The Manchester Titans Adult Contact American Football Team defeated the Staffordshire Surge at AJ Bell Stadium on Sunday 47-13, to claim the NFC2 West Division title with a game still to play.
The Titans moved to 9-0 on the season thanks to 2 Rushing TDs by RB Adim Irozuru and 2 Receiving TDs by WR Driss Mokhtari and a stout defensive performance that only surrendered one big play whilst intercepting 3 passes.
Staffordshire received the opening kick off and were forced to punt after 6 plays. A penalty pinned the Titans back on their three yard line where the wet conditions led to a turnover, gifting the Surge the ball back. 2 plays later RB Ryan Reid scored from 2 yards out. A successful kick gave the Surge an early 7-0 lead.
After a 12 yard return by Rick Hurst gave Manchester good field position, QB Alan Mead went long to WR Mokhtari who was eventually forced out of bounds at the Staffs 1 yard line, after a 51 yard gain. Irozuru scored on the next play and Ryan Newton added the extra point, tying the scores.
The Surge went 3 and out on their next possession and the Titans were driving when Mead’s pass was intercepted by Stephen Ward. Staffs QB Ryan Williams threw deep to BritBall Veteran Jon Wyse who beat the coverage for a 55 yard TD reception. Titans DE Andrew Burridge blocked the extra point attempt, leaving the score 13-7.
Manchester immediately struck back through a 9 play, 55 yard drive, ending in a 9 yard TD catch by TE Ste Kimmins which was converted by Newton to give the Titans the lead 14-13 as the exciting 1st quarter came to an end.
Following the kick off, Titans LB Phil Carson intercepted Williams’ pass and ran it back 47 yards to paydirt. Newton’s kick extended the lead to 21-13.
The Titans Defense and a couple of penalties, forced Staffs into another punting situation and the punt sailed out of bounds on the Manchester 30 yard line. WR Carlo Richards broke a big gain on a screen pass but it was called back for a penalty. With the Titans facing 1st and 20, Ryan Newton ran 70 yards for a TD on a draw play but again it was called back on a penalty downfield. A 20 yard pass to Mokhtari moved the offense into Surge territory but the drive was ended when Mead was sacked on 4th down.
Staffordshire offense put together a solid drive on their next possession and as the 2 minute warning sounded, were threatening at the Manchester 23 yard line. But a sack by LB Adam Newton and 2 key tackles by LB Rob Bainbridge stopped the Surge short and turned the ball over on downs.
Mead immediately went deep for Mokhtari – the speedy French WR burst past the coverage and without breaking stride, caught the bomb and took it 75 yards into the endzone. Newton’s kick made it 28-13. A sack by DE Matt McCormack, ended Staffordshire’s last possession of the half and the Titans ran out the clock to bring the 2nd quarter to the end.
Manchester received the 2nd half kick off and after a 33 yard return by Ainsley Battel, drove the ball past midfield where they faced 4th & 1. RB Irozuru broke three tackles to rumble 38 yards to score. The extra point increased the Titans lead to 35-13.
The Titans defense forced another 3 and out on the next possession and Manchester’s offense went 70 yards in 7 plays, culminating in a 20 yard TD pass from Mead to Mokhtari. The conversion was blocked leaving the score 41-13.
Staffordshire had to punt on their next drive, but the ensuing kick hit LB Carson in the back and the Surge recovered. However on the next play, LB Adam Newton intercepted Ward, now at QB, and returned it 73 yards for a TD, but a dubious penalty call brought the play back, making it Manchester ball at their 32 yard line.
It took the Titans offense just 3 plays to extend their lead, an 18 yard run by Richards moved the ball to the Surge 40 where Ryan Newton broke free and was just pushed out of bounds at the 1 yard line. A well-executed play-action fake, allowed Mead time to find a wide-open Richards for the TD. Newton’s kick was wide right, but the Titans had a 47-13 lead.
The Big Blue Wrecking Crew were now in full force and again forced a Staffordshire punt. But Battel couldn’t secure the ball properly in the wet and the Surge recovered to end the 3rd Quarter.
However once again, the Titans defense stepped up, with Battel making amends with an interception and 33 yard return to the halfway line.
Both teams exchanged punts in the 4th quarter as the game petered out. After the end of game handshakes, the Surge proved their class by forming a guard of honour for the victorious Titans.
Division winners Manchester now have 2 weeks before the end of season game away against the Crewe Railroaders, where they once again have the chance to go 10-0. The last time Manchester accomplished that feat, they ended up in the National Finals. GM Jon Homer said after the game that although the team had down well, there was still a long way to go this season.
The Titans are now guaranteed a home playoff game (opponent to be confirmed) on Sunday 23rd August.