Warwick Wolves vs. NTU Renegades 03/11/19
The Warwick Wolves’ first game of the season once again saw them facing off against old foes the NTU Renegades. After a solid few weeks of preparation and a promising crop of rookies the Wolves were looking to right past wrongs, come away 1-0 and get off to a winning start on the road to the playoffs. The Wolves welcomed the Renegades to the Juicible on a perfect day for football with a lively home crowd in support.
The Wolves elected to receive the kick-off and start with the ball in the hands of returning veteran QB and Club Captain Matt Oosthuizen. The first drive started with a balanced approach between pass and run with a few deep shots in between. Steady gains on the ground from both QB Oost and, another veteran, RB Obi Ojji led to first downs. The first drive was no doubt highlighted by a 53-yard bomb to returning WR Sean Brandt, who looks to be adding a dynamic deep threat to the Wolves passing game this year. On the very next play, the drive was capped off by a strong TD run from RB Obi. A very encouraging start from the Wolves offence to march straight down the field and score on the opening possession.
It was now the turn of the Wolves defence to provide a statement opening series. Following a long kick-off return for NTU, they had the ball near midfield. The first play was instantly blown up in the backfield for a big loss by a big boy, DT Will Carroll. To compound their poor start, the next snap went over the QB’s head leading to another 11-yard loss. The strong defensive set was finished by new German recruit, and heat-seeking missile, Mo Jung making a strong open-field tackle to force a punt. The Wolves O made a promising start to the next drive with a solid QB run and an intermediate pass to emerging 3-way threat WR James Norris. However, the drive was derailed by a long intentional grounding penalty forced by a heavy rush up the middle.
A strong tackle from new starting CB Sam Taylor and another tackle in the backfield for D-Line tandem DT Carrol and DE George Graham ensured that again NTU could make no progress and had to punt the ball away. A quick 4 and out followed from the Wolves offence forced by a sack on 4th down, giving NTU the ball with decent field position. The Wolves D responded with another quick 3 and out highlighted by some strong gang-tackling to bring up another punt. Following a bad long-snap a penalty ensued for running into the kicker by Safety David Carnegy. Despite his protestations that the punter had the ball tucked, making him a runner, post-match analysis revealed that he had indeed already kicked it and that Carnegy’s love for knees was just too strong. Luckily, the 5-yard penalty only led to another punt and not a first down.
Back to back first downs saw the Wolves next drive get off to a good start but the NTU defence managed to shore up the run and force a punt from midfield. To compound his earlier error, LS Carnegy, unfurled a beauty of snap, apart from it was over the punter’s head and about 15 yards too long. In the ensuing scramble, NTU wound up with the ball on the Wolves own 1-yard line. The NTU offence duly punched the ball in using their heavy formation. The score was now 7-7 apiece, in what was quickly turning into an attritional defensive struggle. Despite a good return and another strong QB run to start the drive, the Wolves offence was quickly derailed by a fumbled exchange and a tipped ball.
Following a good punt by new punter James Norris and a block in the back penalty, NTU were backed up on their own 5-yard line. In a striking turn of events, ageless wonder LB and defensive captain, Koorosh Fatemian came up with back to back tackles for a loss, the second also being for a safety. The Wolves defence had restored the lead to 9-7 and would give the ball back to their offence with good field position following the safety punt. Starting near midfield strong runs from RB Ojji and QB Oosthuizen, including an 18-yard scramble on 3rd and 18 meant the Wolves were driving into NTU territory. However, disaster struck on the next play, as a pass targeted for freshman TE Cosmo Vanderkar was intercepted by NTU. The defences of both teams were keeping the game close and maintaining pressure on both offences.
The NTU offence continued going backwards on their next drive, as they started with consecutive penalties on the O-Line. NTU were once again backed up inside their own 5. Quick pressure by DT Carroll, followed on the next play by a sack and safety by fellow DT Yass Kamara, who literally made the NTU QB kneel in his own endzone, highlighted the fearsome duo that the Wolves have on the inside and should put other O-Lines in the division on notice. The Wolves got the ball back with seconds left in the half and had to try and manufacture some points. A quick pass put them in range for a Hail Mary but both plays were countered by heavy pressure from NTU, leaving the game poised, on a knife edge, at 11-7 going into halftime. A strong first-half showing from the Wolves D and promising signs from the offence meant that the game was in the Wolves’ hands to avenge defeats of previous years.
The start of the second half continued in much the same pattern, with a quick 3 and out forced by the Wolves D. A good start to Wolves offensive drive was once again undone by a mistake, this time on a bad option pitch leading to a loss of 12 yards and leaving the Wolves far behind the chains. A punt followed, and this time LS Carnegy used his love for knees to his advantage forcing a fumble on the returner as he caught the ball, however NTU luckily managed to retain possession. A batted ball by constant threat DT Carroll and a personal foul penalty again left NTU behind the sticks but this was wiped out by a facemask call on the Wolves D on a catch and run giving NTU 15 yards, and a fresh set of downs. This was not to matter though as on the next play Safety Carnegy came up with an interception, although nearly coughing up the ball and looking like an O-lineman on the return.
A first down run by promising rookie RB Will Roberts got the Wolves offence off to a good start, but yet again a penalty set the Wolves back and a couple of deep shots fell incomplete leading to another Wolves punt. A strong run from NTU started their drive and ended the 3rd quarter. The game entered the 4th still set up for a grandstand finish with the score reading 11-7 to Warwick. Following some stout run defence and another pressure by DT Carroll, the Wolves managed to bring up an NTU punt. However, NTU ran a fake down the sideline, leading to one of the game’s crucial plays with Wolves rookie returner Moustafa El-Edwy coming up with a TD-saving tackle on a man twice his size. This tackle would prove to be crucial, as the Wolves came up with a turnover a couple of plays later, with Safety Carnegy coming up with loose ball from a botched option pitch. The Wolves lead was still intact.
A quick 3 and out from the Wolves offence, meant the defence had to come right back out. They were gashed for a long run to put NTU in scoring territory and in a position to steal away the victory from the Wolves. The defence had bent but it was now time to not break. A strong tackle for a short gain by, another ageless wonder, DE Araan Dass and a big pat-down by wily veteran cover man Henry Faulkner-Ellis brought up 3rd and long. A short gain on a screen, led to 4th and 4 from the Wolves own 22 with the game essentially on the line, with little time remaining. Pressure up the middle, once again from DT Carroll, forced a quick throw to the endzone giving the receiver a chance to make a play on the ball. Despite some outstanding blown coverage by Safety tandem Alex Dipol and David Carnegy, the receiver could not come down with the ball, leaving the NTU sideline crestfallen.
The Wolves offence now had the ball, and the game, in their hands. One final drive is all that was needed to seal a historic win for the Warwick Wolves. NTU had retained all 3 timeouts meaning a long, sustained drive was needed. The offence delivered in the clutch with barn-storming RB Obi Ojji breaking out for a long 39-yard run on a key 3rd and 10 which could’ve given NTU the ball back with time remaining. Two more strong runs from RB Ojji, burnt NTU’s timeouts and left the game to come down to one play, a 3rd and 1, if the Wolves converted, they had won. Dynamic veteran QB Matt Oosthuizen kept the ball on a QB keeper, gained 5 yards and sealed the game for your 1-0 Warwick Wolves. The sideline erupted and a couple of kneel-downs in the victory formation really allowed the celebrations to begin.
11-7, a typical Midlands 1A closely fought battle with the defence battling all game, coming up with two scores of their own, and the offence coming up clutch when it mattered most to seal the game. It was an exhilarating game for all those involved, a feeling only increased by the fact it was the Wolves’ first victory over NTU in nearly 5 years. MVPs for the game were: RB Obi Ojji on offence for his punishing running, particularly on the final game-clinching drive and a TD; DT Yass Kamara on defence for getting one of the crucial safeties, and for returning to the game after an injury, to keep blowing up any inside plays NTU attempted; and finally on special teams, MVP was returner Moustafa El-Edwy for his aforementioned TD-saving, which turned out to be game-saving, tackle. Promising signs on both sides of the ball for the Wolves to carry forward into their next game against Loughborough. If the Wolves can cut out the self-inflicted mistakes then they will be a force to be reckoned with in this year’s Midlands 1A battle for the playoffs.