The 2011 season got off to a great start on Saturday, as the London Rebels hosted their 2nd annual March Madness preseason tournament.
As with last year, the event saw a mixture of BAFACL and non-league teams compete for the right to be crowned March Madness Champions.
The Chichester Sharks were the defending champions and we were keen to bring the trophy home for a 2nd time.
The format was 2 Groups, followed by semi-finals and Final. The Sharks were drawn against the Chelsea Battlin’ Bass, BCU Ligers and our BAFACL rivals, the South Wales Warriors.
The Warriors were up first, which meant we were assured a tough start to the event. We always have great games against South Wales, always full of drama. This game was no different as the lead kept changing hands, before Wales edged ahead as the clock ticked down.
Not for the first time with a Sharks/Warriors match up, there was just enough time for a quick drive for Chichester. And drive we did. On 4th and long, Neil Henderson heaved the ball deep to Luke Nash, who was surround by 3 defenders. Everyone went up for the ball but it was deflected down… straight into the welcoming arms of Sharks receiver Justin Handley for the go ahead, winning score!
The extra point closed out the game for a 21-19 victory.
The 2nd Sharks game came against Birmingham University’s Ligers, an inexperienced flag team, who struggled throughout the tournament. Whilst they played with enthusiam and good spirit, they provided little opposition to the Sharks, as we ran away with a 35-6 victory.
The Defense did a sterling job, dominating the Ligers, allowing only one significant drive which prevented the shutout.
On Offense, the ball was liberally spread around the receivers, but it was James ‘Lambo’ Lambert who led the scoring with 3 TDs, and 2 by Gary Robinson, the 2nd a rare rushing TD.
On a day of deflections, the strangest play of the game came on an extra point attempt. Henderson fired a bullet to Handley in the endzone, which ricocheted off the receiver’s shoulder, span wildly in the area before Robinson was able to run under it to convert the extra point.
The 3rd game of the Group saw the Sharks facing the Bass, with the victor taking the group and the no.1 seed. Unfortunately, we were a little outmatched and struggled to find a way to slow down the American QB, who had great accuracy and a lightning release.
Despite great effort all round, we couldn’t stop the Bass running away with a 32 – 19 victory. The Sharks still qualified for the semi-finals as the second seed and would face the London Warriors (Premier kitted team).
What became obvious during the group stages, was that the two best teams on the day were the Bass and the London Warriors. Unfortunately for us, we had both teams as our last two games.
Struggling with injuries and tired from four games, we were again outmatched in the semi-final. The Warriors were incredibly efficient and packed plenty of big play ability. They quickly racked up a lead that couldn’t be matched and ran out comfortable winners 32 – 6.
The Bass knocked off the Basingstoke Horde in the other semi-final, before finally succumbing to the London Warriors in the Final.
Well done to all Sharks who played on the day – Neil Henderson, Rob Love, Luke Nash, Ashley Grant, Dave Lee, James Lambert, Justin Handley, Toby Chopra and Gary Robinson. And thanks to Mike Thompson for his sideline support.
Next up – the 2011 season starts NEXT WEEKEND!!!