Highlights of the year:
GB defeat Spain, then 'expelled' from EFAF
O's win another title
Irish football reborn
GB chosen to host Junior Championships
The year began with the Strathclyde Posse winning the inaugural Scottish Claymores Winter Flag League. Eastbourne Eagles and Burnfoot Dragons won the English and Scottish 5-on-5 NFL championships respectively. They met each other for the UK championship in May - the Eagles winning 59-30 in Glasgow and who proceeded to the European finals in June in the Netherlands. They were pitted in a group with the Spanish and Dutch champions with the winning team qualifying for the NFL World Championships. In their first game the Eagles, took on the Pere Vives Viche from Spain and were beaten 48-26. They recovered from this setback to comprehensively beat the Dutch champions Reigreboos Raiders 35-14. In the final match of the group, the Spanish beat the Dutch to take the group and their place in the World finals.
In the BCAFL, the Oxford Cavaliers and the Loughborough Aces powered their way to a classic final confrontation which Oxford won, 26-23 at Saffron Lane in Leicester.
The Oxford Cavaliers following their College Bowl triumph
In the BSL, there was an increase in registered clubs when the South Wales Warriors and the Kingston Barbarians became newboys. However, by the time the season started 3 other clubs had dropped out - Wolverhampton Vipers, Sussex Thunder and the Herts Stags. The BSL had a 13 team Division One and a 15 team Division Two. Kingston then pulled out mid-season.The O's RB
Before the season started, the London O's became the first British side for a couple of years to compete in a European competition. They were paired with the French champions, La Courneuve Flash, in the first round of the EFAF EuroBowl competition but lost both legs of their two-legged tie. In the first game in London, they lost 22-0, and then two weeks later went down 41-13 in Paris.
The first result that raised people's eyebrows was East Kilbride's 13-0 defeat of the current British runners-up Birmingham Bulls in Scotland. East Kilbride maintained their dominance in the Northern Conference all season to take their first conference title in Division One.
In the BSL, the London O's ended the Southern Sundevils hopes of taking the Southern Conference title with a decisive 42-14 victory against the Portsmouth based side at the Mountbatten Centre at the end of July. The O's led 21-0 at half time, helped in part by 5 interceptions. After falling 28-0 behind straight after half time, the Sundevils staged a mini-recovery with the outstanding Tony Stitt scoring twice to close the scoreline to 28-14. The O's, however, were not to be denied and went on to score on two further occasions in the 4th quarter to run out convincing winners.
Warren Keen (right) evades the challenge of two Sundevils players on his way to the O's final TD of the game
Birmingham Bulls came with a late surge to make the playoffs, where they joined the Gateshead Senators and the Pirates from the Northern Conference.
In the playoffs, the Bulls dominated the Senators 25-6, and the Sundevils overpowered the PA Knights 26-6 to book semi-final places. In the semi-finals, the London O's shutout the Bulls at home and the East Kilbride Pirates dominated the Sundevils 22-0 to reach their first final. The O's ran away with the final against their Scottish opponents to register a sixth straight title with a 37-20 victory.
In Division Two, Lancashire Wolverines won the Northern Conference with an undefeated season. The AP Surge clung to their coat tails and finished second, with the Yorkshire Rams also making the quarterfinals. With a large Southern Conference, five teams made the quarterfinals. Oxford Saints made the entire running with an 8-0-0 perfect regular season. The two East Anglian teams, Norwich and Ipswich, were as strong as ever and both recorded good winning records.
Come the playoffs, though the Saints started to stutter. They recorded a hard won 24-14 result against Plymouth, but then fell to the resurgent Ipswich Cardinals at the semi-final stage. Norwich, got the better of the Lancashire Wolverines in the other semi-final to make it an all East Anglian Division Two final. In the final it was Ipswich who came away with a 47-15 victory.
Ipswich QB Ian Girling vs Norwich in Div.2 final
Both bowl games had extensive highlights during NFL Sunday on Sky Sports.
The GB Senior National team were drawn against Spain in the quarterfinals of the 2001 European Championship. On the 17th June, the Brits defeated Spain 27-6 at the Saffron Lane Sports Stadium in Leicester.
GB's defense was in dominant form against the Spaniards
Photo courtesy of David Winter
After failing to fulfil the European Championship semi-final on the 30th June, the newly elected board on the EFAF expelled Great Britain from the European Championships. As such, Germany received a bye into the final where they got their revenge against Finland (Finland beat them in the 2000 European Championship final). Germany took the championship for the first time with a 19-7 win in Hanau.
In the EuroBowl, La Courneuve Flash (the O's conquerors) went out at the semi-final stage to the defending champion Bergamo Lions. The Lions went on to retain their title with a 28-11 win in Vienna against the hometown Chrysler Vienna Vikings.
The Lions on offense in EuroBowl XV
Photo courtesy of Carmen Barocio (www.bergamolions.it)
In Ireland, there was a league season for the first time since 1999 with four sides entering the Irish Fall League. Irish American football returned to normal in 2001 after various legal actions were settled during the summer. A statement released read as follows
"In the Four Courts in Dublin today, 4 members of the Irish American Football League received an undisclosed cash settlement and full costs in settlement of their legal action against Jim Hutton t/a "Image Management & Promotion" ("Image Management & Promotion had been contracted to the American Football Association of Ireland prior to it ceasing operations). One of the IAFL members said "it will be great to be able to concentrate on football rather than having to deal with these off the field problems - integrity has now been restored to the sport."
A meeting was held in August in Dublin with the aim of getting a league back up and running in Ireland. Four teams were present at the meeting which were the Carrickfergus Knights, Dublin Dragons, Dublin Rebels and UL Vikings. The league got underway, with those four teams in September. At the end of the Fall League, the Dublin Rebels took the 2001 Shamrock Bowl with a 28-7 win against the Carrickfergus Knights. The Rebels took the lead on the opening kick-off with a 90 yard return by RB Brian Dennehy, and never looked back. They led 22-7 at half-time, and extended the lead to 28-7 late in the third quarter.
A new structure is being put in place and the new regular season will run from late February 2002 to May 2002 with the play-offs and Shamrock Bowl taking place in June.
The 2001 BSFL season was a tremendous success. After a disappointing 2000 when no league season was actually played due to the small amount of 'active teams', the decision was taken to go with a league at the AGM in January, in 2001 with games being played on a tournament basis during a summer season.
Advertising was stepped up and when the league started in March, there were nine teams entered in the competition.
New teams from Bournemouth, Canterbury, London, Orpington, Birmingham all joined the league that already contained the established clubs of UCLA, Leicester, Fen and Sheffield. The London Gators posted an early warning sign to the rest of the league that they meant business as they dismantled the Leicester Eagles 30-0 in their very first game in Bournemouth in March. The Bournemouth Raiders, playing their first games since 1992, lost their first flag game 16-6 to Leicester, and then posted 20 points on the London Gators, but conceded 48! Canterbury Coyotes played their first league games in April, and won their opening game 14-12 against another new team, Hurricanes. In dreadful conditions, the Coyotes succumbed 30-0 to the London Gators (who defeated Hurricanes 14-0).
Bournemouth jumped into the Southern Conference playoff race with a last minute 14-8 home win against Canterbury, but successive defeats to London (26-0) and crucially Canterbury 22-6 (on the last game of the southern conference season) cost them. Canterbury and London fought out a thrilling 14-14 tie to thwart London's attempts for a perfect season, but they still took the conference title, with Canterbury finishing a deserved second.
The first result in the Northern Conference to raise eye-brows was UCLA Renegades 14-12 home victory over the defending champion, Fen Harriers. Matt Dean's 66 yard bomb to Chris Henry proving the difference. Fen Harriers responded by winning the tournament hosted by the Birmingham Raiders.
They defeated the Raiders (who were playing again after 3 seasons out) 34-0 and then defeated the Leicester Eagles 30-15. Leicester then surprisingly defeated UCLA 26-0, but a 40-8 loss to the Harriers severely dented their playoff ambitions. Even more so when UCLA got the better of the Sheffield Lightning twice to finish with a 5-1 record, and take the conference championship. Leicester defeated Fen Harriers 8-0 on the final day of the season, but the Harriers 28-6 win over Sheffield clinched a semi-final spot in the playoffs at Leicester's expense.
The London Gators proved themselves the BSFL's best team in 2001, as they maintained their unbeaten record by clinching the BSFL trophy Sunday with two hard fought victories. QB Brett Barash was again their star throwing for 5 TD's and running for another himself on the day, in the Gators 22-8 semi-final win over the defending champion Fen Harriers and then in the 22-14 win over Canterbury in the final. The Canterbury Coyotes (in their first season in the league) did themselves proud, as they made it a Southern Conference one-two, after walloping the Northern Conference champion team UCLA Renegades 34-0 in the other semi-final.
London Gators with the BSFL 2001 trophy
The West Coast Offence, from Glasgow, traveled to Belgrave RFC in Leicester to take part in a 4-team 5 on 5 senior flag tournament, and they returned north with the trophy after winning 5 of their 6 games. In a great day of football, the winner of the whole tournament (played on a league basis with each team playing 6 games) wasn't decided until the very last game of the day, with the Offence defeating the Leicester Eagles 7-6 in a winner-takes-all match. The North Devon Dogs (playing their first games of flag football) were very competitive and defeated Leicester early on in the tournament, and the Birmingham Raiders were similar competitive scoring over 50 points on the day.
13 sides entered the BYAFA Youth Kitted league in 2001 - a 100% increase in teams compared with 2000. The defending champion London O's competed in an 8-team Southern Conference, and the runners-up from last season (the Lancashire Wolverines) took part in a 5-team Northern Conference. The teams were whittled down to 4, who competed in the semi-finals. Handforth Hammerheads (from Manchester) defeated the Dundee Storm 8-6, and the Southern Sundevils (who had gone 100% throughout the regular season) edged out the London O's 20-18. The final proved to be one way traffic, as the Sundevils took the Hammerheads apart 62-0. Handforth
Hammerheads on offense
Photo courtesy of Nigel Payne via BYAFA
At the tail end of 2001, the Bournemouth Raiders hosted a senior flag 5 on 5 tournament, which was won by the Southern Sundevils with a perfect 4-0 record. The Bournemouth Raiders finished second, and Brockenhurst Exiles third. Other participants included the Leicester Eagles, North Devon Dogs, Sussex Thunder and the Birmingham Raiders.
Southern Sundevils 2001 Beach Bowl champions
Photo courtesy of www.nfleurope.com
The England U-19's gained revenge for their loss to the Scots in 2000, with a 14-0 win in Leicester.
'The victorious England team'
The EFAF published their EuroBowl and newly created Europa Cup schedules, and there was no British or Irish representative amongst them. A surprise was announced, when GB were selected to host the European Junior Kitted Championships in 2002. Glasgow beat off the challenge of Berlin to host the prestigious event.
Highlights of the year:
Aces take College crown
GB host European Junior Championship - GB slump
O's win 7th straight national title
Youth kitted league expands
Lions three-peat in Eurobowl
The Surrey Stingers and the Bristol Bullets emerged with the only unbeaten records of a regular season in the BCAFL. When it came to playoff action, both sides were knocked out at the first hurdle. Defending champions, the Oxford Cavaliers, defeated Bristol 16-0, and the Hertfordshire Hurricanes accounted for Surrey 34-27 in a classic confrontation. In the semi-finals, Oxford defeated Hertfordshire 14-9, and Loughborough took the UCH Sharks apart 38-13 to set up a repeat of the previous years College Bowl. This time though it was Loughborough who would take their revenge on their defeat to Oxford a year previously with an entertaining 39-22 victory.
In the BSL, two news sides entered the league. The Cambridgeshire Cats were formed by Chris Wallis and entered Div.2 South, and the East Midlands Saxons (which were the UCLA Renegades in the BSFL and BYAFA Youth Kitted Leagues previously) joined Div.2 North. After a number of years of being called the Strathclyde Sheriffs, they changed their name to the Glasgow Tigers.
In Division One South, both promoted clubs performed great guns. Ipswich Cardinals and the PA Knights both qualified for the playoffs. The London O’s went through the season unbeaten, and in the North, the East Kilbride Pirates did likewise to set up what looked likely to be repeat of their 2001 Bowl showdown. Come the playoffs, in the quarter-finals the O’s shutout the Gateshead Senators 31-0, the PA Knights struggled past the London Mets 17-16 and the Birmingham Bulls ground out a 14-3 win over the Ipswich Cardinals. After playing the East Kilbride Pirates earlier in the season in Glasgow and being on the receiving end of a hiding the Chester Romans declined to travel for a repeat match up and the Pirates received a bye into the semi-finals.
In the semi-finals, a classic match up between the O’s and the Bulls was the on the cards, but a disappointing game ensued as the O’s coasted to a 42-0 victory against their depleted opponents. In the other semi-final, the Pirates (with home field advantage) were expected to clinch the other Bowl spot against the PA Knights. However, the team from Guildford shocked their Scottish hosts with a stunning 15-12 victory. In the final, the London O's won their 7th straight National title when they defeated the PA Knights 42-15 in the Div.1 Britbowl on Sunday. Trailing 15-14 at the half, the O's came out fired up in the second half and took control.
In Division Two, the Cambridgeshire Cats performed superbly to make the playoffs where they were joined by Norwich, Glasgow, Plymouth, Nottingham, Sabres, Yorkshire and Staffordshire. In the North, the Yorkshire Rams and the Nottingham Caesars were nip and tuck all season, but it was the Rams who would take the conference title. In the quarter-finals, Norwich received a bye over the Glasgow Tigers and the Yorkshire Rams shutout the Staffordshire Surge 10-0. Nottingham Caesars defeated the Sabres 26-8, and the Plymouth Admirals qualified for the semi-finals with a 36-25 win over the Cambridgeshire Cats.
Kent Exiles (white) in action against the Cambridgeshire Cats in BSL Div.2
In the semi-finals, the Yorkshire Rams met their old adversaries the Nottingham Caesars. The Yorkshire club came out on top again. Again it was close, 19-14. In the other semi, the Plymouth Admirals sunk to a 23-0 at the hands of the powerful Norwich Devils.
In the Div.2 Bowl, the Norwich Devils won their first title since their win over the Ipswich Cardinals in the BNGL National Bowl in 1989, with a close 17-14 win over the Yorkshire Rams. Britbowl 2002 was a well supported event with 1,224 people attending.
At the end of 2002, the BSL made their realignments for the 2003 season. After disappointing Division One seasons in 2002, the Redditch Arrows and the Bristol Aztecs were relegated to Division Two, and the Southern Sundevils took the decision to join them. Division Two champions, the Norwich Devils were promoted where they look forward to further encounters with their East Anglian rivals, the Ipswich Cardinals. The Yorkshire Rams were promoted back to Division One, after one year in Division Two. The decision was taken to realign Division Two into three conferences instead of two. The reason being the welcome increase of new sides. Eight new sides would take to the field in 2002 – Doncaster Mustangs, Dundee Hurricanes, Edinburgh Wolves, Maidstone Pumas, Manchester Titans, Nene Valley Hybrids, Sussex Thunder and the Tees Valley Cougars.
Sussex Thunder returned in 2003 after friendlies in 2002
In Ireland, a new structure was put in place and the new regular season ran from late February 2002 to May 2002 with the Shamrock Bowl taking place in June. Four sides entered the league, the Dublin Rebels, Dublin Dragons, Carrickfergus Knights and the University of Limerick Vikings. At the end of an exciting season, the Carrickfergus Knights crushed the University of Limerick Vikings 66-0 at the University Bowl in Shamrock Bowl XVI. 46-0 up at the half-time interval, the Knights kept on piling on the points in the second half.
Carrickfergus Knights - 2002 Shamrock Bowl winners
A further 4 teams - Belfast Bulls, Cork Admiral, Coleraine Chieftains and Dundalk Razorbacks joined the IAFL in 2002 with the intention of playing in 2003.
After the IAFL regular season ended, the 2001 Shamrock Bowl Champions, the Dublin Rebels took part in the Charleroi Trophy in Belgium. They performed superbly beating the Charleroi Cougars in the final This was the first time an Irish club side had won an International tournament abroad. Marcus Naylor of the Rebels won Offensive MVP for the tournament. In the final, the Rebels defeated the Cougars 22-0 thanks to two TD passes from QB John Durrad to Feargal O’Donnchu. Marcus Naylor had opened the scoring for the Rebels with a 21 yard interception return in the 1stquarter. In the semi-finals, the Rebels had defeated the Forbach Taupes of France 26-8.
Later in the summer, the Irish Champions, the Carrickfergus Knights played against Team Canada at Trinity College Sports Grounds, Santry, Dublin. Team Canada are an under-21 squad consisting of some of the best young players in Canada. The Knights gave a good account of Irish American football by putting up a solid performance against their highly regarded opponents. McDowell threw a TD to McKillop, but the Canadians ran out 34-6 winners. Team Canada then travelled to England where they defeated the Chester Romans 48-0.
The BSFL 5-on-5 league was played over the course of 2002, with results from all BSFL tournaments counting towards the final league table. Tournaments were played in London, Chichester and Southampton, and at the end of the year only half a game separated the Bournemouth Raiders on top and their old adversaries the Leicester Eagles.
At the tail end of 2002, Beach Bowl II took place. In bitterly cold weather conditions in 2001, the Beach Bowl should have been called the Ice Bowl. In 2002, undoubtedly, it should have been called the Mud Bowl! The photo below does not do the conditions justice as nine teams (an increase on last years numbers) entered the senior flag 5-on-5 tournament which is growing in stature. Held in Southampton (many thanks to Russ Hewitt for organising the pitches at late notice), teams travelled from Bournemouth, Derby, Leicester, Birmingham to join a number of other local sides in a fantastic tournament. With the 9 teams drawn into 3 groups of 3, each team was guaranteed two games before being placed into another group of 3 to decide finishing positions. Southern Sundevils entered two sides, and each one topped their qualifying group to take their places in the Championship where they were joined the Chichester Sharks. in a thrilling final at Cumbernauld's Broadwood Stadium. They defeated Germany 26-20, scoring on a trick play with 20 seconds remaining.
The British Senior Flag League was a success again. One of their clubs (UCLA Renegades) had progressed to the BSL, but new clubs from Chichester and Brighton joined. The Invicta Coyotes, Fen Harriers and the Bournemouth Raiders (who had recruited heavily in the off season), each stated their intent for the championship with two crushing early season victories against the two new clubs. In week 3, Invicta defeated the Harriers 6-0 in a one-sided affair to take the running for the championship. Leicester entered the fray with back to back wins over the Harriers to stay unbeaten also in what was turning out to be a cracking season. In week 5, the Raiders really lit the blue touch paper with a tie with the Coyotes (who then went on to tie with the Harriers) and a win against the Fen Harriers 8-6. Leicester, however, were the force to be reckoned with and they confirmed this as they shut out Bournemouth (10-0) and Chichester (30-0) in week 6. The following week they travelled to Maidstone, where they tied 12-12 with the Coyotes to clinch number one seeding in the playoffs. The Coyotes finished as number 2 seeds, Bournemouth number 3, and the Harriers as number 4 seeds. In BSFL Finals day, the Eagles destroyed the Fen Harriers 32-6 in a one-sided semi-final, whereas the Bournemouth Raiders defeated the Invicta Eagles with a trick play in over-time to win 6-0 and qualify for their first national final. In the final, the Eagles had too much as they cruised to a 45-21 victory.
Leicester Eagles - 2002 BSFL Champions
It was the Southern Sundevils B side that emerged triumphant. Led by QB Ted Baynham, they shutout Sundevils A (18-0) and then Chichester Sharks (27-0) to take the title for the second year in succession. Kevin Shergold led the team in scoring with 31 points, followed by his brother Steve with 21.
Southern Sundevils B with the trophy
From left to right: Kevin Shergold, Stephen Shergold, Rajinder Johal, Ted Baynham, Matt Coppinger, Surjinder Johal
BYAFA’s 2002 flag regular season came to its conclusion in the summer with three memorable finals and two impressive playoff games. Overall the skill, dedication and competitive nature of the day meant it was probably the best Finals Day ever. At Cadet level, Don Valley Vipers earned a final spot with an overtime victory over the Birmingham Bulls, and in the finals they saw off the challenge of Leicester with a 18-8 win. In the Junior age bracket, the Leicester club gained their revenge with a 28-25 win over the Vipers. In the Youth category, the Leicester Eagles defeated Birmingham Bulls 40-34 in a thrilling final.
At the end of the season, the GB Lions Cadet team finished runners-up in the EFAF Euroflag Championship, whilst the Juniors came fifth in their age group.
In the BYAFA Youth Kitted league, there were a number of new teams. For the first time, BYAFA split the league in two to have a Scottish championship and an English championship. In the Scottish league there were 6 sides competing for the title – Inverclyde Sharks, Clyde Valley Hawks, Paisley Panthers, Moray Firth Dolphins, Glasgow Tigers and the North Lanarkshire Rams. At the end of a highly competitive season, Clyde Valley took the title with a 23-20 win over the North Lanarkshire Rams.
In England, the Southern Sundevils carried off from where they left off in 2001. In the previous season they finished the year with a 100% record. This continued in 2002 as they again won every game on their way to a second straight final where they would face the Lancashire Wolverine Colts (the most successful Youth Kitted side ever). With the scores tied at 12-12 in the 4th quarter, the Sundevils QB Ted Baynham faked a hand off and then sprinted in to score virtually untouched on a keeper from 15 yards out to seal the Sundevils second consecutive championship.
In 2001, the honour to host the 2002 European Junior Championship was given to the United Kingdom. The first EFAF tournament to be held in the Isles since Eurobowl II in 1988! The tournament was played in Scotland, and they proved superb hosts. Great Britain were drawn to play in a group composed of France, and the reigning champion German team in the group stage of the European Junior Championship. Alas, home field advantage did not help GB into the final stages as they lost a tight opening match 21-14 to France (in front of approx 600 fans) and then 34-6 to Germany. In the 5th/6th place playoff, the Lions lost a tight game 29-26 to the Czech Republic. Russia won the European Junior Championship
In December, the Scotland U-19's Youth Kitted side gained revenge for their loss to England in 2001, with a 30-20 win in Stirling in December. England led 7-6 at half-time, but Scotland’s Martin Wallace turned the game round with a 85 kick off return, and Squire’s link up with Wilson killed off any chances of an English win with a 4-yard TD pass near the end.
Alas, 2002 was to be a year where there would be no British representative in European Competition, after the London O’s declined to enter the EuroBowl. The Bergamo Lions won their third Eurobowl in a row with a 27-20 victory over the Braunschweig Lions in EuroBowl XV. The German side took the lead early on, but Bergamo returned the resulting kickoff over 90 yards to tie the game at 7-7. Bergamo led by 2 TD’s going into the 4th quarter but Braunschweig came back with a TD Pass from Kelvin Love and had the chance to tie the game. Bergamo deflected the last pass going to the endzone on a fourth down with only seconds to play.
The Graz Giants claimed the EFAF Cup, with a convincing 51-20 win over the Badalona Drags. However, there was to be British representation in 2003 European competition, with the PA Knights in the EFAF Cup where they will face the Tyrolean Raiders, Graz Giants and Zurich Renegades.
At the end of 2002, the BSL made a stunning announcement that eight new sides would take to the field in 2003 - Doncaster Mustangs, Dundee Hurricanes, Edinburgh Wolves, Maidstone Pumas, Manchester Titans, Nene Valley Hybrids, Sussex Thunder and the Tees Valley Cougars. Football in the UK was taking off again..
Highlights of 2003:
O's break the UK record
Irish football reborn
GB enter European championship
The 2003 BSL Division One season kicked off with two of the leagues oldest teams getting off to winning starts. The reigning champions, the London O’s, cruised to victory against the Ipswich Cardinals 43-0 but picked up numerous injuries including the BSL's leading interceptor for the past two years, Scott Rowe with a broken scapula.
Meanwhile, the Birmingham Bulls squeaked past the Chester Romans 19-6. The following week saw Ipswich suffer their second consecutive shutout as the previous seasons beaten finalists, the PA Knights, saw them off 12-0. The other game in week two saw the East Kilbride Pirates send out a warning to the rest of the league as they destroyed the newly promoted Yorkshire Rams 72-6. Jon Sutherland ran for 248 yards, as the Pirates racked up over 400 yards on the ground. Willie Brown also rushing for over 100 yards.
Other teams who made a winning start to the season were the London Blitz who romped to a 44-6 win over the promoted Norwich Devils - Lee Palmer running for 126 yards and 1 TD on just 16 carries, and the surprise package of the year, the Lancashire Wolverines, who defeated Chester 28-14. The Wolverines continued their good form with a hard fought 6-0 win over Birmingham in the first week of May to put them joint top of the Northern Conference with East Kilbride who defeated the Bulls a week later by a score of 26-6. Two Sutherland runs gave the Pirates a 12-0 1st quarter lead, and they moved further ahead in the second half on a hat-trick TD for Sutherland, and a pass from QB Gary McNey to TE Eric Collard.
By the middle of May, Yorkshire had found their feet and chalked up their first win of the season in a nailbiting 14-12 win over Chester, with Jay Alexander's pass to rookie Keith Minick sealing the points.
The London O’s also had a nailbiter in their first meeting of the season with the PA Knights, eventually coming from behind to win 28-25. The lead in the game changed hands six times, and it wasn't until Clive Palumbo's 70 yard run in the fourth quarter that the O's could breath easier. The Knights QB Ashley Heath had a stellar day passing for 271 yards (152 of those to WR Jon Wyse) and 2 TDs.
The Knights were looking like real title contenders at this stage of the season helped by their brief excursion into Europe where they had beaten Zurich 24-7 before crashing out 56-21 to the Tyrolean Raiders.
Norwich’s poor start to the season continued as they were thumped 46-0 by Ipswich in the East Anglian derby match. The Cards had now found their scoring touch. In the same week the Blitz lost their unbeaten record as they crashed 35-6 to the PA Knights. The Knights gained 230 yards on the ground, and Tony MacKenzie led their defense in making 9 tackles. Lancashire also lost their one hundred percent record as the Bulls gained revenge over them by a score of 8-6.
However just as the Bulls thought they had turned the corner they were mugged 14-13 by the East Kilbride Pirates in the first week of June. McNey passed for 2 TD's to Mark Squire to lead the Pirates into a 14-7 lead, but the Bulls came back with Sonny Dosanjh's QB keeper to pull within one. Pirate's LB Bob Lynch then pulled off the crucial play as he stormed through the Bulls line to block Andy Sweeney's PAT to preserve the Scots 100% record.
By the time July came around East Kilbride were sitting pretty atop the Northern Conference with a 5-0 record, with Lancashire hot on their heels with a healthy three wins and just that one defeat to the Bulls. The South looked like a two-way battle between the O’s (4-0) and the PA Knights (5-1). The Knights, however, were starting to show signs of fatigue after playing in so many tough games and made hard work of a 35-22 win over the London Blitz. At this stage of the season Ipswich suddenly came to life and gave the O’s one hell of a fright before succumbing to a 10-7 defeat at the hands of the champions. Andy Boyle kicking a 24 yard field-goal inside the two minute warning to win the game for the Londoners. They followed this promising performance up with back to back wins over Norwich and the Blitz to land themselves a wild card berth.
The long journey to East Kilbride proved to be too much for Lancashire and the Pirates taught them a humbling lesson with a 76-0 rout to sew up the Northern title - Sutherland and Brown running for 369 yards and 7 TD's between them. This left the Wolverines to face Birmingham for the third time in the season in the Northern Wild Card game.
In the South, the O’s needed one more win to break the 63 game winning streak held by the London Ravens, having tied it the week before with their tight win at Ipswich. Standing in their way were their biggest rivals in the South, the PA Knights. The Knights led 22-6 early in the fourth quarter thanks to the unstoppable Anthony Stitt. But it was yet another last minute seat of the pants victory for the O's, as QB Stuart Franklin rallied his troops. He passed for two quick scores to Andrew Boyle, and then with nine seconds on the clock and trailing 22-20 he hooked up with WR Clive Palumbo to give the O's a remarkable 26-22 victory.
Palumbo catches the winning TD vs PA Knights with seconds to go
Chester and Norwich both battled to the very end, but ultimately both their season's proved winless. Steve Toye of Chester had a good year, notching 50 tackles.
It was all too much for the PA Knights, and after a long hard season they ran out of steam - not helped by an injury in the O's game to their star QB Ashley Heath. Ipswich who were actually building up steam at just the right time then grabbed their chance with both hands and saw off the Knights 13-10 in a titanic Southern Wild Card game which went to double OT. Stephen Wells kicking a 32 yard field goal to win it for the Cards.
The Northern Wild Card saw the Bulls and Wolverines meet up for the third time in the season. After two close fixtures between the two it was more than a little disappointing to see Lancashire crumble by a score of 50-8. This set up a match-up between the two old greats of the British game, the Bulls and the O’s, in the first semi-final. Dave Winter gave the Bulls an early 6-0 lead on Dosanjh's pass, but the O’s stepped up a gear with two TD's from Junior Price and one from Clive Palumbo to battle their way to a 26-6 win over the old enemy.
Ipswich made the long journey to East Kilbride hopeful of causing another upset, and they so nearly did. Cards QB Corey Whitham completed a 20-yard scoring pass to Michael Dunson with Sandy Francis tacking on the PAT to give the Cards a 7-0 half-time lead. Both defenses were merciless in the second half, but McNey managed to get the Pirates back into the game with a pass to Mark Squire to bring them within a point. It was the Pirates's Safety Stuart McNeill who blew the game wide open by recovering a Cards fumble and returning the ball to the Cards 6-yard line to give the Pirates an opportunity to score. And score they did, as Gary McNey hit Willie Brown on a 3 yard pass. to give the Scots a 12-7 lead which they held onto to reach their second Britbowl in three years against the O's.
Two years earlier the O’s had seen them off 37-20, but there were high hopes of a much closer game this time around. In front of over 1,300 fans, Jon Sutherland gave the Pirates a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 62 yard run, but RB Warren Keen levelled things up with a 10 yard run. Keen added a 22 yard TD in the second quarter to give the Londoners a 14-7 half-time lead. The Pirates were no match for the mighty O’s in the second half as QB Dominic Dearman (who replaced Stuart Franklin at half-time) passed on scoring plays to Palumbo and Matt Coppinger. In between lineman Paul Evans intercepted a screen pass to score on an 8 yard return. The O's ran away with a comfortable 35-7 win and their seventh straight national title (another record).
Sutherland scores for the Pirates in the final
There was excitement in Division Two as no fewer than nine new sides joined the BSL ranks - from Sussex Thunder on the south coast to Dundee Hurricanes in Scotland. Manchester saw a team return to it's city for the first time in years with Lee Morton's Titans. With Division Two expanded to twenty-five teams it looked certain that a very exciting season was on the cards. This was most definitely the case as a number of teams set out with high hopes of making the final. The quality of the three conferences was evident as only one team, the Plymouth Admirals, failed to win a game all season.
There was controversy in the North, as the Gateshead Senators who had asked for demotion from Division One the previous season due to the retirement of a number of players stormed to the top of the table right from the off. Their two closest rivals, the Nottingham Caesars and the Staffordshire Surge, helped the Senators cause by playing out a 14-14 tie when they met each other in late April. Jack Garnsey scoring a 87 yard TD run to tie the scores for the Surge who trailed 14-0 at one stage.
Other early season contenders were newboys Doncaster Mustangs, Glasgow Tigers and the Dundee Hurricanes. Despite all starting off with 3-1 records each of these teams suffered heavy defeats against the likes of Gateshead, Nottingham and Staffordshire.
By the end of the regular season Gateshead had won all of their games easily with the exception of a 22-14 win over Dundee. Graeme Raith's 84 yard reception on a screen pass created some anxious faces on the Senators, but the Hurricanes could not break the Senators line again. The Senators, however, had been lucky enough to avoid fixtures against the Caesars and the Surge, who finished the season in second and third place respectively.
The Manchester Titans performed excellently in their first season of competitive football. Despite finishing with a 1-8-1 record, many of their games were very tight. They played a couple of entertaining games against the Merseyside Nighthawks which looks like turning into a great North West rivalry. In the Titans very first home game, Jody Forder scored the Titans opening TD of the game on a pass from Rik Lowthion, but Joe Black tied the scores for the Nighthawks shortly afterwards. Lowthion threw a bomb to Tamas Byrne to put the Titans 12-6 up, but again the Nighthawks were not to be beaten and Andy Ley's pass to Dave Webb tied things up again to finalise the scoring in the game at 12-12. Merseyside won the return match-up 19-14 in another thrilling match
The South Eastern Conference was really up for grabs. Pre-season favourites were Cambridgeshire and the Sabres (from Southend), who both made the playoffs the previous season. A strong showing was also expected from Essex Spartans (who had played Division One football just two years before),
As the season wore on, it became apparent that this Conference was rapidly becoming a one horse race. The Chris Wallis coached Cambridgeshire Cats shut out the Sabres 28-0 in game one, with Ken Sweeney running for 108 yards and 1 TD, and Nick Tilbury throwing for almost 200 yards and a score also.The Cats defense was impressive throughout the season registering no less than five shut outs and two other games where they restricted the opposition to less than 10 points. The Cats finished 10-0 and only had a few scares (most notably a 14-8 victory over the Nene Valley Hybrids).
The second place team in the Conference was a huge surprise. The Kent Exiles had had a dismal run in the preceding years, winning less than a handful of matches in four years, but with a professional approach, an extensive advertising campaign for new players, and a new coaching staff headed up by Phil Wood, they turned it around. An opening 39-26 shootout defeat to Cambridgeshire was encouraging, and they then went on a seven match winning run to snatch second place and a quarter-final berth in the playoffs. Their defining moment came in week 4, when they won 14-13 over the Chiltern Cheetahs who were a main rival for a playoff spot. Matt Duncan passed for 2 TD's to TE Graham Deacon, the second one deep in the fourth quarter. Kicker Matt Tompsett slotted through the winning PAT, but they still needed LB Aaron Alexis to block a 24 yard field goal as time expired to preserve the win. Alexis finished with a staggering 17 tackles in the match. Kent's unbeaten record against Chiltern, Essex and Nene Valley was enough to ensure the Exiles gained the only other quarter-final spot from this conference.
Maidstone and, surprisingly, the Sabres both finished bottom of the Conference with disappointing 1-9 records.
The South Western Conference boasted just six sides, but was perhaps the most competitive of Division Two. Before the season, five of the six sides had realistic chances of claiming top spot. In the offseason, Bristol Aztecs appointed the well renowned Brian Smallworth as coach. Smallworth had coached many successful sides both in the UK and internationally and this was a huge coup for the Bristol organisation. In their opening game of the season, they faced their old foes, the Southern Sundevils, in what are always bruising encounters. QB Dave Keen gave the Aztecs the lead on a 6 yard pass to TE Jason Tyler, and this was a lead they held until the fourth quarter when Sundevils QB Ted Baynham found WR Ben Webb for a 61-yard score. Tim Illes added the 2 PAT, and the Sundevils had what turned out to be a winning lead.
Following this defeat, the Bristol team found a different gear, and with star RB Kenny Saro back they ran all over the opposition. Against Redditch, the team ran for 363 yards, against South Wales for 350 yards and against Oxford almost another 300 yards. In their final regular season match against Oxford, Saro ran for 209 yards, taking him to 1,234 on the season, and the team's total eclipsed 2,000 yards!
It was tight for the other playoff spots. The Bristol Aztecs had lost twice narrowly to the Southern Sundevils, but had managed to beat everyone else reasonably comfortably. As such, one would think that the Sundevils should have strolled into the quarter-finals themselves. That was not the case, as they suffered losses to the Oxford Saints (twice) and the Redditch Arrows. Only a last ditch victory 6-0 against the South Wales Warriors secured them a quarter-final spot to finish with a 7-3-0 record.
That defeat also put paid to the Warriors hopes of making the playoffs. They still had time in their season to throw a spanner in the playoff ambitions of the Oxford Saints though. On the last game of the regular season, the Saints needed to win against the Warriors to send the Sundevils on a long journey up north to face the unbeaten Gateshead. If they lost then another unbeaten side would have to be faced, but at least the journey would not be as long or as costly. The Warriors showed great character in coming from 16-0 down to down the Saints 28-19, with Owen Roberts scoring 3 TD's.
The playoffs provided some classic encounters that further demonstrated the competitive standard of Division Two. Gateshead had the most comfortable win when they knocked out the weary Oxford Saints 21-3.
Bristol managed to see off the Kent Exiles by a 27-12 margin. Elsewhere Nottingham finally proved once and for all that they deserved to finish second in the Northern Conference by seeing off the Staffordshire Surge 26-15.
The closest game of all came in Cambridge where the Cats were taken right to the wire and beyond by the Southern Sundevils. On the hottest day of alltime in the UK, both teams struggled with penalties and defenses were well on top. In the second period of overtime, Booty Morrison broke free for a 30 yard run to set up the game winning 24-yard field from Brian Jelley to send the Cats into the semi-finals.
The Semi-finals were even closer. In one of the most hard fought semi-finals in many a year the Gateshead Senators finally lost their unbeaten record to the brave Nottingham Caesars. The Senators appeared to be cruising when a brace of Dave Wilson running scores gave them a 20-3 lead in the first half. By half-time the Gary Stainton led Caesars had reduced the scoreline to 26-17. Crucially Caesars WR Hackshaw held onto a Stainton pass on 4th and goal from the 22 to score and to make it just a 3 point game. Gateshead were rattled, and on the Caesars next possession Terry Mayers rattled in from 52 yards to give them the lead. Gateshead were not finished, and they moved the ball 60 yards to go ahead again with Mike Rumney charging in from 2 yards out. Gateshead led 33-29 with less than 2 minutes left, but the Caesars were not in the mood to leave as losers and Terry Mayers scored again to put the Caesars ahead 36-33. Their defense held, and they had made it to the Britbowl.
The other unbeaten team, the Cambridgeshire Cats, also fell when Bristol sneaked past them 14-12, in the other semi-final. Aztecs QB Ashley Richer put the West Country side ahead 7-3 in the second quarter on a 17 yard pass to Tim Stone. The Cats were moving the ball well, but could not punch it in, and had to settle for two Brian Jelley field goals as the sides ended the first half with Bristol clinging to a 1 point lead. Tough defense on both sides led to no further scoring until the fourth quarter, Two further Jelley field goals put the Cats 12-6 ahead, but a 66 yard hook up between Ashley RIcher and James Wilkinson stunned the hosts as Bristol went ahead 14-12. The Cats stormed into the Bristol half in the dying seconds, but safety Ben Tolley intercepted a Nick Tilbury pass to seal the win.
The final was not quite as close as it looked on paper. Bristol cruised into a 19-7 halftime lead and extended that with another TD in the third quarter. The key to the game was always going to be Nottingham's ability to handle Bristol's running game. 248 yards and 3 TD's for Aztecs RB Kenny Saro was the answer to that. They simply couldn't handle Saro and Bristol's outstanding O-Line. Saro deservedly won the MVP award, and as this book was published he had just been selected to compete in the NFL Europe camp.
Nottingham score vs Aztecs
In front of a crowd of 1,315, it was the London O's and the Bristol Aztecs who took the plaudits on a great afternoon of British American Football.
Although the Caesars rallied late on with leading Division Two QB Gary Stainton scoring their second TD, the Aztecs deservedly won the title with a 32-15 win.
In November, the BSL announced their plans for the 2004 season. Having been concerned with the "yo-yo" effect of teams being promoted to Division 1 and then returning back to whence they came, they looked to create a better structure for the benefit of the whole league.
Division 1 will be expanded to 16 teams, split equally into 2 geographical conferences (North and South). The conferences will be further split into 2 sub tiers which will be known as Division 1 and Division 1A.
Each Division 1A team will play each Division 1 team once, two at home and two away to make the 10 game regular season schedule. This provides a balanced schedule for all and allows teams in 1A a gentler introduction to the topflight. All games between Division 1 and 1A clubs will count towards the final standings.
The Division 1 teams will continue to compete for BritBowl whereas the Division 1A teams will compete for their own separate Bowl Game.
At the end of the 2004 season the 4th placed teams in Division 1 will switch with the top placed team in 1A and the 4th placed 1A teams will switch with the top placed Division 2 teams. Division 2 will continue with their own bowl game, as usual, held on the same day as BritBowl.
Other important decisions made in the off season include the agreement to move to NCAA hash marks next season which brings the League into line with the rest of the UK and Europe.
Post season overtime rules will change from the current "sudden death NFL style" version, to the NCAA version, which gives teams equal opportunities to score, starting from the opposition's 25 yard line.
The coaches met up for a weekend camp on December 6th - 7th to implement the shared play book that is to be used for the GB Lions Youth matches in 2004.
At the Ram Stadium in Dewsbury, both sides struggled to move the ball early on in the windy conditions. England took the lead, when after Alex Dunn had recovered a fumble, QB Ric Hennessy hit WR Grahame Warby for a 20 yard TD. The PAT was blocked.
Both teams traded interceptions on their next possessions. Again Dunn making the turnover for England, and Sean Carney getting the ball back for Scotland. Adam Biggs then picked off a loose pass to get the ball back, but again the England O stalled. The wind was playing havoc with the pass dominated teams, and Scotland's Alisdair Longford held onto another stray pass to give Scotland a chance to set up a field-goal attempt from 37 yards which Craig Wilson nailed to leave the score at 6-3 as the half ended.
At the start of the second half, English QB Hennessy ran in their second score from 30 yards to extend the English lead to 12-3. On their next drive, England's replacement QB David Mead set up a Ford Wilding field goal from thirty-three yards after a series of good passes to edge England into a 15-3 lead.
England added two further scores in the fourth quarter on Cottrell's 12 yard pass to Jacquet and Lennox Johnson's 20 yard run to hand England their winning 29-3 scoreline.
Kyle Walker caught England's fourth interception and seventh forced turnover of the afternoon to complete the win for England. For Scotland, Gary Clark deserves special mention for his personal tally of eleven tackles in the game.
The EFAF published their EuroBowl and newly created Euro Cup schedules at the end of 2003, and two of the top sides in the UK entered the Euro Cup. Both the London O's and the PA Knights would take part in 2004.
A further boost to the game, was the decision of BAFA to enter the GB Lions in Pool B of the European Championships in 2004. The championships were to be held in Amiens in France.
The qualifying for Eurobowl XVII started in April, with 11 teams from 8 countries competing in four groups.
Braunschweig Lions beat out the challenge of the Paris Flash, in Division One, with a convincing 44-8 win in Germany to qualify for the semi-finals. In Division Three, Ukrainian champions, DonetskScythians, thrashed the Moldovan champs, Kishinev Barbarians, before falling themselves to Vienna Vikings.
The Spanish champions, the Badalona Drags, raised more than a few eyebrows when they bested the Swedish champs in Division Two, and the reigning champions Bergamo Lions cruised through to their expected semi-final berth.
Vienna then caused the shock of the tournament by beating the Bergamo Lions in the semi-final with a 34-33 overtime win. Braunschweig Lions qualified for their third appearance in a Eurobowl final game by dominating Badalona 50-20 in the other semi-final.
In front of a crowd of 7,878, the Troy Tomlin coached Braunschweig Lions claimed their second Eurobowl title with a 21-14 win over the Vienna Vikings.
The Vikings took the lead on RB Lance Gustafson's 30 yard run, but the Lions hit back in the second quarter through Kim Kuci's 20 yard rush. The Vikings retook the lead late in the first half on Luke Atwood's 20 yard TD reception from Shawn Olsen, but the Lions pegged them back for a second time on Adrian Rainbow's 5 yard run.
Defense's dominated in the third quarter as the pressure rose, but thanks to some superb running from Kuci, he scored his second TD and what turned out to be the winning TD for the German team on a 7 yard run.
The game wasn´t over after Kuci´s second TD, as the Vikings recovered a fumble very late in the game. QB Olson marched his offense down the field, but he could not hit his receiver in the endzone on a short pass.
Having secured a sponsorship deal from local company, Premier Prospects, the Personal Assurance Knights became Britain's only club team in European competition in 2003. They were drawn in Group A of the EFAF Cup, along with the Tyrolean Raiders from Austria and the Zurich Renegades from Switzerland.
In their first game, the Knights became the first British team to win in Europe for four years when they defeated the Zurich Renegades in Guildford. The Swiss Champions came with a determination to run the ball, with RB Urs Gersbach as their main threat. However, they found the Knights D led by Tony MacKenzie too much. It was Anthony Stitt, on his way to 147yds from 25 carries, that opened the scoring with a punishing 4 yard run. Jon Wyse slotted the extra point kick between the posts and the Knights led 7-0. Zurich found the Knights defense in unforgiving form, and Canadian Cameron Saylor leaped high to record his first interception for the Knights as the quarter ended.
The Knights then embarked on a time consuming 80 yard drive that was again rounded off by Tony Stitt - this time from 3 yards out. Jon Wyse again added the extra point and the Knights increased their lead to 14-0. In the fourth quarter, Jon Wyse kicked a 37 yard field goal to put the Knights ahead 17-0. The Renegades hit back on a 72 yard run from Gersbach to pull the score back to 17-7 to the British team.
Late in the match LB Scott Stonelake recovered a Renegade fumble deep in Swiss terrritory, and Dave Tobin burst into the endzone on his first carry in European competition. The ever reliable Wyse slotted the kick and the Knights led 24-7, and that was how the scoring ended. Head Coach Steve Rains commented, "This was a highly efficient fully committed performance from the squad."
The Knights European adventure came to an end though in front of an audience of 4,000 plus a national TV audience in the Tivoli Neue Stadium with a snow topped Alpine backdrop. The Knights could not ultimately cope with the speed and power of the young Austrian team and their American imported players. The Raiders took their first drive in for a score, as American QB Robbie Jenkins picked out Benjamin Dieplinger with a 39 yard pass. The Knights took over but could not move the ball against the Raiders who were clearly fired up by the huge local support.
After falling 14-0 down, QB Ashley Heath led a sensational drive which culminated in RB Tony Stitt acrobatically diving into the endzone from 2 yards out to put the Knights within 7. The Raiders came right back on the next drive, and they scored again to go 21-7 ahead.
Stitt replied with a 32 yard scoring run, after some good work by Heath and Ashaye, but Raiders stunned the Knights right on half-time when they scored on a RB option pass from distance. 28-14 at half-time, but it wasn't, as the Knights used the very same play with Stitt firing a 59 yard TD pass to Steve Belcher to make the score 28-21 at half-time. Things went downhill for the Knights after half-time, as the offense stalled and the Raiders started scoring points for fun. Wade Smith returned a punt over 70 yards for a score, and the Raiders fans started to whip up a frenzy of excitement.
There was no way back for the Knights, and the Raiders eventually ran out 56-21 winners.
Head Coach Steve Rains concluded, "The fact is we were beaten by a better team - but we learned a lot about ourselves and the standards set in European competition. We must now make the effort to ensure we get another chance to compete in the EFAF Cup next year."
The Raiders would take on the group A winners, the Carlstad Crusaders, in the EFAF Cup final. The game was played in Innsbruck, but the Crusaders did not read the script as they cruised to a 28-7 victory. Sweden's first success in European competition.
Due to the increasing number of American Football playing nations in Europe, the EFAF took the step in 2003 of regrouping it's national team competition into a three tiered system. All federations would participate in three levels - C, B or A. Pool C took place in 2003, with the winner taking part in the B tournament in 2004. The loser of the B group will next start in Pool C in 2007. Denmark was awarded the chance to host Pool C, with games being played in Copenhagen.
The Czech Republic were the only team making their first ever appearance in the European Nations Championship. Italy and Russia last appeared in qualifiers in 1998, and Denmark had last played in a loss to Sweden in 2001.
Italy were strong favourites going into the tournament, with a fine pedigree in the competition. They had won the ENC in 1983, when they were hosts, and had been runners-up on three other occasions. They also boasted a large majority of the Bergamo Lions squad, who have been so dominant in European competition over the last few years. In the opening game of the tournament, Pavel Hruzik's 35-yard run for the Czechs stunned the hosts and was the only score in a 7-3 win.
The Czechs next played Italy, and the Italians proved why they were red hot favourites for the championship with a 28-14 victory, with veteran Dino Bucciol passing for 3 TD's in a game the Italians were always in control of.
Russia were next in action, and this was a good opportunity to see how well they would perform at this level. Their side was largely composed of their European Junior Championship winning side of 2002, together with some older players from the Moscow Patriots and Moscow Bears. Russia cruised into a 14-0 first quarter lead, and then Dmitry Lobanov's 80 yard kick off return at the beginning of the second half killed the game as the RusDue to the increasing number of American Football playing nations in Europe, the EFAF took the step in 2003 of regrouping it's national team competition into a three tiered system. All federations would participate in three levels - C, B or A. Pool C took place in 2003, with the winner taking part in the B tournament in 2004. The loser of the B group will next start in Pool C in 2007. Denmark was awarded the chance to host Pool C, with games being played in Copenhagen.
The Czech Republic were the only team making their first ever appearance in the European Nations Championship. Italy and Russia last appeared in qualifiers in 1998, and Denmark had last played in a loss to Sweden in 2001.
Italy were strong favourites going into the tournament, with a fine pedigree in the competition. They had won the ENC in 1983, when they were hosts, and had been runners-up on three other occasions. They also boasted a large majority of the Bergamo Lions squad, who have been so dominant in European competition over the last few years.
When the dust had settled at the end of the 2002-2003 BCAFL season, there remained just two 100% sides - the Stirling Clansmen and the Leeds Celtics.
The Scots had taken the Northern Conference Borders Division by storm with some thumping regular season victories (Glasgow 51-8, UCH Sharks 46-6 Sheffield 32-0). An early season 30-28 victory away to the Newcastle Raiders had established their supremecy in the division, with Newcastle gamely fighting to the end of the season and a 5-3-0 playoff record.
Leeds’s season was built, as all great sides are, on defense. They did not concede more than 8 points in any game, and shut 5 opponents out. The nearest to defeat came to the Lancaster Bombers, who battled all the way to force a 0-0 tie after 60 minutes. The Celtics defense came up trumps again though as they forced a safety to win 2-0 in overtime. Joining them in the playoffs were the UCH Sharks, who were involved in a number of close games to finish 4-2-2
Nottingham Outlaws won the Western Division, and reached the playoffs for the first time in their history. After losing two out of their first three matches, the Outlaws stormed into the playoffs with five straight shutout victories. Successive divisional wins over Loughborough (14-0) and Staffordshire (22-0) sealed the title. Staffordshire’s 20-0 win over Loughborough secured the runners-up spot.
In the South, Oxford and Birmingham were in a ding dong battle for top spot in the Central Division. In week 6, Birmingham triumphed 13-12 against their fierce rivals, but their surprise 8-6 defeat against Plymouth Blitz a week later let the Cavaliers in with a chance of winning the division for the third straight year. In the winner-take-all clash in Oxford, it was the Cavaliers who came out on top this time 14-7.
Only a 33-31 defeat in week 9 to the Southern Sundevils, prevented Hertfordshire Hurricanes from a perfect regular season. They won the Eastern Division in the South, but they were pushed all the way by the surprising UKC Falcons from Kent. The Falcons had never previously reached the playoffs, and posted an impressive 6-2-0 regular season record and a home playoff match.
In the tough Western Division, Cardiff Cobras won the title, with their only loss a devastating 31-0 defeat to their divisional rivals, the Southern Sundevils. The Sundevils themselves lost two games to finish second (0-6 to UKC Falcons in week 6) and (0-6 to Bristol Bullets in week 2).
A word of sympathy goes out to the winless teams, who kept plugging away until the end – Sheffield Sabres, Leicester Lightning, Warwick Wolves and the Essex Blades.
The first round of the playoffs saw wins for Nottingham (15-8 over UCH Sharks), with QB Williams and Verkauf running in scores in the second half. The Sharks scored through Choi with just over 3 minutes left, and their last gasp hail mary pass went incomplete. In another cracking playoff game, the Staffordshire Stallions held off the challenge of the Newcastle Raiders 11-6, with the Stallions defense holding the Raiders on a goal-line stand on the last play of the game.
Oxford met the Birmingham Lions for the third time in the season. The Cavs took the lead on Kingsley Ejiogu's 72 yard run, but the Lions hit straight back on Jake Ourada's 38 yard reception from Stuart Ennis to put them 7-6 ahead. Battison added a field goal for the Lions to put them 10-6 ahead in the third quarter. Oxford almost won it at the death, when QB Charlie Greenbacker hit John Barclay on a 70 yard pass, but a last ditch tackle by Dave Winter preserved the win for the Midlanders.
In the final wildcard game, Southampton held a narrow 2-0 lead at half-time, but ran away with it in the second half against the UKC Falcons to win 30-8.
In the quarter-finals, Leeds Celtics's renowned defense which was ranked number 1 going into the playoffs held Staffordshire to just 10
points, but the problem was their offense failed to score anything. Nottingham's impressive first season under HC Paul Sheratt ended when Stirling's Jon Sutherland ran for 250 yards and 3 TD's in a devastating 42-0 victory for the Stirling Clansmen.
DT Janowski, DE Balogun and MLB Buxton managed 5 sacks between them for the Hurricanes defense as they crushed the Birmingham Lions 23-7. WR Nick Piper scored on a reverse for the Canes, and RB Andy Cochrane scored twice in the second half to ice the win. In a Western Division playoff matchup, the Southampton Stags advanced to the semi-finals with a thrilling 30-24 away victory over the Western Division champions, the Cardiff Cobras. In the semi-finals, Staffordshire travelled to Scotland in good heart to take on the Stirling Clansmen. The Clansmen were unbeaten, but the Stallions had defeated the previously number 1 ranked Leeds Celtics, in the quarter-finals. Stirling opened the scoring on Gary McNey's pass to Carlos Yanes-Roca to go 6-0 ahead. With good blocking by the Stallions O-line, they soon hit back to go 7-6 up. McNey's QB sneak put the Clansmen ahead again just before half-time. In the fourth quarter, Chris Ellis put the Stallions in the lead again, but the Clansmen were not to be denied and they became the first Scottish team to make the College Bowl on McNey's pass to Yanes-Roca.
In the other semi-final, Hertfordshire overpowered the Southampton Stags 49-18. The Canes led 29-6 at half-time, on the back of some superb playcalling and putting into place by QB Junior Price. Cochrane ran in 3TD's, and Price ran one in himself. Cochrane added a fourth TD in the second half, but the Stags fought all the way to the end with Dauley scoring from short yardage, and QB Baynham passing for another near the end.
In one of the best College Bowl's ever, Scotland's Stirling Clansmen took the title with a thrilling 22-17 win over the Hertfordshire Hurricanes. The Canes outgunned the Clansmen on the ground by rushing for 285 yards (Cochrane accounting for 179 of those on 39 carries). The Clansmen had a decent running game of their own, with Jon Sutherland running for 190 yards on 37 carries. Early in the first quarter, a Junior Price interception led to Hertfordshire taking the lead on a 3 yard run by Cochrane. The Clansmen knew their strengths, and after six successive runs by Sutherland he took the ball in from 16 yards out to bring the Scots back into it. McNey's 2 PAT to Fleming was good, and the Clansmen had an 8-7 lead which they held to half-time.
On their first drive of the second half, the Clansmen increased their lead when Sutherland charged over right end from 8 yards out to cap of a 75 yard drive to put them 14-7 ahead. The Canes hit back though on an 80 yard drive of their own on the very next possession, with Cochrane taking the ball in from 5 yards out around the left. Kelly's PAT was good, which levelled the scores at 14-14.
At the start of the fourth quarter the Canes recovered a Sutherland fumble deep in the Clansmen half, and despite their drive stalling Kelly managed to boot a 23 yard field goal to put them 17-14 ahead with five minutes left.
A superb dive ensued as the Clansmen picked up the ball from their own 19, and proceded to drive right down the other end where Sutherland ran in the go-ahead score from 3 yards out. Sutherland added the 2 PAT on a pitch, and the Clansmen led 22-17 with 3.57 left.
Canes then made a last ditch effort to win the Bowl. Cochrane ran 15 yards, and then TE Scott picked up 29 yards on a pass from Price to take the ball to the Clansmen 32. Cochrane and Hartley ran the ball to the Clansmen 6 yard line, where they had a first and goal with 53 seconds left. The Clansmen defense held firm, and Price's last gasp pass fell incomplete as time expired to ice the win for the Scots.
Stirling won the College Bowl in 2003
In September 2003, the Bulldogs embarked on a two match tour of Italy where they would play a domestic team, and then take on the Italian Under 25 National Team.
The selections for the "Class of 2003" took place at the end of the 2002/2003 BCAFL season, with a number of trials, and the Wildcats v Cougars/South v North game, where final selections took place.
With the squad selected, Tony Athersmith led his team into their opening fixture of the year, when they took on the BSL Division One side, the Chester Romans, in July.
Despite being at the end of a dismal season where they failed to win a game, the Romans were happy to take on the Bulldogs, but they probably wish they hadn't, as the Bulldogs romped to a convincing 38-0 win.
Right from the very first kick-off, the Bulldogs were on top, as Dave Winter (Birmingham Lions) returned it the distance for the score. Adam O'Keefe (Nottingham Outlaws) tacked on the PAT to give the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead. On the Romans opening play, they fumbled and Mark Pagett (Birmingham Lions) recovered to give the Bulldogs superb field position. However, they were unable to score and O'Keefe's field goal attempt was blocked by the Romans. The Bulldogs soon extended their lead when QB Stuart Ennis's pass found club team mate Winter for a 50 yard touchdown. O'Keefe again successfully converted the extra point extending the Bulldogs' lead to 14-0.
On the next Chester offensive drive, Tim Smith (Staffordshire Stallions) intercepted a pass, leaving the Bulldogs on the Romans' 29 yard line. A few plays later Ennis made his second TD throw, this time to Jon Rooney (Newcastle Raiders) , and O'Keefe added the PAT to make the score 21-0.
In the second quarter there was no let up from the Bulldogs, as Ennis scored on a 5 yard run to make the score 28-0, and on their next drive O'Keefe added a 34 yard field goal to make the score 31-0 at half-time.
Early in the second half, Mike Paling (Aberystwyth Tarannau) broke a couple of long runs, before scoring himself. O'Keefe tacked on the extra point to take the score to 38-0. The Bulldogs took their foot off the pedal in the fourth quarter, and Chester gave it a go but could not break down the stubborn Bulldogs defense.
After a satisfactory win, the Bulldogs returned to camp late in August, before taking on a much tougher opponent in the London Blitz (a BSL Division One side) four weeks later.
The Blitz trailed briefly 9-7, but then rattled off three TD's in the second half, before the Bulldogs scored a consolation TD near the end in a 27-15 defeat.
Despite, that defeat, the Bulldogs flew out to Italy in good heart. The Bulldogs opened their Italian tour with a 21-0 win over the Titans Romagna. Stuart Ennis connected on a 49 yard pass to Dave Winter, which gave the Bulldogs a 1st & goal on the 1 yard line. On the very next play, RB Mike Paling (Aberystwyth) ran in for the opening score to make the score 7-0 with O’Keefes' PAT.
The Titans were stopped twice going for it on fourth down by the impressive Bulldogs defense, and an Ollie North (Oxford Cavaliers) interception gave them an opportunity near the end of the second half to increase their advantage. Ennis completed a pass to TE Jon Rooney for a short gain and with time running out Paling came up just short on the final play of the half. The Bulldogs led by just seven.
On their opening possession of the second half, the Bulldogs marched down field, and Lawrence Alger (Nottingham Outlaws) scored on a 1 yard run, which with O'Keefe's PAT increased the lead to 14-0. Onoh Ozongwu (Leicester Lightning) forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, and then Ennis threw his second TD of the game, this time to WR Jon Gerring (Hertfordshire Hurricanes) to make the score 21-0. There was no further scoring, and the Bulldogs had got their tour off to a good start.
In the final game of their tour, the Bulldogs rounded off a great trip with a resounding 27-6 victory against the Italian Under 25 National Team. TD's from Winter, Paling, Alger and Hartley secured the comfortable win.
BYAFA was formed in 1988 after the merger of existing Two Touch and Kitted leagues. The highlight must be the BYAFA Micro League final at Wembley before the 1989 American Bowl. 20,000 spectators saw the Newmarket Mustangs triumph 6-0 over the Heathrow Jets.
The 2003 BYAFA Youth Kitted Championship kicked off in June with a new format which would ultimately find a British champion. Five teams competed in both the Scottish Division and English Division. Two sides from each division would qualify for the semi-finals, and those winners would compete for the BYAFA Bowl XV title.
In the English Division, Handforth staked an early claim for the championship with a convincing 32-0 home victory over the Harrogate Hawks on week 1 of the season. Ford Wilding scored 3 TD’s against the Hawks, whose summer camp in Oregon failed to help them against their powerful northern neighbours.
Bath Cardinals, with a largely rookie squad, opened their first BYAFA campaign against the Wessex Stallions. The Stallions were a merged squad between the Southern Sundevils (the BYAFA champions in 2001 and 2002), and their local neighbours, Brockenhurst Exiles AFC who did not have quite enough players to compete on their own in 2003.
Their merged team featured several GB Lions Internationals, and were expected to win comfortably. Bath did not read the script however, with Matt Towl scoring two interception return TD’s and their defense scoring another TD on a fumble return to win the game 38-34.
Lancashire Wolverine Colts (always a dominant side in the North) opened their season with a 38-24 victory over the Handforth Hammerheads, to put themselves in pole position for the English title. They were expected to consolidate their position at the top of the table in July, when they travelled to Bath to take on the Cardinals. They did not expect what happened though, as John Gibbon’s safety gave Bath an early 2-0 lead. Dave Mead hit Sam Fogg for a TD for the Wolverines to put them 6-2 up, but Matt Jenkins returned the second half kick-off 80 yards for what turned out to be the winning score.
Bath were for real, and they qualified for the playoffs at their first attempt with a 28-12 win over Handforth. Tom Evans put the Cardinals ahead on a reverse on half-time. They added a further two scores in the second half against a tiring Hammerheads defense. Bath had qualified for the playoffs, but one spot remained. Lancashire took on Handforth with a place in the English Division Championship at stake. Matt Lord’s 1 yard plunge for the Wolverines sealed a 12-8 victory.
Meanwhile, in Scotland, Inverclyde Sharks opened the season north of the border with a 22-6 victory against the Moray Firth Dolphins. Two TD passes from Campbell to Parker doing damage. They were put to the sword in their next game, however, by the Darren Trainor coached North Lanarkshire Rams, who cruised to a 32-0 win with Donaldson scoring two rushing TD’s. The Rams were looking to go one better than 2002 when they lost the Scottish title match, and they were looking good when they destroyed Moray Firth 32-0 with Martin Wallace passing for 2 TD’s to David O’Rourke, and 2 rushing TD’s from Gallagher.
Standing in the Rams way, were last season’s champions, the Clyde Valley Hawks. They were 3-0, and then got involved in a slug-fest with the Moray Firth Dolphins. In an 84 point thriller, the Hawks claimed a 54-30 victory – Lee Nelson running for over 100 yards and a TD. The following week was the crunch fixture – the Hawks travelled to North Lanarkshire. This was a repeat of last season’s championship game. The Rams took the lead twice in the first half on TD’s from Wallace and then on a 5-yard run from Donaldson, but the Hawks stormed back in the second quarter with two rushing TD’s from Nelson to lead 24-12 at the half. Wallace added a brace of scores for Rams to complete his hat-trick as they came fighting back in the second half, and took the lead 26-24. Moran, however, had the last laugh for the Hawks as he ran in from fifty yards to give them a hard earned victory.
At the end of regular season action, Bath would host Lancashire in the English Championship Game, and the Clyde Valley Hawks would host the North Lanarkshire Rams in the Scottish Championship game.
After a dramatic game earlier in the season, when the Bath Cardinals emerged 8-6 victors, this game was another tight, tension filled match-up between the two best sides in England. It wasn’t until the second quarter that a team got on the scoreboard, and that was the Cardinals who scored on a reverse and pass to Tom Evans. Bath were looking to extend that lead by three on their next drive, but their field-goal was blocked and returned for a safety by Chris Litter to reduce the scoreline to 6-2. Early in the second half, Bath secured a safety of their own, by sacking the Wolverines QB.
The Wolverines charged back in the fourth quarter, and Littler crossed into the endzone to tie the scores at 8-8, and Matt Lord scored on their next drive to give them the lead for the first time in the match. There was no way back for the Cardinals, who had achieved wonders in their first season.
After a tremendous regular season encounter between North Lanarkshire and Clyde Valley, there were high hopes of another classic in the Scottish Championship match. Solid defenses and a bitterly cold wind ensured that the first quarter ended scoreless.
The Hawks’ took the lead in the second quarter, when QB Mark McKenzie scored on a keeper to put them up 8-0. Things then started to go downhill for the Rams, when John Devoy recovered a Rams fumble, and Lee Collins then caught a 28 yard pass from McKenzie. Craig MacMillan scored on an 8-yard run to put the Hawks 20-0 ahead at half-time. There was no way back for the Rams, and the Hawks added further scores by Lee Nelson and Martin Wallace to give them a 32-0 win.
In BYAFA Bowl XV, the Scottish Champions ran out comfortable winners against the Wolverines. Punishing defense and nerves showed as both teams fumbled the ball away on numerous occasions at the start of the game.Clyde Valley's Andrew Reynolds caught the first of his four interceptions of the day which would lead him to MVP honours.
The Hawks took the lead in the second quarter, when the Wolverines gifted them the ball again. This time a blocked punt saw Longford recover the ball and return it to their opponents 21 yard line. Two plays later McKenzie hit Gary Orr in the back of the end zone from twenty yards to open the scoring. Chapman kicked the two extra points to give the Hawks an 8-0 advantage. Unbelievably on the Wolverines next punt, Longford blocked the kick, and Chapman recovered it in the endzone to put the Hawks 16-0 ahead. On their next drive, the Wolverines botched another punt when the ball was snapped over the punters head to put them 18-0 behind, and with seconds left in the half McMillan ran in from 4 yards to give the Hawks an astonishing 26-0 lead. That became 32-0 early in the second half, when Lee Nelson ran in from 20 yards, and Reynolds then returned an errant pass for another defensive score to increase the lead to 38.
Lancashire did not give up, and Sam Fogg took a reverse in from 12 yards to reduce the score to 38-6, only to see Lee Nelson (on his way to 136 yards in the game) dash down the left hand touchline from 52 yards out to ice the win for the Hawks. The Hawks have now won back to back titles. Can they make it three in 2004? In other youth/junior kitted action in 2003, the Chorley Buccanners won the BYAFA Festival of Football Junior Kitted title with three victories out of three. St Peters Pumas and Merseyside Predators also took part in the tournament.
2003 also saw new sides from Bristol Aztecs, London Blitz and Kent take to the gridiron. The London Blitz, in particular, looked impressive in defeating Bristol Aztecs twice, and also the Harrogate Hawks 32-0. Kent Brewers also took part in Kitted action for the first time, and they will be looking to build on their performances. 2004 will hopefully see some or all of these teams taking part in an expanded England Division
After the Irish American Football Association helped to form the Irish American Football League during 2002, the sport found a new lease of life in Ireland. Four sides competed in the IAFL in 2002, and a further 3 teams joined in time for the 2003 season (bringing the total to 7). Cork Admirals joined Division One and Craigavon Cowboys & Belfast Bulls Division Two. Other exciting developments that were announced were that the Carrickfergus Knights were to join the Dublin Rebels at the 2003 Charleroi Trophy and the IAFA were recognised by the Federation of Irish Sports and received provisional membership from the European Federation of American Football (EFAF).
Division One consisted of 4 sides – the returning Carrickfergus Knights, Dublin Dragons, Dublin Rebels and the new boys from Cork. Division Two was made up of the three development sides - Belfast Bulls, Craigavon Cowboys and the UL Vikings.
The season started in March, with newboys Craigavon Cowboys shutting out the Dublin Dragons 16-0 on a pair of 3rd quarter TD passes from Darren Blanton to Paddy Patterson. Craigavon were making their reappearance in Irish football after many years in the wilderness
Two weeks later, 2002 Shamrock Bowl champions, the Carrickfergus Knights, stated their claim for this season's prize with a thrilling 20-14 home win over their biggest rivals, the Dublin Rebels. Marcus Naylor put the Rebels 6-0 ahead, but Steven McDowell passed for 2 TD's to Ian McIlroy, and Shaw scored the sealing TD on a 12 yard run in the 4th quarter for three straight scores for the Knights and a 20-6 lead. Brian Dennehy's 28 yard run was too little too late.
The Dublin Dragons scored their first win of the season with a 28-14 win over the newcomers from the southern tip of Ireland, the Cork Admirals. Ulli Zinnecker scored a hat-trick of running TD's, but Cork were never really out of it and were happy with their performance in their first game.
The Dragons were brought back down to earth two weeks later, by the Rebels who won a one-sided Dublin derby 34-0. Brian Dennehy's 5 yard run and an interception return for a TD by Feargal O'Donnchu gave the Rebels a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, and Dennehy raced in for two more scores in the second half to complete the rout.
In the coming weeks, the Carrickfergus Knights and Dublin Rebels consolidated their positions at the top of the League table. The Knights destroyed the Dublin Dragons 51-0 at Woodburn and then 30-0 away from home against the same opponents. They then won 30-0 away to the Cork Admirals. The Rebels responded with a 40-12 away win against Cork, and a 41-0 thrashing of their local rivals, the Dragons.
Whilst the big two were picking up big wins, the Admirals were getting their act together. They played the University of Limerick Vikings in a friendly, and won their first match 38-24, with Trevor O'Connell and Keith O'Callaghan both rushing for a brace of scores. They then won their first IAFL fixture with a 42-8 thrashing of the Dublin Dragons at home. John Kenny passed for 2 TD's and then rushed for one himself. Their improved form earnt them a playoff berth.
In the other big regular season match up, the Rebels gained revenge for their earlier loss to the Knights with a narrow 12-7 victory at Greystones RFC. The Knights led 7-6, but Sean Shanahan's 16 yard run gave the Rebels the win. It was not enough to take the league championship, and they would have to playoff with the Cork Admirals for the right to meet the Carrickfergus Knights in the Shamrock Bowl.
The Admirals were expected to make a better fist of the playoff berth than they did, as they crumbled to 56-8 at Greystones to the rampant Dublin Rebels. The Rebels, therefore, took on their old rivals, the Knights, in Shamrock Bowl XVII at Suttonians RFC in Dublin. The game started in explosive manner with both teams scoring early in the 1st quarter. The Rebels scored on the first possession of the game on a 4 yard run by quarterback Andy Dennehy. Tight end Simon Mackey added the 2 point conversion to make the score 8-0. The Knights responded immediately when WR Paul McKillop caught a long pass from Stephen McDowell and took it 81 yards to the end zone. The Rebels increased their lead to 16-6 at half-time, when Simon Mackey scored on a 13 yard pass from Andy Dennehy, with Brian Dennehy adding the 2 point conversion.
Shamrock Bowl XVII
The Knights began one of their possessions in the second half on their own 1 yard line, but conceded a safety after running back William Cowan was tackled in his own end zone by the Rebels defense. Both teams then exchanged interceptions - Chris Davidson for the Knights & Feargal O'Donnchu for the Rebels. The Knights then began to move the ball through the air with Ian McIlroy picking up a couple of first downs, then Robert Elliot made the score 18-12 with a 13 yard pass from McDowell. The Rebels then responded on their next drive which ended with a 4 yard touchdown run by the games MVP Brian Dennehy to make the final score 24-12. Of the development sides, the Craigavon Cowboys caused a sensation when they defeated the Rebels 34-12 - Knocker with 2 TD passes, and the Belfast Bulls showed they were not to be messed with when they defeated the Dublin Dragons 32-6. The Bulls and Cowboys played a pair of matches against each other, and on both occasions the Bulls won narrowly. In game one at Woodburn, they prevailed 14-12, after holding a 14-0 half-time lead. Later in the summer, they won again, this time 18-12, with McKeown's 41 yard pass winning the game in the fourth quarter. In a friendly at the end of the season, Craigavon ran the Knights close before succumbing 26-22. The Bulls and Cowboys will be a credit to Division One.
Other Irish news was the appointment of Phil De Monte as the Irish National Team Head Coach. De Monte has coached for many years in the UK, most notably with the Oxford Cavaliers and the Oxford Saints.
At the end of the season, the North played the South in the IAFL Allstar match at Woodburn, Carrickfergus. Defenses dominated the game, and it wasn't until the third quarter when Craigavon Cowboys RB Bobby Murray broke the deadlock on a 2 yard run. Stephen McDowell of the Carrickfergus Knights kicked the PAT and there was no further scoring in the match.
For the second straight year, Ireland was invited to send club sides to the Charleroi Trophy in Belgium - the Shamrock Bowl holders, the Carrickfergus Knights, joined reigning Charleroi Trophy champions, the Dublin Rebels, in the two-day tournament. The tournament also included the Charleroi Cougars and Celtes de Mitry (a French Allstar team). The festival, based at the Complexe Sportif de Roux, also included the Belgium Allstar game between North & South Belgium and an International youth flag football tournament.
The Carrickfergus Knights played the hosts in the first semi-final. The Knights scored on a spectacular 42 yard punt return by Paul McKillop in the first half, but they failed to capitalize on their other scoring opportunities and were stopped 3 times on 4th and goal. The Cougars scored on a 33yd pass to receiver Fabio that deflected off a Knights defender, and the subsequent two point conversion put them into the final.
The Dublin Rebels beat the Celtes de Mitry in a close game in the other semi-final. The Rebels scored first on a 1 yard plunge by fullback Andy Flynn in the second quarter, and Marcus Naylor scored the 2 point conversion which would prove to be the decisive score in the game. The Celtes began to move the ball more effectively in the second half and scored their only touchdown late in the 4th quarter. Crucially though, the Celtes then failed to score a 2 point conversion which would have tied the game and the Rebels moved into the final.
In the final, the Rebels won the Charleroi Trophy for the second year in a row with a 12-0 win against the Charleroi Cougars in blazing heat. The Rebels scored their first touchdown early in the second quarter with a 16 yard run by tailback Sean Shanahan. Late in the half, Charleroi recovered a blocked punt near the Rebels goal-line, but the Rebels defense held strong on a goal-line stand. Charleroi got into scoring position in the third quarter, but were stopped by a Marcus Naylor interception. A couple of first down runs by Sean Shanahan and a pass to Feargal O'Donnchu got the Rebels to the Charleroi 15 yard line in the 4th quarter, and then WR Conor Ryan caught a pass from QB Andy Dennehy to make the final score 12-0 to the Dublin Rebels. Rebels running back Sean Shanahan won the MVP award.
The Knights then defeated the Celtes de Mitry in a one sided 3rd/4th place play-off 22-8. They scored early in the 1st quarter on a 75 yard pass from Stephen McDowell to Paul McKillop, and then increased their lead in the second quarter through a 17 yard field goal and a 13 yard reception by Gary Donnelly. Mitry scored on a 16 yard run in the 4th quarter, however, the Knights responded on their next possession with a 14 yard reverse run by Gary Donnelly to ice the victory.
With a lack of teams entering the British Senior Flag 9-on-9 championship in 2003, it was left to the two stalwarts of the British flag scene to fight it out for the championship, the Leicester Eagles and the Fen Harriers. In August, a re-surgent Harriers side blew away the current BSFL champions, the Leicester Eagles, at Belgrave Rugby club in Leicester by a score of 26-6. Three weeks later, a resurgent Eagles side defended their title by running out 35–6 winners. With the series tied at a game a piece, the Eagles edged the Harriers 41-32 on aggregate. The BSFL 5-on-5 league consisted of 5 tournaments that were played throughout 2003, with the results of all matches counting towards the end of season table. At the end of the year, it was the Chichester Sharks who were crowned as the new champions. Their first trophy, and a reward for their week in week out training down on the south coast. Leicester Eagles, like in 2002, finished as runners-up with Derby Dream Team finishing third. Last season's champions, the Bournemouth Raiders, finished fourth. The Sharks tied with the Leicester Eagles, but based on their two victories over the Eagles at the Independence Bowl in Cardiff they had the better head to head record and thus claimed the title. The BSFL opened the year by sending an Allstar team to Ireland to take on the Drimnagh Cycos in Phoenix Park (Dublin) on Saturday January 25, 2003. The Allstars, made up of players from Bournemouth and Invicta, triumphed 18-12. An independent Team England side, took part in the World Cup of Flag Football 8-man competition in the Bahamas in February. In a pre-World Cup warm-up game, they lost 21-0 to the Leicester Eagles. Chris Wild passed for 2 TD's to Pimperton and Hossack, and then Broughton wrapped things up with a pass to Burt. Come the World Cup. In the round robin section, Team England fell to Team France (made up of French-Canadians) 6-0 and Mexico (who reached the final) 18-0. Those two defeats left them with a tough quarter-final against Canada who won 22-0. Team USA won the final 28-7 against Mexico. Derby Dream Team travelled to Troyes in France and finished second in their 5 team group in the 5-man tournament with a 3-1 record to qualify for the finals group on the Sunday. Unfortunately against some class sides they lost 4 games, but finished ranked 9th out of 21 teams. Their record over the two day tournament was 3-4-0. They played teams from France, Ukraine and Austria. They also played with France against a combined Israel/USA team for the 9 man exhibition game. They lost 34 - 7.
Leicester's young Eagles were forced to battle to the last throughout the day to achieve their BYAFA Youth championship victory. A narrow win over Selhurst Snipers, which went down to the wire, saw them face old foes Birmingham whose win over an emerging Studley Bearcats gave them t
Highlights of 2004:
GB win European title
Knights break the O's stranglehold
Ireland return to international fold
Bulldogs play in NCAA
Canes take College title again
As 2004 started 16 UK based players were selected to take part in NFL Europe Camp in Tampa, and of those the following got through to play in NFL Europe in the summer - Jeff Nicolson (Edinburgh Wolves), Robert Flickinger, Scott McCready, Rob Hart (Southern Sundevils), Scott Couper (Glasgow Tigers), Aden Durde (London O’s) and Warren Keen (London O’s).
The BSL expanded to 36 teams in 2004, after all 35 teams from 2003 re-registered and newboys Coventry Jaguars joined the league. The league was realigned to include a newly formed Division One A, to help clubs make the huge jump from Division Two football to Division One. Clubs in Division One A would play each other home and away and also one fixture against each club in their Conference in Division One.
In Division One, East Kilbride opened their season with an easy 34-0 win over Lancashire, and then put themselves in pole position for the Northern title with a 3-0 home win over Birmingham thanks to Murphy’s 28 yard field goal. Birmingham gained revenge over the Pirates in the last week of the season with a convincing 35-14 win, but an earlier tie with Gateshead cost them the Northern Conference, and it was the Pirates who took the honours there in 2004. Lancashire pulled out mid-season, and Yorkshire kept plugging away to a 2-8 finish.
In the Southern Conference, the first shock of the year occurred in week 1 as the London O’s UK record for winning games in a row stretching back six years was toppled as the PA Knights won 14-12 at home. Anthony Stitt’s 13 yard run in the fourth quarter giving them a nail-biting victory. The O’s were still dominant against other sides, but were also forced to accept a tie after their home game with Ipswich was called off due to damaged pitch. Ipswich made playoffs, with the London Blitz pulling up the rear. At the end of the regular season, the PA Knights completed the double over the London O's with a 13-2 victory in London to clinch the BSL Division One Southern Conference.
In the newly formed Division One A, the Southern Sundevils made the step up from Division Two and swept to the Southern title with a 7-3 record. They also claimed the Division One scalp of the London Blitz with a 25-6 win. Bristol came second, with Cambridgeshire Cats third and Norwich recording a second successive year of disappointment finishing last.
In the North, Gateshead took the title and gave the Division One teams a good run for their money too finishing 7-2-1. They tied 0-0 with Birmingham, and also defeated Yorkshire 48-14. Staffordshire surprisingly came second, with Nottingham third and Chester finishing 1-9.
Division Two was split into four conferences, with two teams from each qualifying for the quarterfinals. In the Scottish Conference, Dundee Hurricanes were the powerhouse finishing 6-2-1, edging out Glasgow Tigers (who Scott Couper guested for at times) into second. Edinburgh came bottom, but their record of 3-4-2 shows how competitive that Conference was. In the Northern Conference, Doncaster Mustangs (only formed in 2003) dominated and took the title with an unbeaten 8-0-1 record – their sole tie coming in week one 12-12 against the aforementioned Edinburgh preventing a perfect season. Merseyside qualified for the playoffs in second, and East Midland finished winless.
In the always competitive Southern Conferences, Chiltern Cheetahs surprised everyone by claiming the South East with a perfect 10-0 record. Sussex finished 8-2 qualifying them for the playoffs – they only defeats coming against Chiltern in two cracking games (6-14 at home and 7-13 away). Kent Exiles started the season with great publicity after their first playoff season in 2003, and coaches Phil Wood in charge. A 6-4 record for them was still impressive nonetheless, but a playoff spot was denied. Essex finished fourth, and Sabres were fifth and Maidstone were winless in sixth.
In the South West, newboys Coventry Jaguars joined the set-up, but a win was beyond them in their first season. They were involved in a real shoot-out with South Wales losing 32-60, and South Wales finished second in the end to reach the playoffs, but it was the Redditch Arrows who took the South West Conference title with a 9-0-1 record. Nene Valley finished 3rd, Oxford 4th and Plymouth improving from their winless season in 2003 to register a 2-6-2 record.
Come the playoffs, Sussex made the Division Two semis with a nailbiting 23-22 away win at Redditch, whilst Chiltern continued their unbeaten run by thrashing South Wales 30-6. Dundee thrashed Merseyside, and Doncaster turned over Glasgow 46-22. The Doncaster Mustangs continued their perfect season with a nailbiting 13-12 home win over the Dundee Hurricanes in the semi-finals, and they would meet the Chiltern Cheetahs who thrashed the Sussex Thunder 34-6.
In the Division Two final at Britbowl 2004, Doncaster had too much for the Chiltern Cheetahs and eased to a comfortable 32-16 victory on the back of Giovanni Viscomi’s 109 yards and 2 TDs on the ground.
In Division One A, the Southern Sundevils appeared a class apart by dismantling Staffordshire Surge 48-3 at home in the semis, and the Bristol Aztecs reached their second successive bowl game with a 24-14 win away to the Gateshead Senators. The Sundevils crushed the Aztecs 32-0 in the Bowl Game, outgunning them 304 yards to just 94, and thus gaining promotion to Division One for the 2005 campaign.
In the Division One semi-finals, the PA Knights reached their second Division One final in 3 years with a 28-7 win over the Birmingham Bulls, and the London O’s also qualified by thrashing the East Kilbride Pirates 53-0 in Glasgow. PA Knights won their first ever national title with a convincing 28-14 win over the London O's. Ashley Heath to Steve Belcher, and then Marvin Jimerson’s interception return. Roland Williams reduced the score to 14-7, but Tony Stitt (in his last ever game) extended the lead to 21-7 and then Jon Wyse sealed the game for the Knights with a 50 yard interception return. The O’s scored a late TD, but the Knights had done enough to win their first National Championship.
PA Head Coach Steve Rains receiving the Div.1 trophy
In European club football, two English sides entered European competition for the first time in many years. The PA Knights narrowly lost 21-16 away to the Danube Dragons, but progressed to the semi-finals of the EFAF Cup with a 21-13 home win over the Zurich Renegades. The London O's become first British club in 5 years to win abroad with 38-6 win in Denmark against the Roskilde Kings. Both clubs progressed to the semi-finals – the O’s fell 49-16 against the Tyrolean Raiders, and the PA Knights received a walkover win against the Donetsk Scythians. In the final in Innsbruck, the Raiders cruised to a 45-0 win.
A blow to British American Football was announced, when the Scottish Claymores franchise was withdrawn by the NFL in the Autumn, and the Hamburg Sea Vipers were given their franchise making a fifth team from Germany in NFL Europe.
In November, USA Minor League Football announced that Riq Ayub and Brian Smallworth would be inducted into their Hall of Fame. They follow other Britball coaches Dr Kurt Smeby and Terry Smith.
One of the oldest names in the Britball announced a return to the BSL - The Colchester Gladiators had their application to join the BSL accepted in December. The BSL announced another increase in teams with four new sides taking part in 2005. Along with the Gladiators, the Andover Thrashers and the West Coast Trojans join, and the Manchester Titans will also rejoin after an absence of one year. 2005 will see 37 senior kitted sides take part – the most since 1997.
There was also sad news in December, with the death of Dr Kurt Smeby – one of the all-time great coaches of British & Irish American Football.
At the end of the year, it was announced eight British American football prospects would jet off to Florida in February 2005 to compete in National Player Mini-Camp in Tampa Bay ahead of the 2005 NFL Europe League season. The eight announced were London O's wide receiver Marvin Allen, Chiltern Cheetahs cornerback Jeff Brown, former Scottish Claymores and current London O's linebacker Aden Durde, Southern Sundevils fullback Russell Goodall, London O's safeties Kevin Okpoti and Onoh Ozongwu, Southern Sundevils linebacker Shaun Smith and London O's defensive end Daniel Watts.
Preparations for the Euro 2004 Pool B that Great Britain were taking place in were made as early as Autumn 2003 with the North v South Allstar game. This early preparation stood the squad in good stead when the squad was announced in August to take place in the championship in Amiens, France. First up in the championships was a first ever meeting between the Lions and Russia. Great Britain QB Adam Lane (a late addition to the squad, who had not competed in the BSL until 2004) completed 22 of 32 for 253 yards and 3TDs to inspire the Lions from a 14-10 half-time deficit to win their opening Euro 2004 Group B clash 24-21. GB scored in the first quarter on Lane's pass to Junior Price, and then Pete Rogers field goal closed the gap just before half-time. Russia jumped out to a 21-10 lead in the 3rd quarter before Lane's 4th quarter heroics. Lane passed for 2 TD's to East Kilbride's WR Mark Squire (the 2nd one inside the 2-minute warning). Veteran Mark Cohen caught the 2 PAT to give GB a narrow lead which they held onto. GB move onto face Spain on Wednesday afternoon. Great Britain continued their fine form with a convincing 41-0 win over Spain. Star QB Adam Lane threw for 4 TD's, and there were further rushing TD's by Anthony Perkins and Marc Saunders. GB opened the scoring with a 5-yard pass to Mark Cohen, and Perkins first TD for his country extended the lead. GB went into half-time leading 27-0 on the back of Lane's 35-yard pass to Cohen, and Junior Price's 36 yard catch from Lane. In the 3rd quarter, the result was put beyond doubt with Lane's 55 yard pass to Mark Squire, and then Marc Saunders's 1 yard run. Pete Rogers kicked 5 PAT's out of 6.
GB went on to face hosts France in their final game, with the winner qualifying for the elite Pool A competition in 2005. It was Great Britain who won it with a fantastic 18-17 victory over France. Trailing 7-0, and then having star QB Adam Lane knocked out of the game, stand-in QB Pete Rogers passed for 2 TD's to Mark Squire and Tam Bryne. Rogers tied the scores at 7-7 on a pass to Squire, but with 2.45 left in the 3rd quarter, France took a 14-7 lead. With just over 10 minutes left in the match, Rogers passed for his 2nd TD of the game (to Tam Bryne), and a courageous call by Coach Riq Ayub to go for the 2 PAT was successful when Steve Coles burst over the line to give GB a 15-14 lead. France kicked a 25 yard field-goal with 3.30 mins left to lead 17-15, but GB were not to be denied as Pete Rogers kicked a 30 yard field goal with 38 seconds remaining in the game to give the Lions the Pool B championship.
GB's D-line celebrate
GB Lions at EuroFlag
The GB Lions under-13 and under-15 sides competed in their eleventh successive Euro flag campaign in Dusseldorf in September and once again came back with honours. The under-15 squad were the defending European champions, and started the tournament with a 35-13 victory over Finland before being overturned 32-12 by Italy. In their group play off game they were narrowly squeezed out 39-31 which meant them facing Finland once more in the seventh-eighth ranking game. A 52-6 victory over the Finns proved that on another day they were still among the elite in Europe.
The under-13’s swept into the finals with a 32-21 win over muchfancied France and disposing of the Netherlands with an emphatic 35-7 score line. The Lions took on Germany in the final and the home side struck a double touchdown blow to see off the British youngsters 31-12. In the eleven years the Lions (formerly the Knights) have secured nine silver and one gold medal, proof of the standard of football that can be produced on these shores.
GB Lions Youth Kitted
In November, the GB Lions Youth Kitted team played their only fixture of 2004, when they lost 40-13 at Crystal Palace against the German Youth champions, the Dusseldorf Panthers. Ian Jacquet and Sam Fogg scored the Lions TD's on passes from QB Mead.
BCAFL teams got their 2003/2004 season started again after Christmas with 10 teams competing on the last Sunday in January. The unbeaten Birmingham Lions continued their winning streak overcoming Bath 21 – 6, and Brighton kept their hopes alive with a 21-0 over Reading, but in February a 6-0 away defeat to Plymouth seemed to dash their chances. Birmingham sealed the Central Division with a 26-13 deciding victory over Warwick on the back of 3 TD passes from star QB Stuart Ennis. The cold weather could not stop Birmingham Lions QB Stuart Ennis from breaking the single season TD passing record. Against Bath last week the record was tied at 23 but with 3 further TD passes in the victory over Warwick it was exceeded with still one game left in the regular season.
Staffordshire clinched the Northern Western conference with a 36-10 win over Hull Sharks in week 12, and Stirling Clansmen clinched the Borders Division with a 30-28 win over Glasgow thanks to a late TD from Jon Sutherland. Loughborough Aces crammed three games into the last 8 days of the regular season, and clinched a playoff spot with a gutsy 12-10 away win over Bath with James Hossack 40 yard catch clinching the win.
With the final week of the regular season over the playoff teams could finally be confirmed. In the North, Staffordshire, Leeds and Glasgow won their divisions and the top three seeds in that order. The next three teams were Loughborough, Nottingham and Glasgow - who beat Sheffield into the playoffs on tiebreakers. In the South Birmingham, Hertfordshire, Cardiff and Southampton all won their divisions and claimed the top four seeds again in that order, with Warwick and UEA also qualifying at the expense of Bristol who lost out on tiebreakers.
Southampton secured their place in the second round defeating Warwick at Southampton, a strong second half performance ensured the win against a Wolves team coached by former Stags coach Andy Capp. They went through to face Birmingham, and last years runners-up Hertfordshire (along with Birmingham the leagues only other unbeaten side) went through to face Cardiff. In the Northern Conference both winners came from behind to progress. Last years champions Stirling came back from an 18 point halftime deficit to beat the Glasgow Tigers 32 - 24. 3-time College Bowl champions Loughborough powered past Nottingham in the second half to come out 40 - 7 winners (Craig Flower with 2 rushing TDs). Stirling went through to face Staffordshire in a rematch of 2003’s Conference Final, only this time it would be contested south of the border. Loughborough meanwhile travelled north to take on old adversaries Leeds. Cardiff overturned UEA Pirates 8-0 away in a midweek playoff game thanks to QB Lance Godfrey’s bootleg to score.
In the quarterfinals the 2003 champion, Stirling Clansmen, lost out to Staffordshire 28 - 6. The Clansmen got the first TD in the first quarter but Staffs struck back right away returning the kick-off for a TD. They went on to score in each of the following quarters to reach their second successive Northern Conference Final. In the other playoff game in the North, Loughborough went in at the half with a 14 - 0 lead before Leeds struck back with a TD in the third and two more in the fourth quarter. They moved on to the Conference Final where they were looking to seek revenge against Staffordshire who knocked them out in the second round of the playoffs in 2003. The Southern Conference also went with seeding with both Birmingham and Hertfordshire coming off bye weeks to move into the Conference Final. Birmingham secured a shutout victory and the offense scored 33 points against the Southampton defense. The Hurricanes also had a shutout victory against the Cardiff Cobras and scored a TD in each quarter to keep the scoreboard ticking over as they came out 26 - 0 victors.
It was Hertfordshire and Staffordshire who progressed to College Bowl XVIII with semi-final victories. Staffordshire took the Northern title with a 30-22 home win over Leeds. Leeds took the lead on Joe Coultate’s run, but TD’s from Ant Charles and Brett Rosenbaum put Staffs ahead. Leeds pulled the scores level on Chris Kuc’s catch. Charles put Staffs ahead again, but again Leeds came back when Gregson powered his way into the endzone. Staffs snatched victory in the dying seconds of the game when Charles found TE Ziad Choueiri open at the back of the endzone with 22 seconds left on the clock, Prince added the 2PAT.
Hertfordshire prevailed in the battle of the two teams with perfect records in the South. Tom Scott opened the scoring for the Hurricanes, but Birmingham hit back on David Winter’s catch. Junior Price put the Hurricanes back ahead, and Adam Camp extended the lead when he recovered a fumble in the endzone for the TD. Birmingham came back into it with scores from Alexander and Winter, but the Hurricanes D stepped up, and Camp scored his second TD of the game, and Hartley sealed the win with a 5yd TD.
The Hurricanes have defeated the Staffordshire Stallions 27-6 to win College Bowl XVIII at Rams Stadium in Dewsbury. On Saturday 70 mph winds tore down a goal post at Rams Stadium, but it was not enough to deter the College League who improvised a replacement to enable the 18th College Bowl to take place. Hertfordshire were playing in their 5th College Bowl in 7 years while Staffordshire were playing in their first. The teams traded possessions in the first quarter, which remained scoreless despite good drives by both teams. The Hurricanes took the lead with 4:58 remaining in the half when RB Andy Cochrane scored on a 4 yard run. Cochrane went on to rush for 201 yards and received the Game MVP for his efforts. RB David Hartley extended the Hurricanes to 14 with just 2 seconds remaining in the half when he capped an 8-play 58-yard drive with a 1-yard plunge. The Stallions were unable to get anything going in the third quarter and went further behind with 14:53 minutes to go in the game when QB Junior Price rolled in around the right from 1 yard out to put the Hurricanes almost out of sight. Price secured the victory with a 20-yard pass to WR Richard McHugh on a perfectly timed pass in the corner of the end zone. WR Stuart Wren got a consolation score for the Stallions who refused to give in. Wren scampered in on a reverse from 33 yards out with 4:50 left in the game. The Stallions then recovered an onside kick but failed to capitalise and the Hurricanes secured their 4th title in the last 7 years.
Hurricanes won the College Bowl
After the 2003/4 season, the Birmingham Lions travelled to Belgium and defeated the Leuven Lions 34-0 in an end of season friendly.
The GB Bulldogs announced Graham Thorpe as their Head Coach for the 2004 season, and announced fixtures against Team Canada, the IAFL All-stars, a two-match tour of California and a game against Team USA. Before the BCAFL 2004/2005 season started, the GB Bulldogs lost 34-14 against an impressive Team Canada, and then thrashed the IAFL All-stars 69-6 in a friendly match at Moorways Stadium in Derby. The Bulldogs led 41-6 at half time, and eased to a convincing victory in the second half.
Bulldogs vs IAFL Allstars
They then departed on a two game tour of California, where they also took in an Oakland Raiders game. They scrimmaged against the Menlo College Varsity side losing 53-15. In the main game of their tour, they lost 48-7 to the NCAA Menlo College Oaks University team.
In their final fixture they lost 26-10 against a classy Team USA.
Three new sides joined the BCAFL for the 2004/2005 season, and one of them, Greenwich Mariners were competitive from the off with a 50-6 win over APU Phantoms in week 1, and then a 18-14 win over Leicester in week 4. They ended 2004 with a 2-2 record. The other 2 clubs joined the Northern Conference Scottish Division -–Napier University Edinburgh and Paisley Pyros.
As 2004 ended, six clubs were in a good position to qualify for the playoffs with each so far having perfect seasons – Glasgow Tigers (5-0), Leeds Celtics (5-0), Sheffield Hallam Warriors (4-0), Birmingham Lions (4-0) and 2004’s champions Hertfordshire Hurricanes (4-0).
The 2004 IAFL season kicked off with the sport on a high due to the upsurge in interest in 2003 which cumulated in highlights of Shamrock Bowl XVII been screened on TV3 in Ireland and across Europe on the Sky Sports. This upsurge in interest had been felt at grassroots level with most clubs reporting an increase in the number of rookies joining for the 2004 season. The 34 scheduled games also surpassed the number played even during the so-called fad days of the 1980s. Ireland officially became a member of the European Federation of American Football, and the IAFL also announced a national programme that was to be headed up by National Coach and former Oxford Saints/Cavaliers coach, Phil DeMonte.
The UL Vikings opened the season playing all of their games due to the university terms. They put in solid performances but were defeated in the season opener against Cork 19-5, and also 13-0 in the return fixture. Dublin Dragons opened with a narrow 8-7 win over the Vikings, and the Carrickfergus Knights showed their intentions with a 19-0 shutout win over the Belfast Bulls. The Dublin Rebels opened their season with a crushing 50-0 win over the Vikings, and the luckless Vikings were then trounced 47-7 by Carrickfergus. The Dragons consolidated their impressive start with a 26-12 win over Cork, but then fell 20-12 to Belfast and narrowly lost 12-6 in the Dublin derby against the Rebels. The league decider came in June, when the Rebels hosted Carrickfergus at Greystones and won 26-12. Belfast Bulls showed they could push the big two when they tied 21-21 with the Knights and lost narrowly to both the Knights (20-13) and the Rebels (28-14). The semi-finals were played in August, and Dublin Dragons early season form earnt them a place against the Rebels, which the Rebels won 38-12. Carrickfergus hosted Belfast in the other semi-final, and cruised to a 23-0 win. The Dublin Rebels won Shamrock Bowl XVIII, the closest in IAFL history, with a 24-22 victory over the Carrickfergus Knights. The Knights nearly clinched victory with only 1:06 left in the fourth quarter, but had a successful 40-yard field goal cancelled by a penalty for having twelve men on the field at the time of the kick. The game, which was played at Greystones Rugby Club also attracted the largest crowd in many years and featured a half time show for the first time ever. The Rebels rallied from a 22-8 half-time deficit with 2 TD passes from Andrew Dennehy to Brian Dennehy in the 3rdquarter, and then to Mark Kelly in the 4th quarter. Brian Dennehy scored the crucial 2 PAT to win the game for the Rebels.
John Carroll University of Ohio made the first visit of a U.S. college football team to Ireland since Notre Dame played Navy in the Shamrock Classic in 1996 and provided DeMonte with his first test as national programme co-ordinator. There have been 6 competitive games in Ireland involving visiting U.S. College teams since Boston College and Army played in the first Emerald Isle Classic in the 1980s. However, unlike the previous games, the Celtic Classic was the first time that the visitors played against an Ireland team entirely composed of players playing domestically in the Irish American Football League (IAFL). John Carroll showed their class, with a 52-2 win.
The IAFL All-stars then travelled to England to take on the GB Bulldogs (the BCAFL All-star team) in a friendly at Moorways Stadium in Derby. The IAFL All-stars suffered a 69-6 loss with RB Dave Wheeler scoring the lone score. The IAFL All-stars look to play more fixtures in 2005, which the ultimate aim of Ireland entering the EFAF European Championships at the next opportunity.
Following the British Senior Flag League AGM in February, the member clubs voted overwhelmingly to amend the name of the league to the English Senior Flag League. The reason was that Scotland has the SFFA for their clubs, and the name BSFL was deemed outdated.
Team England lost all 3 World Cup matches against the three strongest opponents they could have drawn in the 2004 World Cup of Flag Football in the Dominican Republic in February - USA, Canada and Israel. They put in a great performance against Canada going down 18-6 (Chichester Sharks duo of Nick Watson and Pete Steele connecting on the TD) in arguably the greatest performance by an England side. They also defeated the Dominican Rep 36-6 in a friendly. Canada won the title with a 12-8 win over USA.
The English Senior Flag League opened their 2004 season in March with their first All-star games. The Southern Pirates took on the Northern Knights in a 9man friendly match, which the North won 28-6 thanks to a 100 yard running game and 2 TD's from MVP Michael Soboagl. The Pirates gained revenge in the 5man challenge match with an 18-6 win.
In April, the 5man season started in fine fashion with Leicester Eagles winning the opening ESFL tournament of 2004 at Birmingham in Easter Bowl II with three wins out of three. North Devon and Staffordshire also finished the tournament unbeaten.
In May, England travelled to Dublin to compete in the second Senior Flag 7man international between the two countries. The England side was made up of 18 experienced players that had been drawn from 6 ESFL sides, and emerged victorious 13-6 in a tight game. Following Andre Clarke's interception, QB Roy Tanton (North Devon) picked out Nick Moffat (Fen Harriers) from two yards out to put England ahead on half time. Nick Watson (Chichester Sharks) found Gurkinder Mann (Staffordshire) for the 1PAT. Ireland pulled the score back to 7-6, but Abdul Lawal's (Bournemouth Raiders) 21yard-interception return for a TD sealed the win for England.
The ESFL entered a Northern and Southern England side in the Flag Oceane competition, and a Scottish side also entered the competition. It was the Scots who did the best finishing 11th, with ESFL North coming 13th and ESFL South 15th in the 20 team competition in Le Havre, France.
In June, Team USA jetted over to England to compete in an IFFF World Cup qualifier over two days in Fareham. They were joined by the French League champions, the Troyes Pygargues, and both sides reached the 5man final on the Saturday. USA trailed 6-0 to the French team at half time of the final, but they rebounded with 4 scores without reply to win 25-6 in the final. 9 sides took part in the day's event with a round robin stage followed by a knockout competition. The top English sides were from Bournemouth and Derby who reached the semi-finals. Troyes defeated Bournemouth 27-6 in the semi-finals, with USA edging out Derby 28-13.
Team USA won the 9man senior flag competition on the Sunday to complete a double victory in the IFFF World Cup qualifier. For the second successive day they faced French opposition in the final. The tournament was made up of 4 other sides from England, with Leicester Eagles and Andover Thrashers reaching the semi-finals. USA turned over Leicester 14-0, and Troyes defeated Andover by the same score. In the Championship game, Team USA's Adam Desanctis started off the scoring on a 60 yard scamper, Jim Zimolka then caught a 15 yard pass from Pat Connelly to give the USA a comfortable 13-0 lead. Troyes scored on a 10 yard pass from QB Flavien Charles to WR Eric Pierre to pull the French side within a point. The games final score came on Desanctis's 60 yard TD jaunt, as USA ran out 20-6 winners. Adam Desanctis scored six touchdowns on the day as he was awarded MVP Honours.
Leicester Eagles continued their domination of the 2004 9-man league with wins over Fen Harriers (26-6) and Andover Thrashers (26-16) in the Harriers Challenge Cup. The Harriers beat Andover 32 - 12 to post a 1-1 record for their first tournament of the year, and Andover Thrashers record dropped to 1-3.
The Leicester Eagles then travelled over to the Irish Republic to play the Drimnagh Cycos in the 8th Anglo-Irish Flag American Football Challenge in Dublin in July, and it was the Eagles who came out on top for the second successive year, 28-6. James Hossack scoring two TD's and catching two interceptions.
Team England got their training for the 2005 World Cup in Miami off to a slow start as they fell to a 16-12 defeat against Andover in September, and continued their preparations for the tournament with further training sessions in the Autumn.
Leicester Eagles sealed the 9man title with two wins in September against the Fen Harriers and the Chatham Sharks to complete a perfect 6-0-0 season. The Eagles retained the title they won in 2003 and 2002.
After a gap of four months from the Fareham 5man tournament, the Barbarians took the next ESFL 5man tournament on points scored from the Bournemouth Raiders in Autumn Bowl II at Chichester. Barbarians finished with two wins out of three, as did Bournemouth, with Chichester and the Bournemouth Deckchairs finishing 1-2-0.
Horsham College hosted four teams in a friendly 5man tournament, which was one by Chichester Sharks in November.
Team England announced the squad and management for the 2005 World Cup in December with Nick Watson, Jason Prowse and Hitesh Patel joining the team management, and being joined by a squad of 27 made up from 6 different ESFL clubs. There are high hopes for this group of players in February 2005.
In the final event of 2004 BYAFA Youth Flag champions, the South Wales Rebellion, surprised their senior flag counterparts with a stunning performance at Beach Bowl IV in Andover. In the highlight of the ESFL 5man calendar eight sides took part, and it was the Rebellion who swept past Chatham, Bournemouth and Andover Thrashers B enroute to the final where they defeated Andover Thrashers A 21-12 to clinch the tournament title.
The ESFL 5man title qualification was amended in the 2004 AGM to specify that to qualify for the title teams had to compete in three or more tournaments. Bournemouth Raiders ended the season on top after seven wins out of nine matches winning their second 5man title in three years, with last seasons champions, Chichester Sharks in second place.
In April BAFA withdrew the GB Lions Youth Team from the EFAF European Junior Kitted Championship including the qualifier against Italy due to be played in May. The National Programme Director and Lions Youth Coaches voiced their concerns regarding the format of the tournament. The concerns centred on the four games to be played in the space of eight days if the Lions had qualified for the final round to be played in Moscow this August. It was felt that there was not sufficient time in between the games to allow for injuries to heal and to recovery from the games themselves.
Once again the Youth Kitted season schedule had to be revamped due to teams pulling out, some a week before the first game, with the originally intended three Conferences having to be reduced to two. The Scottish and Northern Conferences became the Northern Conference, Southern stayed the same. The season opened with Bristol winning 15-14 at London Blitz, but the Blitz bounced back 2 weeks later with a stunning 50-18 against newcomers Kent Brewers. Perennial achievers, the Lancashire Wolverines started off with a sound 32-0 win over Milton Keynes Pathfinders. Bristol continued their winning start to the season with two wins over Kent (36-18 and 54-34). Bath Cardinals after coming so close in 2003, opened their season with 3 successive wins, and then in June crucially won 11-8 against arch-rivals, the Bristol Aztecs. Bristol won 19-5 in the return fixture, but it was Bath who took the Southern title.
In the North, the 2003 British champions, the Clyde Valley Hawks opened with a 40-12 win over rivals, the North Lanarkshire Rams, and in the highest scoring game in many a year Harrogate won 60-38 at Milton Keynes. The Rams bounced back to win at home to Harrogate, and then stunned everyone by winning 14-12 against the Hawks in their return fixture. A 32-28 win over Glasgow in their last regular season game clinched the Scottish title.
Bath Cardinals won BYAFA Bowl XVI with an 18-14 win over the North Lanarkshire Rams. The Plate Final saw the Lancashire Wolverines take on Kent Brewers who literally stepped in at the last minute to save the day. Lancashire won the game against a continuously battling Kent side.
The news for 2005 is that the London O's are busy rebuilding and may be back next year, and a team in Birmingham called the Greets Green Gators are also looking to enter .The Yorkshire Rams are also hopeful of starting a youth team in 2005, and in Scotland it is hoped to see the return of the Inverclyde Sharks and the Moray Firth Dolphins in 2005.
In December, England took on Scotland at Stirling in the 6th Under-19 fixture between the countries – Scotland levelled the series at 3-3, with a convincing 27-0 win. Two touchdowns by Glasgow Tigers and game MVP Ian "Sparky"Dick along with a score apiece from club team mates, Rafe Shanmugan and Derek Russell wiped out any chance that the English had.
BYAFA also ran their first Junior 5 on 5 tournament season, with a total of 10 individual teams taking part. PA Knights defeated the Inverclyde Raiders 24-12 for the British Championship, with the MK Pathfinders winning 56-8 against the Yorkshire Rams in the 3rd place playoff.
BYAFA had five more teams play in their flag league in 2004. New teams the Heeley Tomahawks, MK Pathfinders, and this year’s Channel 5 Trophy winners the Sussex Thunder came in at Junior level. In Youth, new boys the Southland Sabres and the South Wales Rebellion, increased the numbers. Five full tournaments were staged at Birmingham, Leicester, Darlington, Don Valley and the Festival of Football. On top of which separate Junior and Youth events took place at Milton Keynes. Over 130 games took place, with the BYAFA Flag Championships producing three highly competitive games. Congratulations to the eventual winners, Cadet - Chorley Buccaneers (27-26 winners over Studley Bearcats), Junior - Eastbourne Cardinals (20-18 vs Leicester Eagles), and Youth – South Wales Rebellion (34-12 vs Don Valley Vipers).
The Scottish Flag Football Association held its League Finals Day in October after a superb 2004 at Forthbank Stadium, Stirling. All league play was held between April and September 2004 where the North/ East and the West Central conferences for each age group battled it out for a place in the finals day.
The Grangemouth Broncos played the Glasgow Bengal Tigers while the Glasgow Siberian Tigers played the Inverness Rockets in the Cadet playoffs, and with the scores Broncos 59 Bengals 0 and Siberians 38 Rockets 6. The match ended with the Siberians holding onto a 39-36 victory.
At Junior level the Moray Maniacs played the Glasgow Hornets while the Clyde Valley Predators played the Inverness Rockets, and with the scores Maniacs 33 Hornets 32 and Predators 59 Rockets 12. It was the Predators who were the better team, winning the game 56-19.
At Youth level the Glasgow Hornets played the opening game against the Aberdeen Oilcats while the Kirkcaldy Bulls played the Graeme High School Titans in the other fixture and with the scores Hornets 40 Oilcats 33 and Bulls 45 Titans 26. The final ended 28-18 and the Kirkcaldy Bulls were crowned Youth Scottish Flag Football Champions for the second season running. A feat mirrored by their Senior squad who had dominated the Senior league for their second season. The Bulls finished the season undefeated as they did last year and are still undefeated in two and a half years since their formation.
The SFFA formed a Scottish Development Squad that took part in the Flag Oceane tournament in Le Havre in May and returned home with an excellent record of 7-2 for the weekend. Despite losing out on qualification to the top groups after going 2-2 on the Saturday and being eliminated on points difference, the squad remained upbeat and went unbeaten on the 2nd day recording 2 shutouts along the way. In September, this squad formed the nucleus for a GB Lions squad that entered the IFAF World Cup in Thonon-les-Baines, France. The team finished 7th out of 11 nations. They defeated Sweden 31-19, but fell to defeats against Japan (30-13), Italy (27-15) and Germany (49-13).
The SFFA's National Youth Squad hosted their annual National Flag 2004 challenge tournament at the Forthbank Stadium in Stirling in October, with the Scottish squad coming out on top of the South Wales Rebellion and the Lanarkshire Rams.
After the Scottish Claymores were shut down in October, the NFL donated the Claymores name and the logo rights to the Scottish Gridiron Association.
And at the end of 2004, the SFFA reported that 18 clubs have entered 39 squads for 2005 (7 more than in 2004). The largest growth in teams occurred at Youth level with 13 teams in the 2005 league compared to 7 in 2004. Meanwhile, the Junior Level reduced to 12 squads as opposed to 14 in 2004. There were two more Cadet squads; making 7, whilst the Senior level sees 7 squads; 2 extra from 2004, taking part.
Highlights of 2005:
Olympians regain title
Rebels win again in Ireland
Canes take College title again
The year opened with the sad loss of two Britball coaches. George Aguado, the former coach of the Manchester Spartans, Wirral Wolves and Prestatyn Panthers contributed so much to the Britball game in the 1980's and early 90's and he gave so much passion to the game we all love. Coach John Gurga started in Britball with the Lincoln Bombers in 1986, and went onto to coach Scunthorpe Steelers, Lincoln Saints, Leeds Cougars, Leicester Panthers and Nottingham Hoods. In 1998 he took the Position of Head Coach at Sheffield, leading the Saxons to the Quarter finals. That year he was awarded Allstars Coach of the Year. John's final port of call was in 2004 with the Doncaster Mustangs leading the team to the BSL Division 2 Bowl.
The BSL expanded again. Despite the Sabres pulling out, the Manchester Titans rejoined the league for competition after a year’s absence and new sides in Scotland (West Coast Trojans), Colchester and Andover all joined. 2005 saw 35 senior kitted sides take part – the most since 1997.
The British Senior League (BSL) took the decision to re-brand under the new name, the British American Football League (BAFL). The re-brand came at an exciting time for the sport in Great Britain with Sky Sports including a round-up of results and conference standings from the British American Football League in a new weekly two-hour programme dedicated solely to American Football.
The BAFL had 6 players selected to play in NFL Europe for the 2005 season. Daniel Watts and Neil Baxter joined the Berlin Thunder. Jeff Brown and Marvin Allen were selected to join the Frankfurt Galaxy with Aden Durde and Scott McCready joining the Hamburg Sea Devils.
Over 20 years previously the Streatham Olympians were born. The name changed to the London Olympians after a move to Crystal Palace National Sports Centre, but in the mid 1990’s due to legal complications, it was decided that the name would be changed to London O’s. In 2005, the O’s moved back to Crystal Palace, and changed their name to the London Olympians (2005). On the reasons for the change of name Head Coach and team owner, Coach Ayub explained, "The Return to the London Olympian name, has been something that has been discussed for a number of years, we felt for 2005 the time was right, we are back at Crystal Palace, London is bidding for the 2012 Olympic Games, and it was a great way for us to signify the start of a new era of football for the club, a time where the club is moving not one, but a number of steps forward, on and off the field."
Moving onto the BAFL 2005 season, the reigining champion PA Knights opened their season with intent with a 47-7 away clubbing of the Bristol Aztecs, and the East Kilbride Pirates lost their opener 25-14 away to the Gateshead Senators. The Pirates were suffering the loss of several players to the newly formed West Coast Trojans and lost 13-0 in their second fixture against Birmingham the following week. As early season turned into mid-season, the front runners became clear. Bulls kept up their impressive start to the season with a 38-25 away win over Gateshead. The Southern Sundevils caused a huge upset in May with an impressive win over the Olympians, and the Olympians then blew the Southern conference wide open with an impressive 27-6 win over PA Knights. The Bulls 41-14 away win over Pirates cemented their place in the playoffs, and the Knights took the divisional title with a 22-21 win over Olympians at home. Gateshead’s 36-0 away win over a depleted Pirates side, and the Olympians 62-0 win over Ipswich sent the Sundevils on a journey to Gateshead to face the Senators in the wild card game where they won 6-3. The Sundevils almost made it to the Bowl Game but for a last gasp PA Knights win 15-14. The Olympians blasted away the Bulls in the semi-final first half and had to hold off a furious second half rally to win 27-22.
In Division One A, Bristol took the Bowl despite only scrapping into the playoffs. They thrashed Nottingham 34-0 in the wild card game, with Chiltern surprising the Staffordshire Surge 18-12 away from home in the other wild card. Into the semi-finals, and the Cheetahs were the surprises again with a 9-6 away win at London Blitz. The Aztecs marched on with a 41-16 thrashing of Doncaster away from home.
In Division Two, Colchester Gladiators lost a thriller 21-20 in a local derby with Essex, and newboys Andover lost their opener 22-0 against the Plymouth Admirals. The other newboys, the Trojans, bucked the trend with a 12-6 away win at Dundee. Coventry then sent an early marker of their intentions for 2005, with a stunning 57-0 win at East Midland in week 2. The Coventry Jets proved unstoppable setting numerous records along the way. The wins kept coming for them as they went through shut out win over shut win, averaging over 60 points a game. Only a Norwich TD in the last regular game of the season prevented them going the whole season without conceding any points. West Coast (in their first season) wrapped up the Scottish title early on eventually finishing 9-1 after a strong showing from QB McNey with almost 2000 yards passing. The Jets went 10-0 in the Central Division scoring over 600 points and only Norwich scoring a TD in the last regular season game preventing a complete white wash of all opponents. The Kent Exiles went 10-0 also, conceding just 23 points and had high hopes for the playoffs, and the Oxford Saints (9-1) and South Wales Warriors (8-2) went to the final game of the season with the Saints winning 18-12 and taking the title. In the playoffs, three teams recorded shutouts. West Coast thrashed Manchester 56-0, Coventry 35-0 vs Dundee and Oxford shut out Essex 20-0. Kent Exiles had a decent 30-16 against the South Wales Warriors. After what seems like a season of hype, Coventry took on West Coast in the first semi-final in front of a 4 figure crowd and proceeded to destroy the Trojans 55-6. Kent were equally impressive with a 35-6 win over Oxford in the other semi-final.
Onto Britball 2005 at Sheffield’s Don Valley Stadium, played under floodlights on Saturday evening, the Aztecs battled to put up a 7-0 score-line through MVP Adam Sparrow off a twenty-one yard interception return. The game then developed into a spectacle worthy of the caveat ‘Defense wins titles’ as the Aztecs soaked up drive after drive from the Cheetahs to clinch the championship!
On the Sunday, the Division Two final turned into a real battle between Kent Exiles and the Coventry Jets. Early in the second, Mark Cohen put down the first score for Coventry. The Exiles were quick to reply and put the Jets behind for the first time this season with two touchdowns from Sean Starwind and one from Glen Boyle (two PAT’s by Matthew Tompsett) to lead 20-6 at the half. The Jets came back in the third quarter with two touchdowns from MVP Tony Perkins and another from Mark Cohen who then added a further TD early in the fourth quarter to take the Jets back into the lead at 20-24 – a lead they were to hold until 2.03 on the clock when Alex Campbell received a twenty-seven yard pass from Matt Duncan to turn the game back to the Exiles. But the joy was short-lived as Tony Perkins returned the kick-off for eighty yards to clinch victory for the Jets.
In the show piece event, the Knights stamped their authority over the Olympians with a touchdown from Paul Attia (PAT by Steven Belcher) in the first quarter followed by field goal, touchdown and PAT from Steven Belcher in the second quarter. However, a resurgent Olympians never gave up the fight and in the third quarter they mounted a monumental comeback with a touchdown from Andrew Boyle in the third quarter and two touchdowns from MVP, Jermaine Allen – the final one coming with only 43 seconds on the clock (both PAT’s were converted by Andrew Boyle).
Riq Ayub (far right) picks up the Britbowl trophy for the Olympians
Other notable Britball facts and figures for 2005:
- Essex Spartans and Norwich Devils took part in 5th highest scoring tie (32-32) in Britball history
- Coventry Jets became only the 4th side to score more than 600 regular season points (the record being the 676 Bristol scored in 1987)
- Coventry condeded just 7 pts in the regular season – the 3rd lowest
- Kent Exiles conceded just 23 pts in the regular season – ranking them 7th on the alltime list
- Tim Spaull passed for 7 TDs vs Merseyside on the 7th August
- Marc Cohen caught 1246 yards on the season placing him 8th on the alltime list for receiving yards in 1 season
- Marc Cohen broke the UK record for most receiving TDs in a season with 33
- Owen Roberts ran for 312 yards and 8 TDs vs Plymouth on 7th August. His 8 TDs places him 3rdon the alltime list of rushing TDs in one game
In European club football, the PA Knights (in front of 570 fans at Aldershot Football Club) defeated the Templiers Knights of France 20-6 in the 1st leg of the 1st round of the EFAF Cup. The first time a British side had defeated a French club in competition. A month later in the return leg QB Perez Mattison roasted the Knights secondary for 332 yards and 3TDs, as the Knights tumbled out of the competition after a 32-6 defeat.
PA Knights vs Elancourt
The Marburg Mercaneries won the EFAF Cup with a 49-14 over the Knights conquerors in the final. Eurobowl XIX was won by the Vienna Vikings with a 29-6 win over the Bergamo Lions.
Kent Exiles also travelled in Europe for the first time for an end of season tour of Austria. Their sole game being against the hometown St Polten Invaders, which resulted in a 42-14 defeat.
In November, preparations for the 2006 NFL Europe League season started when the potential European-based national players for the upcoming season got together for the first national player camp since World Bowl in June. The BAFL players selected to attend were:
Emanuel Akah (OL) London Olympians
Jermaine Allen (RB) London Olympians
Marvin Allen (WR) London Olympians/Frankfurt Galaxy
Andrew Boyle (K/P) London Olympians
Jeff Brown (DB) Birmingham Bulls/Rhein Fire
Steve Clements (LB) London Olympians
Tom Jenkins (RB) Southern Sundevils
Lorn Mayers (DL) London Blitz/Berlin Thunder/Oakland Raiders
Onoh Ozongwu (DB) London Olympians/Rhein Fire
Shaun Smith (LB) Southern Sundevils
Daniel Watts (DL) London Olympians/Berlin Thunder
Two new sides met the joining criteria for the 2006 BAFL league by the December deadline – East Kent Mavericks and the Reading Renegades. Thirty seven sides will battle it out for Britbowl XX in 2006.
GB Bulldogs held trials at the end of the BCAFL season, and competed in what was meant to be a three team tournament with Team USA Gladiators and Team Canada. The Bulldogs took on the powerful Team USA Gladiators and fell to a 20-63 defeat, but bounced back to win 23-12 against a strong Team Canada.
Bulldogs QB Ted Baynham's underhand pass for a TD vs Team Canada
The English Senior Flag League expanded again in 2005, with more games taking place on their 5man circuit than in any previous year with 8 tournaments. Team England competed in the World Cup in Miami and also took on Scotland in 5man internationals, and the Leicester Eagles competed in both Amsterdam and Dublin in friendlies.
Leicester Eagles flew to Amsterdam to take on the Amstelland Panthers, the Utrecht Dominators and the Amersfoort Untouchables (Netherlands) and, from Düsseldorf, Germany, the Rhein Weasels in February.The Eagles represented the ESFL superbly as they cruised through their group with wins against Amstelland Panthers (19-6), Amersfoort Untouchables (27-0), Utrecht Dominators (27-0) and the Rhein Weasals (13-12). The Final saw the Eagles facing hosts Amstelland who had improved as the tournament went on. A Broughton interception got the Eagles off to a promising start and Pimperton hooked up with him to put the Eagles 6 – 0 ahead. Manger’s extra point catch made it 7 – 0. As the game wore on the Eagles increased their lead to 14 – 00 with an O’Sullivan TD and extra point. Trying to defend their lead the Eagles gave up a quick score to the Panthers and held on to win 14 – 6 as their defense held firm against Dutch pressure.
75 teams took part in the 6th World Cup of Flag Football in Miami. Teams from Cayman Island, St Croix and England stepped up and competed fiercely against the big three (Canada, USA and Mexico). Team USA ,considered the strongest unit with home soil advantage, were given a run for their money by both England and the Cayman Island while in the other group Canada scrapped through with a winning record beating Mexico and the under dogs St Croix. England lost their first two games after playing extremely well against USA and the Cayman Isles, but they did bounce back to win friendly encounters against Honduras (12-0) and the Cayman Isles (12-6).
On the 5man circuit, Leicester Eagles claimed their first 5man title with a stunning record of 19 wins from 22 games. Chichester Sharks took the runners-up spot with an impressive record of 26 wins from 34 games, and the Barbarians finished third. Kirkcaldy Bulls came down from Scotland for the league’s flagship event, Beach Bowl V, and promptly carried the trophy away after defeating allcomers.
Changes to the way the title will be decided in 2006, mean the top four ranking sides will playoff for the English championship at the end of 2006 season.
Leicester Eagles won the only two 9man matches played in 2005 against their perennial rivals the Fen Harriers and thus claimed the 9man title for a 4th straight season.
In Scotland, the Kirkcaldy Bulls finished their 2005 season with the astounding achievement of the "threepeat"; picking up the title of Senior Scottish Flag Football Champions 2005 and thus retaining the title they had won in 2003 and 2004! The National Programme in Scotland also announced in March that Glasgow Tigers Coach Mark Fletcher was appointed Head Coach of the Scotland Senior Flag Squad. National Director for Flag, Stuart McKay said, "I believe Mark is by far the best coach for the job and will carry on the approach of fair, competitive and passionate football.", he continued, "I would ask that Mark be given time to organise the squad considering the lack of movement on this front in the last few months."
Scotland took on England in a senior flag international at Stirling University. Scotland got the win by a 33-21 margin, with Carlos Yanes-Roca scoring 3 TDs and Scott Couper and Jim Burns also featuring for the Scots.
The cream of Scotland and England came together in Helsinki in the Autumn under the GB Lions banner and lifted the Bronze medal in the European Championships. After coming so close to upsetting the powerful Germans in the opening game (27-32), the Lions turned over Sweden 20-18 and then Dayle Kirby’s PAT gave them a 27-26 win over Italy. In the semi-finals, a well drilled French side defeated GB 27-12, but a 21-20 win over Austria gave them the bronze medal.
The Bronze medalists from L-R are:
Back row - Defensive co-ordinator Mark Bramwell, WR Peter Steel, WR/FS Dayle Kirby, C/SS Tim Smith, QB Nick Watson, LB Justin Handley, C Paul Jeffries, WR Andy Leane
Front row - Headcoach Stuart McKay, CB Simon Hood, CB/SS Peter Riazi, WR/CB Gurkinder Mann, WR David Mooney, Manager Stevie Maxwell
The Coventry Jets American Football Youth Academy celebrated its first ever trophy with a breath taking smash & grab raid on the NFL’s ‘International Peewee Bowl’ in Amsterdam, Holland. After a 13-hour coach ride, travelling throughout Friday night, the three Coventry U12 teams from Bishop Ullathorne, Woodlands and Whitley competed, and it was Bishop Ullathorne who would fly the Coventry flag, sweeping all before them to go 4-0 and earn a place in the final with the pre-tournament favourites the Amsterdam Crusaders. The final was a tense, cliff-hanger of a game, as the Jets opened up a 6-0 lead when QB Everett combined with Luke and Tom Yardley for the first TD. Back came Amsterdam behind their excellent QB and tied the game on a 30-yard bomb. The final then swung between both teams, with Coventry playing superb zone defense. The Jets began to mount a drive that took them deep into Crusader territory and the Yardley twins combined for the go-ahead score. Behind 12-6 Amsterdam could not breach the Jets defense, who held firm when their backs were to the wall. At the final whistle parents, players, coaches and officials of the Jets all celebrated a huge win. Coach Etheridge said: "What a journey. Despite many gruelling hours on the coach our boys were magnificent. 5 straight wins is quite an achievement".
At the annual Euro Flag tournament played in Spain, Great Britain Under 135’s finished 3rd with a 2-2 record. The Under-15’s came third in their group with a 1-2 record, and then defeated Spain 47-31 to finish 5th.
Ten sides competed for the BYAFA Youth Kitted title in 2005, and it was Glasgow Tigers who would emerge as the Northern champions to take on the Southern Champions, the London Olympians. In BYAFA Bowl XVII, the Olympians took the championship with a 38-14 win. The Tigers took an early lead on a 48 yard pass from Kris Kennedy to Derek Russell, but the Olympians hit back with QB Jerome Allen hitting Williams Bryce over the middle from 30 yards. Star RB Gayle added three scores for the Londoners in the second half to ice the win.
In the Junior Kitted season, 16 sides competed with the final being contested between the Clyde Valley Falcons and Milton Keynes Pathfinders. The long awaited match up between the two separate conference powerhouses resulted in a well-earned 36-6 victory for the high flying Falcons.
In the BYAFA flag season, Coventry Jets won the Cadet championship with a 20-12 win over the Chorley Buccaneers. The Heeley Tomahawks won the Junior Championship with a 26-24 over the South Wales Rebellion. The Rebellion totally dominated the Youth championship with their "A" side defeating their "B" side in the final 47-19.
Scotland Youth Flag
The Scotland Development Squad came together to take on their English counterparts at all three age levels. At Youth level, the SDS have an established program running youth teams for three years and this experience showed during the game. Whilst the English players showed individual skill this was their first time playing together. The Scots capitalised on this and through crisp and organised execution of their game plan quickly moved into a lead which they maintained throughout the game finally running out winners 45-12. The English squad were looking for revenge in the second game against the B squad and certainly ran them close, but the depth of the Scots squad was too much them and the Scots won again 32-28.
Both nations have long established programs at Junior level and this always promised to be an exceptional game. The English took the upper hand early on by stopping the Scots’ opening drive and then scoring on their opening drive. The Scots’ next drive was then brought to a dramatic stop when the ball was intercepted by England who went on to score again and open up a 14 lead. The remainder of the game swung back and forward between the teams but the Scots could never regain the ground that they had lost so early on and Team England ran out winners 45-32. Scotland B tried to revenge their A team counterparts and held England very close but the English were too strong for them and again ran out winners 33-25.
There is a tremendous rivalry between the two nations at Cadet level with the 2 GB Cadet coaches being split on either sideline. The Scots offence was productive from the outset and quickly established their ability to score on every drive. England on the other hand struggled offensively due to constant blitzing from the Scots which never let them settle and by half time the Scots had established a 3TD lead in the game. England were not for giving up though and a change in offensive tactic saw them start to exploit the Scots heavy blitzing by passing over the blitzer to their Wide receivers on post routes. The Scots defence adjusted to counter this and the tone was set for the remainder of the game. England offence found it difficult to penetrate the defence whilst the Scottish running game gave them an edge which they never lost. Scotland ran out winners with a score of 26 - 54.The Scotland B team were determined to emulate their A team colleagues and through solid play established a 2 point lead 12-14 at the half. The English Cadets were not finished though and they went on to show tremendous spirit and fought back and with the only score of the second half clinched the game 19-14.
12 Cadet, Junior and Youth squads playing for 5 clubs from around Scotland treated supporters and spectators to spectacular displays of flag footballing skills in their endeavours to achieve the title "SFFA Scottish Champions 2005" and pick up the coveted "Wallace Shields". At Cadet level the semi-finals would see clashes between Glasgow "Siberian" Tigers and Inverness Rockets followed by Grangemouth Broncos versus Glasgow "Bengal" Tigers. With scores of Siberians 65 –0 Rockets and Broncos 67- 12 Bengals, the scene was, once again, set for a final between the Broncos and the Siberians and a 3rd and 4th place play-off with Rockets versus Bengals. Glasgow "Bengal" Tigers took 3rd place with a 38 – 30 win against the Inverness Rockets. In a thrilling final match up between the two teams who had met the previous year, the Glasgow "Siberian" Tigers came out the eventual winners; beating the Grangemouth Broncos by 48 – 37 to be crowned the "Cadet Scottish Flag Football Champions" for a second year.
Junior semi-finals gave us match-ups between Clyde Valley Predators and Grangemouth Broncos followed by Inverness Rockets versus Glasgow Tigers. Scores of Predators 46 - 12 Broncos and Rockets 37 – 12 Tigers meant Predators would face Rockets in the final with Broncos and Tigers fighting it out for 3rd and 4thplace. The 3rd and 4th place play-off turned out to be one of the closest matches of the day. After 40 minutes of play the Tigers had forced the game into overtime with a superb drive in the dying seconds. The Tigers’ defence dominated the overtime period after their offence scored thwarting any danger of the Broncos scoring. With a final score of Tigers 32-26 Broncos, Glasgow Tigers took 3rd place. Clyde Valley Predators were to fight it out against Inverness Rockets in another superb final match-up. At SFFA Finals Day 2004 the two teams had met at the semi-final stage with the Predators coming out on top on that occasion and going on to become the 2004 Scottish Champions. So the Rockets were out for revenge whilst the Predators were aiming to retain their title. This time round though the Clyde Valley squad were unable to maintain their winning form and the Rockets took the match with a score of 43 – 37. Inverness Rockets were, therefore, crowned "Junior Scottish Flag Football Champions 2005"
At Youth level, match-ups between Grangemouth Broncos and Glasgow Hornets followed by Clyde Valley Predators versus Inverness Rockets would give us the highest scoring, most competitive and most closely run semi-finals of the day. In a "to and fro", "nip and tuck" game against the Hornets, the Broncos would go up by one point in the final seconds: score Broncos 45 – 44 Hornets whilst Rockets would outscore Predators 51 – 37 to set up the final of Broncos v Rockets and a 3rd and 4th play-off between Predators and Hornets. This play-off became a good-natured romp with both teams out to enjoy their experience at SFFA Finals Day where the result was almost incidental but, for the record, ended in a Predators 31 - 14 Hornets score giving Clyde Valley Predators the 3rd place position. The final saw another gripping encounter between Broncos and Rockets. Where in the end the Grangemouth Broncos outstripped the Inverness Rockets with a score of Broncos 39 – 15 Rockets to become the "Youth Scottish Flag Football Champions 2005"
Six sides competed for the IAFL title in 2005, with the Belfast Bulls leading the way at the end of the regular season with 14 points from their 8 games. Dublin Rebels finished joint second with the Carrickfergus Knights and were joined in the end of season playoffs by the Cork Admirals who finished fourth. In the playoffs, Belfast made home field advantage count against Cork with a thumping 31-0 win, and Dublin Rebels edged the Carrickfergus Knights 26-20 in the other semi-final.
In Shamrock Bowl XIX, the Dublin Rebels won the title by a score of 26-19 in a very exciting game played at the Grafton Arena in Belfast. The result of the game was not decided until the final play of the game when the Bulls were stopped on the Rebels 5 yard line. The game is one of the most memorable in Irish American football history and is the second consecutive Shamrock Bowl to be decided by a score inside the final two minutes. Both teams had periods of dominance in the game – the Rebels in the first quarter and early second quarter and the Bulls from late in the second quarter and the third quarter. Both teams seemed evenly matched in the final quarter.
The Adrian College Bulldogs from Michigan USA won the second annual Celtic Classic game against a spirited Ireland team at Greystones RFC. The Ireland team was chosen from the 6 amateur teams which make up the Irish American Football League. Running back T.J. Williams was the star of the Adrian College side scoring three rushing touchdowns including the Bulldogs opening two scores in the first quarter of the game which came on the Bulldogs first two possessions. . It is hoped that the Global Football organisation, who ran the game in partnership with the IAFL, will bring more teams to Ireland in future years.
The Irish American Football Association decided to enter a team into Group C of the European Championships. The decision was made during the recent AGM/EGM meetings in Dublin. Group C comprises of Ireland, Netherlands, Austria, Norway, Switzerland, Belgium, Ukraine, Moldova, Luxembourg and Estonia. The Group C tournament is due to take place in 2007 at a venue yet to be determined. This will be the first time that an Irish National Team has entered an official EFAF tournament for National Teams.
After promotion to Pool A of the European Championships, the Lions found life a lot tougher in 2005. After a 21-6 loss in an exhibition game against Centre College of Kentucky, the Lions suffered their worst ever defeat and first ever shut out in a 34-0 beating by old rivals Germany. Poschmann gained 122 yards on just 14 carries and carried off the MVP award. The loss moved GB into a bronze medal playoff with Finland. In the Finland game, Marc Cohen made Britball history by walking out onto the field for a record 12th cap for the Lions beating the record of 11 held by Colin Nash. After going behind early on, the Lions struck back though, with a scrambling David Drane hitting Clive Palumbo for 67 yards. The Finns, however, pulled away for a 34-12 win with the Lions other score coming from Kofi Campbell on a 13 yard run.
Kofi Campbell vs Germany
Birmingham Lions won College Bowl XIX with a convincing 34-7 win over the Glasgow Tigers. Glasgow had qualified with a dramatic overtime victory against Loughborough Aces. Tigers QB McCusker connected with Rob Campbell to tie the scores as the clock ran out, and then K Justin Berger won the match with a short field goal in OT. In the other semi-final, the Lions qualified with a hard fought 26-14 win over Hertfordshire Hurricanes. Earlier playoff matches were won by Glasgow Tigers (47-12) vs Lancaster Bombers, Loughborough Aces (21-14) at Leeds Celtics, Birmingham Lions (38-8) vs Bristol Bullets and Hertfordshire Hurricanes (48-12) vs Southampton Stags.