2016 Season

At the AGM, all committee positions with the exception of Chairman (Neale McMaster, starting his second year of a two-year role) were up for election. Voted in were:

Chairman: Neale McMaster (1 Year remaining of 2 year Tenure)
Vice-Chairman: Mark Chilton
Treasurer: Nick Chapman
Secretary: Jenny Chilton
Gameday Manager: Paul Smyth
Media Manager: Michael Dilley
Ordinary Members: Gareth Pullen, Ross Hubbard, Jake Cooper

The meeting covered a review of the club’s financial position for 2015, a review of the club’s performance on and off the field during the year, a walk through of the results of the Annual Survey and a discussion around the us of team buses to away games in the future.

Another exciting announcement at the AGM was the addition of a flag team to the Eagles family, following a merger with the recently-formed Bedfordshire Broncos.

The flag team will be known as the Bedford Blackhawks, and is one of hopefully many partnerships that will help continue to grow football in the Beds, Bucks and Northants area.

During the 2016 off-season the British American Football Association (BAFA) announced an expansion of Division 1 of the National League from 16 to 18 teams, and the creation of MFC1 (Midland Football Conference 1).

The Eagles were placed in MFC1 along with the Birmingham Bulls, Doncaster Mustangs, Nottingham Caesars, Peterborough Saxons and Sandwell Steelers.

It was confirmed that each team would face each conference opponent home and away to make up a ten-game regular season schedule, meaning that unlike in 2015 there would be no inter-conference games.

2015 Season

At the AGM, all committee positions, with the exception of Vice-Chairman and Treasurer (who were starting their second year of a two-year role) were up for election. Voted in were:

Chairman: Neale McMaster (two-year tenure)
Vice-Chairman: Mark Chilton (one year remaining of two-year tenure)
Treasurer: Michael Dilley (one year remaining of two-year tenure)
Secretary: Jenny Chilton (one-year tenure)
Gameday Manager: Paul Smyth (one-year tenure)
Ordinary Members: Nick Benning, Nate Ashby, Matt Spavins

The Eagles would to thank James Salfarlie, Andy Larwill and Ian Barnsby for their contribution to the team over the first year.

There were some coaching changes made during the 2014 Off-Season with former Wide Receivers coach Dale Hawes leaving to spend more time with his family, that left a hole to fill. Changes made were:

  • Head Coach Will White moving to fill the vacant Wide Receivers coaching position
  • Former Defensive Backs coach Darren Hill was promoted to Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs Coach
  • Former OL Coach Gary Villiers was promoted to Special Teams Coordinator
  • Former player Nick Benning retired from playing and was signed as Assistant Offensive Line Coach

Head Coach/Wide Receivers Coach: William White
Offensive Coordinator: Neale McMaster
Defensive Coordinator/DB’s Coach: Darren Hill
Special Teams Coordinator: Gary Villiers
Running Backs Coach: Michael Wilson Sr.
Defensive Line Coach: Liam Smith
Linebackers Coach/Assistant Head Coach: Mike Fears
Assistant Offensive Line Coach: Nick Benning

During the 2015 pre-season, it was announced that the Eagles had been promoted into Division 1, of the new, three-tier league, and that the club would be introducing a new Youth Team for those aged 14-16.

The Eagles would be playing in the Division 1 South Conference, which is split into two Divisions (North and South). The Conference is:

North South
Birmingham Bulls Colchester Gladiators
Cambridgeshire Cats East Kent Mavericks
Hertfordshire Cheetahs Farnham Knights
Ouse Valley Eagles Solent Thrashers

The season kicked off with a hard-fought 7-0 win away to Cambridgeshire Cats in a tense and nervy affair at Coldhams Common, former Cat Nathaniel Ashby scoring the only touchdown of the day.

The win over the Cats was followed up a week later with another win, this time over Hertfordshire Cheetahs in a game which saw the Eagles overcome a 12-0 fourth quarter deficit to win the game 14-12.

A fortnight later the Eagles travelled to Birmingham to face the highly rated Lions, and again turned around a fourth quarter deficit to win a thriller 21-14.

Back-to-back defeats followed against the Colchester Gladiators (21-14) and the impressive Farnham Knights (54-29) before returning to winning ways with a 41-20 victory over East Kent Mavericks at BIAS.

The Thrashers won a remarkable game 17-14 on the South Coast courtesy of a club-record field goal of just shy of 50 yards to leave the Eagles’ play-off hopes hanging in the balance, but three wins in a row to round out the regular season over Cambridgeshire Cats (35-15) Birmingham Lions (23-18) and Hertfordshire Cheetahs (38-27) sealed a play-off place for the second successive season.

Standing between the Eagles and a Division One Final was the Solent Thrashers once again, who again took a close one 18-12 following overtime.

2014 Season

The first committee of the Eagles was voted in at the clubs first AGM. Voted in were:

Chairman: Neale McMaster (one-year tenure)
Vice-Chairman: Mark Chilton (two-year tenure)
Treasurer: Michael Dilley (two-year tenure)
Secretary: Jenny Chilton (one-year tenure)
Ordinary Members: Nick Benning, Ian Barnsby, Andy Larwill, James Salfarlie

The first Head coach of the Eagles was voted in at the AGM. Coach William White is an esteemed member of the British Coaching community and was the majority pick by all players present at the AGM.

Coach White picked his own coaching staff from quite a few applications to be involved in the team. The first coaching staff of the Ouse Valley Eagles are:

Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator: William White
Offensive Coordinator/QB Coach: Neale McMaster
Offensive Line Coach: Gary Villiers
Wide Receivers Coach: Dale Hawes
Running Backs Coach: Michael Wilson Sr.
Defensive Line Coach: Liam Smith
Defensive Backs Coach: Darren Hill
Linebackers Coach: Mike Fears

The Eagles kicked off their inaugural season away to local rivals, Watford Cheetahs. As was expected, the team took some time to bed in, and tricky conditions made it difficult for both sides with a wet ball and surface to contend with. As it was, the more experienced Cheetahs walked away with the deserved win, 19-0.

The Eagles were straight back into game action the following Sunday, and hosted their first ever home game, at the Bedford International Athletic Stadium, against fellow rookie team, the London Hornets. The Hornets were coming into the game after forfeiting their first fixture (game on Easter Sunday) and arrived just 45 minutes before kick off. This allowed the Eagles to rack up 3 touchdowns in the first quarter, eventually going on to win 37-0 and securing their first ever victory.

The Eagles returned to action, again at home vs perennial playoff contenders, Kent Exiles. This was the Exiles first game of the season, and the fresher legs made the difference, with the Exiles handing the Eagles their last defeat of the regular season,a 14-13 thriller that went right down to the last minute.

With the Maidstone Pumas forfeiting after only playing one game, the Eagles now stood with a record of 3-2, heading into another home game against Essex Spartans. The Exiles game had clearly spurred the Eagles on, and the few weeks practice in between games had made a massive difference to an Eagles squad that was becoming more and more of a team. An emphatic 55-8 win over Essex kick started what was to become a 5 game winning streak.

An away trip to a young and struggling Ipswich Cardinals side was up next for the Eagles, who were buoyant after a strong showing against the Spartans. The Eagles romped away with the win, 75-6, in what was a terrific stadium and game day setup by Ipswich.

The return leg between the two happened almost a month later, and with the Cardinals requesting a running clock for the whole game, a 58-0 scoreline sent a message to the rest of the league, that the Eagles were flying.

Next up was an away trip to Kent Exiles. This much anticipated re-match was a playoff decider, with both teams fighting for second spot behind the Watford Cheetahs. The way the fixtures were going that season, it was a case of win and you are in for both teams and their playoff ambitions. With a lot more confidence and team chemistry, the Eagles walked out of the Exiles den with a 27-14 victory, securing their place in the playoffs. An amazing achievement for the first season.

The final game of the season was away to another rookie team, the Bury Saints. With a small 80 yard pitch, it was score at will for both sides in the first half, but the second half the Eagles D stepped up and allowed the offense to create a gap, which could not be caught. A 43-20 victory was a terrific end to the regular season, leaving the Eagles with an 8-2 record overall heading into the first round of the playoffs.

As the 7th ranked team, the Eagles were drawn away to the 2nd ranked Solent Thrashers. In the biggest test of the season, the Eagles fought admirably against a well organised and fast opponent. With the scoreline close going into the fourth quarter, a touchdown for either team would almost certainly have secured the win, that score went to the more experienced Thrashers side, who then added another score in the dying seconds to move into the semi-finals with a 35-20 win.

A tough ending to the season for the Eagles, who had put everything into the game and the season, however with the end of one season comes the beginning of another. Team 1 for the Eagles finished with a very respectable record, and more importantly had came together as a team. Team 2 will take to the field in 2015, looking to go at least one step further.

Bedfordshire Blue Raiders

The Bedfordshire Blue Raiders were formed in August 2006 by Dave Pankhurst and Steve Guy to replace the former teams from local towns such as Luton, Dunstable and Milton Keynes who all found success during the 1980s and 1990s. Pankhurst and Guy quickly got about recruiting several coaches, starting with the teams first Head Coach, Chris Wallis.

Coach Wallis brought with him a wealth of experience, having previously been head coach of Peterborough Saxons and Cambridgeshire Cats, and had ties with Team Manager Guy, who had both been involved with the University of Cambridge BCAFL team in the mid-1990’s.

With a coaching staff in place, and a playing squad assembled, The Blue Raiders were accepted into the BAFL Associate process in 2007. As part of the BAFL’s requirements for associate members, the Blue Raiders arranged the two friendly matches which would enable them to gain full membership and enter the league the following season.

The first of these was a home game played on 9 September 2007 against the Maidstone Pumas, where the Raiders managed to scrape a win 18-8. Their away friendly was played four weeks later against the Leicester Falcons, who themselves were associate members aiming to join the league. The Raiders lost 32-0 to a Leicester team that would go on to win Division 2 within the next two years.

Two weeks later they played their third match away to another associate team, the Milton Keynes City Pathfinders. Despite an early setback when their player-coach Anthony Coverdale dislocated his knee during the kickoff, they recorded a convincing 35–0 win. This would the start of many great battles between the close neighbours.

The following month, it was confirmed that the Blue Raiders application to become full members had been accepted by the BAFL, and placed into the Eastern Conference of Division Two. The conference consisted of much more established team such as the Peterborough Saxons, Cambridgeshire Cats, Watford Cheetahs, with fellow expansion team the Milton Keynes City Pathfinders completing the division.

2008 – The Inaugural Season
We are still gathering information about the club from this time.

We are still gathering information about the club from this time.

We are still gathering information about the club from this time.

There were big changes for the Blue Raiders in 2011 with the founding Team Manager Steve Guy leaving the team and handing over the management reigns to new General Manager, and former Blue Raiders starting QB, Tony Law.

We are still gathering information about the season and games played during this time.
The year ended with a new addition to the team, as Anthony Fitzpatrick, former London Blitz Offensive Line coach and current Great Britain Lions Offensive Line Coach came on board as the new Offensive Co-ordinator going forward.

2012 started off brightly for the Blue Raiders with the acquisition of several players to fill needs on the team, and with a brand new rookie class, the team was starting to come together under a cloud of positivity.

The season didn’t get off to best of starts, losing at home to eventual Division 2 Champions Peterborough Saxons 18 to 6. However, there were positives to take from that game, like the fact the defense held the Peterborough Offense to its lowest scoring total the entire season, and the Peterborough defense never allowed more than 6 points in all but 2 games that entire season. Not a winning start, but positives for sure. From there, the Blue Raiders had to wait nearly a month before there next fixture, at home against a tough opponent in Watford Cheetahs. The defense was stellar again, and the Blue Raiders won 6-0 in what was a grind it out win for them.

The next 4 games saw the Blue Raiders go 2-2, with home and away wins against the Maidstone Pumas, 41-20 and 42-0 respectively; whilst dropping games to Peterborough away 26-0 and Colchester away 49-20. With a record of 3-3 the Raiders season and playoff hopes hung in the balance with only 4 games left. The big game for the Blue Raiders season was the home fixture against Colchester Gladiators. Having played each other just 4 weeks before, both teams were very familiar with each other, and the team practiced hard, with Fitzpatrick adding a few tweaks on the offense to better face up against the Colchester D.

After one of the games of the season in the division, Colchester came away with a tough 7-0 win. Bedford had tallied up its most yards in a game, but could not punch the ball in. With a 3-4 record and only 3 games left to play, the Raiders playoff hopes were dashed.

This was not the best mindset to be going into a double header against biggest rivals Milton Keynes Pathfinders, and the more physical Milton Keynes team managed back to back home and away wins, 35-0 and 21-0 respectively.

The aim for the Blue Raiders going into the last game of the season was to go 4-6, and try and go into the off-season on a high. The game, away to Watford who they had narrowly defeated earlier in the year, was played in atrocious conditions, and the game had to be delayed a few times for player safety due to lightning strikes in the surrounding area. With backup QB Darragh Mooney starting due to Callum Papworth’s absence, all was thought lost when Mooney went down injured. In stepped WR Phil Cutts, who after some sterling play led the Raiders to a come from behind 15-14 victory.

The Raiders finished 4-6, but were buoyed by Cutts’ play at quarterback, and with another year under Head Coach Craig Ramsay and Offensive Co-ordinator Anthony Fitzpatrick, things were looking promising going into the ’12 – ’13 off-season.

The Blue Raiders started the 2013 season with Phil Cutts as the starting QB and an air of optimism swept the club. With one of the best rookie classes the club had ever seen, and a hard pre-season behind them, the Blue Raiders swept to an impressive 4-0 start to the season with home wins against Essex Spartans and Maidstone Pumas, as well as away victories of the Pumas again, and an impressive win over the Watford Cheetahs.

The 2013 season saw the first time in club history that the team had had an unbeaten run to start the season, or indeed the first time the club had ever won its opening game.
Once again though, it was an away trip to Colchester that started the downfall of the Raiders season. Poor turnouts in the practices leading up to the game, were starting to take its toll, but as usual the squad arrived on Gameday confident of pulling out a win. Sadly that wasn’t to be the case, and Colchester cantered to a 48-16 victory on their way to lifting the National Division title.

Whilst sporting a record of 4-1, externally everything was rosy for the Blue Raiders. Internally however, practice numbers were falling into the low teens occasionally, as injuries and a lack of player commitment by various members of the squad started to take its toll. 3 back to back losses, including a 21-7 loss to rivals Milton Keynes Pathfinders had left the Raiders with a 4-4 record heading into the last two games of the season. By this point the Raiders had lost a lot of players, and the squad size was approximately half of that which started the season, none of which could have been expected. With no healthy QB’s on the roster for the scheduled game against the Kent Exiles, the decision was made to forfeit the fixture and hand Kent a 1-0 win. This took the Blue Raiders to an upside down record of 4-5, with no hopes of making the playoffs and struggling to see out the season. Practices were now down to around 5-15 people average, and the future was not as bright as all had hoped.

The final game of the season was an away fixture at the Essex Spartans, the team the Blue Raiders beat in the opening game of the season. In order to be able to play this fixture several members of the Blue Raiders coaching staff had to re-register as players and start this game. Thankfully the experience of the players brought them through a tough game, and they finished the season a respectable 5-5. Little did anyone know that this would be the final game the Blue Raiders ever played.

Merging the Blue Raiders and the Milton Keynes Pathfinders

At the end of the game, Club General Manager Tony Law announced he was stepping down as Chairman, and that an EGM would be scheduled to sort out a new GM moving forward. At this point, Coaches Anthony Fitzpatrick, Anthony Fitzpatrick and Head Coach Craig Ramsay also announced they would be stepping down, with Fitzpatrick and Coverdale heading to coach at Premier Division team, the London Blitz, and Ramsay stepping down to spend time with his family, after nearly 25 years of coaching.

At the EGM, former player and coach Neale McMaster was the only candidate to step forward and was presently voted into the role. McMaster then proposed a motion originally put forward by Law that the Blue Raiders should merge with local rivals Milton Keynes Pathfinders.

After some discussion and a player vote, this motion was carried. On 3rd November 2013, after some lengthy discussions between both clubs an EGM was called, and after a constitution and articles of merger had been approved by all in attendance, these documents were signed by both parties. The Ouse Valley Eagles were born.

Milton Keynes Pathfinders

The Milton Keynes Pathfinders (often abbreviated to MK Pathfinders) were an American football team based in Milton Keynes, England, competing in the National Division of the BAFA National Leagues (BAFANL). They play their home games at the Emerson Valley Sports Pavilion in Milton Keynes, which they share with Milton Keynes Rugby Club. The club was first formed in 1997, with the senior team being founded in 2006, entering the BAFL in 2008 and reaching the play-offs for the first time in 2011.

The club was first formed as a youth team following the demise of the Milton Keynes Pioneers in 1997. They started off competing in flag tournaments, and in 1999 won the British Youth flag championship after winning their conference with a 6–0 record, then defeating the UCLA Renegades 18–12 in the final. The team then withdrew from competition for four years before returning to compete in the British Junior and Youth Kitted Championships from 2004.

The club then decided to form a senior team in late 2006, and joined the BAFL as associate members. As part of the BAFL’s requirements for associate members, the club arranged the two friendly matches which would enable them to gain full membership and enter the league the following season. Their first match away to the Cambridgeshire Cats was followed by a 0–35 defeat at home to the Bedfordshire Blue Raiders, a fellow associate team looking to join the league.

Having completed their associate games in October 2007 the senior squad were invited to apply for full league status for 2008. For the 2008 season, they competed in Division Two’s Eastern Conference against the Bedfordshire Blue Raiders, Cambridgeshire Cats, Peterborough Saxons and Watford Cheetahs. The team posted a 0–9–1 record, scoring 60 points and conceding 445 points over a 10 game period, the highest total since the 464 points conceded by the Andover Thrashers in 2005.

In the 2009 season the team were handed a tough schedule which included East Kent Mavericks, Staffordshire Surge and recently relegated Colchester Gladiators, all of whom went on to win their respective conferences. Despite the draw and a small inexperienced squad the Pathfinders did record their first victory in a very even game with the Lincolnshire Bombers, taking the tie 14–12. The Pathfinders ended their season with another close game, losing at home to the Staffordshire Surge 0–7, having conceded in the final 4 minutes and a touchdown disallowed due to a flag on the final play.

Post 2009 season the Pathfinders announced a merger with affiliate team Northants Hotrods (formally Northants Nightmare) increasing the squad size. In addition the team recruited a number of experienced locally based players and coaches including Defensive Coordinator Matthew Hannigan-Train from Bedford Blue Raiders.

The 2010 season started badly, despite some strong preseason scrimmages with Maidstone Pumas and Division 1 teams Kent Exiles and Cambridgeshire Cats, MK lost their first 6 games. On a positive note they were highly competitive in the majority of the games, including a tight 17–15 defeat at league leaders Hampshire Thrashers. On the back of that result the Pathfinders went on a run of 4 wins to close out the season, including a 13–35 win away at Watford Cheetahs ending their playoff hopes. The season ranked up a number of new records for MK, including first away win (at Gloucester 8–24), highest points in a game (35 at Watford), most wins (4) and highest overall points tally for a season with 126. In addition Andy Larwill ranked joint first in the league for Sacks with 12 and Matthew Hannigan-Train also made the Division 2 top 10. Larwill also ranked in the top 10 for tackles, while Ben Williams ranked in the top 10 for running yards, overall points and kicking yards.

At the end of a solid developmental season Offensive Co-ordinator Jon “Wyle.E.” Langstaff decided to step aside and spend time with his family, in addition Head Coach for the season Dave Ayres vacated his role to allow former GB linebacker and Farnham Knights Coach Sean Gray to take the reins. David Stokes also decided to move on from the club, having previously been Manager and player for the team. David had been a big part of the team for the previous seasons, but a combination of his commitments to coaching at Bletchley Rugby Club and a serious injury lead to him move on. Stokes, Ayres and Langstaff had been at the club since its senior inception and it would not have continued to flourish without their hard work; for which the club will always be thankful.

In the 2011 season Coach Gray and his staff took the Pathfinders one step further in their progression. Starting the season with a comfortable win over a young Norwich Devils, the Pathfinders would go on to record their first winning season, ending the regular season with a record of 7 wins, 2 defeats and 1 tie. The tie would be against eventual Conference Champions Kent Exiles in a game either team could have won and the two defeats would be against the Essex Spartans. The Pathfinders record would see them qualify in the final Division 2 Playoff spot, despite finishing third in their Conference, and have to travel to Glasgow’s West Coast Trojans. The undefeated Trojans went on to win that game and eventually reach the national finals.

In the off-season Coach Gray moved on from the club and the Pathfinders appointed Roger Brown as Head Coach for the 2012 season. Coach Brown appointed Darren Hill to coach defensive backfield and utilized Quarterback Mike Keogh to assist with coaching the Offence. The team were once again competing National League Division 2 East; renewing rivalries with old friends from Watford, Bedford and Maidstone and meeting in addition the Peterborough Saxons and the Colchester Gladiators who both dropped down from Division 1 in 2011. The season opened with MK at home to Colchester and both teams initially struggled to take an advantage, before the Pathfinders Defence left their mark on the game forcing both Colchester’s starting QB and RB out of the game. MK went on to take the win, this was to be the start of the Pathfinders most successful season, ending with an 8-2 record and finishing as the highest scoring Offence in the conference. The two defeats both coming at the hands of the Peterborough Saxons (32-0 away and 14-21 at home). In the Playoffs MK drew the West Conference Champions Oxford Saints in what would be the first ever meeting of the two teams. The Pathfinders took the game 42-24 and booked themselves a place in the Southern Final, once again this would be against the Saxons who had overcome Cornwall Sharks in a playoff quarterfinal. Saxon’s made it 3 wins in 3 against the Pathfinders, but went on to lose the final to Sheffield Predators in overtime.

Season Division Wins Losses Ties PF PA Final Position Playoff
2008 BAFL Division Two East 0 9 1 60 445 5 / 5
2009 BAFL Division Two East 1 9 0 32 406 4 / 4
2010 BAFACL Division Two West 4 6 0 126 223 5 / 6
2011 BAFANL Division Two East 7 2 1 240 135 3 / 7 0 / 1
2012 BAFANL Division Two East 8 2 0 333 168 2 / 7 1 / 2