26.05.2004 Farnham Knights
P.A. Knights in the EFAF Cup semifinals
Personal Assurance Knights 21 - 13 Zurich Renegades
The Guildford based Knights (sponsored in Europe by Premier Prospects) knew
that they had been placed into a very tough qualifying group in the Euro Cup and it proved to be just that as the place in the Semi-Finals was not
decided until the last two minutes of this thrilling game.
The Knights travelled to Danube (Vienna) two weeks ago and lost narrowly
16-21 to the Austrian team, the Austrians then visited Switzerland to play
the Renegades in Zurich and lost narrowly themselves 28-35. That set up the
clash in Guildford on Sunday as the decider in the Group. The Knights knew
that they had to win - they also knew that they must win by at least 7
points to progress in the competition.
The Knights went into the game without some of their better known players
who were not available through injury or illness - missing were Chris Cooke, Neil Edwards, Steve Belcher, Paul Wakeford, James Rolan, Michael Dunson and Gavin Hart. Those 7 players would certainly contribute to any team but on top of that the Knights star American Running Back Tony Stitt, who has tormented opposing defenses, was also unable to play through injury.
European regulations only permit 3 North Americans to play in any game in
the competition and so a further loss in personnel was forced as the
Knights had to select from their remaining 6 American/Canadian players
before the game began. This led to regular starters Moses Tomas and Marvin
Jimerson being placed on enforced absence along with Canadian import Cameron Saylor who had started in the Knights previous game.
The Mayor of Rushmoor Borough Council performed the coin toss and the
Knights decided to allow Zurich the first possession of the game.
The decision appeared to be a good one as the Renegades found the Knights
Defense in fine form - an incomplete pass and two runs for a loss of 2yards
saw them quickly punting the ball back to the home team.
The Knights had experienced a fumbling nightmare in their game the previous
week (giving up the ball 5 times) and on their very first play of this game
they again fumbled - Zurich recovered the ball abnd were presented with
excellent field position for their next possession at the Knights 20yd line.
The Knights Defense held the Renegades to 4yds on two runs and then Chris
McIver defended a pass in the endzone to force the Swiss to settle for a
33yd Field Goal from Markus Schirmer for a 0-3 lead.
Jon Wyse returned the subsequent kick off to the Knights 38yd line and the
home teams offense took to the field determined to make up for their early
mistake. Kingsley Ejiogu and Corey Smith were paired in the backfield with
Marc Saunders leading the way from Full Back. Both of the young tailbacks
have made a big impression on the British Senior League this year and they
were not to disappoint as they took to the European stage. Two solid runs
moved the ball to the 43yd line and from there it was scoring sensation
Ejiogu who raced 57yds to score behind the reliable blocking from his
backfield colleagues and the Knights powerful Offensive line. Jon Wyse added the extra point and the Knights led 7-3.
Zurich failed to make any impression on their next possession as the Knights Defense led by American linebacker Kenny Ross and big Tony Mackenzie forced them to punt after 5 plays.
Chris McIver fielded the punt at the Knights 15yd line and left a trail of
would-be tacklers in his wake as he weaved his way 85yds downfield for what
appeared to be a crucial score for the Knights. Unfortunately a penalty on
the play brought the score back and put the Knights in poor position on
their own 10yd line. Three plays later the Knights punted and Zurich took
over at the Knights 47yd line as the first quarter ended.
After 3 good runs the Renegades went deep with the pass - the ball appeared
to be well overthrown but the officials saw it differently and gave the
visitors a great opportunity with a pass interferance call that put the ball at the Knights 12yard line. Keeping the ball on the ground they found no running room and were forced to attempt a 30yd Field Goal. The attempt
however missed wide to the left and the Knights took over possession.
The Knights Offense found the Zurich Defense in no mood to let the game slip before halftime - three plays later they were forced to punt.
Taking over on the Knights 45yd line the visitors saw a chance to add to the Knights problems. Strong running from Gurs Urbach and a big run from
American QB Todd Smargiasso saw the Renegades move to the Knights 25yd line.
After two further runs they went for the killer blow as Smargiassso dropped
back to pass - Knights Safety Jay Cashman made a perfect play on the pass to intercept at the 2yd line and end the drive and effectively the half.
The Knights led at the half 7-3 but knew that the game score was only a part of the equation - the Rengaded could afford to lose by up to six points and still progress to the Semi-Finals instead of the British team.
The Knights received the ball at the start of the second half and started an incident filled drive at their own 27yd line. Kingsley Ejiogu made two good runs but the drive stalled and the Knights punted. The Renegades however went offside on the punt which came to rest 50yds downfield. The penalty was however judged to give the Knights a first down - a point that was hotly disputed by the Swiss coaching staff - in fact it was so hotly disputed the sideline incurred a further 15yd penalty and the Knights drive was back on.
Ejiogu carried the ball on the next play and then QB Ashley Heath hit WR
Steve Peck in stride for a 50yd catch and run touchdown pass - this time
however it was the Knights who had a penalty to dispute as the play was
brought back on a holding call against one of the other Knights
receivers.The drive ended two plays later when the Renegades got a rare sack and the home team were forced to punt.
With two "scores" wiped off the board it did not appear that the Knights
were going to get any good luck going their way. The Defense therefore dug
in and played strong tough football - an incomplete pass and two fruitless
runs saw the ball punted back to the Knights.
Mixing the run and pass on the next series the Knights made good ground but
again stalled after a sack and had to punt the ball away.
The Renegades then struck what could have been the killer blow. QB Smagiasso hit Urs Gerbach on a quick slant pattern and the Running Back slipped one tackle and then used his speed to score on a 77yd catch and run. Ursbach also scored a long TD on his last visit to Guildford - this time however he must have thought that the points would be decisive. The extra point was added by Schirmer and the Renegades led 7-10 , more importantly it put the Knights two scores away from a possible qualifying margin.
It was vital that the Knights struck back quickly but after a solid run from Corey Smith two incomplete passes - the second an unchallenged drop at first down yardage - saw them forced to punt and the tide was running hard against them. The Renegades then commited their second big Special Teams error as punter Jon Wyse was smashed into the ground after the kick had gone. The resulting penalty put the Knights drive back into action and the momentum of the game suddenly switched in favour of the British team. Corey Smith took the initiative - shaking off two tackles and then following his blocks he broke free to race 68yds to the Knights second Touchdown. Jon Wyse had recovered and kicked the extra point to give the Knights a 14-10 lead on the day and needing a field goal to reach the margin required for the Group Championship.
The Renegades however were down - but not out. As the fourth quarter began
they embarked on a very long time consuming 11 play drive that was almost
exclusively on the ground. A big run on the 5th play of the drive and saw
them move inside the Knights 20yd line and then move to first and goal to go at the 4 yard line. The Knights D knew that the game - and the Knights Euro Campaign - was on the line. Strong gang tackling saw them hold the Renegades to the 3yd line on the next three plays. The Swiss coaching staff then settled for a 20yd Schirmer Field Goal to make it 14-13 in the game but leave the Knights needing a touchdown to win the Group and progress to the Semi-Final.
The Knights took over the ball on their own 20yd line and knew that with
time running out they needed an 80yd drive to keep their European dream
alive. QB Ashley Heath engineered a patient drive down the field using both
Ejiogu and Smith to control the ball with just enough passing action to keep the Renegade defense honest. The 10th play of the drive saw the Knights camped on the Renegade 35yd line - with just 2 minutes remaining. QB Heath dropped back and was given superb protection by the OLine and his two running backs - he stepped up into the pocket and drilled an inch perfect pass between two defenders to WR Rodney Edgerton who used his momentum to break into the endzone in spite of a desperate tackle by the Renegade free safety. The Knights sideline went wild and when the dust had settled Jon Wyse added the extra point for a 21-13 Knights lead.
With the Semi-Final within their grasp the Knights knew that they had to
withstand one final effort from the Swiss - who only needed a field goal to
win the group. Jon Wyse produced his best kick-off of the day to pin the
visitors back on their own 20yd line. With the decibel level from the
Knights supporters at top level Smargiasso went to work. Two runs produced
zero yardage against a swarming Knights defense - third down saw the
visitors looking to pass but the QB was forced to run and gained only 5
yards before being brought to a stop. The Renegades had one last throw of
the dice - they went back to their srength but again the run was stopped and the Knights celbration began.
The home team ran out the clock after Zurich used its last time out and the
Knights had won by 21-13 and had taken the group and a place in the Euro Cup Semi-Finals by points difference.
Jubilant Knights QB Ashley Heath said "I've taken some flak over the past
week as the quarterback of this team, admittedly as I havn't been performing to the best of my abilities in the last two games, however, I just try to let my play do the talking. The team were really up for it today and it was good to receive support and words of encouragement from those that actually matter. It was very satisfying to throw the winning touchdown pass that saw us through to the EFAF Cup semi-finals."
Head Coach Steve Rains said "This is a huge game for the club in terms of
our season - it puts us firmly back on track. Its huge in terms of our
history - this is another first for the Knights. Its huge for British
American Football - with the O's also winning through there are now two
British teams in the Euro Cup Semi-Finals something that has never happened
Asst Head Coach James Mitchell said "The entire coaching staff and our two
QB's - Ashley and Luke Smith - worked on the game plan this week that was a
great team effort, the team played on the field as a team today with
everyone supporting eachother that was another great team effort - our fans
and sponsors kept the faith and together as an organisation we triumphed
today - that game today was what we mean by the term Knightime".
The Knights now face another first - the first time a British American
Football team has faced an opponent from Eastern Europe. The Donetsk
Scythians from the Ukraine are due to vist Guildford for the Semi-Final on
the 6th June at the Varsity Centre in Guildford. The kick off is
provisionally booked for 12 midday but this may be varied to suit the
visitors travelling arrangements. The Scythians facing a gruelling 30hour
bus journey are expected to arrive on the Saturday and leave for home
immediately after the game.
Steve Rains commented "We know very little of Donetsk - but they won their
group against the Russians and have been perennial Ukraine champions we
therefore expect a tough game on the 6th."
Group C - Final Table
1.PA Knights (GB) 2 (1/0/1) 1 (1/0/0) 1 (0/0/1) 37:34 +3
2.Zurich Renegades(CH) 2 (1/0/1) 1 (1/0/0) 1 (0/0/1) 48:49 -1
3.Danube Dragons (A) 2 (1/0/1) 1 (1/0/0) 1 (0/0/1) 49:51 -2
A Heath 5 of 11 49yds 1td
R Edgerton 3 for 42yds 1td
M Saunders 1 for 3yds
K Theobald 1 for 4yds
Total 4 for 49yds 1td
K Ejiogu 16 att 98yds 1td
C Smith 7 att 88yds 1td
M Saunders 2 att -1yds
A Heath 3 att 0
Total 28 att 185yds 2td
Jon Wyse 4 for 217yds
Jon Wyse 4 for 132yds
Kick off returns
Jon Wyse 4 for 50yds
Chris McIver 1 for 10yds
Chris McIver 1 for 0yds
T Smargiasso 3 of 10 83yds 1td 1int
32 att 126yds
Knights = 39 plays 234yds 3TD
Renegades = 42 plays 209yds 1TD 2FG
K Ross 9 Tackles
T Mackenzie 8 Tackles
C McIver 8 Tackles + 1 Sack
A Cole 6 Tackles + 0 .5 sack
Liam Smith 6 Tackles + 0 .5 sack
J Cashman 5 Tackles + 1int
J McLees 4 Tackles
S Harrison 4 Tackles
S Clackson 2 Tackles + 1 Sack
M Lloyd 2 Tackles
J Barclay 2 Tackles
T Porter 1 Tackle
S Gray 1 Tackle
1 qtr Zurich Schirmer 33yd Field Goal
0 - 3
1 qtr Knights K Ejiogu 57yd run +1 (Wyse)
7 - 3
3 qtr Zurich 77yd pass (Smargiasso - Ursbach) +1(Shirmer)
7 - 10
3 qtr Knights C Smith 61yd run +1 (Wyse)
14 - 10
4 qtr Zurich Schirmer 20yd Field Goal
14 - 13
4 qtr Knights 35yds pass (Heath - Edgerton) +1( Wyse)
21 - 13