The Sabres were always in control of the one-sided final thanks to a dominant defence and big passing plays.
The win was Sheffield’s first BUAFL silverware, as opposed to the Killer Bees who won the Challenge Trophy in the 2008/9 season. Milo Craig was elected the Football America MVP after two first half touchdown catches and a number of other rushes and receptions.
The game started out badly for the Sabres as running back Landon White took the ball out to the Bath 46 on the kick-off but then fumbled away possession. The Killer Bees then broke off three long runs to move into the red-zone.
However the Killer Bees then fumbled the ball away themselves at the Sabres 20 yard line. This would prove to be Bath’s only chance of getting the lead and Sheffield took control of the match after this big fumble.
A big run put the Sabres in Killer Bees territory and then a tipped ball catch on 3rd and 14 by Milo Craig set the Sabres up in the red-zone. The connection of quarterback Dan Jones and Craig emerged again, this time on a touchdown toss to give the Sabres a 6-0 lead. They missed the extra point.
After the Sheffield defence forced a punt the offense got right back to work, with Craig breaking a counter run on 3rd and 6 deep in Sabres territory. He found a hole and blazed through it, gaining 50 yards on the play. The Bath defence managed to momentarily recover from the huge play, forcing three incompletions on their own 25. However the Sabres took a gamble and went for it on 4th down, which paid off when Jones once again hit Craig for his second touchdown.
Both teams traded punts before Matthew Duffy picked off a Bath pass, leaving the Sabres at the Killer Bees 31. However an intentional grounding penalty put Sheffield into 4th and long so they elected to punt.
A sliced return punt from the Killer Bees gave the Sabres the ball at the 31. They couldn’t get the ball into the end zone and on 4th and goal from the 10 Sheffield attempted a field goal, but James Sharrock hooked it to the left and it was no good.
Bath then shot themselves in the foot again by fumbling on the very next play from scrimmage, giving Sheffield the ball on the Killer Bees 24. Three incompletions later and the Sabres once again went for it all on 4th down and once again came away with a score, this time a 24 yard strike from Jones to receiver Matthew Walne. The point after was blocked meaning the Sabres now led 19-0 going into half time.
Both defences seemed to benefit greatly with the availability of Gatorade on the sideline, turning the 3rd quarter into a punt-fest, with neither team able to do too much offensively. In the 4th the Bath offense finally got going.
After quarterback Christoph Cox managed to move the ball down the field with his arm and with a good fake to allow a successful draw play. He then fired a pass to the pylon where a Killer Bees receiver made an athletic catch to haul the ball in and stay in bounds to finally put Bath on the scoreboard. A successful counter play added the 2-point conversion and all of a sudden Bath had hope with as they were only trailing by 11.
Sheffield weren’t content to sit on their 19-8 lead though and after recovering an onside kick Dan Jones threw his 4th touchdown pass of the game, although all the work was done by receiver James Sharrock, who caught the ball, spun round the onrushing cornerback and then outran the pursuit to give the Sabres an unassailable 25-8 lead (in spite of the PAT hitting the right upright).
Bath showed plenty of fight and continued to try and erase some of the deficit, but the Sabres were able to run out the clock and claim the Challenge Trophy.
Video highlights will be available from Gridiron TV in the near future.
Words: Alister Houghton
Photo: Donna Whitaker