On opening weekend, a gusty but sunny Sunday, the Cambridgeshire Cats travelled down to Colchester to face the Gladiators.
In last year’s fixture the Cats put on a dominating display in the first half, only to stumble and eventually lose the game 15-12. Before the game, coaches emphasised the need to put history behind us and face the challenge ahead.
With the Cats receiving the ball on the opening kick-off, the offense took the field. Rookie QB, Billy Quigley, started under Center looking commanding in his first senior game. The team picked up a couple of first downs before the drive stalled, and the Cats were forced to punt.
The Cats defense entered the fray and were able to shut down the Gladiators run game from the start. Things didn’t improve for the Gladiators as an errant screen pass went backwards, only to be recovered by Cats CB, Chris King, who ran it in for a touchdown. With the extra point good by Anousheh Fulford: the Cats had opened the scoring at 0-7.
On their next series, the Gladiators were unable to get much production from their offense and ended up punting the ball. With the Cats offense back on the field, a dominant ground and pound attack ensued, until a fumble gave the ball back to the Gladiators with decent field position. The Cats defense took the field and recovered a muffed snap on the next play to regain possession. With the ball back in hand, the Cats O picked up momentum and the Gladiators D started to allow bigger and bigger gaps until newly acquired RB, Chris “Chips” Carter, busted through tackles and scampered down the left sideline for a touchdown! This time the extra point was blocked by the Gladiators, and the score remained at 0-13.
Back on the field, the Gladiators offense were able to get some momentum of their own going as they gained yards through the air, however the Cats pass defense tightened up and the Gladiators were once again forced to punt. The Cats offense began to find success through the air as well on their next drive, including a deep bomb to Kayode Dennis that was downed within stretching distance of the end zone. Hustling to the line the ball was handed to Chris Carter who again punched it in for a TD, however the PAT attempt was again blocked and left the score at half time 0-19 in favour of the Cats.
With the Gladiators to receive the second half kick-off, this was an opportunity for Colchester to turn their fortunes around. Instead on the return the ball was fumbled and barely recovered by the Gladiators, giving the Cats players another boost to their confidence. The third quarter saw impressive displays by both defences as they kept everything in front of them and the teams exchanged punts in a scoreless quarter. The Cats switched QBs and veteran Mark Rivett came in to the game.
With the fourth quarter came an end to the scoring drought as Rivett fired a lofted ball deep down the side-line. The Gladiators CB had great positioning and the play looked sure to end in an interception before Kayode Dennis leapt in to drag the ball out from the defenders grasp and run it in for the touchdown! After a successful 2-point conversion the lead stood at 0-27 to the Cats!
The Cats defense continued to hold, sending waves of players the Gladiators offense were unable to overcome, including Jess Guthrie making her debut as the first female player to take the field for the Cats. The powerful offense ground out the clock until the final whistle gave the Cats their first victory of the 2019 season!
The Cats next fixture will be away at Ouse Valley Eagles on Sunday 21 April – follow Cambridgeshire Cats for start times and spectator details.