Jack’s back as Pirates’ tenacious D rocks Manchester
June 26th, 2019
It’s been a long way back for Pirates’ running back Jack Cochrane, who was injured on only his 2nd carry in the very first game of the season. So the return of last season’s MVP was a welcome one for EKP, and their determined and dogged defense made sure it was a winning one.
Indeed Cochrane, playing as defensive end was an integral part of that unit, helping himself to three sacks with his unplayable pass rushing throughout the day. But every, single player in that depleted squad that travelled down south played their part. Everyone a hero, a team that played together and won together.
Make no mistake, this wasn’t just a fantastic game of American football. This. Was. A. War.
Titans kicked off knowing anything less than a win would dash their play-off hopes and their initial on-side kick clearly showed their intentions. They actually successfully recovered the ball, but a flag for offside meant a retake, which this time, sailed into the end zone. They didn’t have to wait long to have the ball back however, as Pirates opening drive resulted in a punt.
Again Manchester wasted no time and drove down the field with powerful rushing from back Sean Adeyemi, breaking tackles and taking the ball in for a 27 yard TD. Max Gracie-Ainscough added the successful PAT kick and Titans took an early 7-0 lead.
The Pirates retaliated on their next drive, a Titans penalty and some great gains from receiver Christian Rubuga took them down to the 7 yard line. Two plays later and back Rory Hutton picked his way through the big blue wrecking crew for the TD. QB Scott McKigen held the ball to run in the 2PAT. Titans 7 – 8 Pirates.
From the kick-off, the Titans undiluted urgency again hit the Pirates hard. QB Ben Miles went to the air immediately and hit Gracie-Ainscough for a 68 yard TD. This time the PAT kick drifted by the right hand upright and Titans again led at 13-8.
The teams then exchanged punts on the subsequent drives to finish the first quarter.
EKP’s drive at the start of the 2nd also resulted in a punt, but this time it was blocked and Titans now had a strong field position at the 35 yard line. They pushed hard to get 1st and goal and it was Adeyemi that again broke through for his 2nd TD. Manchester faked the kick and ran in for a 2PAT, stretching their lead. Titans 21 – 8 Pirates.
A solid kick-off return from receiver Michael Paton, set up EKP’s next drive. Paton then made a good catch for another 31 yards, which combined with another 25 yards worth of penalties from Titan’s D-Line, took the Pirates down to 1st and goal on the 2. Some great work in the trenches from the outstanding O-Line, opened up some holes and Greg Black dived in for the score. The 2PAT came courtesy of brother Matt and EKP reduced the deficit to 21-16.
Solid work from the EKP defense forced a 4 and out from the Titans and gave their offense the ball back just on the two-minute warning in the half. The Pirates reliable running game was making small gains but it was now their turn to hurry things up and try to get the go ahead score before the clock ran out.
A beautiful play action fake from McKigen suckered in the Titan’s secondary and left receiver Paton wide open to collect the 29 yard pass. Titans 21 – 22 Pirates. End of the half.
Titans started strongly in Q3, with again some superb running from standout back Adeyemi. He bundled through the Pirates defense to complete his hat-trick of TDs and put his team in front once again. Titans 27 – 22 Pirates.
Despite an excellent 30 yard kick-off return from Pirates’ game day MVP Rubuga, they couldn’t capitalise and had to punt again, pinning the Titans back on the their 15 yard line for their next drive. Some hard tackling from EKP’s D forced a 4th down and the Titan’s made a fateful decision to fake the expected punt. This was read perfectly by Pirate Jordan McSorley who downed the kicker on his own 5 yard line.
The Titans D repelled two attempts by Matt Black to punch in, before McKigen kept the ball and took it into the end zone. Titans 27 – 28 Pirates.
The 4th quarter resulted in two of the best defensive performances you will be ever likely to see in U19 football for a long, long time.
Titans drove the ball from their own 29 yard to the Pirates 26 which included an outrageous hurdle from Tom Jones at the end of a run. But tackle after tackle after tackle went in from the battle-scarred defense. EKP now had wide-receivers and cornerbacks playing as defensive ends, but every warrior on that field contributed to finally stop the Titans on 4th and 5 on the 19 yard line. Turnover to EKP on downs.
The Titan’s own D weren’t done however and stepped up themselves, containing the run, sacking McKigen and forcing EKP to punt from their own end zone on 4th and 19. That punt from Ben Hewitt was a thing of beauty – cannonballing the pigskin 80 yards into the opposite end zone, resulting in a touchback and Titans starting their drive on the 20 with time ebbing away for them.
It was straight to the air for the Titans and QB Miles spiralled the ball 20 yards into the hands of Ethan Stewart. By the way, that’s the Ethan Stewart who plays cornerback for the East Kilbride Pirates! Cue bedlam on the EKP side-lines and the Pirates now control the ball and the clock.
Playing from the 35 yard line, Rory Hutton started burning through the astroturf with run after run, and the Titans soon burned through their remaining time-outs. Matt Black added to the first down tally and then yet another costly Titans penalty for pass interference set up the Pirates with 1st and goal on the 2 yard line.
The Pirates sent on every available and remaining fit lineman they had to try to pummel the Titan’s D into submission. The Titans knew this was the game right here and what a stand they put up, denying each and every surge from the cherry-red tide of Pirates, giving their offense one last chance to grab victory.
Two quick passes from QB Miles with the receivers wisely stepping out of bounds got them a first down on the 14 yard line with less than a minute to play. The next play, there was Adeyemi again who broke out on a 37 yard run with corner McSorley making the vital, saving tackle and preventing the TD. This gave them 1st and 10, with the ball on the 29 yard line of EKP, and it was now all or nothing for the Titans.
1st down: bad snap causes the QB miles to fumble, he recovers for a loss of 5. 2nd down and 15: hands off to Adeyemi who only makes a gain of 9 yards thanks to a strong stop from Ronan Haddow. 3rd down and 6: with 7 seconds left in the game, Miles has to spike the ball to stop the clock. 4th down and 6: with one play left, the Titans kicking team surprisingly remains on the bench and Head Coach Homer sends in the play. Miles launches a searching pass into the endzone. Incomplete. Pirates Ball.
McKigen went on to kneel out the game and the Pirates side lines and supporters erupted in jubilation.
THAT. WAS. THE. GAME. Titans 27 – 28 Pirates.
So there you have it, an undefeated regular season for the East Kilbride. Who, in their quest for gridiron glory have enjoyed only two home games out of a six game season, played perennial powerhouse Highland Wildcats twice away in Inverness, had a double-header against reigning North champions and BritBowl runners-up the Manchester Titans and all-in-all, their gruelling schedule has taken them over 1700 miles on the road.
However, all these challenges aside, as AC/DC so poignantly put it, “It’s a long way to the top if you want to rock & roll”.
After a game that will be long remembered by everyone who was there, Pirates U19 now have a long wait to host Birmingham Lions at GHA on Sunday 18th August in the semi-final. A game that decides who goes the long way down to the big show in London, BritBowl on Sunday 1 September.
Report by Kerr Girvan
Photos courtesy Anna Smith and Mark McGillivray
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