After a year of hard work, preparation, trials, selections and training, the GB Lions have lifted the Bronze medal in this year's European Championship in Helsinki, Finland.
Entering the tournament as firm underdogs, the Lions were up against it from the beginning, with their first game in the pool against Germany. The Germans won silver in last years World Cup in France, losing to Austria in the final, and the Lions knew to expect a good team.
Things weren't going to plan for Germany however, when they found themselves 13-0 down at half time, and wondering what was happening! This was not the GB team from last year! Obviously pumped for the second half, the Germans came out firing, taking the Lions by surprise. After a string of TDs, and offensive mistakes from the Lions throwing 2 interceptions for TD returns, GB were suddenly 2 scores down. A last minute touchdown by Gurkinder Mann brought the deficit to only 5 points. Final score Germany 32-27 GB Lions.
Game 2, and the Lions were playing Sweden, who they had previously demolished last year in their opening game at the World Cup. This was to be a real ping pong battle as each team took it in turns, exchanging scores. Sweden were playing a very aggressive game, and perhaps slightly intimidated, the Lions took their foot off the gas a little, making the game a lot harder for them than it perhaps should have been. GB were the more disciplined team in the end, and simple 1 PATs would be the winning ticket, as GB Lions ran out winners 20-18.
The final game of the day was to be against Italy. A win would see GB have a chance at making the finals, anything less would see them out of contention and playing for placement the following day. The Lions did not travel across 2 time zones to go home empty handed! The game started fairly well, with both teams exchanging scores, and then finding the defense to stop each other. Some shaky offense from GB late in the first half found the Lions failing to make progress, as Italy continued to score.
Halftime, and down by 14 points the Lions were down, demoralised and looking at losing out on the finals. However, some inspirational team talking and a change in game plan would see the Lions come roaring back into the game as the offence finally clicked and abruptly woke Italy from their comfortable sleep. Both teams exchanged scores again, and with a final last gasp drive, the Lions Offensive machine marched quickly down to the Italy redzone. What followed next is the sort of thing Hollywood write films about. A precision pass from Nick Watson to receiver Pete Steel at the back of the endzone tied the game 26-26 as time expired. The game tied, the Lions would have the chance to go for the PAT and win their place in the semi finals. The entire GB sideline were silent, the defense and coaching staff lined up, arms around each other watching the final snap of the play. With blitz pressure from the Italian defense Watson held his composure to find receiver Dayle Kirby in the front corner of the endzone for a toes-in-bounds catch, the likes of which we will probably never see again. The Lion’s sideline erupted, the offense on the field were in a state of amazed relief, strangers in the stands cheered, other teams clapped, and Italy could do nothing but watch in awe as the Lions swarmed “Sir Dayle of Kirby”, who was lost in the middle of a GB pile up. The Italians were to become firm friends of the Lions for the rest of the tournament after an amazing display of resolve and team spirit.
The result meant that Germany, Italy and Great Britain were tied for 1st place in Pool B, all with a 2-1 record and Sweden were out of contention with a 0-3 record. Much to the annoyance of Germany, the head-to-head rules of the tournament meant that points difference was calculated between the tied teams, and not on the whole day’s games. With Italy losing to GB by only 1 point, Germany losing to Italy by a healthy 12 points and GB losing to Germany by only 5 points, the Germans found themselves knocked out by the very team they had beaten in the first game of the tournament. The Great Britain Lions!
Results from Pool A revealed that at second place GB would play first placed France in the opening game on Sunday, with Italy facing Austria.
And so Sunday brought the semi finals. GB were to play France at 9am in the first of their games to progress to the final. With games from Pool A and B being played simultaneously on Saturday, it meant there was no opportunity to scout France prior to the game. However, other teams were quick to tell us about the awesome speed of the French team, something the GB squad were to find out for themselves. A very quick and well drilled French team were always in the driving seat, and although GB managed some moments of shear brilliance on Offense and Defense, it would never be enough to stop the French machine. A well fought battle and respectable scoreline of 27-12 saw the Lions lose out on the finals, but play for the Bronze. Great Britain would now either face the Italians in a rematch, or last years World Champions Austria. As it was, our Italian friends managed to defeat Austria and progress to the Final against France. France would go on to win the gold, and Italy would take Silver, but who would win Bronze? The Lions knew the answer, but would it go according to plan?
The 3rd place game for Bronze can only be described as a battle. A battle of Offense and Defense, a battle of will, and a battle of resolve. The game was never more than 6 points away from either team as GB and then Austria took it in turns to score and then turn over the ball. So it continued through the first half, and into the second half. It looked as though the team with possesion at the final whistle would be the team to win. The Lions however, had something the Austrian’s did not. Desire. A unified, vocal squad encouraged their team mates from the sideline, as the Austrian's seemed quite happy to plod along in their usual stoney faced manner.
In to 2 minute warning and GB were heading for the Austrian endzone on a mission. Tying the game at 20 points each, the PAT took the score to 21-20 in GB’s favour. Now with under a minute remaining, the Lions took up their prevent defence in an effort to keep the Austrian’s out of their endzone. Short completions from Austria saw them progress up the field, to launch a long aerial assault against the Lions 3 deep safeties. A long ball to the far corner of the Lions endzone saw Free Safety Dayle Kirby knock the ball out the grasp of the receiver, leaving them with only seconds to organise a no huddle offensive play to try to win the game. Attacking the other corner of the endzone now, a gutsy cornerback Gurkinder Mann broke up the long pass, sacrificing himself in a collision in the process, and found himself lying on the floor, motionless. The ball landed and bounced past him as he lay still, and time on the running clock expired in the game. The Great Britain Lions had done the unthinkable, and beaten the current world champions to take Bronze. The under dogs were triumphant, the Italians delighted, the Germans amazed, and the Austrians? They were silent. From www.sffa.org.uk
3rd April 2005 - Fantastic Day - Fantastic fixture. Scotland win Senior Flag international
From the ashes of almost disaster rose the phoenix of success. A last minute let down almost stopped this fixture in its tracks. The scheduled venue Bellahouston Park had been double booked and there was nothing that could be done to ensure the fixture going ahead there. However it was with great thanks to senior squad member Carlos Yanes-Roca that an alternative venue was secured out at the Stirling University campus. The fixture would be able to be held but this time with the splendour of the University campus backdrop and the great facilities available.
The challenge match
England won the coin toss and started with first possession. Team England opened the game with a well executed drive to what would become a very exciting first half. They topped the drive off with a great TD pass to #81 Mann. The 1pt attempt failed. Scotland were undeterred by this early score and with #18 Couper in the QB slot they managed to move the ball up field after a couple of tentative downs, but it wasn't long until Couper found #83 Yanes-Roca for the TD to level the score, but they too failed with the PAT. The game then sees sawed as both offences found chinks in one anther's defensive armour. England scored again with a TD for #51 Harden and a 1pt PAT for Walker. Scotland replied with 2nd TD for #83 and the PAT by #8 Hunter. However after a 2nd TD for #81 Mann Scotland's #8 Hunter intercepted England's PAT attempt and ran it back for a vital 2pts.
With time running out in the half Scotland used the clock to good effect and managed to end the half with a spectacular TD pass to #55 N. Arnold. The Pat was unsuccessful and the half ended Scotland 21 England 19.
Scotland started the 2nd half with a bit of a wobble when #18 Couper was sacked in the endzone for a safety #45 Patel. However England were unable to capitalise on this equalising score and went 4 an out on there next possession. Scotland on the other hand had the bit between their teeth and pushed down field to set up the 2nd TD for #55. Team England just didn't have an answer on offence and failed to penetrate the Scottish defence but their own defence kept the game close with a very solid performance. However Scotland managed to kill the game off with a final TD to #83. Final score Scotland 33 England 21.
England M.V.P. - #81 K. Mann (Chosen by Team Scotland)
Scotland M.V.P. - #8 R. Hunter (Chosen by Team England)
Game M.V.P. - #83 R. Yanes-Roca (Chosen by Mark Fletcher)
The Second Match - Friendly
Scotland won the coin toss and started the second game of the day with a blistering TD by #8 Hunter and a successful 1pt PAT to #34 Mooney. England however seemed to have lost their concentration and struggled to move the ball. Despite making a 1st down they were unable to get a TD and turned over possession to Scotland. Despite battling for every yard the Scots were able to show enough composure to score again. TD pass to #83 Yanes-Roca with 1pt PAT to #55 N. Arnold. England just couldn't get it together as they saw numerous dropped or tipped passes thwart their efforts. Scotland defence were finding it easier to hold England as the game progressed giving the Offense the chance to score once again to extend the lead. Td pass to #34. The half ended Scotland 20 England 0.
Determined to save face Team England came out in the 2nd half with all guns blazing. Scoring with a Hail Mary pass to #81 Mann. Could they orchestrate a momentous come back? Scotland however had other ideas and immediately replied with their own TD when #67 Bramwell intercepted a tipped England pass and ran it in for the score. Both team traded scored for the rest of the game. Further TDs for England's #81 and #30, and 2 more for Scotland's #83. The game ended Scotland 38 England 18.
The day's events were rounded off with a final friendly game between Team England and the Scotland Veteran Squad. Team England dominated the game from the start and took and early lead sustaining it throughout the game. Although the Scots tried valiantly to pull the game back they were always playing catch up.
A win for Team England rounded off what was remarked upon as a great days Flag Football. It is hoped that this event can be repeated next year and that it may even become a regular fixture in both organisations calendar.
2nd April 2005 - Scotland v England senior flag international
Scotland take on England in a 5man international match for the first time in 5 years. The match will be played on Saturday 2nd April at Bellahouston Park, Glasgow. Kick off 1.00pm.
The Scottish Flag Football Association held the final trials for their senior national team selections last week, and amongst the trialists were some very familiar faces. However the one with the highest profile was non other than ex-Scottish Claymores Wide Reciever and National player Scott Couper. Couper put in a spectacular performance to convince the National Coaches that they could not ignore the talents that secured his place in the Claymores for 10 years. Couper was also joined by another well know face from the Claymores, Jim Burns. Couper and Burns are known to have been
involved heavily in the grassroots programmes initiated by the NFL through the Scottish Claymores and their presence gives the SFFA a well earned seal of approval.
Head Coach Stuart McKay said, "It was an exceptional standard of flag football on display at the trials which made the selection process very difficult. The squad we have this year is of a higher standard to that of last years. We have no doubt progressed and learned from our first taste of
international football in 2004. It's very encouraging and humbling to see such players as Scott Couper and Jim Burns giving something back to the grassroots game and this will be an inspiration for all of our children playing flag in this country."
Scotland squad: Andrew Jones, Paul Arnold, Neil Arnold, Steven Bramwell (Kirkcaldy Bulls); Ryan Hunter, David Mooney (Grangemouth Broncos); Carlos Yanes-Roca (Stirling Clansmen); Jim Burns, Scott Couper (Lanarkshire
Steelers). The coaching staff has been confirmed as follows: Head Coach Stu Mckay (AC Raptors), Coach Mark Bramwell (Edinburgh Wolves), Coach Jimmy Thompson (Grangemouth Broncos), Manager Steven Maxwell (AC Raptors), Trainer John Scougall (AC Raptors).
Team England travel to Glasgow with an 11-man squad all of whom have played for England in competitive internationals before, and of which 10 players gained good experience in the recent World Cup of Flag Football in Miami.
England squad: Adam Rasul, Ben Harper, Simon Juniper, Jason Prowse (all Derby Dream Team), Tesh Patel (Extreme), Kinder Mann (Staffordshire A), Ty Metcalfe (Thrashers), Jon Parsons (Bournemouth Raiders), Justin Handley, Nick Watson, Pete Steele (all Chichester Sharks)
The countries have only met once at international level before when Scotland won in Dundee in July 2000.
6th March 2005 - England compete in Flag World Cup
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).
USA 7 Canada 0
Canada 13 Cayman Island 6
USA 20 St Croix 6
St Croix 19 England 6
Cayman Island 14 Mexico 0
USA 14 England 0
Cayman Island 9 England 0
USA 6 Cayman Island 0
St Croix 7 Mexico 6
Canada 13 St Croix 6
Canada 12 Mexico 6
15th February 2005 - Eagles swoop to conquer Europe
The Leicester Eagles flew to Amsterdam to take on teams from the Netherlands and Germany in the first senior Flag American Football tournament organized by the Amstelland Panthers.
The Eagles were to compete against the hometown Panthers, the Utrecht Dominators and the Amersfoort Untouchables (Netherlands) and, from Düsseldorf, Germany, the Rhein Weasels.
The opening game of the tournament saw the Leicester team play the Amstelland Panthers. The Leicester defense stopped the Panthers on their opening drive, which featured the “Starburst” play which put the Junior Eagles out of the NFL World Championships in 1999, and quickly settled their nerves when QB John Pimperton (who played in the 1999 loss) found WR Sam Manger with a quick TD strike to put the Eagles 6 - 0 up. Pimperton ended the host’s next drive with a fourth down sack and extended the Eagles lead when he found Craig Broughton in the endzone for his second TD pass of the game. Paul Monk caught the extra point and the Eagles were 13 – 0 up.
Amstelland then started to move to ball and found themselves near to the Eagles goal-line – a short pass saw them score their first flag football TD and cut the Eagles lead to 7 points - 13 – 6. However, the Eagles were not to be denied and Paul Monk ran through the Panthers defense to put the Eagles up 19 – 6. The game was over when Eagle Sam Manger intercepted the Panthers on what proved to be the final drive of the game.
Final score – Leicester Eagles 19 – 06 – Amstelland Panthers
The Amersfoort Untouchables were the next team to find themselves up against the Eagles and they couldn’t cope with the Eagles potent offense. Manger caught his second interception of the tournament when he pulled in the first Amersfoort pass of the game. He then made it 6 – 0 to the Eagles when he caught second TD from Pimperton, Alan O’Sullivan hauled in the extra point to give the Eagles a 7 – 0 edge. Craig Broughton picked off the Untouchables on their next drive and another Monk run gave the Eagles a 13 point cushion, Manger grabbed the extra point and the Eagles never looked back. Broughton’s second interception led to O’Sullivan taking a Pimperton pass into the endzone with Monk adding the extra point – 21 – 0 to the Eagles. Another Manger interception saw the Eagles seal their win with a Pimperton to Broughton pass.
Final score – Leicester Eagles 27 – 00 – Amersfoort Untouchables
The Utrecht Dominators found themselves behind early to the Eagles running game. The first two Eagles processions were run in by Craig Broughton with Alan O’Sullivan adding both extra points – 14 – 0 Eagles. Pimperton intercepted the Dominators on their next drive and then put the Eagles further ahead by throwing his 6th TD of the tournament to Sam Manger. Broughton snagged another interception and O’Sullivan a Pimperton pass to put the Eagles out of reach 26 – 0. Paul Monk caught another extra point and Sam Manger’s third interception of the tournament saw the Eagles run out winners.
Final score – Leicester Eagles 27 – 00 – Utrecht Dominators
The Eagles held a 3 – 0 record and the Amstelland Panthers 3 – 1, the only team that could stop the Eagles getting into the final were Germany’s Rhein Weasels, who were 2 – 1.
The Eagles got off to a sluggish start against Rhein, but made a break through when Broughton took a Pimperton pass into the endzone, two Paul Monk sacks made the Eagles lead look secure but Rhein scored twice quickly to give them a 12 – 6 advantage. With three minutes left to play Pimperton held the Eagles together and led them to the Final with a TD pass to Manger (his 4th) which tied the score and then putting the Eagles ahead for good when he held his nerve and found O’Sullivan for the extra point and a 13 – 12 Eagles win.
Final score – Leicester Eagles 13 – 12 Rhein Weasels
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.
Final score – Leicester Eagles 14 – 06 – Amstelland Panthers
1st February 2005 - ESFL AGM news
After Richard Cleveland, Matt Heasman, Nick Watson and Lawrence Vos did not put their names forward for re-election, the ESFL committee has a different look for 2005. The new committee that was voted in is: