The Colchester Gladiators Youth played their first tournament of the season May 10th in London at the Blitz’s home field. Also participating were the Essex Spartans and the Hertfordshire Cheetahs. The Glads’ youth squad had to integrate several new players, while working with a quarterback, Jake Morrison, who just started learning the position three weeks earlier. It was clear that the team had to adjust on the fly, and this led to a rocky start to the tournament, but the team ended on a high note.
In the first half of the first game, against the Spartans, the Gladiators offence looked confused, and was hampered by a strong pass rush. Three turnovers by the offence led to 10 points for the other side from Essex. The defence was strong throughout, allowing only one touchdown during the game. The insertion of Josh Richardson at center and Toby Kitchener at running back swung the momentum back to the Glads’ side in the second half, but the team ran out of time, losing a very close 16-12 game.
The defence was again strong for the first half against the top team at the tournament, the London Blitz. The score at halftime was 16-0 for the Blitz, but a stifling London defence and a number of Gladiator offensive and defensive miscues led to a big second half for the Blitz, leading to a final score of 51-0 for the London side.
The Gladiators regrouped and regained their confidence for their last game against Hertfordshire. Focusing on a run-first attack, the Gladiators’ offence was near impossible to stop for the Cheetahs. Helped by good blocking by his teammates, Toby Kitchener ran wild, racking up numerous yards and three touchdowns. Ben Badura returned an interception for a touchdown and scored a two-point conversion after a TD for other scores. The defence, led by some hard hitting by Matt Malone and Jon Barnard sealed the win for the team in the final minute of the game after giving up the last TD of the day. Hertfordshire’s last score brought them to within two, but the defence held on the conversion to seal the win for the Glads, 26-24.
The youth team didn’t win any games last year, so the win was particularly sweet for returning players. While the Blitz did the best on the day, going 3 – 0, all the other teams went 1 – 2 on the day, setting the Gladiators youth up in a good position to gain a position in the youth playoffs. Well done to the Gladiators Youth players!
– by Tarek Baghal