Manchester Titans @ Gateshead Senators 1-5-11
The newly promoted Titans opened their Division 1 Season away to the Gateshead Senators.
Manchester lost the toss and Gateshead chose to defer to the 2nd half with the Titans electing to receive the opening kickoff.
Manchester decided to open things up on the first play but QB Alan Mead’s pass intended for WR Adam Simms, held up in the wind with Simms behind the defense and the pass was intercepted giving Gateshead good field position on Manchester’s 34 yard line.
The Senators picked up 13 yards in 6 plays but on 4th and 7 the Titans defense stepped up and LB Andy Burridge sacked the Gateshead QB, forcing a fumble with rookie DL Gregory Ali recovering.
This time, the Titans offense drove the ball 69 yards, mixing the rushes of rookie RB Greg Michael and veteran Nick Copley with receptions by Simms and new TE Ste Kimmins, and on 4th & Goal from the Gateshead 1 yard line Copley burst in to score the game’s first points behind some good blocking from his offensive line. K Ryan Farrell’s XP was wide right but the Titans were up 6-0.
However, the Senators immediately responded with a 57 yard TD run on the next play from scrimmage to tie the scores. Titans LB Rob Bainbridge blocked the XP to leave the scores tied 6-6.
Hesitation on the ensuing kickoff by WR Danny Caballero left the Titans starting on their own 7 yard line. However Mead led the Titans on a 59 yard drive featuring 3 catches by WR James Dean and a 35 yard catch and run by Simms. But a dropped pass by WR Ben Barker on 3rd down left the Titans facing a 41 yard field goal which fell just short.
Gateshead picked up a first down before the teams changed end at the end of the 1st Quarter with the scores 6-6. A couple of penalties and some solid tackling by the Titans defense forced a Senators punt which only went 21 yards.
Manchester’s next drive was cut short when Mead’s 3rd down pass to Kimmins was knocked loose at the last moment by the Senators DB forcing a Farrell punt which thanks to some great coverage by Dean resulted in the Gateshead Returner being downed at their own 12 yard line.
However Gateshead then went on an 8 play, 78 yard drive with the biggest play being a 51 yard pass on which FS Dave Barnett saved a touchdown with a last ditch tackle. However the Senators ran the ball in to score 2 plays later from the Titans 6. The XP was wide left but the Senators had taken a 12-6 lead.
Disaster struck on the 5th play of Manchester’s next offensive series when a miscommunication between Mead and Caballero led to Mead’s 2nd interception. Mead recorded the touchdown-saving tackle, albeit illegally and was penalised 15 yards for the horse-collar tackle.
Manchester’s Defense thought they had stopped Gateshead on 4th & 5 with an incomplete pass but Burridge was called for offside and the Senators scored on the next play, again from 6 yards out. Bainbridge blocked his 2nd XP of the day but a penalty on Manchester gave the Senators a 2nd chance which they duly put wide right.
With little time left in the 2nd Quarter, the Titans needed to move the ball quickly and a 27 yard completion to Caballero moved the ball to the Gateshead 40 yard line. Mead then attempted to throw long to Simms but was picked off, but a Roughing the Passer penalty gave Manchester the ball back on the Gateshead 25. However Mead’s pass to Barker was tipped straight to a Senators DB and Gateshead went into half-time with an 18-6 lead.
Gateshead received the 2nd half kick-off and drove to midfield but a fumble snap was recovered by Titans LB Matt McCormack. The Titans drove to the Gateshead 8 yard line but the drive ended with Simms unable to pull in Mead’s high pass on 4th down. The Senators made the Titans pay with a 78 yard TD run and another failed XP making the score 24-6.
Manchester knew they needed to reply immediately and drove 60 yards with Copley carrying the ball 4 times for 32 yards including the final 9 yards for his 2nd TD. Farrell kicked the extra point making the score 24-13.
The Titans Defense produced the required turnover on the next possession with rookie DB James Rosson picking off an errant throw and returning it 8 yards to Gateshead’s 43 yard line. Mead immediately hit Kimmins for 15 yards over the middle, and then Simms for 11 yards, before the Titans were faced with a tricky 4th & 2 as the 3rd Quarter ended.
Mead hit Caballero for 7 yards to open the 4th Quarter and to keep the drive alive. 3 plays later, on 3rd and 6, Caballero scored on a 8 yard pass from Mead and then the same combination hooked up for the 2PAT conversion which made the score 24-21 to Gateshead.
With the game starting to swing back towards Manchester’s favour, Gateshead produced a 54 yard drive, finishing with an 8 yard TD pass and a successful 2PAT conversion extending the Senator’s lead to 32-21.
On the Titan’s next possession, Manchester was facing 3rd and 14 from their own 15 yard line when Mead, avoiding the pass rush, lofted a perfect throw down the Titans sideline to Simms who gained 33 yards before being pushed out of bounds. This gave Manchester the spark they needed and they drove to the Gateshead 14 yard line before Copley was stripped of the ball with the Senators recovering.
However on the next play, veteran LB Sandy Kyriacou shot through the Gateshead line sacking the QB and forcing a fumble which the Titans recovered. However the Titans were unable to capitalise when Mead, attempting to force a pass into coverage, had his pass tipped to a Gateshead DB for yet another interception.
The Titans defense forced another Gateshead punt though but after 3 straight incomplete passes, Manchester was facing a 4th and 10 from the Gateshead 27. However, Adam Simms hauled in a 27 yard TD pass from Mead to bring the Titans within five but Copley’s 2PAT attempt was stopped short.
With just 51 seconds remaining and Manchester down by 5, the Titans were forced to attempt an onside kick. But Farrell’s kick bounced straight into the hands of the Gateshead receiver. Gateshead then ran out the clock to seal their first victory of the season and hand the Titans their first regular season loss since 2008.
Manchester now have a couple of weeks to prepare for the trip to Merseyside Nighthawks on Sunday 22nd May, but take away some positives with the performances of Simms (11 receptions for 167 yards, 1TD), Copley (22 carries for 107 yards, 2TDs) plus 4 rookie players starting on Defense.
Offense – Emmanuel Kwafo
Defense – Keith Lees
Special Teams – Ashley Dewing