Written by Tom York
In a tight contest at Beaumont Park on Sunday, the Leicester Longhorns defence put on an inspiring display, claiming 5 turnovers and restricting the DMU Lions to 6 points on their way to a tenth successive Varsity win.
After receiving the kickoff, the Longhorns offence quickly established a strong rushing attack through running backs, Dante Baptiste and Rui Pedro Santos. A dominant 70-yard drive – consuming most of the first quarter – ended in a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback, Michael Rojas, who added the 2-point conversion with an excellent throw to wide receiver, Josh Russom.
The Longhorns’ defence took to the field with an 8-0 lead, and immediately pressured the Lions’ passing game. With the ball at midfield, the Lions’ quarterback completed a pass over the middle, but his receiver lost the fumble in contact. Longhorns’ linebacker, Nathaniel Angate, scooped up his first turnover of the day and showed his speed on an electric 20-yard return to end the first quarter.
The second Longhorns’ drive of the day stalled 30 yards from the endzone, with the ball going over on downs. On the next play, the Lions’ quarterback attempted to force a throw into tight coverage: the Longhorns’ sideline roared as first-year cornerback, Ethan Mayers, came down with a key interception, the second turnover of the day. The Longhorns offence were in the endzone one play later when Baptiste broke free, lighting the afterburners and breezing past the Lions’ safety on the best offensive play of the game: a 55-yard touchdown run which made the lead 14-0, five minutes before half-time.
After both teams exchanged punts, the DMU offence gave up their third turnover of the day, with Longhorns’ linebacker, Jamie McGee, falling on a fumbled snap. After another 3 and out by the offence, Mayers rose highest for his second interception of the day to end the half.
At half time, Longhorns’ head coach Nick Chapman was keen to guard against any complacency with a clear message for his team:
‘We keep doing what we’ve been doing, and we’ll win. We think about the lead we’ve got, we will lose.’
‘Offence, you’ve done well, but the defence is carrying you, giving you good field position…Defence, you guys have been inspiring.’
The Longhorns’ defence carried their momentum into the second half, with Angate making two big tackles for loss and forcing a quick 3 and out. However, an excellent punt by the Lions pinned the Longhorns down on their own 2-yard line. Four plays later and a botched snap on a fake punt left the Longhorns short of the line to gain, giving the Lions the ball in the redzone.
At this point, the Lions were beginning to look confident, as if they believed that they could mount a comeback. On the first play of their drive, Angate stormed into the backfield and showed great strength to rip the ball from the DMU running back, and recover it on the ground himself. The fifth turnover of the day was undoubtedly the defining play of the game, an incredible individual effort by Angate at a crucial moment.
The Longhorns’ offence began to run down the clock, with Rojas leading a long drive that included multiple key conversions on third and fourth down by Dante Baptiste. The Lions didn’t get the ball back until late in the fourth quarter, and the Longhorns’ defence finally yielded some points when the DMU quarterback found his wide receiver at the back of the endzone for a 10-yard touchdown pass. This revival proved too little too late for the Lions, as the Longhorns recovered the onside kick attempt and successfully saw out the rest of the game.
Final score: Leicester Longhorns 14-6 DMU Lions.
There were many valuable performances in this game from Longhorns’ players, and special mentions must go to Ethan Mayers and his two interceptions, and a 100-yard running game for Dante Baptiste. However, the Most Valuable Player award had to go to Nathaniel Angate, who was instrumental in this brilliant defensive performance: he was delighted after the game:
‘I’ve been working all season, trying to get better all the time. I’ve got great coaches on the sideline, and I’ve been taking in their knowledge all year.’
[On the defining forced fumble and recovery in the third quarter] ‘What can I say! I just used my instincts man, I’m so glad that I could make the play for the team.’
An excellent performance from the Leicester Longhorns was well summarised by the final words from Coach Chapman to his team:
’10-0! Leicester’s still green!’
American Football: A quick guide to the rules
The aim of the game is to drive the ball into the opposing teams endzone to score touchdowns.
The offence attempts to move the ball on plays called downs, by passing the ball forwards through the air to a wide receiver, or by handing the ball to a running back.
The offence has 4 attempts (downs) to gain 10 yards and keep possession of the ball for another 4 plays, and the opposing teams’ defence tries to stop them. If the offence doesn’t advance 10 yards in those 4 attempts, the other team gets the ball (turnover on downs), or the offence can choose to punt it deep into the other teams’ territory on 4th down.
After four quarters (12 minutes each in this game), the team with the most points wins.
Key terms in this report:
Interception: when a defensive player catches a pass from the opposition quarterback, winning the ball for their team.
Fumble: when an offensive player loses possession of the football. A fumble can be recovered by the offence to keep the ball, or by the defence to win the ball for their team.
3 and out: when the offence fails to gain 10 yards in their first 3 downs and punts the ball straight back to the other team.
Feature Image: @uol_sport on Instagram
Tom York is a third year Geography student and President of the University Big Band. Tom’s main areas of interest include social justice, neurodiversity awareness, music and sport. You can find his writing on American Football and more at interceptedsportsblog.wordpress.com.