The Tamworth Phoenix secured a win in the team’s 2021 season opener and first game in nearly two years, 12-7, against the Leicester Falcons on Sunday afternoon, at home at Pack Meadow.
A minute of applause was held prior to kickoff in remembrance of Tamworth Phoenix coach Dan Smith, a familiar face who was missing from the sideline on gameday. To help Dan’s presence remain with the team, each Phoenix player displayed a memorial decal on their helmets, as they will do so for the rest of the season.
Dan Smith was remembered on the day by Phoenix players, who wore memorial decals on their helmets
Having not played in a game since the climax of the 2019 British American football men’s contact season in Britbowl XXXIII, the Phoenix were amongst several teams playing across the country as part of the first weekend of competitive fixtures since the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions.
Starting the game against Leicester and the 2021 season in earnest, nine unanswered first quarter points gave Tamworth a lead that they were able to hold on to through the rest of the contest, despite a dramatic conclusion involving a long completion for the Falcons that was ultimately called back due to a penalty on the visitors.
Will Hobbs in full flight returning Leicester's second half-opening kickoff
With the score having been 12-7 since the Phoenix offense converted a second half-opening kickoff - returned by Will Hobbs all the way to the Leicester 30-yard line - into three points with an Alex Lenkowski field goal, a last-gasp pass for the Falcons taken all the way down to the Phoenix goal line was punched out by defensive back Jonny Weekes, only for the Falcons to have lined up for the play in an illegal formation.
The home side had previously got out to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter when quarterback Angus Cook punched the ball into the endzone on the ground from close range, after an interception of a batted Leicester pass by Phoenix defensive lineman Stephen Gregory gave the Phoenix offense the ball on the Falcons’ own 10-yard line.
Quarterback Angus Cook after scoring the first touchdown of the game and 2021 season for the Phoenix
Tamworth needed only two plays to convert the advantageous field position into the game’s first points, with key punts from the Phoenix special teams unit and Lenkowski having kept Leicester pinned back deep in their own half, while the Phoenix defense prevented the Falcons from progressing past their own 30-yard line on their opening drives.
Another key special teams play from the boot of Lenkowski helped lead to an extension of the early lead to nine points in the first quarter, 9-0, when a deep kickoff was misplayed by Leicester, causing the Falcons’ offense to start just outside of their own endzone after the match officials rescinded a two-point safety against the visitors. Nonetheless, as the Leicester offense attempted to move the ball away from the goal line, the Phoenix defense drove the first play of the drive back into the endzone for a safety and two points.
Cue the celebrations with defensive back Junior Shodipo as Head Coach Jason Scott signals for a safety
The Leicester offense did find form against the Phoenix defense at times, and in the second quarter when capping off a long drive with a touchdown pass to bring the score at the time back to 9-7. While the Phoenix offense looked to be knocking off rust accumulated in lengthy layoff, the defense matched up against Leicester’s passing attack and gave up little on the ground.
After the winning start to the season that also saw the Tamworth Phoenix Juniors under-19 age group team also return to the field with a victory, defeating the Nottingham Caesars 48-8 in the second part of a home double header at Pack Meadow, the Phoenix senior team are next in action as part of another double header on Sunday, 11th July with a 1 p.m. kickoff against the Staffordshire Surge. The Juniors take on the Birmingham Lions at 4 p.m.
Tickets for the double header at Pack Meadow are available at a general admission price of £6 on the day at the entrance gate*, with entry for the Nix Nation raffle still also being available at £25 for cash prize draws of £100, £75 and £25 at each remaining home game.
More information regarding tickets, Nix Nation memberships and raffle, as well as the remaining schedule for the 2021 season, can be found at www.tamworthphoenix.co.uk and will be discussed via team social media channels across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
*All spectators at Pack Meadow must scan in upon entry with the NHS COVID-19 contact tracing app and maintain social distancing while inside the venue.