Early Sunday Morning (19th March) the Sandwell Steelers travelled up the M6 to Stoke-on-Trent to face off against the Staffordshire Surge in a controlled scrimmage organised by both teams coaching staffs. In very windy and cold conditions both teams could let their units loose against another team in what proved to be an invaluable experience for both sides.
During the four Specials Teams periods, players could get to grips with live reps on a full-sized field and although mistakes were made, it was evident that both teams had playmakers that could return the ball given the chance. Considering the conditions, both teams’ kickers flipped field position and in a competitive game this will prove pivotal, if both teams are to reach their aims of winning their respective divisions.
Both teams then ran several scripted, situational plays to allow both coaches and players to focus on their schemes installed during training. Sandwell’s offensive trio of Callum Davidson, James Jones-Cross and Josh Lawrence continually moved the ball however the Surge Linebacker core tested the blocking skills of the veteran Steelers Offensive Line.
On defence, the Defensive Line trio of Adam Bates, Shane Green and Sam Rafferty continually caused havoc in the backfield paired with big hits from Rob Jones and Paul Zinkus flying down from Safety caught the eye of coaches and players alike. Staffs’ were able to move the ball through a strong outside run and screen game as QB’s & WR’s worked on their chemistry.
Following the situational periods, several coaches turned to referees and a one-hour live scrimmage was held. Staffs’ offence opened with a run heavy attack and gained a couple of 1st Downs on the ground before false start penalties and incompletions backed them up forcing a turnover on downs.
Sandwell’s offence took over and they went straight to the air to drive down inside the Staffs redzone. An errant snap however allowed the Surge defence to sack QB Davidson on 4th and short and get their offence back out onto the field. Backed up inside their own 15 however, DC Stuart Andrew and the Steeler’s defence brought the pressure and on the 3rd play, Nose Tackle Adam Bates smothered the Surge QB in the end-zone for a Safety.
This brought the Steeler’s offense back out and they took no time in putting the ball in the endzone. A deep ball from Davidson to Lawrence provided the coaching staff with a glimpse of what could be a fearsome duo this year. With no posts to kick at the Steelers went for two, only to see Davidson sacked for a big loss. With both teams executing well, the clock rolled continuously and this score brought to a close the end of the first half.
On the opening kick off of the second half, Staffs kicked deep to James Jones-Cross (JJC) who only had one thing on his mind, to score! Thanks to some excellent blocking and a nice turn of pace, James found himself in the end-zone before he knew it. Staffs’ stout goal-line defence stuffed the two-point attempt again to stop Sandwell increasing the lead yet further.
The Staffs’ offence then struggled to move the ball against the strong front seven of the Steeler’s and they punted the ball away. OC Butler decided for a change in tack and opened up his run game, only to see “JJC” take two carries before finding himself in the end-zone again thanks to some strong first & second level blocking from the Offensive Line. This time the two-point conversion was successful as the Steeler’s experience and guile really began to shine through.
The Staffs’ offense went back to their trusted screen game and after a couple of completions and a strong run from their FB lifted their spirits. However once inside Steeler territory a false start and two negative plays soon knocked the drive on its head.
The afternoon was brought to an end on a sour note as a Steelers Defensive Lineman picked up what appeared to be a nasty knock to his back but following prolonged treatment and assessment from members of both sides he was helped back to his feet with no serious symptoms remaining.
Both sides learnt a lot from the day and were able to blood in a number of rookies versus an unfamiliar opposition. Experiences like this are invaluable for both teams. Head Coach Ross Barrow and his side would like to thank Staffordshire Surge for hosting the event and would like to wish them the best of luck in the NFC2 South.
Following the scrimmage with Staffs, the Steelers moved onto a classroom session. These sessions are also invaluable as it allows the players to evaluate their performances, in order to get better. The Steelers now begin a three-week run in to their first fixture versus the Coventry Jets on April 16th. This fixture will take place at Tipton Sports Academy and more details about KO time; admission information and advertising material will be released soon.
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