The successes of summer 2019 for most of the U16 team seems so long ago now, a lost year to Covid meant two sets of graduates would step into the U19 team at once and that would make for a very strong team. Throughout Covid and between lockdowns, the Team Managers and Coaches were keen to keep the squad safely on the practice field and that dedication paid off with an outstanding season for 2021.
With an even blend of experienced U19’s, graduating U16’s & new rookie recruits, the Phoenix would open their season at their impressive home venue Pack Meadow against the Nottingham Caesars. After almost two years of no football, both teams were a bit of an unknown going into this game and certainly weren’t the same teams who split wins in the 2019 season.
On this occasion it would be the Phoenix who took home the win, opening their account against a largely inexperienced Caesars team, their fluent passing game would see them score freely behind the talented receiving core led by Joe Perkins & Noah Beddow, QB Josh Allsebrook supplying the ammunition for them. For as dominant as the offense was, the defense was relentless. Limiting Nottingham to short drives, they provided the offense with ample opportunities to take the field and add more scores. The Caesars did however add a late score to reward their perseverance but the wait was finally over, the new look Nix U19 team had finally seen live action and they took home a convincing 48-8 victory.
Next up for Phoenix would be local rivals and familiar faces, the Birmingham Lions. The Lions flew out of the gate, driving impressively down the length of the field, including two crucial fourth down conversion to take an early 7-0 lead. This was just the kind of start to test the Phoenix resolve after a lob-sided win two weeks earlier. A test they would pass immediately, from the resulting kick off, WR Oskar Kucharczyk returned the ball for his first special teams touchdown of the season to tie the game at 7-7. This seemed to deflate the Lions who then struggled to mount consistent drives against the Phoenix defense. With a strong running performance by Owen James to compliment the passing attack the Phoenix would eventually complete a 45-7 win at their home ground.
Two weeks later the two teams would meet again in Birmingham, however this time the Lions would make the Nix work for any success. The first quarter was a tight affair both teams struggling to move the ball with any consistency, the Phoenix came closest to opening their account but the usually automatic Dylan Pole hit the upright with his first field goal attempt of the day and the quarter ended scoreless. The second quarter then saw a huge shift in momentum, deep in their own half the Lions tried to punt the ball away only to see it blocked for the first touchdown of the day. This seemed to spark the Nix offense to life, Allsebrook and Perkins finding their rhythm as they’d scored multiple times before halftime. The defense stayed firm all game, constantly pressuring the Lions quarterback and forcing him into turnovers. Rookie defensive back Aiden Lawlor taking his first interception back for a touchdown to the delight of the Nix sideline. The Nix would finish the day with a 37-0 shutout win.
With a lull in the schedule, the Phoenix arranged a friendly game against the London Blitz. A familiar name at senior level, this would be a test for the Phoenix U19s against an outfit with several National Championship wins behind them. In sweltering heat the early going was hard work, the Blitz were a strong, athletic but inexperienced side and it took the Phoenix most of the first half to adjust to their power running attack and forceful defense. At the half the Blitz would hold an 8-0 lead, scoring on a short field after an Allsebrook interception. The Coaches worked hard at the half time break, making adjustments on both sides of the ball in the hope they could get themselves back into the game.
Into the second half and the heat was taking its toll on the visiting Blitz, the Phoenix offense was starting to put together meaningful drives behind the offensive line anchored by Ajay Benning. Guards Jake Wright & two way player Luke Ashman started to get a foothold in the game and give Allsebrook the time he needed to link up with Perkins for a touchdown to pull the Nix closer at 8-6. It wouldn’t take long for the Nix defense to get the ball back for the offense. Led by Amrit Chatha, Josh Oldfield and Ashman, the Blitz offense was finding yards more and more difficult to come by and after some aggressive runs by Allsebrook, he would again connect with Perkins in the corner of the end zone to give the Phoenix a 12-8 lead. The Blitz had one last chance to drive downfield to win the game but the Phoenix defense would stand firm, Dylan Bundy coming up big with the all-important interception to end the game.
Photography credit @photophoenixah
After some time, the Phoenix would finally get to end their season with a trip to face the team they started their season against, the Nottingham Caesars. The Caesars were still searching for their first win but recent scores had shown they were making good progress. The Phoenix were looking to close out their undefeated season with another win, with a heavy dose of Allsebrook to Perkins and Christian Pole complimenting with chunks of yardage on the ground the scores came early and often. However they wouldn’t have it all their own way, despite constant pressure the Caesars quarterback hit an open receiver over the middle who then galloped down the left sideline for a touchdown. Then just before half time, with the score at 36-7, the Nottingham Caesars coaching staff unexpectedly called an early conclusion to the game for safety reasons, after losing linemen to injuries.
So after almost a two year wait, the U19 programme had finally got their season and what a season it proved to be, finishing unbeaten like their U16 & senior counterparts. In an exciting winter ahead, many of them are beginning or returning to University or Filton College. Others will make appearances for Team North later in October. With Great Britain trials taking place too, we hope to see some of our players on different fields, in different colours until they return to us for the 2022 season. Good luck to them all.