Mark Cohen reports on the uni’s American Football side and their recent successes.
When the topic of conversation at Exeter University is sport, you would expect to hear the words 'hockey', 'rugby' and 'lacrosse' on everybody’s lips.
American Football seems foreign and distant to many of us. When talking to friends, I often hear that it is boring to watch, very “stop-start” or takes too long.
However, the Exeter University American football team, the Exeter Demons, are doing their best to prove doubters wrong with thrilling and dramatic games that any sports fan would appreciate.
The team has had a remarkable season so far and is pushing for a spot in the BUAFL national play-offs. Yesterday, the Demons added another thrilling victory to their collection, scoring 10 points in the last 16 seconds to knock off the undefeated UWE Bullets and take their record to 4-2 (four wins and two losses).
The match-up boasted two of the league’s toughest defenses. Exeter had not allowed a team to score against them on their first possession all season. This did not change against UWE, with the Bullets punting the ball away after three plays.
In stark contrast, the Demons offense clicked immediately, with a long run by running back Cody Yellowlees-Bound setting up a short rushing touchdown by Quarterback Finlay Brown.
As the game progressed, UWE began to show why they are considered one of the top University American football teams in the country.
Long running gains and short passes were proving to be a successful combination for the Bullets. Late in the first quarter, they got on the scoreboard with a short rushing touchdown. The extra point was converted and, with no points by either team in the second quarter, the score was 7-6 at halftime.
The second half picked up where the first had left off, with the Demons continuing to turn the ball over and the Bullets piling up yards on offense.
Just as it seemed Exeter was going to go down the field and score, the momentum was killed by a fumble. UWE eventually scored on another touchdown run, midway through the third quarter.
Up to this point, Brown and his magic feet had largely been held in check by the Bullets defense. However, on a play where he was meant to throw the ball, Finlay took off and sprinted down the sideline to the end zone. Instead of kicking for one point, Coach Damon Kirby went for two but Yellowlees-Bound was stopped inches short of the goal line.
The score was 12-14 to UWE and the game was finely poised. Another rushing touchdown by the UWE half back had seemed to put the game away, as the Demons trailed 21-12 with less than two minutes to play. Exeter had one final drive to try and close the gap on the Bullets.
The offense moved quickly down the field and on a reverse play, receiver Will Budge eluded several Bullets defenders and scored with a spectacular dive into the corner of the end zone. The extra point was converted, leaving the Demons trailing 19-21 with 4 seconds left.
The only chance the team had was to recover the kick-off. Much like Bruce in the film “The Longest Yard”, the kick was short and high. Two UWE players stared dumbstruck at the ball, as it landed at their feet.
Linebacker Mike Drake didn’t hesitate though and dived to recover the ball for the Demons. About 2 seconds were left in the game. The Demons’ season rested on the right boot of kicker Jamie Sancto, with a 48 yard field goal attempt, which, even for a pro, is a distinctly long range effort.
The ball was snapped, the hold was down and Sancto ran up and struck the ball towards the posts. He had nailed the kick but the ball was dropping and it cleared the crossbar by inches.
The ensuing scenes would not have looked out of place in a Hollywood movie. The entire team rushed the field and were jumping around in ecstasy. Sancto was carried off on his teammates’ shoulders, with players and coaches alike hugging and high-fiving. They had completed an amazing comeback and, not for this first time this season, pulled of an incredible upset.
If you want to witness the next chapter of the Exeter Demons’ saga, come to watch us play the University of Plymouth Blitz up at the Rubber Crumb this Sunday (26th February).
It will be the first ever Exeter University American football varsity match but no tickets are needed, as the game is a FREE event. So if you have a spare hour or two come up and watch. Remember, on any given Sunday, anything can happen!
Exeter Demons vs. Plymouth Blitz American football varsity, Sunday 26th February, 1pm @ the Rubber Crumb.