American Football – Leeds Celtics v Edinburgh Predators
The Celtics began the last stage of their quest for silverware on Sunday. The playoffs had arrived and with them the chance to prove that this team was worthy of their reputation. The first round brought the Edinburgh Predators to Leeds for a rematch of last season’s playoff opener in which the Celtics had been defeated. This year, the veterans would not tolerate another loss. Expectations were high as kick-off approached and the Celtics did not disappoint.
The offence took possession of the ball at the beginning of the game and quickly established a good rhythm. The running backs gained good yardage within a few plays, and soon the passing game came into its own, culminating in a spectacular catch by Caspian Paget in the endzone. The Celtics defence was slower to establish itself and allowed the Predators to draw level with a touchdown of their own early in the 1st quarter. However, effective blocking on the subsequent kickoff by Alex Saunders and Nick Jeffson provided Paget with a gap to run through, and within seconds of conceding, the Celtics were up by 7 again.
The Celtics defence has been dominant all season and their early concession was an insult to their pride. When they returned to the field it was clear that their record was no fluke. Alex Saunders and Pat Lyons provided immense pressure from defensive end, wrapping up the quarterback on multiple occasions and stifling the pass. The Predators’ running game fared no better and they were forced to punt for the rest of the half. Not satisfied with simply forcing the offence off the field, the Celtic defenders took their field position too, when Felix Titherley blocked a punt which was recovered deep in Predator territory. The offence was quick to capitalize on the opportunity, as Adam Smith connected with Caspian Paget for another passing touchdown.
With the scores at 21 -7, there was a certain sense that the Celtics were in control, but woe betide any Celtic who rests on their laurels. The offence had run the ball effectively throughout the match, and as the second half progressed they became unstoppable. Michael Calvert repeatedly blocked off defenders on the left side, opening the way for Toby Richardson to score. So effective were the runs to the left that the Predators were forced to cover the point of attack with three men. Toby didn’t mind. As another run to the left shaped up, the defenders stepped up to plug the gap, but Toby ran through them, all the way to the endzone.
By this point the Predators were in dire straits but to their credit, they did not give up. The quarterback hit a good rhythm with his receivers with passes to the middle and persistence eventually paid off with another touchdown. Unfortunately for the Predators, the Celtics didn’t ease off either. The offence continued to make strides towards the endzone, and as the seconds dwindled their dedication was rewarded when a well-timed pass hit Caspian Paget running down the sideline for a touchdown. When the final whistle blew the scores stood at 40-13. The Celtics had vanquished their rivals and earned their next playoff match.