The Sabres travelled to JMO Sports Park with the aim of clinching playoff football against relegation contenders LJMU Fury on Sunday. After an early start (which saw a pre 7am bus meet to the horror of many players) the Sabres got to JMO and received the first kick off of the game which was fumbled before being recovered by rookie wide receiver #2 Joe Dorr close to the halfway line. Some solid LJMU defence saw the Sabres offence unable to convert a fourth down on the first drive of the day. The Sabres defence themselves started slow but began to pick up the tempo and were on their way to forcing a 3 and out scenario until a rather questionable Pass Interference flag was thrown. This resulted in a new set of downs for the home team on the Sabres goal line which they converted into a TD on their third attempt due to a mixture of a good jet play and poor defensive football. The Sabres offence looked like they’d hit their stride with a huge play with #88 Harrison Bazley reaching the LJMU 10 yard line before the ball was fumbled and recovered by LJMU’s defence.
Sabres defence emerged in the form of #17 Alex Garcia whos blitz resulted in an safety as their attempts to move the ball upfield had been unsuccessful. On the resulting kick return , rookie WR #87 Rash Rajh carried the ball upfield in an excellent kick return from the entire unit. This drive moved downfield and ended with QB #10 Sam Worrall finding his favourite target this season #88 Harrison Bazley as he keeps racking up his TDs, setting a new Sabres single season TD record with each one. After both defences forced punts ( Sabres forcing two back to back and only giving up one first down in the process), the offence gave up their first TD of the year as the ball was again fumbled with LJMU taking it into the Black and Gold’s end zone.
Another strong kick return, this time by #88 Harrison Bazley left the Sabres offence in a great position, however they failed to capitalise as #89 Joe Warriner was called on once again to punt. On the next offensive drive, QB #10 Sam Worrall made an impressive gain on his feet whilst scrambling, however, this was largely down to second year wide receiver #83 Joe ‘Donald’ Batchelor placing the hit of the day on an unfortunate member of the LJMU defence in his bid to tackle Sam, sadly the offensive did not capitalise as the game went into half-time at 8-13 to LJMU.
Club veteran FS #26 Liam Pratt picked off LJMU’s QB 3 snaps into the second half which was returned for close to 20 yards, a fantastic start to the second half for the Sabres defence as the offence took the ball. Fourth year RB #25 Ruben Pare made some huge yards with the Offence’s first snap of the second half as he took the Sabres right down to the LJMU red zone which subsequently lead to a TD for #87 Rash Rajh. Defensively, the Sabres yet again forced a third and out punt , however LJMU picked off QB #10 Sam Worrall on the offences first snap, which saw the defence back on with half a field to defend which again resulted in an LJMU punt without moving the chains. A massive LJMU QB run was heading for a touchdown until Safety #20 Sam Turner was able to make the last ditch tackle too close for comfort in the Sabres Red Zone, consequently, LJMU’s momentum stopped here which forced a FG attempt after what seemed a successful 3 and out for the Sabres Defence. This FG attempt however resulted in a TD as the kick was blocked by cornerback #44 Nathan Brereton before coming off the foot of a Sabre D-Lineman and being recovered for a TD by an LJMU Offensive Lineman in the Sabres End zone.
The Sabres Defence were denied a turnover midway through the final quarter before LJMU were awarded one for a very similar sequence of events the first snap after the Sabres defence had forced another punt. This turnover lead to LJMU’s final TD, a QB run which began at the Sabre 25 yard line. A reverse play left the ball in the hands of WR #89 Joe Warriner on the Sabres 20 yard line facing a 4th and 11 with less than 3 minutes left on the clock and the Sabres two TDs down. Warriner’s pass found its way to #88 Harrison Bazley for a 39 yard completion which set up a TD for rookie RB #39 George Condon thanks to #10 QB Sam Worrall noticing he was open on his wheel route. A failed onside kick attempt later saw LJMU kneeling for the win with the final score ended 26-21 to the home side, placing the Sabres playoff hopes on hold as they wait to play UcLan in the divisional crunch match next Saturday.
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Rookie: Niall Brotheridge
Lineman Pie: Rees Britt
Special Teams: Liam Pratt
Offence: Harrison Bazley
Defence: Henrique Baptista-Borges