This past Sunday, a new look Nighthawks hosted Leicester Falcons in a Premier North clash with critical implications for both teams. The Hawks were looking to keep apace with Manchester and Tamworth at the top, whilst Leicester were looking to shock the home team and move themselves away from relegation. It would be a tough afternoon for the visiting team.
The Nighthawks lost the toss, and with Leicester deferring, received the ball to start the game. In usual fashion, the Hawks put together an enterprising drive, helped by the legs of Routledge, to put themselves in the Falcons red zone and looking for early points. After a pass to the right corner of the end zone was picked off, only for an offside penalty to negate it, Routledge found WR Jake Moore in the back of the end zone, after the pass had been tipped by a hand in the Leicester end zone. Moore secured the ball, bringing it in for 6, and with the XP good, the Hawks were up 7-0 early in the game.
In what would prove to be a frustrating day for the Falcons, their first drive stuttered after 4 plays, resulting in the Hawks getting the ball back, deep in their own half. This did not prevent the Hawks from adding a quick second score, as a 34 yard catch and run by WR Dominic Woo set up a 19 yard TD for RB Laurent Tshimanga, who found his way through some great blocking by the offensive line for paydirt. Eager added the XP, and the score was quickly 14-0.
Leicester took to the field and had started to put together a decent looking drive, before their Quarterback found Mr Interception himself, Jonny Weekes, who took the ball into Falcons territory, setting the Hawks up with great field position. 3 plays later, following some strong running from RB Martin Murphy, Routledge found WR Alex Eager in wide open space across the middle of the field for 6. This time the Hawks decided to flex their muscels and go for 2, with Routledge finding the returning Liam Holebrook for the extras. 22-0 and we were still in the first quarter.
Leicester came out fighting though, and had put together a 6 play drive that stalled due to a holding penalty. This allowed them to punt the ball back to Merseyside, and pin them deep in their own red zone. Regardless, the Hawks came out fast again, with Routledge finding Holebrook down the left side line for 25 yards, before a couple of run plays found the Hawks at midfield. Routledge then threw an uncharacteristic interception to the safety as the Hawks had looked set to add to their scoreline. Still 22-0 and Falcons ball around midfield.
With limited numbers travelling to Merseyside for the Falcons, Leicester employed a new center for the next drive. Unfortunately for him, his first snap sailed high over the head of the Falcons QB, and was downed by the QB at their own 5 yard line. This once again stalled the Falcons drive, and they were forced to punt from their end zone, reaching only their own 30 yard line with it. With excellent field position, RB Martin Murphy scored a TD (his first of the season) from 30 yards out, cut stepping the chasing Leicester defence and outpacing 5 defenders, with the help of some excellent perimeter blocking from WR Holebrook. The XP was good, although almost blocked, and the Hawks led 29-0.
In an all too familiar scene for Leicester on the day, they quickly went 3 and out, and pinned the Hawks in their own half with a deep punt. QB Ben Robinson, now back in the game replacing Routledge, engineered a 9 play drive downfield, on the back of his own legs and some good power running from RB Murphy, to set the Hawks up with first and goal at the Falcons 5 yard line. Robinson kept the ball on an option play the very next play, and took the ball into the endzone untouched for a touchdown. Again the Hawks went for 2, but failed this time as a run by FB Penrose was stopped in the backfield. 35-0 to the Hawks Leicester put together a time consuming 9 play drive to take them to the half.
The second half followed a similar script, but with a running ‘mercy’ clock now in place, the Hawks knew they needed to score quickly to have any chance of adding to their first half points. They did that after forcing Leicester into a 3 and out situation and followed up with a 7 play drive which ended with Robinson taking the ball into the end zone for his second score of the day. The XP was good, and the score had moved quickly to 42-0.
The ensuing kick off was a good one, and the Hawks managed to pin the Falcons deep in their own 5 yard line on the return. 3 plays later, and after the defence had stuffed the Falcons runners, the Falcons QB decided to take a safety when he ran out of the back of the end zone, faced with some pressure from DL Matt O’Connell on 4th and 15. It was probably a smart move, as it gave them some space to kick the ball instead of from their own end zone. The Nighthawks led 44-0 and were getting the ball back.
The game had moved quickly into the 4th quarter, and the Hawks had the ball on their own 42 yard line to start the drive. The Falcons defence stiffened and forced the Hawks into their first 3 and out of the day, forcing them to punt away to the waiting Falcons returner.
The Falcons then put together a drive of mixed fortunes. A deep pass down their sideline found their WR in acres of space, only to be brought to the ground around the Hawks 15 yard line. The very next snap, however, saw the Nighthawks defence swarm to the ball and force the QB to take a long sack. Facing 4th and 22, the Falcons brought back the punter and pinned the Nighthawks deep into their own 15 yard line.
Robinson then engineered a final drive of the day, that would add a further score for the Hawks. Facing 3rd and 5, Robinson used his legs to gain 15 on the ground, before passes to Jake Moore (for 24 yards) and finally WR Dominic Woo (for 28 yards and a TD). The Hawks XP was blocked, but had reached 50 points for the second time this year.
The Nighthawks now have a bye week, as the BAFCA Convention takes centre stage, before we host Tamworth Phoenix in a top of the table clash at JMO on Sunday 21st July – details can be found here :-