Warwick Wolves @ Leicester Longhorns 02/12/18
When the schedule for the 2018/19 season arrived, there was no question the first slate of fixtures for the Warwick Wolves would be tough facing 3 games against premiership-calibre opposition, but this away fixture against Leicester was highlighted as a must-win. Now with both teams yet to earn a win, whoever failed to come up victorious would surely be pegged as relegation favourites. Despite the gravitas of the upcoming match, the Wolves remained über confident in their dominant defence to stop Leicester’s run-every-play tactics and in their offense to string drives together against what is likely to be the weakest defence they would face this year.
The game kicked off with the Longhorns starting on offense, instantly putting pressure on the Wolves specifically designed 5-4 defence. After some promising runs, countless pre-snap penalties pushed Leicester to 1st and 20 and were never able to get close to the down marker. Strong Cornerback Rahoul Hore in a new position was disciplined in his approach to shut down Leicester’s outside run play, a trend that was kept up throughout the game in what was to be a very strong showing from him. The Wolves first drive was similarly set back by a penalty, this time a holding call keeping the chains out of reach.
Leicester then tried to mix it up with some varied runs, but the Wolves, who knew by heart all 4 of Leicester’s plays, stopped then quickly. Whether it was MLB Ed McNamara diving head first into their driving maul, or OLB Koorosh Fatemian instantly identifying the reverse, the Longhorns just couldn’t get a drive going. The Wolves on offense managed to pick up a first down with a completion to ever-reliable TE Ethan Mawhinney and some strong outside running from RB Tiane Nyashanu, but nothing more was gained on the drive and a punt was forced.
After multiple drives from both teams gained very little, tensions were rising from both side-lines; the game needed a spark from somewhere. On a 3rd and short for Leicester, the big play the game desperately desired arrived in the form of Rookie DT Yassin Kamara. With an upper cut that wouldn’t look out of place in a boxing ring flooring Anthony Joshua, the Rook punched the ball 10 metres into the sky, CB Rahoul Hore, as always in the right place at the right time, gracefully plucked the ball from the clouds. As the Wolves side-line erupted with cheers, Offense stepped out onto the field knowing this was the chance to take the lead.
Quickly QB Matt Oosthuizen took control of the drive, a nifty scramble and another completion to Mawhinney put the Wolves in the red zone and within striking distance of a score. On a 3rd and 6 the Wolves gained 5 yards and gave OC Kieran Gosling an extremely tough call, but, after some deliberation the aggressive approach was taken and the offense stayed on the field on 4th and 1. Even after taking a hit that would have left most paralysed earlier in the drive, QB Matt Oosthuizen found a hole to run through and not only converted the 4th down, but powered through a tackle to get the ball in the end zone. After Kicker Ed Roberts slotted through the extra point, the Wolves had all the momentum behind them leading 7-0.
Leicester took the Wolves score as a major kick up the backside, the Longhorn’s coaches made it apparent that they were not going to be rolled over by the Wolves. They started their drive convincingly and for the first time were able to string together solid runs to move the chains, Leicester’s strong RB was able to turn the corner on numerous outside runs and make big plays. In a drive that culminated with 70 rushing yards, and multiple missed tackles for the Wolves, Leicester punched in a touchdown. Wolves remained resilient on the two-point attempt with Safety Ed Roberts and the man of the moment Rahoul Hore doing enough to push the runner out of bounds.
Now, with the score at 7-6, the game was finely in the balance, that was until Kick returner Nile Painter had the ball kicked his way on the resulting kick-off. It is a known fact amongst the Wolves that Nile + ball + open space = yards, and lots of them, Leicester were soon to find this out too. Taking the ball at the 10-yard line Nile sped to the other side of the field to find the well opened hole by the kick-off team and electrically raced past multiple would-be tacklers, once he got to midfield there was no way anyone could stop him and he walked in for the score. The Wolves got a second chance on the 2-point conversion with a penalty from Leicester, and second time around the Wolves got the score with a powerful run from RB Tiane Nyashanu. The Longhorns had under 2 minutes to get a score and but a severe lack of any sort of passing game meant they were unsuccessful in quickly moving the ball, the half ended at 15-6.
With the Wolves getting the ball in the second half, it was a great opportunity to further put pressure on Leicester, but after a mishandling of the kick-off and a block in the back penalty, the Wolves started inside their own 5 and couldn’t gain a first down. After the ensuing punt the Longhorns were inside the Wolves half and in excellent field position to strike, but the Wolves’ D again came up massive, Leicester could not gain a 1st down even when trying on 4th down, Safety David Carnegy, lining up like a linebacker, stopped every run that came to the strong side.
The Wolves Offense then got the ball rolling after the two anaemic drives to start the half. Even with a holding penalty, the Wolves gained a first down with three powerful runs from RB Obi Ojji, the third of 15 yards being the highlight, it included a marvellous escaping act where he looked to be tackled by 4 would-be tacklers but managed to sneak through them all and charge ahead. After a 9-yard scramble by QB Oosthuizen breaking 2 tackles, it looked as if Warwick would move the chains again, but a holding penalty and a false start pushed them back and the Wolves had to punt.
The Wolves stopped the Longhorns after 3 plays with tackles from the usual suspects Messrs McNamara and Carnegy forcing Leicester to punt. With a high spiralling punt WR Will Whiteley chose to attempt a return after some excellent blocking by the punt unit, but after taking his eyes off the ball slightly too early, a heart in mouth moment occurred as the ball was fumbled to the floor. With a racing Longhorn about to jump on the ball, WR Whiteley was able to make use of his long arms and grasped the ball back. After this malarkey, offence carried on their dominant run game with positive runs from Oosthuizen and Nyashanu gaining a first down, but the drive was stopped on 3rd and 4 and the Wolves punted taking a conservative approach as not to throw away their lead.
With not long left in the game the Longhorns needed one of their runs to breakout for a large gain to score quickly. In their next drive the Wolves excellently commenced a bend not break defence, Leicester did manage to put together a 13 play drive, but were restricted in only gaining 30 yards overall. After the drive was finally shut down with a 4th and 5 being stopped with all 3 linebackers taking down the QB sneak, the clock had run down to well within the final quarter.
The Wolves instantly hit back with the ball, a superbly executed read option run by QB Oosthuizen that showed off his open field running prowess went all the way to the red zone for 41 yards, one of the longest plays of the Wolves’ season. After two outside runs from RB Ojji took him to a career day with 48 yards in total, QB Oosthuizen took a 5-yard scramble to the end zone with a graceful dive to the pylon. After K Ed Roberts slotted over the PAT, the Wolves were up 22-6 and had the game wrapped up. The final minutes of the game went further in the Wolves favour with an interception for FS Ed Roberts, maybe feeling aggrieved for after a certain Wolves teammate tackled him down on his attempted return. And on Offense, with rookies in to finish the game, showed promise with rookie RB Albert Nyarko-Agyei on the final play of the game rushing for 9 yards.
The Wolves thoroughly deserved their victory with Coach Hill, the longest serving coach on the team, calling this ‘the most dominant display by a Wolves defence’ that he’s ever seen. Offense too performed exceptionally with the running game accounting for 173 yards, reignited memories of offenses of the past with multiple playmakers set up in the backfield. MVPs of the game were deservingly awarded to QB Matt Oosthuizen on offense, CB Rahoul Hore on defence and RS Nile Painter on special teams. This performance certainly showed that the Wolves were here to stay in Division 1A and it sets up what is to be a great second half of the season where we face our bitter rivals the Coventry Jets home and away.