PA Farnham Knights tour

Saturday, April 01, 2006 - In the fantastic surroundings of the University of Nevada Las Vegas stadium the Knights took on their first ever USA adventure as the first British club team to visit the USA for over 20 years.

Photo courtesy of Paul Campbell

The pundits predicted a whitewash of the 2004 UK National Champions and after the first drive by the Semi-Pro All Star Team USA it seemed that might be the case. QB Josh Black standing in for injured #1 choice Joe Jackson showed poise and comfort as he found dual receiving threats Kevin Dixon and Jay Reed on consecutive plays. Running Back Ricky Jenkins picked up a couple of yards on the next play and then Black sprinted around right end to score the opening TD. Kicker Nick Reggio bounced the PAT kick back off the post and Team USA led 6-0

The Knights offense then took the field and after an initial good gain from running back Kingsley Ejiogu a fine defensive play saw the ball knocked loose for Team USA to recover. 

Again with a short field to play on it seemed likely that the hosts would extend their lead - but the Knights had settled down and their defense fired up for a stand that would inspire the team. DE Brian Long (on loan for the trip from the Doncaster Mustangs) broke free and was on his way to introducing himself to QB Black when he was hauled back - the ball was thrown for a TD but the holding penalty saw the hosts moved out to the Knights 30 yd line. The next play there was no holding and Long accompanied by stand out linebacker Stuart Timms he broke free to sack QB Black. Team USA were forced to punt.

The Knights however could not make headway and had to punt themselves. The snap was low and first time punter Tony Talbot sensibly covered the ball. Team USA took over again at the Knights 15 yard line but again the Knights defense held firm. Rookie Lewis Watts in his first ever game making a tackle for a 12 yard loss on third down that forced the hosts to attempt a field goal. The ball sailed wide and the score remained 6-0

Photo courtesy of Paul Campbell

The Knights offense started to get something going - with Kingsley Ejiogu and Gavin Hart making good runs. Penalties however saw them forced back and as the quarter ended they were again forced to punt. This time the snap was perfect but Talbot could not handle the ball. Team USA took over on the Knights 18yd line. 

A three yard burst up the middle was followed by a second down sweep that broke outside. Ricky Jenkins carrying the ball in for the hosts second TD. Reggio again missed the kick and the score stood at 12-0.

The Knights offense then put together the most impressive drive up to that point in the game. Kingsley Ejiogu following the blocks of the Knights OLine and FB Joe StLouis. John Barclay added a big first down reception and running back Paul Wakeford got in on the action with a 9 yard gain. Sadly for the visitors the drive ended on an outstanding defensive play - with a screen pass called the Knights looked certain to score as the screen set perfectly - however 6'5" DE Jon Peters had other thoughts as the big man showed impressive elevation to tip the ball up and great concentration to catch it on the way down. The Knights drive ended there and the score stood at 12-0 at the half.

The Knights expected adjustments and increased problems when they came out for the second half. Making there own change up however they embarked on what was the most impressive drive of the evening. Ejiogu showed the electric quickness that has seen him gain over 1,000yds in each of his seasons with the team. The diminutive Hart weaved his way through would be tacklers to the extent that at one point the stadium announcer hailed another carry by "big #34 Gavin Hart". Barclay was again the key connection with QB Ashley Heath as the Knights balanced attack moved them inside the USA 10yd line. This time however it was the home team who made the stand - after two run stops DB Eric Jenkins made one of the plays of the game just touching a sure TD pass to WR Ally Reid that saved the 6 points. The British team had no problems with the kick however as Peter "Too Tall" Fields snapped to the hold of QB Ashley Heath for that man Gavin Hart to boom the kick between the uprights for a 12-3 scoreline.

The hosts put together a good drive on their next possession but were again held to Field Goal range - this time Reggio followed Harts lead and slotted the kick for 15-3 lead.

The Knights had the better of the remainder of the game outgaining the USA team by 229yds to 138yds and achieving 16 first downs to the hosts 6. The key stat however showed the home team as the winners - but they certainly got a much tougher test than either they or the pundits expected.

Knights Head Coach Steve Rains said "Of course we are disappointed to lose - but I am very very proud of the team and this performance. Every player in Columbia blue tonight gave it 100% and thats all that we can ask. In many phases of the game we matched the USA team and on occasions we bettered them - nobody except ourselves expected that from us. They have been terrific hosts and we have had literally the trip of a lifetime - I believe we represented ourselves and British Football admirably and we return to the UK with our heads held high"

Defensive Co-Ordinator Ian Ellis added "What an experience! We had a number of players playing their first ever game tonight and believe me for those young guys it cant get better than this - both in terms of the venue but also the level of play they were introduced to by our opponents - and they stood up so well. We have some great leaders on the team - on a night that was pure team effort I will not name individuals but the guys know who they are. We came out here with some key people missing and played like demons - I am very very proud of that performance"

A special guest coach on the night was former Head Coach Marc Salazar - the Knights first ever Head Coach when he was here in the USAF and who is now a resident of San Diego. He summed up the event "It initially felt odd being on the opposite sideline during the American National Anthem - but the way the team played reminded me of the Knights spirit, the family orientation of the team and why I stayed involved for 3 years back in the 1980's. They are a well coached group of athletes who have a fantastic attitude towards the game and eachother. I am proud to still be a Knight after all this time - when they get Team USA back to Aldershot I aim to be there on the sideline with the Knights!"

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