An injury-ridden Crows team travel North to meet Conference foes the Calderdale Knights, Sheffield Giants, and Darlington Steam.
Week 2 – Conference Games
Saturday 6th May
Manchester Crows 28 – 7 Calderdale Knights
First up were the hosts themselves, a team that make up for their lack of height with an abundance of young speedsters! The Crows knew that a fundamentally sound defence would be the key to slowing down the nippy Yorkshiremen, and they did not disappoint – throwing pressure at the QB immediately.
The pressure never relented for the Knights (forcing them to use 3 different QBs in an attempt to counter the fierce blitzing) in a game that saw The Crows walk away with 6 sacks! 1 from SS Dave Underwood, 2 for LB Nigel Li and a beastly 3 from LB Rob Connor. Throw in an INT for James Durham and a first ever competitive pick for Nigel Li, and the Ron Burgun-D was giving the Offence plenty of opportunities with the ball.
The Offense were firing on all cylinders throughout the 1st half, QB Talha strengthening his connection with WR James Durham for the second consecutive game day with a 3-TD performance. The 2nd half saw a slow start for the O however, as they failed to answer a Knights scoring drive with a 4 and out – for the first time that day.
The Crows D were happy to pick up the slack with another forced turnover, allowing Talha to find C Phil Shanahan in the endzone for the final score of the game.
Manchester Crows 6 – 40 Sheffield Giants
2016’s games against the Sheffield Giants were beautiful battles on the field that ended with The Crows missing out on the W’s by the smallest of margins. Fast forward a year and despite enduring a massive roster turnover, the Giants proved themselves to be the most disciplined and finely tuned squad in the MEC. A somewhat patchwork defense were unable to keep the Giants out of the endzone on most of their offensive series, though in heartbreaking fashion each 4th down was decided by a matter of inches.
The Crows prepared to face a stingy Giants defense, but were outmatched by the opposing blitzers, resulting in Talha being sacked 4 times.
After some adjustments, the 2nd half was scored 13-6 in the Giants favour, led by a increasing exotic defensive scheme and a lone TD grab by James Durham.
Though Sheffield undoubtedly had The Crows number on this day – they also gifted them motivation for their next meeting; topple the giant.
Manchester Crows 42 – 6 Darlington Steam
The final game of the day came against 2nd year Darlington Steam; a young group with good numbers and talent, fresh off a big win against the Nottingham Bears. Confidence aside, it quickly became evident a little more experience was going to be required before they could properly challenge The Crows.
The Defence rebounded after the Giants loss, playing lights out from the very start. Rob Connor picked up his 4th sack of the day, starting CB Jake Blair recorded his first career Safety, and even Qb Talha Javed came onto the field to define ‘Football Utopia’ with a 2 INT performance, including the 1 handed pick below.
Another dominating display from the Defense gave the Maroon 5 time to shine, as Talha punctuated his day with 6 TDs; a pair each to WRs James Durham and Greg Hollin, and solo scores from C Phil Shanahan and Father Time himself Craig Armitage.
Week 2, though a sometime difficult one, will be remembered for it’s quality of roster depth. With multiple Crows starting in positions they were unfamiliar with and the ascension of young CB Jake Blair, the repercussions of these games will be felt for far longer than the 2-1 record will be.
The Manchester Crows will enter their Home Games with a 4-2-0 record, good for 2nd place in the MEC Central Division.