Last weekend saw American Football brought back to the borough co-sponsored by ‘Nuneaton Signs’ and ‘Paynes Ford of Hinckley’ in what was a feast of hard hitting action as the home town Etone Jaguars U17’s hosted their first ever tournament at the Bermuda Phoenix Centre. Roared on by the Aces Cheerleaders and infront of a crowd of 200 plus.
Travelling teams the Birmingham Bulls, Tamworth Phoenix and Sandwell Steelers faced off in a round robin format as they competed for the ‘JAGBARDI’ trophy.
To open the tournament the Jaguars took on the Phoenix and after previously falling to their cross town rivals 46-0 3 weeks ago in Birmingham a coaching shake up on the defensive side of the ball paid off as the Jags looked equal to their rivals. Newley installed Defensive Co-ordinator Tom McConnell hailing from the U.S.A laid out a fine plan and it was working in keeping the free scoring Phoenix offence at bay. The Phoenix defence ranked 1st in the conferance was doing equally as well by shutting the Jags offence down whilst giving the Running Backs no space to use their speed against them. The Phoenix then drew first blood on a great catch and run to take a 6-0 lead. On the next drive Jags #7 QB Andrew Crutchley trying to force a pass deep was intercepted and the ball returned deep into Jags territory and what would have been a potential score if it had not been for a saving tackle from offensive captain #22 RB Joirdan Honey. The Phoenix offence then gathered momentum by going the short distance for their second score of the game and what would be a 12-0 scoreline going into the half.
The second half started with bad news for the Jags as #7 QB Crutchley was out for the rest of the day with a leg injury forcing #11 DB Joshua McConnell who had been playing defence to step into the QB position for the second time this season. Using their superior size and experience the Phoenix really started to work on the Jags and it showed, however a spirited display from defensive captain #54 LB George Harper and new recruit #14 NT Jack Coldrick kept the scoreline respectable with the Tamworth outfit only being able to add a single score and extra point in the half. The Jags also got on the score board late in what was billed as the best Touchdown of the day as #11 QB McConnell hit #22 RB Honey for a short pass of which he slipped threw several would be tacklers to race the length of the field for his first TD of the tournement and to continue his record of scoring against every team he has faced this season.
Pitch 2 saw the defending Bulls just edge out the Steelers 20-14 for their first win.
Facing the Sandwell Steelers in game 2 who had brought a very small but spirited squad would not be an easy task after only narrowly beating them in a shoot out 40-37 for the Jags first ever Victory back at the beginning of May.
Opening the game the Jaguars defence started to show that the last few months of training had really paid off with continued pressure from Nose tackles #76 Jack Charlesworth and returning from a broken leg sustained in pre-season #98 Ryan Thomas. The Jags backfield was equally as good in shutting down the pass with team captain #2 Jodie Daniel proving American Football is a sport for all. The Jaguars offence then went to work using their stable of Running Backs which included #24 Owen James, #20 Alex Mitchell and #88 Jack Bayley in running the ball up the field and eventually punching it in with #22 Honey crossing the line for the opening score and a 6-0 lead. Again the Jags defence showed no mercy with LB #12 Daniel Tolley really starting to dish out some big hits. On the next Jags offensive drive they doubled their lead with some tough running from #16 FB Luke Daniel driving into the Steelers half and #11 QB McConnell using his awareness in hitting an unlikely source in #63 Centre Ben Grosvenor who found himself unmarked and in space making a clutch catch and strolling into the end zone untouched. QB #11 McConnell then hit TE #99 Nasim Elbakali at the front of the end zone for the extra point and a 13-0 lead. With the Steelers having just 44 seconds left in the half a super catch from their top receiving threat #11 gave them hope with a score of their own ending the half at 13-6 in the Jags favour.
The Jags offence started the second half and after a super run from WR #84 Tom King had placed them on the half way line #22 Honey did the rest adding his 2nd of the game and 3rd of the day, with the extra point attempt just failing to cross the line it was a 19-6 scoreline to the Jaguars. With a running clock and a tiring Steelers team the Jags coaches continued to rotate their players giving much needed minutes on the field to young talent such as WR’s #80 Jamie Nathwani and #8 Thomas Walkden, RB #17 Callum Tasker, Tightends #55 James Tromans and #71 Morgan Lowe. The game ended with the Jags defence adding a few points of their own as #44 Strong Safety Joshua Oldfield forcing a fumble into the end zone causing a 2pt safety and an final score of 21-6 to the Jaguars and their 2nd win of the season.
Pitch 2 saw the Tamworth Phoenix claim their second win of the day to go 2-0 after beating the Bulls in another close encounter 27-20.
In the final round of the day the Jaguars faced the Bulls who had beaten them 40-19 in their first ever competitive game. The Bulls opted to go on offence first duly driving up the field for a TD and extra point and an early score of 7-0. Trying to share the ball carrying duties around yards were made but for a few penalties the Jags were kept from entering the Bulls half. Again the Bulls experience and with the Jags picking up some small injuries on defence Birmingham were able to put a long drive together and add to their scoreline also picking up the extra 2 point conversion making it 15-0. It took a piece of magic to spark the Jags offence from #22 Honey who followed an outstanding block from TE #27 Charlotte Pipe reversing the field for another long Touchdown Run. A failed extra point attempt left the Jaguars going in at half time with a 9pt deficit at 15-6.
The second half started with another piece of bad luck as #22 Honey was double tackled and twisted his knee as he hit the ground ending his game. With the Bulls now adding more pressure on defence they forced an error when Jags QB #11 McConnell threw a pass that was intercepted and returned for a TD. The Jags now suffering from tired legs proved how much a large squad is needed to play this sport with LB #33 Johnny Gapelbe, defensive backs #10 Lewis Gibson, #28 Sophie Lindsay and debutant and youngest squad member just turning 14 last week #49 Jaye Ryder-Hern entering the game. The Bulls however proved to be too strong at this stage adding another two scores and finishing the game 36-6 in the visitors favour.
Pitch 2 saw the Sandwell Steelers forfeit their game due to injuries and player safety giving the Tamworth Phoenix a walkover 1-0 win and with it the Tournament Trophy.
Final standings open the day were Phoenix 3-0, Bulls 2-1, Jaguars 1-2 and Steelers 0-3.
The day ended wit the ‘JAGBARDI’ trophy being presented for the first time to the Tamworth Phoenix team. The Jaguars did however come off with a trophy of their own as team captain #22 Joirdan Honey was voted by the opposing coaches as the ‘Player of the Tournament’ and was presented with an engraved Football donated by ‘Football America UK’ based in Leicestershire.
Club Founder, Chairman and Head Coach Lawrence Grugeon commented “Today was a momentous day in this young clubs history, we have trained tirelessly over the last 12 months in the build up to this event and i think it really sets the bar for youth football not just in this area but in the country as a whole. I could not have achieved this without the backing of Phoenix Centre manager James who has been an absolute godsend, the many coaches and parents who have volunteered their time in various roles around the club and with todays set-up, my amazing girlfriend who has stood by me and on occasion played second fiddle to the football programme. But most of all the players who turn up every week and give me their all. The only trophy I needed today was to see the smiles on their faces, which makes this all worth while”.
The Etone Jaguars American Football Academy now takes a two week break from football to rest up and refresh before the final Tournament of the year on the 22nd July away at the Sandwell Steelers.
If you are interested in becoming a player, coach, sponsor or volunteer or just want to find out more about the programme then now is a great time to contact the club. Please direct all enquiries to Club Chairman Lawrence Grugeon at email@example.com