Disaster struck as a lower leg injury in training ruled Crows QB Talha Javed out of action for the 2nd round of Divisional games. With matchups against Division leaders and rivals Manchester Titans, plus the Cheshire Cavaliers and Wigan Warhawks, The Crows would need to pull out all the stops.
Week 4 – Divisional Games
Saturday 24th June
Manchester Crows 34 – 20 Manchester Titans
The first game of the day would come against Division leaders Titans who had previously dispatched The Crows to the tune of 45-40. With only a small amount of time to prepare the game plan under backup QB James Durham, The Crows play style shifted to favour the short and intermediate game.
The Titans defence would try to capitalise on this, limiting the amount of yardage The Crows would get – but 3 drives giving up Defensive Pass Interference penalties gave the Crows great field position. The Crows were able to capitalise on these opportunities, with Durham throwing his first TDs of the year to C Shanahan (twice) and WR Matt Wilkinson (once).
The defence didn’t want a repeat of the last derby outing, and succeeded with their game plan, the Maroon 5 limiting the strong Titans offence to only two scores in the first half.
The second half showed an offense beginning to click, with Durham hurling two more scores to Wilkinson and Shanahan, with Wilkinson adding an extra point.
Three picks from DBs Jake Blair, Matt Wilkinson and (now) James Durham snuffed out any chance of a comeback, and propel The Crows to their first victory of the season without QB Talha Javed.
Manchester Crows 43 – 46 Cheshire Cavaliers
The ever improving Cavaliers, who had just come from a narrow defeat to the Titans and a strong win against the Warhawks, were next.
The game would begin in back and forth fashion, with Wilkinson grabbing two scores early on. Two interceptions deep in The Crows half would set up the Cavaliers for easy scores, which gave them the momentum and a 2 score lead going into half time.
The Cavaliers would carry this momentum into the 2nd half to improve their lead to a 3 scores. Touchdowns from Wilkinson and WR Greg Hollin kept the Crows offensive charge going but the defense couldn’t keep the Cavaliers out of their endzone, falling behind 46-24 lead.
The last 3 minutes of the game would highlight why Matt Wilkinson was voted into the ‘All-World Team’ at 2016’s Flag World Championships in Miami as he nearly single handily orchestrated a miraculous comeback with a TD reception and 2 pick 6s.
With only 1 XP converted from Wilkinson’s heroics would leave The Crows down by 3 points with less than a minute to play. With no timeouts remaining the Cavaliers were able to run out the clock and take the victory.
Manchester Crows 66 – 26 Wigan Warhawks
The final game of the day would come against the hosts themselves, the Wigan
Against a team in quasi-rebuild mode, the 1st half of saw scores from WRs David Skelhorn, Ronan McAleenan, Craig Armitage, and C Shanahan. It also saw another pick 6 on the day for Wilkinson, who completed a juke so big and so nasty, it left the Wigan QB on the sideline for a few plays.
Defensively The Crows turned the ball over with an interception from Nick Harris, and saw a sack from Rob Connor, whilst allowing the Warhawks to complete 2 long scores.
The 2nd half saw more scores from Zalan Toth, Rob Connor and Gregory Hollin, Rob Connor also picked up an interception of his own.
With the game over the final plays would give opportunities to Wilkinson to start a drive at QB and Dave Underwood to reprise his role as QB, with the latter completing 1 of 1, for 1 TD, to who else, James Durham.
Again the delayed sophomore slump had taken its role on the Crows, seeing WR David Skelhorn suit up from injury was great but the loss of QB Talha Javed 6 days before the game day saw late preparations slow the Crows down.
It’s evident that every team in the MEC has improved this year whilst the Crows have somewhat found themselves to have stalled a little.
The playoff race is still alive between the Titans, Crows and Cavalier, with the Titans having secured a playoff spot the Crows can still technically win the division but are simultaneously trying to keep away the Cavaliers.
Only one more gameday awaits before the playoffs and with a top 3 seeding out of the Crows hands they will need to beat out their next two opponents and pray for a little luck to get at least a top 4 seeding, only time will tell