For our second game of the season, the Cambridgeshire Cats travelled to Bedford to face the Ouse Valley Eagles.
The Cats were riding high after their shut-out victory in the season opener and were looking to keep the momentum going, whilst the Eagles had narrowly lost their opener against the London Hornets and were looking to bounce back. These conflicting desires would be fought out on the Eagles home field.
After the Cats received the opening kick-off they made quick progress marching down the field, with the drive capped off by Josh Gilreath dodging tackles and streaking down the near sideline for the first Touchdown. It took just seven plays for the Cats to take the lead, and after a successful extra point by Chris Carter the score sat at 0-7.
Impressive kick coverage by the Cats saw the Eagles start their first drive inside their 25 yard-line. Able to break contain to the outside on sweeps the Eagles made first downs and looked to be rumbling but the Cats defense ground them to a halt before they reached the 50 yard-line and forced a punt.
On the Cats next series, Quarterback Mark Rivett stepped in under Center and although his passes complemented the runs by Gilreath, the drive stalled after only a single first down. Chris Carter took the field to punt, but a low snap and heavy pressure forced him to tuck the ball and run! Able to escape, Carter found the outside and made enough yards to secure another first down for the Cats and bring the offense back out. The Cats only needed two more plays, a dart thrown over the middle by Rivett, and then another dominant run by Gilreath to score their second TD of the day. Another successful extra point put the score at 0-14.
With another poor return on the kick off, the Eagles once again started deep within their own half, and then had their second snap go wild and recovered off the floor by the Cats. A strong showing from the Eagles defense saw the Cats denied on all fronts, and the defense were able to force a missed field goal from Carter keeping the score at 0-13. The ensuing series for OVE didn’t fare any better, as once again a wild snap was recovered by the Cats, this time Linebacker and defensive captain, Russ Polson scooped up the bouncing ball and ran it in for the third touchdown of the day. This time the extra point was off the mark and the scoreline sat at 0-19 at the end of the first quarter.
Again, the Eagles started from deep within their own half and although they made changes to their Offensive Line, were still unable to gather serious offensive momentum. Punting after 4 plays the ball barely travelled out of their half, giving the Cats great field position. Already showing signs of exhaustion the Eagles defense allowed receivers to run open, and it was only dropped passes that stopped that Cats moving towards the endzone faster. Instead, another outside run by Josh Gilreath was taken in to the endzone for his third TD. This time the Cats went for the 2-point conversion, and the pass was caught in the corner of the endzone by WR Neil Dempsey setting up a comfortable lead of 0-27.
A touchback on the kick off gave OVE their best starting field position of the day, however they were unable to get anything going on the ground and seemed destined for another 3-and-out. Instead, on third down their QB dropped back in to the pocket and rifled the ball to the near sideline, where it was picked off by Cats Cornerback Juan Houlihan and returned for another defensive touchdown! The Cats now lead by an impressive margin of 0-34 after a successful extra point kick by Chris Carter.
Troubles seemed to continue to mount for the Eagles as on the next kickoff, the returner muffed the ball and it continued into the endzone. Although he recovered and attempted to return, he was tackled before he could reestablish himself on the field of play and the Cats began celebrating the safety. However due to the refs ruling that he had not sufficiently altered the path of the ball on its was in to the endzone, it was instead ruled a touchback. The Eagles respite was short lived, as a fumble by their running back was collected by Cats defenders. Our offense took the field with great field position, however an errant throw by Mark Rivett saw the Eagles safety pick it off after a single play.
The Eagles were unable to capitilise on this momentum shift as they once again punted the ball away, but the kick was short and the catch was muffed by LB Alex Poirier allowing the Eagles to recover it inside the Cats half. Again the Eagles couldn’t get any momentum and were forced to punt, which this time the Cats return team left well enough alone.
The Cats would start backed up inside their own half. Yet they were not to be disheartened as they handed the ball off to Chris Carter for big runs and Mark Rivett seemed to pick apart the Eagles secondary at will. Rivett was able to find a wide open Andy Custerson in the endzone for another touchdown, and Chris Carter highstepped his way through tackles as he added on the extra 2 points. The half ended with the score now 0-42 in the Cats favour, and had triggered BAFA’s “running clock” rule. This would drastically shorten the amount of time left in the game as many of the normal clock stoppage rules would be suspended.
More excellent kick coverage by Kayode Dennis after half time kept the Eagles on the back foot and had them start inside their 20 yard-line. This seemed to be the drive they’d been waiting for as they managed to make good gains on the ground and picked up multiple first down on their way down inside the Cats redzone. The Cats defense rallied here with their backs against the wall and forced a field goal attempt on 4th down. Unfortunately for the Eagles it sailed wide and they would remain scoreless.
With the offense on the field, they moved steadily down the field and, due to the running clock, had only progressed to halfway before the third quarter came to an end. Billy Quigley took back over duties as QB and lead the unit down to within the Eagles redzone, before handing the ball off to Chris Carter who scampered in for another Cats touchdown. Once again electing to attempt the two point conversion, the pass was tipped by the Eagles safety and deemed unsuccessful. This put the score at 0-48.
With the clock ticking away, and the outcome of the game in no doubt, the Eagles showed great resolve as they started their next series from their own 35 yard-line. Strong running saw them grind out yardage, but the errors crept back in as yet another fumble was recovered by the Cats. Another methodical series with runs from Brandon Floyd keeping the chains moving, the Cats were unable to add any additional points before the running clock expired.
Final Score? Eagles 0, Cats 48.
Update: The Cats’ second leg against the Ouse Valley Eagles on May 5 2019 was forfeited by OVE, giving the Cats an automatic win.