch in the endzone to score. A 2PAT pass to Heap gave the Titans a 20-8 lead.
Sheffield then went on a 9 play, 71 yard drive, scoring on a 4th & 3 play from Manchester’s 18 yard line. The 2 point conversion was successful to make the score 20-14.
The Titans offense was forced to punt on their next possession but an 11 yard sack by Titans’ DE Matt McCormack kept the Predators from capitalising and allowed Manchester to hold onto their lead as the half expired.
The Predators received the 2nd half kickoff and drove to the Titans 37 yard line where they were stopped on 4th down by an excellent tackle by Burridge, though their drive was sustained by a highly controversial sideline interference penalty on the Titans coaching staff. The penalty acted as a massive shift in momentum for Sheffield and despite an athletic pass defense by DB James Dean, the Predators scored the game-tying touchdown 2 plays later.
As the overcast day finally gave way to rain , both teams began to struggle moving the ball and the defenses started to take the upper hand. The 3rd quarter ended with the scores tied at 20-20 but with the Titans driving . But the drive stalled on the 2nd play of the 4th quarter when a wet ball caused Mead’s pass, intended for Simms, to sail over his receiver’s head into the waiting arms of the Predators Safety who ran it back to the Sheffield 32 yard line.
The Predators again managed to convert a 4th down play to keep their drive alive, before breaking free 4 plays later to score from 40 yards out. The conversion attempt failed but Sheffield had a 26-20 lead.
However the Titans weren’t finished and moved the ball down to the Sheffield 13 yard line with a 12 yard Copley run, a 12 yard Gago reception, a 9 yard catch by Simms and the help of a 15 yard roughing the passer penalty . But 3 straight plays each failed to yield the single yard needed for the first down and Manchester turned the ball over on downs.
On the very next play Sheffield delivered the killer blow – an 87 yard TD run with a 2 point conversion that gave them a 34-20 lead with 5 minutes to play. Manchester went 3 and out on their next possession and Sheffield added a third 4th Quarter touchdown, again following a successful 4th down conversion, with a 13 yard TD run giving them a 40-20 lead.
A 12 yard completion to WR Matt Barton was wiped out by a holding penalty and on the next play Mead’s pass to Kinghorn was tipped and intercepted, allowing Sheffield to run out the clock and take over the lead of the Central Division.