In typically one of the trickier games of their season, the Nighthawks headed home from a long away trip to Edinburgh this weekend with a win, moving their season record to 4-1 and seizing control of their fate in the race for play off places in the Prem North.
Having lost the toss, Merseyside would receive the ball to begin the game. A long, methodical drive saw the Hawks reach the end zone on a quick run play from the Wolves 3 yard line, only for it to be negated for holding by right guard Steve Hicks. The drive ended in a turnover on downs, as the Nighthawks went for a field goal, only for it to sail wide left.
The Wolves took the ball on their own 3 yard line, but found yards hard to come by early on. The Merseyside defence stood strong, forcing the Wolves pressure on the passer, which resulted in an interception for LB Eddie Webster. The Hawks turned the short field into points quickly.
After a quick run play for a gain of 6 by Laurent Tshimanga, QB Harry Routledge found TE Igors Smelovs in the middle of the field, and despite being challenged by 3 Wolves defenders, ‘FBI’ was able to take the ball into the end zone for the TD, the first of his career. This led to wild celebrations from #87, resulting in an unsportsmanlike penalty for celebrating, which would come back to haunt Merseyside on the ensuing drive. The XP was good, and the Hawks led on the road 7-0.
Facing a short field after the USC penalty, the Wolves were able to capitalise fully. QB Liam Brown took them on an 8 play drive, which was capped off by a short yardage run into the end zone by the Wolves RB. The Wolves would go for 2pts and fail, leaving the score at 7-6 Nighthawks.
The next few drives were penalty laden for the Nighthawks, meaning that they found it difficult to get any momentum going. Fortunately, the Hawks defence stood strong and quickly turned the ball over for Routledge and co. to do their thing. Another long drive, the highlight which was a 36 yard catch from WR Jordan Houghton, led to another Nighthawks field goal attempt. Unfortunately, the kick was again no good, and the score remained at 7-6.
The Wolves again found pressure from the Hawks defence, and the two teams traded turnovers of the ball in quick succession. First, the Wolves RB couldn’t grab the hand off from the QB, meaning that LB Bobby Ludbrook could fall on the ball at about the Wolves 30 yard line to give Merseyside the ball again. However, the Hawks failed to capitalise, as a tipped ball saw Routledge throw an interception off the hands of WR Alex Eager.
Once again, the Nighthawks defence stood strong, giving Merseyside the ball back at the Nighthawks 20 yard line as the half started to draw to a close. Very quickly, OC Nick Thompson had guided the Hawks offence deep into the Wolves half of the field, mostly through a 47 yard catch by WR Dominic Woo, which saw the Hawks on the Edinburgh 2 yard line. In came the goal line package, and QB Routledge was carried over the line for a TD by his offensive line. The XP resulted in a QB scramble by #5 Ben Robinson, who tried to make a dash for the end zone. He came up 2 yards shy, and the score moved to 13-6. This is how it would end in the first half.
Merseyside would come out in the second half and try to surprise Edinburgh with an onside kick. It was executed poorly, giving Edinburgh good field position to start the second half. Five plays later, QB Liam Brown found the Wolves WR in wide open space for their second TD of the day. Sensing the opportunity to take the lead, the Wolves went for two again, only for the run to be stopped in the backfield. The Nighthawks held a 1 point lead, 13-12.
This spurred the Nighthawks into action, and Routledge then led the Hawks on a 12 play drive, helped along the way by a Pass Interference call on the Wolves. Facing 4th and goal from the 1 yard line, Routledge took the ball in himself, leaping over the defensive line to find pay dirt. The extra point was tacked on, and the Nighthawks now led 20-12.
The two teams then exchanged punts as both defences stiffened. With the Wolves holding the ball on their own 23 yard line, the centre fired a low snap to QB Brown, who could only watch as the ball was kicked forward by the running back. The Hawks managed to come up with the ball, with LB Bobby Ludbrook recovering the fumble and setting up the offence with great field position, which they would take full advantage of. QB Ben Robinson kept the ball on an option play, taking the ball in for 6 from the 7 yard line, despite fumbling the ball after he had broke the plane. The XP was good, and the Hawks now had a commanding 27-12 lead.
The remainder of the game would see few opportunities to score as the Wolves defence stopped the efficient Nighthawks offence on their drives, and the Hawks defence swarming to the ball to keep the Wolves offence at bay. There would be one further score on the very last play of the game. Facing 3rd and 2 on the Edinburgh 35 yard line, Robinson threw a laser to WR Alex Eager, who came down in the end zone with the ball to move the scoreboard to 33-12. The XP wasn’t attempted as the Hawks had the game in the bag, moving their record to 4-1 on the year.
The Nighthawks are back in action this Sunday, where we host Sheffield Giants and the Hawks Nest, JMO Sports Park in Skelmersdale. Sheffield come into the game on the back of a tight win over Leicester Falcons, and we are looking forward to hosting Coach Chesters and his team this weekend. You can find out more information here :-
Photos courtesy and copyright of David Robertson –