Manchester Titans at Lancashire Wolverines 15/8/10
The Manchester Titans have matched last season’s amazing accomplishment of going undefeated in the regular season. The Titans have again won all 10 of their games to propel themselves into the play-offs as favourites in the Northern section of the BAFA Division 2.
To achieve the feat this time the Titans had to travel to their local rivals the Lancashire Wolverines who needed a win to qualify for the playoffs. The first game between the two teams was a closely fought affair with the Titans holding out for a 26-20 win.
Manchester received the opening kick-off and behind the running of RB Nick Copley drove 70 yards before QB Rik Lowthion hit WR Will Kinghorn with a 24 yard TD pass. Dave Barnett’s extra point hit the post but the Titans had a 6-0 lead they would not relinquish.
The Wolverines put together a 62 yard drive aided by a couple of penalties but they faced a 3rd and 7 from the Titans 9 yard line when Safety Jon Homer broke up a key pass. On 4th Down Lancashire decided against a sure field goal and went for the game-tying touchdown but the pass fell incomplete handing the ball back to Manchester. The Titans picked up a couple of First Downs on runs by RBs Niall Sweeney and Ryan Farrell but Lowthion’s 3rd Down pass was intercepted on the Lancashire 36 yard line.
The Wolverines again moved the ball into the Titans half but again they faced a 4th down, this time from the Manchester 25 yard line. Wolverines QB launched a pass deep into the endzone but it was knocked away at the last second by the Titans Free Safety Dave Barnett to end the first quarter.
Manchester’s next possession also ended in a Lowthion interception but the Titans defense forced the Wolverines into a 3 and out and they were forced to punt the ball back to Manchester. However an excellent kick meant the Titans would be forced to start on their own 2 yard line. But Lowthion led the offense on a 12 play, 88 yard drive that featured 2 rushes for 24 yards by RB Kenny Harrison, a key 5 yard run on 3rd & 5 by RB Ross Profit plus a 29 yard catch by Kinghorn. The drive was finished off by a 9 yard TD catch by WR Adam Simms, his 12th TD of the season. Sweeney added the 2 point conversion and the Titans took at 14-0 lead.
With just 4 minutes remaining in the 1st half the Wolverines tried desperately to get themselves back into the game but 2 sacks by DE Andy “Gigantor” Burridge forced them into a 4th and 18. They then attempted a fake punt which was snuffed out by LB Michael Smith and Jon Homer. With less than a minute remaining the Titans were unable to add to their score, and the half ended with Manchester ahead 14-0.
Lancashire received the 2nd half kick off and immediately drove 49 yards to the Titans 8 yard line but again a great defensive effort kept the Wolverines out of the endzone and on 4th & 4 a sack by DE Matt McCormack held Lancashire scoreless. The Titans Offense drove the ball into Wolverine territory but Lowthion was sacked on 3rd down and they were forced to punt.
The Wolverine’s next possession was ended by CB Martin Fitzpatrick’s shoestring interception at the Titans 17 yard line. But the Titans were unable to capitalise and on 4th and 10 attempted to punt. However a low snap gave punter Kinghorn no chance to get the kick away and he was tackled short of the first down marker.
Despite the good field position, Lancashire failed to pick up a first down and turned the ball over to the Titans when a simple chance was dropped on 4th down. A 23 yard run by Copley moved the ball into the Lancashire half when the 3rd quarter ended with the Titans driving. TE Chris Heap then collected 2 passes from Lowthion, the latter a diving catch in the endzone for a 17 yard TD, Lowthion’s 3rd TD of the day. Sweeney again added the 2PAT and the Titans stretched the lead to 22-0.
With the Wolverines trying desperately to get back into the game, the Titans defense stepped up again with Burridge and DE Phil Cowey combining on a 4 yard loss on a screen play and two excellent plays from CBs Colin Boyle and Fitzpatrick. Firstly a great solo tackle by Boyle stopped the Lancashire QB when he had broken containment and was scrambling for a 18 yard gain. Then Fitzpatrick stepped up and stopped a sweep play for a 3 yard loss. On 3rd & 13 McCormack recorded his 2nd sack which forced the Wolverine’s to punt again.
Three runs by Profit and a 7 yard catch by rookie receiver Ben Barker on 3rd an 2 moved the ball into Lancashire territory. But the drive stalled when Lowthion’s 4th down pass fell incomplete.
The Wolverine’s caught the Titans defense napping with a misdirection run that went 49 yards to score. But the 2 point attempt was intercepted by Boyle leaving the score 22-6 in favour of Manchester.
Lancashire’s onside kick attempt was recovered by LB Rob Bainbridge and the Titans forced the Wolverines to use their all time-outs as they attempted to get the ball back from Manchester. The Titans eventually were forced to punt but with only enough time for Lancashire to run a couple of plays before the final whistle blew leaving the Titan victorious 22-6.
Manchester end their season undefeated with 10 wins for the 2nd season running but this time they will be focussing solely on winning their play-off games for the right to play in the Division 2 final at Worcester on September 19th.
The Titans next game should be against the West Coast Trojans at Broughton Park on Sunday 5th September in the first round of the play-offs. Victory will see them play in the semi-finals on the following weekend.