One down… two to go!

The Manchester Titans American Football Team qualified for the Semi-Finals of the BAFACL Division 2 Playoffs on Sunday by twice coming from behind to beat the West Coast Trojans 34-22.

The Titans defence sacked West Coast QB Gary McNey three times, whilst Manchester QB Alan Mead threw 2 TDs to WR Adam Simms and Running Backs Nick Copley and Niall Sweeney added touchdowns on the ground.

Manchester won the coin toss and elected to receive. Will Kinghorn’s knee touched the ground as he caught the kickoff and the Titans were forced to start from their 12 yard line. After a couple of runs and an penalty, Manchester was facing a 3rd and 9 when Mead hit TE Chris Heap with a 21 yard pass and a first down. 4 straight Copley rushes gave the Titans another first down but a over-thrown pass by Mead left Manchester with a 4th and 4 on the Trojans 40 yard line. Once again Mead found Heap for the first down, this time for 12 yards. A 14 yard run by Copley that took the ball down to the West Coast 14 yard line was called back because of a holding penalty and 2 plays later Mead’s pass was intercepted giving the Trojans the ball on their own 20 yard line. With aid of a 15 yard face-masking penalty on DB Jon Homer, West Coast proceeded to drive 70 yards down the field, scoring on a 26 yard pass from McNey to WR Tom Gunn. Stewart Hey batted down the 2 point attempt leaving the score 6-0 to the Trojans.

The Titans answered back with a 56 yard drive, featuring the running of Copley and Sweeney and capped by Copley’s 2 yard run to tie the scores at 6-6. A bad snap on the extra point gave Kicker Dave Barnett no chance to make a play. West Coast attempted 2 laterals on the ensuing kick-off but it lost them several yards and they ended up starting on their 22 yard line. The Titans defense held and with the Trojans facing a 4th and 2, LB Rob Bainbridge sacked McNey for a 12 yard loss.

Manchester’s offense was unable to capitalise though, with a Ross Profit run loosing 5 yards, a dropped pass by Kinghorn and 2nd Mead interception ending a disastrous drive. In just 7 plays, West Coast drove all the way to the Titans 3 yard line but from there it took them 6 plays to get into the endzone because of penalties and a stubborn Titans defense. This time they converted the 2 points to take 14-6 lead.

But the Titans again came back and with just 2 minutes remaining in the half, Mead hit Simms with a 44 yard bomb for a TD with Profit adding the 2 point conversion to make the score 14-14. However there was just enough time for the Trojans to drive to the Manchester 8 yard line but again the Defense rose to the occasion and forced the Trojans to attempt a field goal on 4th down, which they missed to end the first half, 14-14.

In the second half, Manchester’s Defense started to shut down the West Coast Offense, forcing a punt on their opening possession. Despite 4 penalties against them. the Titans marched 74 yards for Simms’ 2nd TD catch, this time from 6 yards out with Profit again converting for a 22-14 Titans lead. On the very next play, West Coast dangerman, Bud McFerrin, looked to be returning the kickoff for a touchdown but a crucial tackle by Colin Boyle brought him down and was possibly the game-changing play for the Titans. The Trojans were unable to pick up a first down when Bainbridge knocked down a 3rd down pass which forced another punt.

2 more penalties on the Titans forced them back to their own 8 yard line and things got worse when the West Coast pass rush hit Mead as he was throwing, causing another interception. But when McFerrin was tackled by LB Rick Hurst, fellow backer Hugh English came in and ripped the ball loose for Matt McCormack to recover. This time, Manchester drove 65 yards to score thanks to runs of 22 yards by Sweeney, 11 by Copley and even a 13 yard keeper by Mead which set up Copley’s 2nd TD of the day – this time from a yard out. Copley was stopped on the 2 point attempt, leaving the score at 28-14 at the start of the 4th Quarter.

The Titans defense again stopped the West Coast offense on the next 2 possessions thanks to 2 sacks by Andy Burridge. Mead then found Chris Heap on passes of 21 and 24 yards, before Sweeney ran in from 3 yards out to effectively end the contest. Mead’s sneak on the 2 point conversion was stopped short but the Titans were ahead 34-14 with less than 2 minutes to play. The Trojans added a late consolation TD to make the score 34-22. The attempted onside kick was recovered by Bainbridge and the Titans remained undefeated in 2010.

Manchester now host the Shropshire Revolution at Broughton Park on Sunday 12th September, 2.30pm kickoff, with the winners qualifying for the BritBowl final in Worcester on September 19th.

Pictures available here: //

Photos courtesy of Ian JD Andrews