IT had rained heavily the previous day, and from the onset it was going to be a game won in the trenches. With an earlier kick-off time than usual, starting at 12pm, the Celtics were raring to go after the Christmas break and started strong as the defence forced a 3-and-out on York’s opening drive. The Celtics’ offence looked like it was going to repay the favour as it went deep into York territory behind fullback Felix Titherley, running back Josh Beynon and quarterback Jordan Au’s handing off ability. The drive ultimately stalled however, with the field goal attempt being unsuccessful.
The next drive didn’t go the Centurions way either, as they had a huge 50-yard run called back for offensive holding; York would punt again. The first points of the game came on just the second play of the Celtics’ next possession, with Felix ‘no calves’ Titherley rumbling for a 70-yard TD run, with hearts in mouths as a penalty flag was seen on the play. Fortunately for the Celtics it was a block in the back against York and the play stood, however yet again Leeds were unable to convert the PAT and the score remained 6-0.
The Centurions didn’t really threaten the Celtic’s lead until a low snap forced backup quarterback Luke Turner to kneel on a punt which gave York great starting field position within the Leeds 30-yard line. For the first time all day the Centurions managed to find a crease inside and with some body contortion the York running back squeezed through a gap and found the end-zone for the running touchdown. Team President Nick Radcliffe, powered by the beach towel he kept hanging out of his leg sets, proceeded to force a fumble on York’s 2 point conversion. Rory Ellis scooped the fumble back to the opposite end zone however the referees had called the York player down and thus the play had already ended. The score was as a result 6-6 and it stayed this way going into halftime.
Spirits were still high going into the second half, as the Celtics were in a far better position than they were in the reverse fixture opening the season against York. It was a half dominated by the defences, with standout performances coming from all across the Leeds defence. Fresh back from injury, Sven Svensson and Andy Yell were forces in the middle of the defensive line stuffing most inside runs York attempted. When York did attempt to run to the outside, they had mixed success, as half of the time they met the shoulder pads of defensive leaders Rory Ellis and Felix Titherley.
On the theme of defensive dominance, the same could be said for the passing game, as the secondary led by cornerbacks Daniel Harris, Doug Bartlett and Safety Michael Bridle allowed no downfield passes, with all of York’s completions being dump-offs to their stable of running backs. Although York saved long pass attempts mainly for 4th down, defensive end Oscar Taherbeigi finally got his reward in the form of a sack in the second half, with Felix Titherley providing the assist.
The second half was filled with many close calls, first of all as Andy Yell stripped the ball from the York player being held up by Chris Tuna Baker for the fumble but the referees deemed forward progress had been stopped and the fumble didn’t count. Similarly, a pass interference called by the referees ended in two further unsportsmanlike conduct penalties after the play on both Coach Theo and Guy Weisselberg (who claims he remained completely silent) which overall resulted in a 40 yard penalty against the Celtics. The defence, not fazed, were able to force the Centurions to punt once again.
On the next offensive drive, the Celtics finally managed to get things underway again, as big armed Jordan Au launched a fade to wide receiver Conor Robson which resulted in a 35 yard gain, with the York safety coming to hit him out of bounds. Boosted by confidence, Au began to let it rip firstly on a post pattern to Robson which was fractionally incomplete, and then moments later found wide receiver Adam Cole on a slant pattern in the end zone for the touchdown. It came to his, and the whole teams, dismay that he had lined up incorrectly and thus incurred a five men in the backfield penalty and the touchdown didn’t count. The Celtics weren’t able to capitalise and York gained the ball back soon thereafter.
The game came down to the final few minutes of regulation, York received the ball on their own 35 yard line after a Leeds punt. A few passages of play later, one of the York running backs ran half the field and was chased down at the 4 yard line by cornerback Daniel Harris. It wasn’t meant to be for the Leeds Celtics as the Centurions pounded the rock for the score and, a few false starts on the 2 point conversion later, the score was now 6-12. Leeds still had 2 minutes on the clock, with no timeouts left, however unfortunately the fumble bug (or just slippery balls) hit again on two straight plays and York recovered and kneeled out the rest of the game.
Overall it was a commendable effort by the Celtics as they lost 4-2 to the Centurions, but it was not meant to be as Leeds boast four wins and one loss so far this season. York were gracious in victory however, tweeting that it was the “best game we’ve played in this year”.
They were certainly not wrong.
Featured image: Conor Robson