The Eagles went down swinging 13-12 in a thrilling encounter with the Birmingham Bulls at Bedford International Athletics Stadium yesterday.
Birmingham returned the opening kick-off to their 45-yard line and eventually opened the scoring with a pass from 17-yards out on a drive that used up almost half of the opening quarter.
The Eagles drove into opposition territory but a fumble by running back Richard Thompson gave the ball back to the Bulls on around halfway.
Despite a number of penalties the Bull’s next possession looked threatening until line backer Bryan Mullally forced and recovered a fumble to regain possession, and that gave the Eagles offense the impetus it needed to spark into life.
Completions to Ross Hubbard and Ryan Bowtell gave the Eagles first and goal on the five, and on second and goal Zach Wodaege ran the ball into the end zone to reduce the deficit although the extra point attempt was blocked – a missed opportunity that would prove very costly come the end of the game.
More offensive penalties delayed the Bulls on their next possession to open up the second quarter although they eventually made it into the red zone, but when Mullally sacked the QB on third and long the Bulls were forced to punt from the Eagles 39.
Dom Taylor’s interception for Birmingham gave them the ball back on the 21 soon afterwards and after yet more penalties gave them fourth and very long once again the hosts had another chance to try and strike back before the end of the half, only for Taylor to make another, very impressive interception deep in Eagles territory.
Birmingham soon had first and goal at the two-yard line which became second and goal on the three after the run attempt was stopped in the back field at the two-minute warning, and when Joey Foggan picked off the pass on third down the Eagles had gotten away with one.
The offense was able to drive to halfway before going four and out, and the half finished with Birmingham unable to capitalise.
Half-Time: Eagles 6 Bulls 7
The third quarter was a cagey affair as both teams exchanged possession, the only real action of note being Oliver Latimer’s fumble recovery for the Eagles and the Bulls missing a 35-yard field goal attempt, but the game sprang into life at the start of the fourth quarter.
Latimer forced another fumble which was recovered by Foggan to give the Eagles the ball back on their own 30-yard line, and a completed pass to Vasquez took them into Birmingham territory before the drive stalled, and the Bulls took over on downs.
The Bulls were also unable to make the most of their next possession and following a flag on the play during the punt the Eagles started again on their 7.
A twenty-yard completion to Alex Smith followed but the drive again stalled, but possession was regained following a huge hit by Kevin Vasquez on the punt returner.
The Eagles went four and out and the Bulls responded in the perfect way, driving down the field and extending their lead with a 20-yard run. Importantly for the hosts the PAT was blocked, keeping it a one-score game with three minutes to play.
Starting again on the 20 following the kick off, Wodaege connected with a bomb to Smith to take offense all the way to the Bulls 32-yard line, and had second and short at the two-minute warning.
Another big pass completed to Smith gave the Eagles first and goal on the one-yard line, and after an incomplete pass Wodaege ran it in himself to take it to 13-12 with 50 seconds to play.
The coaches had a big decision to make – a successful PAT would tie the game and most-likely lead to overtime or a successful two-point attempt would most-likely win it, whereas if either were to fail the Bulls would almost certainly take the win.
They decided to go for two but as Wodaege rolled out to his right his deflected pass fell incomplete, and after successfully fielding an onside kick attempt Birmingham took a knee to seal their first win of the season and deny the Eagles what would have been a remarkable victory.
The Eagles are back in BAFANL action this Sunday (12th June) away to the Nottingham Caesars.
Picture courtesy of Steve Guy.
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