The Manchester Titans Adult Contact Team played their first game of the season on Easter Sunday in Carlisle, home of the Sentinels who have just joined the league.
The game was a home-coming of sorts for rookie Defensive Lineman Adam Posthelthwaite who was born in Carlisle and veteran Quarterback Nick-Nige Weston, who played much of his career in Carlisle before joining the Titans in 2012.
Manchester started strongly with RB Ryan Newton returning the opening kickoff for a TD only for it to be called back for a penalty. Undaunted, starting QB Alan Mead hit WR James Newnes for a 37 TD pass on the very next play – the 3rd year in a row the Titans first TD was scored between that combination. Newton kicked the extra point and the Titans took a 7-0 lead.
On their first possession, the Sentinels failed pick up a first down and punted the ball back to Manchester. After 2 runs by RB David Blake, Mead hit TE Chris Payne, who broke a tackle and ran 58 yards to score. Newton ran in the 2PAT and the Titans were up 15-0.
The Titans defense again forced a 3 & out and Carlisle were forced to punt, but penalties pushed Manchester back to their own 4 yard line. However Mead found WR Carlo Richards on a screen pass and he picked his way through his blockers and would-be tacklers for a 49 yard gain. Mead then hit TE Rick Hurst for 23 yards over the middle before Titans Junior Team graduate Blake ran in from 13 yards out for his 1st TD in Adult football. Newton’s kick made it 22-0.
DE Andrew Burridge led the ruthless Manchester defense to another stop on the Sentinels next possession but a high snap led to a short punting, gifting the Titans excellent field position on Carlisle’s 39 yard to start their next drive. A couple of passes from Mead to Newnes moved the Titans closer before Mead found TE Ste Kimmins with a short pass and he ran it in 29 yards for the Titans 4th TD of the first quarter. Another successful kick by Newton made it 29-0 as the 1st quarter ended.
Titans DB Andy Higson was denied a TD at the start of the 2nd quarter when he intercepted the Carlisle QB and ran it back for a touchdown but a penalty on the Titans ruled it out. Manchester’s defense again forced Carlisle to punt but a good kick again pinned back the Titans deep in their own half. Penalties and mistakes led to Titans being forced to punt the ball back to the Sentinels, however an outstanding interception by DB Ainsley Battel gave Manchester the ball back inside the Carlisle 20 yard line. 2 plays later Blake ran in his 2nd TD from 4 yards out, but the 2PAT attempt failed leaving the score at 35-0.
Disaster struck for the rookie Sentinels on their next series, a quick screen pass to the WR was caught but then fumbled and recovered by Titans LB Rob Bainbridge on the Carlisle 8 yard line. Ryan Newton ran it in himself on the next play and added the conversion increasing Manchester’s lead to 42-0.
But finally the Carlisle offence came to live, driving from their own 24 to the Titans 21 yard line in 12 plays, culminating in a 39 yard Field Goal making the score 42-3. Manchester had already starting inserting the back-ups and Payne came in at QB for Mead who left with the impressive passing stats of 8 of 12 attempts for 219 yards and 3 TDs. The Titans were unable to add to their score as the half ended.
Because of the Titans lead, the 2nd half would be played with a rolling clock, meaning the clock wouldn’t stop if the ball went out of play or an incomplete pass was thrown. This meant fewer possessions and opportunities for both teams in the 2nd half. Some good running by Newton moved the ball into Carlisle’s side of the field and Payne hit Newnes with an 18 yard pass which the receiver found the end zone but the play was called back for a penalty. A few plays later on 4th Down, Manchester, instead of attempting a short range field goal went for the Touchdown, but Payne’s pass for Richards was knocked down in the endzone.
A huge hit by Bainbridge fired up the Titans’ sideline and Burridge and LB Nathan Chrimes (another product of the Titans Junior Team) combined for a sack on the Sentinels QB, leading to another punt. Newnes’ 20 yard return gave the Titans good field position but another good drive ended scoreless when Carlisle snuffed out Newton’s fake field goal attempt to end the 3rd quarter.
Carlisle again struggled against an experienced Titans Defense and had to punt. Rookie QB Alex Back now came in but was unable to pick up a first down giving the ball back to the Sentinels. 2 plays later DB James Dean intercepted a Carlisle pass and ran 66 yards for a TD. Rookie Ben Nuttall (another former Junior Player) stepped in for the injured Newton but his kick was wide right. Manchester 48-3 Carlisle.
The Sentinels again went 3 and out and the Titans put in Nick-Nige Weston at QB but Blake fumbled and only a tackle by Richards prevented a Sentinels TD. In good field position, and on 4th down, Carlisle attempted another field goal but it was partially blocked and returned by Dean to the Manchester 17 yard line. 3 powerful runs by Hurst gave the Titans a 1st down but Weston’s deep pass was intercepted to end the game.
The Titans now have 4 weeks before their next fixture away to Staffordshire Surge on May 10th, a game that could potentially decide the division.