Demons storm into play-offs with shut-out win over Gloucestershire
The Exeter Demons did battle with the Gloucestershire Gladiators for the final place in the Plate Playoffs
The Exeter Demons simply looked like the team that wanted it more on Sunday when they hosted the Gloucestershire Gladiators at the rubber crumb: the game that would decide who takes the final play-off seed in the plate championships.
The Demons received the ball first and didn’t waste much time getting it into the end zone as a series of punishing runs set up the Adam Daughtry touchdown, putting the Demons up 6-0 after the blocked conversion.
The Gladiators’s first drive of the game will be one they’ll want to forget.
On the second play of the drive, the Gloucestershire running back coughed the ball up in the handoff and gave the ball straight back to the Exeter offence in what would become the first of many turnovers.
Unfortunately, however, Exeter were unable to capitalise on the opportunity as they were soon punting the ball back the other way three plays later.
Exeter’s defence, who remained strong throughout the game, then forced a Gloucester three and out but were soon back on the field as quarterback Finlay Brown threw his first pick of the afternoon.
The game then began to slow down as both defences held firm until deep into the second quarter.
Finlay Brown broke the pocket on a designed run, cut across field and outpaced the Gloucester D up the side-line for Exeter’s second touchdown, enhancing their lead to 13-0 with the extra point conversion.
Gloucester’s ensuing possession led to nothing but a three and out heading towards the half time whistle.
However, in keeping with the defensive struggle that was to be the theme of the game, the first half came to a dramatic close when cornerback Michael Reece had a pass tipped straight into his waiting arms.
Having deferred the decision to the second half, the Gloucestershire Gladiators naturally chose to receive the ball after the break.
Having had their running game stuffed all day, the Gladiators seemed to look desperate for offensive yards as they quickly went to the passing game.
However, the Gladiators’s offensive nightmare continued as the dominating Demons defence came up with yet another turnover – their fourth of the day – as safety Connor Sealy made an acrobatic diving interception.
The Gladiators’s next possession seemed to have momentum going after a big passing play put them deep into Exeter’s half.
However, once again the dominant Exeter D kept them out of the end zone with a second Michael Reece interception that put an abrupt halt to the Gloucester advance.
Although, on the ensuing play, Finlay Brown threw his second interception giving the ball right back to Gloucester, deep in Exeter territory.
Whilst the Demons offence had its turnover troubles, the Exeter defence continued to do its part in keeping Gloucester off the field.
Rookie defensive lineman Jack Howley-Mummery and veteran George Droulias combined to pressure the Gloucester quarterback into a desperate throw over the middle of the field that found nothing by the waiting arms of first year linebacker Tom Wherry.
After a couple of three-and-outs, the Demons finally seemed to be getting some momentum.
Quarterback Finlay Brown then bust a 30 yard scramble, though, and coughed the ball up again to further add to Exeter’s turnover woes.
Likewise, when Gloucester put up their best drive of the game, pushing the tiring Exeter defence down to their own goal line, they too turned the ball over once again.
With the ball deep in their own red zone the Demons managed only negative yards as another botched snap and a Gloucester sack backed the Demons up on their own 3 yard line.
However, a stroke of luck finally came when the Gloucester punt returner let the ball slip straight through his arms after calling the fair catch.
The Exeter chasers were then able to dive on the live ball to give Exeter the ball back around the half way line.
This was to be the final nail in the Gladiators’s coffin as the Demons offence finally clicked and put together a seven play, 45 yard, scoring drive.
The drive was capped off with a Finlay Brown quarterback keeper up the middle for the touchdown, putting the score to 20-0 after Club President Ollie Tribe tacked on the extra point.
Gloucester responded with a valiant attempt at grabbing some points as they drove down the field, abandoning the running game and knocking on the door again.
But true to form, the Exeter secondary held strong and Gloucester found they had quickly run out of time as the final whistle blew.
The 20 – 0 Victory over the Gladiators was enough to slingshot the Demons into the first round of the plate championship playoffs, with a 4-3 record that sees them slide into the number four spot in the SWAC ahead of contenders Gloucestershire and Cardiff.
With the league being extended an extra week thanks to the weather, the Demons now have an extra week to prepare for their first playoff game, when they expect to travel to Royal Holloway to play the fourth seed RHUL Bears on March 9th.
All Pictures Courtesy of Pete Wilson.