The Phoenix Phutures U14 flag team raised the curtain on the programme's 2022 season on Saturday, returning most of the squad who went to the Plate Final last year and adding some new recruits.
Tournament one would see them take on the Birmingham Lions, Northants Titans and hosts Leicester Huntsmen on a bright but chilly morning. First up were the Lions who jumped out to an early lead, which they held onto till halftime. The second half didn’t start so well either as the Lions returned an interception for six to stretch their lead to 21-12. This seemed to wake up the Nix though, Jonte Hinton scored his second touchdown of the game to pull Tamworth within three, then rookie QB Lucas Whitchurch hit Malachy McMahon for the receiver's second score of the game, to put the Phoenix ahead with less than a minute remaining. The defense managed to see out the game and the first win of the year was on the board, 25-21.
Next up for the Phoenix were the Northants Titans, the first time the two teams had met in league competition. Again the Titans got off to the better start, working their way downfield for a touchdown on their opening drive. The Phoenix were quick to reply as Whitchurch found McMahon for the touchdown, Noah Scriven added the extra point for an early 7-6 lead. The teams traded another score each and with seconds left before the half and Tamworth leading 13-12. Hinton took the first down handoff the length of the field, as time expired, to extend the lead to 19-12. The second half saw the Phoenix add two more touchdowns as they eased away to win 31-12.
To finish off the day the Phoenix faced off against the host Leicester Huntsmen, who were also undefeated on the day with two wins. Both teams showed some progress on offense without actually troubling the scoreboard as both defenses covered & tackled well. That was until just before halftime, the Huntsmen broke off a big run and although he was stopped short they managed to cap off the drive with another decisive run to give them a 7-0 halftime lead. The second half was to be all Huntsmen though, two quick scores gave them a 20-0 lead and although Hinton would take back an interception for a touchdown, converted by Thomas Scriven, the game was sealed by a further Huntsman touchdown and safety as the Phoenix pushed to get themselves back into the game. The final score was 29-7.
After a long day Head Coach Terrell Burgess was thrilled with the way the entire squad performed. Malachy McMahon starred scoring five touchdowns and securing two interceptions, alongside Jonte Hinton who also had five touchdowns and two interceptions of his own, but it was the encouraging performances from across the less experienced players that shows great promise for the season ahead.
With tournament one now behind them, the team has a short time to prepare for their home tournament on April 2nd.