The Colchester Gladiator Juniors finally had the opportunity to show a large home crowd what they are made of when they faced the Watford Cheetahs in their opening home game of this season’s campaign on Sunday. With a weaker squad than the coaching staff would have wanted, lots of forced changes during the week meant that some players would be playing out of position with minimum preparation.
Watford won the toss and elected to receive the ball first, from the opening kick-off the Gladiators pinned the opposition back inside their own 20 yard line from where the Cheetahs came out throwing the ball. Unfortunately for them the opening play and pass was intercepted by Andrew Cairns who returned the ball back to the 30 yard line, giving the Glad’s fantastic field position to start their opening drive. After a couple of first downs and the ball on the 7 yard line, Cairns barrelled into the end zone for the opening score. The extra point attempt was blocked so the Glad’s led 6-0.
Yet again, Colchester pinned back Watford on the ensuing kick off ensuring they would have to move the ball virtually the length of the field to score. Great team defence forced a poor snap from the visitors with the ball bouncing out the back of the end zone for the safety and a further 2 points to the home side.
The Cheetahs were restrained back inside their 20 yard line on the following kick off and strong defence forced Watford to punt. A promising Colchester drive stalled at the 6 yard line & again the trusty boot of Cairns kicked the field goal on 4th down. Glad’s 11-0
The start of the 2nd quarter saw the home team starting with strong field position inside the Watford half but a fumble on the 15 yard line was recovered by the Cheetah’s and again they took over the ball. Growing in confidence, they gained a couple of first downs but on the next play the Cheetah’s Quarterback found an open receiver for another first down only for Jack Greenland to strip the ball away and return it back inside the 30 yard line. Just 3 plays later the Glad’s swept left and Joe Costanzo dived in for the score and his first touchdown in a Junior shirt after coming up from last season’s Youth programme. The extra point was again kicked by Cairns. Glad’s 18-0
Poor tackling on the resulting kick off gave Watford the ball inside the Colchester half for the first time in the match with the away team moving the ball down field inside the 20 yard line. The defence reacted with a blitz from Cairns and George Horan, sacking the Cheetahs quarterback for a huge loss back to the 28 yard marker. With nothing to lose the away team chanced their luck and ran a draw play on 4th down which was snuffed out for a loss by Mason Garrity giving the ball straight back to Colchester. On the very next series, Craig Hudson took the ball through the middle, some great blocking and running took him just outside the opponent’s 20 yard line for a massive 42 yard gain. A personal foul against Watford and tough running from Costanzo moved the ball to the 5 yard line where on 3rd down, Colchester’s Quarterback Sam Huxtable was forced wide by a missed block, scrambling towards the end zone the ball popped out on the 2 yard line but fortunately went out of bounds. With the ball on the 4 yard line, up stepped Cairns to convert another field goal. Glad’s 21-0
Another 4 and out from Watford gave Colchester the ball back, some strong running & a couple of completed passes moved the ball inside the 20 but the Gladiators came up short, electing to attempt another field goal on 4th down which crept outside the upright. A penalty against the visitors on the field goal gave the Gladiator’s the ball back inside the red zone where Cairns went over from 8 yards out & the extra point was safely converted. Glad’s 28-0
The Gladiators defence then took over the game, pinning back Watford inside their own 10, forcing them to punt on 4th down, a poor snap saw the ball sail out of the end zone for another safety. Glad’s 30-0
Starting the 4th quarter Colchester drove down field, and on the 40 yard line the handoff from Huxtable to Costanzo opened up through some excellent blocking from the line which then saw him break numerous tackles on his way to the end zone for the play of the day. The extra point was blocked. Glads 36-0.
With the clock ticking down late in the quarter, the Gladiators added another field goal but then had to deal with a last ditch aerial assault from Watford as they tried to make a mark on the scoreboard. Tough defence soon eliminated this threat and with Colchester turning the ball over on downs, the final whistle was blown. The home side running out 39-0 winners and moving to a 2 & 1 record.
This weekend sees Colchester return to training in preparation for their long road trip to the Hampshire Thrashers on the South coast on June 8th and a welcome return to the team for Daniel Goshen, here for his summer break from Canada Prep School to see him play in the next two fixtures. A must win game for the Gladiators to make sure they have every chance to see play off football again this season.