A final-quarter fightback from York Centurions saw the University’s American Football team do enough to overcome their University of Hull counterparts on 22 Acres on Sunday afternoon.
A third-quarter touchdown from their University of Hull counterparts had looked like it might be enough to take the match, but Zef Rucinski’s 70-yard breakthrough run set up a 1st & goal situation converted by the home side at the second attempt to give them a lead they never looked like giving up and the victory allows Tim Blades’ York side some breathing space above Bangor MudDogs at the foot of the British Universities American Football League Northern Conference.
The opening drives for both sides were fairly innocuous, with both sides leaning heavily, and unsuccessfully, on their running games; something continued throughout the match.
York running back Haris Shuaib was stripped of the ball as he looked to make something happen on a third down but Hull’s offence was looking equally impotent in the opening quarter and with both sides struggling to make any offensive headway the match remained scoreless at the turnaround.
The York defence started the second quarter strongly and came close to recovering a Hull fumble, but the Centurion’s offensive team was having less success – the running game employed by the home side was losing yards more frequently than they were being gained yet there seemed little inclination to start attempting some longer passes. When a York player managed a breakthrough to reach the Sharks red zone, play was brought back for an illegal formation.
Hull were equally dependant on their running backs for their offensive plays but with slightly more success, regularly passing the line of scrimmage, but still no nearer to making ten yards and securing an all-important first down.
Poor snaps affected the ability of both sides’ punters to clear the ball and the Centurions took advantage of this midway through the second quarter. Strong defensive play from York had the Sharks penned in on their 14-yard line after three downs and the inevitable punt on the fourth down was charged down after a terrible snap from the Hull centre. The Hull punter recovered the ball inside his own end zone and was downed for a safety to give York a 2-0 lead at half time.
Hull started the second half well and hit back with their first drive of the half. First, they gained a pass for a rare first down, and then at 4th & 4 bravely opted to pass rather than punt. The Sharks’ wide receiver was given double coverage by the Centurions cornerback and safety but the pass sailed over the defensive players’ heads and was snapped up and run home for a touchdown, taking the score to 6-2.
As the sides turned around for the fourth quarter the Centurions offensive team’s frustration was palpable as they looked at the prospect of ending another match without scoring a touchdown, let alone a victory.
Hull gifted York some valuable yards when they refused to punt on a fourth down in favour of an incomplete pass but the home side’s drive didn’t start in positive fashion – a small gain offset by a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike behaviour.
A gain of two yards took the drive to 3rd & 18 before the ball was popped to Zef Rucinski 80 yards from the end zone. The Centurion ripped through the Sharks defence and made an astonishing 70 yards before he was eventually tackled, but the damage was done and York crossed the goal line on second down to restore their two-point lead.
Hull set up an interesting last couple of minutes with a 30-yard punt return and had one last chance to win the match with an attempted field goal. The Sharks kicker wasn’t up to the task, though, and left his kick short to give York the victory.
York Sport President, Sam Asfahani, also playing as the Centurions offensive lineman, was delighted with the result: “It hasn’t even really sunk in yet. We’ve all put in a lot of work to start this club and it feels great.”