xpLosION: Lions roar past Hurricanes

Birmingham Lions record 23-0 shutout victory over divisional rivals Hertfordshire Hurricanes

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Birmingham dispatch their opposition without conceding a single point, as Alex Wake passes for two touchdowns. 

The Lions’ defence was completely dominant on Saturday night, restricting the Hurricanes to just 136 yards of total offence and conceding no points.

This year’s edition of the Lions’ annual season opener saw them face off against fellow multiple national championship winning side, the Hertfordshire Hurricanes.

After losing the national championship crown to the Stirling Clansmen in the final last year, the Lions were determined to get this season off to a strong start by beating their most likely divisional challengers.

Many pundits had the showcase billed as a close game and the first half met their expectations, with both teams struggling to move the ball downfield.

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The teams battling it out

The game’s opening drive told the story of the first half for the Lions, as a promising offensive series was cut short by two false start penalties.

By halftime Birmingham had accumulated four identical penalties on their first five drives, halting any momentum they sought to build.

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Early in the second quarter though, Birmingham found themselves in great field position after a short punt by Hertfordshire, and the Lions boldly opted to go for it on fourth down and four yards, rather than attempt a field goal.

Wake lofted a deep ball towards the end zone, intended for Will Hussey, but it was intercepted at the two yard line by the Hurricanes.

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Despite securing the turnover, the Hurricanes were under pressure having to start their drive from their own two yard line, and Birmingham’s defence forced yet another three and out.

The Lions’ special teams unit then followed their example and harried the Hurricanes’ punter into slicing his kick out of bounds.

The defence on the field

The defence on the field

The Lions offense, unfazed by the earlier interception, took over possession of the ball in the red-zone, at the Hertfordshire 20 yard line.

Finding themselves in a third and long situation, Wake sailed a deep ball down the sideline once more, but this time it was secured by Hussey, who made a leaping grab before being brought down just shy of the goal line.

Four plays later Wake rolled out of the pocket and tossed an eleven yard touchdown pass to Stefan Rowden, giving the Lions a well deserved lead.

Lions players celebrate the touchdown

Lions players celebrate the touchdown

The extra point attempt by Charlie Hardman was blocked, but Birmingham still went into halftime holding a narrow 6-0 advantage.

In the interval spectators were treated to routines by the Dance Society and the Birmingham Pussycats cheerleaders, whose spectacular display drew cheers from the 3,000 strong crowd.

Pussycats flying high

Pussycats flying high

UoB Dance Society performing

UoB Dance Society performing

Having run into difficulties at times in the first half, the Lions offense was an entirely different animal in the second.

A muffed punt by the Hurricanes gave the Lions possession on their opponent’s24 yard line and they ruthlessly went to work. Wake immediately completed a 16 yard pass to Tunde Adelekan, setting up a first down and goal at the Hurricanes’ eight yard line.

Lions in the huddle

Lions in the huddle

On the next play Xavier Ajuwon took the hand off at running back, got to the edge of the defence and scampered in for an eight yard rushing touchdown.

To add insult to Hertfordshire injury, Birmingham then went for the two point conversion, which Wake successfully completed to Mason Baptiste in the back corner of the end zone, leaving the Hurricanes trailing 14-0.

More celebrations for Birmingham

More celebrations for Birmingham

Soon after, the Lions engineered a 61 yard drive to position themselves on the Hurricanes’ three yard line.

Unfortunately, what appeared to be a second rushing touchdown for Ajuwon was ruled a fumble out the back of the end zone by the officials, gifting Hertfordshire a touchback.

Fighting for every inch

Fighting for every inch

The Hurricanes’ ensuing drive stalled after just ten yards and they came out in punt formation again, but a poor snap from the center soared over the punter’s head and he was forced to give up a safety, leaving the score at 16-0 to Birmingham.

The Lions heaped yet more misery onto the Hurricanes on their next possession. After breaking off a 50 yard kick-off return, Charlie Hardman then reeled in a 10 yard touchdown pass from Alex Wake, before adding the extra point himself as well, to seal the victory.

Wake ended the game having completed 14 of 26 passes for 129 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, giving him a completion percentage of 54 per cent and a passer rating of 113.2 (NCAA), whilst averaging almost five yards per attempt.

xpLos-ive fireworks

xpLos-ive fireworks

The full-time fireworks capped a memorable night for the Lions, who go on to face the Bath Killer Bees next weekend.

The teams shake hands

The teams shake hands

Man of the match: Will Hussey

Final score: Birmingham Lions 23-0 Hertfordshire Hurricanes