Warwick Wolves @ DMU Lions – 26/01/20
The matchup against DMU was the first outing for the Wolves following the midseason break. A very promising first half of the season saw the Wolves sitting at 3-1, who were facing off against the 0-4 DMU Lions, the newly promoted team this year. DMU were fighting for their Division 1 lives so the Wolves knew they were in for a spirited matchup.
DMU won the toss and deferred meaning the Wolves would start with the ball. With starting QB Matt Oosthuizen having been struck down with pneumonia, the reins of the offense were handed over to backup QB Alex James for his first start. The Wolves first drive started promisingly with some strong gains on the ground from both QB James and starting running back Obi Ojji, with the rainy conditions the run game figured to continue to be a large factor throughout the game. However, the Wolves stalled just after midfield and with the conditions as they were, they elected to play the field position game and pin DMU deep in their own territory. In a calamitous turn of events for DMU, their two returners collided going for the ball, causing a fumble which was recovered by rookie LB Ollie Scorey. The decision had paid off for the Wolves as they were now set up already inside the redzone. Alternating runs from QB James and RB Ojji got the ball down the 1 with Ojji coming up just short on a dive for the pylon. On the next play QB James forced the ball in up the gut to give the Wolves a perfect start putting them up 7-0 early on following the successful PAT.
In a continuation of the fast start the Wolves went for an onside kick, which was again recovered by a rookie, this time RB Ben Meyrick. The offence was once again afforded great starting field position by the special teams unit, now with a chance to put a two-score lead on the board in a matter of minutes. With the running game firing on all cylinders the ball was once again kept on the ground with the load being shared by QB James and RB Ojji. Progress was helped by a roughing the passer penalty on QB James giving the offence a free 15 yards. 3 straight runs from RB Ojji put the offence on the 6-yard line and the ball was once again punched in by James on a strong run up the middle with an assist from the O-line pushing the pile. Rookie kicker Thomas Chardin knocked through the PAT to give the Wolves a stunning 14-0 lead early in the first quarter which left DMU rattled and in need of a spark.
With the first attempt having been successful the Wolves attempted another onside kick, but this time DMU were ready and came up with the recovery finally giving the defence a chance to take the field. Hoping to feed off of the energy provided by the offence the defence started strong with a chase down tackle on the first play from DT Will Carroll, hinting at his strong performance the rest of the way. A one-handed TFL on 3rd by LB Koorosh Fatemian gave the Lions an early decision to make which was compounded by a false start on their initial 4th down play. Feeling the pressure from the scoreboard they still elected to go for it on 4thand 7 with the pass falling incomplete downfield amidst blanketing coverage from the Wolves secondary. The ball was once again with the Wolves offence with a chance to make it a three-score game already. A strong burst for 16-yards from rookie RB Charles Duah got the drive off to an ideal start. More consistent rushes put the ball inside the 20 but a stuff for a loss followed by an incomplete pass left them at 4th and long but with the field position and the scoreboard being so favourable the offence stayed on the field but came up a couple of yards short.
The defence once again had DMU backed up allowing them to apply the pressure however this was relieved by DMU breaking a long run to the outside for 32 yards after the Wolves lost outside contain. They were then able to string some positive plays together to move the ball into the Wolves’ half, the progress helped considerably by a 15-yard penalty for a weak late hit out of bounds by SS David Carnegy. DMU couldn’t make the most of the helping hand as they went backwards on the next play due to an offensive pass interference penalty. Their offence went to the air for the next 3 plays but relentless pressure from the D-line forced incompletions each time causing a turnover on downs. RB Ojji broke off a 16-yard run to start the drive and punishing run to convert a 3rd down. A couple of plays later QB James lofted a lovely pass down the sideline to big play machine WR Sean Brandt who ran away from the defence for a 39-yard TD. The following PAT attempt did not go to plan however with DMU getting a good rush off the edge and getting the block. 20-0 Warwick.
Back to back strong tackles from rookie DB Thomas Chardin on the kick off and next play had the defence off to a good start on the next drive. More pressure from the D Line and a pass deflection from wily veteran CB Henry Faulkner-Ellis once again left DMU facing 4th and long. A nice play from rookie LB Ollie Scorey stopped the runner just short of the first down to give the Wolves offence a chance to put even more points on the board before the half but these hopes were ended by an interception on a deep ball. With a generous lead of 20-0 heading into halftime, the Wolves had the opportunity for some positional rotations to give much needed game reps to the depth players on the roster.
Another TFL by LB Fatemian saw the second half start in similar fashion, followed by an incomplete pass and an intentional pat down by SS Carnegy, the defence had forced a 3 and out and with that the starters had played their part and it was time for the backups to show what they could do. The offence was looking to extend the lead further but an untimely fumble on a scramble from QB James saw DMU take the ball back inside the Wolves’ half putting the new defensive starters in a pressurised situation from the get go. They were more than up to the task with rookie LB Wenzel Lorenz coming up with strong tackle on 3 straight plays and the drive was finished by veteran DL Araan Dass who prevented the QB from scrambling for a first down. The Wolves offence didn’t have any better luck with a big 7-yard loss leading to a 3 and out. The backups on defence started the next drive giving up some chunks on the ground but tightened up once DMU had reached the redzone and came up with a turnover on downs after forcing 2 straight incompletions.
The offence once again struggled to gain any momentum whilst draining the clock to start the 4th, going 3 and out again. In a similar fashion, the defence allowed DMU to drive into the redzone before digging in, this time helped by 2 penalties on DMU and a target practice-esque sack by DT Carroll who laid out the QB leaving DMU facing 2 and 34. With time running out they were forced to go for it on 4th and 34 but strong pressure from the D-line meant the deep pass attempt had no chance. The ill discipline had obviously caught as the Wolves offence started their drive by going backwards but they were once again kick-started by big-play receiver Brandt who broke a 32-yard catch and run up the sideline. Another big play followed, this time a 29-yard burst from RB Ben Meyrick showing impressive speed, in a promising performance from the young rookie. To complete the trifecta QB James came up with perhaps the most impressive play of the lot with a tip-toeing jaunt down the sideline into the endzone leaving multiple defenders in his wake. Despite a failed 2-pt attempt with the score reading 26-0 the game was beyond doubt with only a few minutes remaining and DMU showing little scoring threat all game.
A big kick return and a few penalties put DMU in the Wolves half but the drive was stalled by another monster hit by DT Carroll. A curious decision followed with DMU electing to kick a 50+ yard field goal which never had a chance given the conditions. Offence then had the chance to chew the clock and end the game but they obviously felt like giving the defence another go at DMU as they coughed up a fumble swiftly followed by an interception. The defence willingly accepted the opportunity forcing yet more incompletions before a couple of long gains on the ground finally saw the clock hit zero, the highlight of the drive being LB Fatemian trying his hand at D-line hoping to push for more playing time as a sub-package pass rusher.
A dominant team performance from the Wolves saw the game end 26-0. A fast start put them on top and the result seemed inevitable from there with the offence coming up with 4 TDs and the defence shutting out DMU completely. There were also many promising performances from the depth players which bodes well for the future of the team. The MVPs for the game were QB Alex James on offence for his 4-touchdown performance on debut. On defence it was DT Will Carroll for his relentless play in the middle with a sack and multiple big hits. For special teams, MVP went to LB Ollie Scorey for securing the early turnover which set the tone for the rest of the game. The Wolves now turn to face Loughborough in a defining game for their season with a win securing second place in the division and an automatic playoff berth.