This weekend, the Chorley Buccaneers American Football Club, part of the Lancashire Academy of American Football, competed in the National Finals in Grangemouth at the Junior Kitted (14-16) level for the first time in the club’s history. The finals included four teams in total, the top two English sides along with the top two Scottish sides, competing against each other for the title of British champion.
To start the weekend, the Chorley Buccaneers faced the Clyde Valley Falcons in the semi-final, an intimidating opposition boasting an unbeaten record throughout the regular season. A Buccaneers team ably led by quarterback Lawrence Quinn, in his final appearance as a Buccaneer, were confident of producing an upset.
The game started with Clyde Valley jumping out to an early two score lead of 12-0, however the Chorley outfit were made of strong stuff and brought the game within a score on the back of strong running by Running Back Alex Hodson. The comeback was short lived however, with the Falcons scoring a quick touchdown through a run that spanned the entire length of the pitch by their excellent Running Back. The Falcons managed to score once more during the half, taking the score to 24-6 at half-time.
Chorley Buccaneers Head Coach Mark ‘Bud’ Greally took the opportunity at half-time to provide a strong team talk to his players, and clearly his words hit home, as on the first play of the second half, Joe Bentley took the ball the entire length of the field to score, leaving the game at 24-12 to Clyde Valley.
Unfortunately for the Buccaneers, this was the end of their scoring for the game. The Clyde Valley team managed to score twice more leaving the final score at 36-12 to the Falcons. The game represented a brave effort by the Buccaneers, but the well organised and athletic Clyde Valley team were deserved winners and moved on to the final to face the Glasgow Tigers.
This left the Buccaneers with a third place playoff game against local rivals, the Manchester Titans. For several of the team this would be their last game as a Buccaneer, as they graduate to the Lancashire Wolverine Colts youth setup within the Academy.
<!--[if !vml]-->The game started out well for the Buccaneers, with a strong start of defence followed up with a touchdown by Sam Johnson on their first offensive possession to take a 6-0 lead. Manchester responded quickly with a touchdown on their next drive and with the Titans scoring from their conversion attempt, they took the lead 7-6. Both teams struggled to break each other down for most of the remainder of the first half, until Manchester scored a touchdown on their last possession of the half. This left the Buccaneers with work to do in the second half facing a 13-6 deficit.
Once again, the Buccaneers management staff gave an effective half-time speech, and again Bentley scored on the opening drive of the second half, although with the Buccaneers still unable to convert their extra point attempt, the score remained in the Manchester team’s favour, 13-12.
Both teams defence held strong on the following two possessions, and it was Chorley who scored next. Once again the touchdown was scored by Bentley who was having a very impressive day, and he went on to cap the drive off with a conversion from an excellent pass from Quinn. This left the score at 19-13 in favour of the Buccaneers with not much time left, so the Lancashire outfit were looking to hold their rival Titans out of the endzone for the remainder of the game to take a memorable win. This was not to be however, as on the very next drive a quick pass and long run by the Manchester Titans put the score at 19-19 with a conversion attempt to come. Using a clever play the Titans managed to convert, leaving the Buccaneers needing a score with one minute left in the game. The excellent Lawrence Quinn took his team down to the Manchester 10 yard line through a combination of passes and runs, with #88 being influential yet again. It was not to be however, as the Titans managed to cause a turnover and run out the clock to win the game 20-19 and take the title of the best Junior Kitted team in England, and third best team in Britain.
<!--[if !vml]-->The final between Glasgow and Clyde Valley went in favour of the Falcons in another close game, 37-33, and the Falcons managed to preserve their unbeaten record and earn the title of British Champion for 2008. At the awards ceremony Chorley Buccaneers quarterback and captain Lawrence Quinn was awarded the Most Valuable Player award for the entire tournament, outlining the impression the Lancashire club managed to leave on their opponents.
The Buccaneers also gave their own awards following the event to their Most Valuable Player on offence and defence. The offensive award was given to Joe Bentley for his tireless running and big plays. The defensive award went to Michael Frayne, who was outstanding in both games.
Several players may well be graduating through the ranks of the Academy, but preparations are already beginning for the 2009 season, which will see current club manager Ian Nicolson take over the role of Head Coach, with Mark Greally regrettably stepping down.
Speaking after the finals, Coach Greally said:
“I'm proud of all the players and coaches and the season we've had. Results didn't go our way today but I can't fault the effort in what's been the clubs first appearance in these finals.”
Club Manager Ian Nicolson said:
“This is one of the proudest moments in the clubs history. Today has shown just what talent we have coming through the club. Taking over as head coach of the junior kitted next season is going to mean I have some big shoes to fill with all the success that Coach Greally has had over the past 3 years.”
The Lancashire Academy of American Football provides American football teams for players from age 7 upwards, and is always happy to hear from anyone wishing to get involved in the game. If you are interested in finding out more, you can contact Ian Nicolson on
or find out more about the Lancashire Academy of American Football at www.wolverineden.com.