Warwick Wolves vs. Leicester Longhorns – 03/02/19
With the seasons of both Warwick and Leicester not going exactly to plan, this second meeting of the teams was to be a relegation decider. With the Wolves taking the W in the reverse fixture, Leicester needed to win by a couple of scores to have any chance of staying in the league.
The game kicked off with the wolves to have the ball first, and after a block in the back penalty was called on the kick return, the Wolves started within their own 10yard line. Leicester brought the pressure straight away and sacked QB Matt Oosthuizen on the first play of the game. Then with a negative run and an incomplete pass to follow, Warwick went three and out. The resulting Leicester drive, in great field position, fared similarly with DT Will Carroll almost single-handedly halting the drive, mauling the running back down for a negative run on one play and then recovering a fumble from the Leicester QB on the next play to give Warwick the ball back.
The Wolves couldn’t move the chains on their drive with WR William Whiteley failing to take in a perfectly thrown ball by QB Oosthuizen on 3rd down running a curl route. Leicester’s drive, yet again dominated by the run game, couldn’t get a first down with the excellent Wolves defence holding firm, OLB Koorosh Fatemian perfectly executed his role in what was to be an impressive day from the wily veteran of the game.
The Wolves then commenced what was to be the first real offensive drive of the game, and nifty WR Nile Painter was pivotal in leading the Wolves offence. The shifty slot receiver first made two catches to gain 2 first downs on a screen and an out route. Then to get the Wolves into the red zone RB Tiane Nyashanu bounced a run to the outside and raced down the field for a 21-yard gain. Within striking distance after a 5 yard run by QB Matt Oosthuizen, WR Whiteley made the calamitous error of false starting on a key 3rd down. Now on a lengthy 3rd and 15, Nile Painter went up for a remarkable catch in blanket coverage and came down with the ball, but ended up 3 yards away from the end zone, so Kicker Ed Roberts had to be forced onto the field.
After another mental error from Will Whiteley, this time as holder, not calling the snap and being flagged for a delay of game, the field goal was put 5 yards further away than it should have been. This looked to be pivotal as K Ed Roberts shaved the wrong side of the post with his kick, but after this kick Holder Whiteley was to make his best play of the season so far. As he stood up after his hold a Leicester defender made slight contact with him and the Wolves president then proceeded to throw himself to the floor, clutching his midriff and exclaiming to the umpires to punish the innocent Leicester defender. The umpires remarkably witnessed this and a flag was hurled into the air, Will Whiteley had single-handedly given the offense another chance.
This chance was used straight away as QB Oosthuizen pegged it to the corner of the endzone on a QB ran in without a Longhorn even getting a hand on him, after the successful PAT, held very tentatively from the holder, the Wolves were 7-0 up. Leicester just could not respond on their drive with their runners just not able to get away from the clutches of OLB Fatemian and edge defender David Carnegy. On Leicester’s punt the long snapper seemed to forget he was aiming for the punters hands and not his feet, with what would have been a perfect yorker on a cricket square there was nothing the punter could have done but pick the ball off the floor and then get clattered by the 3 to 4 Wolves running straight at him, Warwick had the ball inside Leicester’s 10-yard line.
QB Oosthuizen, as ever when inside the 20-yard line, backed himself and kept the ball on a read option run, the Leicester defender aiming to contain the run inside was brushed aside by Oosthuizen who looped his run all the way into the end zone to score the second touchdown of the game. Kicker Ed Roberts then splendidly adjusted his kick after a dodgy hold to score the PAT to put the Wolves up 14-0.
Leicester again just could not run on the ball against the Wolves stout defence, this time it was rookie D-Lineman Balint Fernengel making the plays. With his long limbs going everywhere the dual-sport athlete corralled the QB on an attempted QB draw to put the defence back 5 yards. The Longhorns weren’t able to recover this large loss of yards and had to punt again.
In great field position, again thanks to the defence, the Wolves offense were looking to put this game to bed and nearly did with a long throw hitting WR James Norris square in the bread basket for 30 yards, but comically the second year wide out let the ball drop straight through his arms. The drop, causing so much agony for QB Oosthuizen, made him fall to his knees in despair. The next play a Leicester defender made Oosthuizen more than fall to his knees on an illegal hit and this personal foul penalty gave the Wolves offense a new set of downs 15 yards down the pitch. This foul ended up as crucial as on the next play RB Obi Ojji executed a perfect jump cut to evade multiple Leicester defenders and then showed off his impressive speed for a big lad to take his run all the way for a touchdown. The Wolves were very lucky indeed as the referees somehow were able to miss the egregious block in the back from fortunate WR Whiteley. But anyhow, with Ed Roberts again converting the PAT, the Wolves went up 21-0.
Another Leicester drive resulted in another three and out with the Wolves defence swarming as a unit to take out all of Leicester’s running threats, this really was a dominant performance by the Wolves D. After Leicester’s punt the Wolves regained possession, and were determined to score again in what had been their most successful half of football in 2 years by far. QB Matt Oosthuizen looked to have scored another touchdown with a remarkable throw, stepping up into the pocket and taking on a massive hit as he threw the ball towards an open WR Will Whiteley, who’s cornerback looked to have simply forgot he was playing football and disregarded the WR running down the pitch. Heartbreakingly for Whiteley the play was then called back on a holding penalty; it seemed the Will’s unbelievable luck had run out.
But no, 2 plays later the luck came straight back to Whiteley, and this luck came in the form the cornerback covering him. Not only did he seem to have the speed of a snail, but also the brain; again he let his man run straight past him and Oosthuizen pinged the ball straight to the receiver for a 67-yard touchdown. After all that had occurred for WR Whiteley in the game, one thing was clear, he is the Wolves best deep ball threat.
The sure tackling of Ed Roberts was shown off in the next drive with two excellent tackles to put the Longhorns on the back foot. Having to now throw the ball with little left on the clock for the first half, DL Fernengel put extreme pressure on the QB and batted down his throw. In a moment of madness, the referees called the play a fumble by the Longhorns QB, and the Wolves offense had another chance to score. But in the first failed attempt for the Wolves offense in a while, QB Oosthuizen tried to force a throw to WR Norris and it was picked off by the Leicester cornerback, the half petered out with the Wolves leading 28-0.
The second half began with a Leicester drive that, yet again, didn’t go that far. It was the usual suspects in Messrs Fatemian, Carnegy, Mohanadass and Roberts that all made tackles to halt Leicester’s run game. On offense there was a similar story too, QB Oosthuizen was able to stand firm in the pocket and deliver bombs to his receivers. First he hit WR Norris on accurate back shoulder throw for 22 yards to bring the offense close to the red zone, and then 2 plays later, WR Will Whiteley got a perfect throw on a post route for a 23-yard touchdown. It is this efficiency and explosiveness that the Wolves offence have lacked, and if kept up, could result in a massive change in fortunes for Warwick to finish the year. Now with the score at 350, there was no doubt the Wolves had it in the bag.
Leicester again went 3 and out, with plays from DE Stephen Raj and rookie LB Rhys Davies. Both players joined the hard-hitting-tackling-party with two great plays to stop the run. Then on offence, the Wolves moved the ball down the field into the red zone with the highlight being a great tight window throw by Oosthuizen to find TE Stephen Bailey who brought the ball in and then powered through tacklers to gain a few yards after catch. Once the Wolves entered the red zone, Leicester’s Defence was strong against the run and so to mix it up, Oosthuizen tried to lob up a ball for a contested catch in the end zone; but a Longhorns player came down with the ball and the drive ended with an interception.
Then Leicester then engaged what had to be one of the slowest drives in the history of the game with a 16 play drive that totalled 60 yards, an average of les that 4 yards per play. The Wolves defence did not break and succeeded in not giving up the big play. Both experienced and youthful players on D were making an impact on this drive with LB Fatemian rounding off his day with a season record 12 tackles, and rookie Safety Joe Richardson making two big hits to halt Leicester’s runners. In the end as ever the Longhorns offence left the pitch without putting points on the board.
After the Wolves quickly went three and out, Leicester attempted to pass the ball with little left on the clock but D-Lineman Araan Dass had something to say about this, achieving the Wolves first official sack of the season. The Longhorns couldn’t move the ball in time and the final whistle went with the score at 35-0.
This had to be the Wolves most impressive performance on a football field in at least two years. Both the offence and defence played near perfect football with 5 touchdowns scored by the offense and not one point given up by the defence. The result confirmed the Wolves have a place in the league next year and it gives a huge springboard for them to take this performance into the next two games against much tougher opponents in Loughborough and Coventry.