In a division that is proving as hard to predict as the Summer weather, the table topping Staffordshire Surge played host to a Rams team hoping to get their season back on track after a 1-2 start to the season.
The opening exchanges saw the Rams defence first out of the blocks, when Staffordshire's veteran Quarterback, Richard Large, had his first pass from the line of scrimmage intercepted by Greg Boyland, his third pick off in two games. This pressure on Large continued on the next Surge drive, as Joe Coultate and French linebacker Brice Marchand sacked him for a loss. This kept the Surge Offence under the cosh and, despite a well disguised screen pass that gained them a hard 12 yards, they were forced to punt the ball back to the Rams.
Called into action, the Surge defence spent the rest of the half proving that they are a force to be reckoned with too and brought their game to a stuttering Yorkshire offence, helmed by the dual Quarterback threats of Rick Lynch and Andy Green. Four and out was the theme of the first half for the Rams, despite hard running by Justin Lester and American national Malgrum Holley.
Into the second quarter, and Staffordshire's third possession was to prove the highlight of the game so far. Clever play by Large saw him first connect with Charles Anthony for a 6 yard gain, then call a sweep to the opposite side of the field for a hard earned first down. Deep into the red zone, the call was for a pass into the goal area and the disciplined route and safe hands of ex Rams receiver, James Parkhouse, gave the Surge the breakthrough they deserved. The point after was nailed through the uprights by Jonathan Wood and the Surge were 70 to the good.
It took two kickoffs to get the ball back in play and yet again, the Rams could not move the ball, punting on fourth down. Staffordshire now had their tails up and despite heroic efforts from the Rams defence, including another Coultate sack, the Surge moved menacingly into field goal range. This time Wood couldnt make the kick, shanking the ball low and to the left under pressure from the Yorkshire rush.
It seemed as though this near miss was what Yorkshires offence needed to kick start them into life as second year Quarterback Rick Lynch marshalled the unit into the Surge half with an 18 yard completion to Richard Godfrey and back to back 12 and 16 yard runs from Rams veteran Justin Lester. This was to prove indecisive though, as the clock ran down and so did the chances of scoring before the half time whistle was blown.
The opening to the second half only served as a reminder of how tough the two defensive units were prepared to play. Outstanding performances from Yorkshires Coultate, Muscroft and Goodward put a halt to the aspirations of the Surge in the opening 12 minutes of the 3rd Quarter.
Despite this, the persistence of the Surge Offence meant they were able to drive down deep into the Yorkshire half and mount an attack on the goal line that included a completion to Parkhouse and a pass that was caught out of the back of the end zone by Charles Anthony. Rookie Rams defensive back, Randy Pryce, was on hand to bat down another pass from the Surge that brought the Field Goal team on to the field to try for the 3 points. This time Wood held his nerve and the kick gave the Surge a 10-0 lead with 18 minutes left in the game.
Returning to the field after the score the Rams Offensive line were given the chance to prove their worth as a ground attack spearheaded by Quarterback Andy Green and running back Malgrum Holley was called from the sidelines. They didnt disappoint and the highlight came with a 44 yard run deep into the Staffordshire half followed by a 10 yard pass to Hytham Atchison. Buoyed by this, the Rams called another passing play, but this was to be their downfall as Gary Richardson picked the ball off for the Surge to end a promising drive.
Starting deep in their own half, Large was unable to move the ball and the punt team was called out on fourth down to kick away, but the unpredictable Surge decided to take a risk and run the 15 yards required for a first down instead. This was to prove costly, however, as Greg Boyland steamed up from Safety to make an outstanding open field tackle and get the ball back to Yorkshire.
Three plays later and the Rams made the call for the fake punt become even more costly to the Surge as Rick Lynch threw 10 yards to tight end Mark Smith in the end zone and made the score 10-6. The point after was unsuccessful, being blocked by the swarming Staffordshire defence.
Was this too late for Yorkshire to come back? There were 9 minutes and 53 seconds to go, so maybe not. First they had to get the ball back from Staffordshire, so a quarterback sack by Morton and Kent on second down seemed to force the Surge on to their back foot. But as many teams have learnt to their cost, you should always be wary of a cornered animal and in typical style, a 24 yard pass to Martin Tranter from Large bashed a huge dent in the Yorkshire recovery. So much so that when the Rams offence eventually got the ball back deep in their own half, they could not make any progress with their first three downs and a punt was called with just over 2 minutes to go.
All seemed lost, surely the Surge would just eat up the clock, and even though the Rams still had 2 time outs left, it would be too late. Hopes were dashed even further when on third down, Tranter and Large combined again this time for a 42 yard pass completion. Surely this was the end of the game, as with 31 seconds left, the call must be to take a knee? Wrong. 31 seconds left and with the Rams end zone within reach, the play called by a bullish Staffordshire offence was a lateral pass.
Dropping back into the pocket, Large turned to pass out to his waiting receiver. At exactly the same time, the 6 foot 7 Rams defensive end, Lee Morton had raided into the backfield from the left of his line and raised his arms to block the pass. The ball ricocheted from his hand and fell 5 yards behind the Surge line of scrimmage - all the players on the field stopped, assuming the ball was now dead. All the players, that is, except Morton, who sprinted to the ball, picked it up, and with the encouragement of his sideline rumbled towards the Staffordshire end zone with only the referees in pursuit.
The lateral pass meant that the ball was still live, the play was classed as a fumble and the result was a touchdown to the Rams. In a matter of seconds the game had been stood on its head and the Rams were now 10-12 to the good, Rick Lynch punched the point after through the uprights and the final score was posted, 10-13 to the Yorkshire Rams.
In a manner befitting the game, an outstanding defensive play had won the match and it was a shell-shocked but graceful Staffordshire team that were first to congratulate the Rams on their victory.
MVP: Mark Smith