This weekend, the Celtics played host to the Newcastle Raiders, a team that has typically challenged for post-season football, in a game with playoff significance.
As the game got underway, Newcastle kicked the ball deep into Leeds territory, but a good return from Will Stephens-Smith set the Celtics offence up with decent field position to try and drive down the field for the score.
The offence took to the field, and whilst they were able to make some yards, were unable to secure a first down, and were forced to punt the ball away to end the first drive. The Leeds defence put up a good stand, and although conceding some yards through the air, forced the Raiders to punt also. However, a high snap left the kicker scrambling after the ball, and while he was able to recover it, the Leeds offence had good field position to move into the lead early in the game.
New quarterback James ‘JC’ Carmichael made some ground running the ball, but a high snap proved to be the Celtics’ undoing, negating the offence’s gains and returning posession to the visitors. On the following drive, linebacker Tom Robinson narrowly missed out on an interception when the ball bounced out of his hands; though two plays later, the Celtics’ offence took to the field when a Newcastle player fumbled the ball.
A combination of solid Raiders defence and another bad snap on 3rd down left the Celtics pinned back in their own half, but following a long punt from Ben Smith, the Raiders offence returned to the field, with 50 yards to drive. After initially making some gains against the home side, the Raiders offence ground to a halt, and was forced to punt away the ball to end the first quarter.
Following a 3-and-out from Leeds, Newcastle retook posession; a lofted ball down the sideline found the hands of a Raider, and although he was quickly brought down, it seemed that Newcastle had found a gap in the Celtic’s defence, which they exploited again on the very next play, once again making a large chunk of yardage and leaving the visiting side 20 yards out from the endzone.
After making some gains running the ball up the middle of the field, the Raiders turned their attention to the outside; a sweeping run to the outside found the endzone as the Newcastle running back broke a solid tackle and continued into the endzone, leaving Newcastle up by 6 following an unsuccessful 2 point conversion.
This seemed to shock the home side into action, and although the kickoff return was stopped short by good downfield coverage from Newcastle, the offence were able to successfully put together a drive, including two notable receptions from Tight End Alex Hall, moving out of their own half and into opposition territory.
After the Celtic defence forced a 3-and-out from the Raiders, the Celtic offence took to the field, but with very little time remaining in the half, they elected to take a knee and run out the clock to end the first half of play.
When play resumed in the third quarter, the Celtics’ defence forced another 3-and-out, but returned to the field shortly after when another wild snap flew past JC and was recovered by the Raiders, giving them good field position once again. They capitalised on this, and another outside run found the endzone, putting the Newcastle up by 14 with a successful 2-point conversion.
A good defensive performance from both teams resulted for most of the rest of the 3rd quarter, with neither offence able to make significant yardage against the other, either through the air or on the ground. On the last play of the 3rd quarter however, the Newcastle quarterback found a Raiders receiver, meaning Newcastle went into the final phase of play with possession and, once again, good field position to further their lead.
They eventually made good on this opportunity, as after attempting and failing to find the endzone on the ground, they took to the air once again, and a good contested catch from a Raiders receiver who then ran a short distance to cross the goal-line left the scoreline at 20-0.
With little time left in the game, the Celtics tried to move the ball up the field in the hope of evening up the scoreline, but the clock was against them; the final whistle blew soon after, and the scoreline remained at 20-0.
Image courtesy of Rory Ellis