Short on player numbers and a HC, the youth team left for Kent high in spirits on the mini bus. On arrival at Kent’s home ground the view that greeted the team was hundreds of people playing flag football from under 8’s thru to under 14’s. This is how Kent have developed over the last few years and the Kent youth side had 35 on their sideline.
Herts Cheetahs were the other team at the tournament as Norwich had already withdrawn. Herts too had a big squad of 25 and our 10 guys looked a little forlorn before the games started.
Kent set the schedule and played Herts first easing out 25-8 winners. Herts took a well earned breather under a tree and then came back to take on the Gladiators. The game started with the Gladiator D easily stopping the Herts O and the Glads took the ball at the 5. Two run plays to Toby Kitchener set the tone for the game and another new set of downs at the half way line. A few plays later Kitchener scored the opening TD and stand in HC and OC Simon Wilkinson chose to go for 2 from 12 yards out. Kitchener barrelled in with 5 Herts players on his back.
Herts couldn’t stop the run game and easy gains were made which set up the pass game and some short completions from QB Jake Morrison to Josh Evans-Johns and Ben Badura set up more scores with the D of DC Tim Rowe shutting Herts down time and again and scoring 2 safties with some outstanding play from Matthew Malone, Jon Barnard and Jake Simms. The break saw the young Glads at 18-0 in the lead and a much earned trip to the shade.
The second half saw much of the same but with Josh Richardson and Charlie Clark now running the ball and with more short passes the score extended to 26-0 with little chance of Herts troubling the scorers. The game ended 26-0 and that meant the Glads D hadn’t let a point be scored in 2 full games of football, a remarkable achievement in youth football.
The shade was again sought on a very hot day. Kent wanted a fast turnaround but a lengthy break was required to get ready to face the best youth team in England (Kent lost to a Scottish side in the National final last year). Kent had done their homework and were keying Kitchener. This didn’t stop him scoring the opening TD of the game and the Glads led 6-0. The game settled in to a rhythm of turnovers on downs and Kent looked very worried until a breakaway score and the added extra point put them in the lead. The Glads were down to 9 players now as Tom Morton had to leave the game with a knock to the head and was benched immediately by the coaching staff. Kents rotation of fresh players and a hard running game wore the team down and a couple more quick scores saw an end to the competitive nature of the game and the game clock ran out soon afterwards.
HC Simon Wilkinson was delighted with how the team performed especially considering the number of players available and said “This team can go toe to toe with any team in the country” to a tired group of players.
This Saturday sees the HC Tarek Baghal return for the Colchester home tournament when Kent Exiles, Essex Spartans and London Warriors come to us for an exciting group of games.
– by Simon Wilkinson