The York Centurions took to their home field one final time in the 2016/17 season. Their sole aim was to vanquish the Lancaster Bombers once again. Yorkshire was not blessed with the glorious sunshine that had graced previous Roses fixtures, instead there was a stillness in the air disturbed only by the apprehension and expectation of the battle ahead. A strong crowd had gathered along the sideline, for every Lancastrian voice there were two or three Yorkshire tones to drown them out. President and LB Andrew Chudnovsky was the final name to ring around Fort 22 Acres as the card checks were over and it was time for class of 2017 to do battle one last time.
York won the coin toss and elected to receive the ball. The opening kick off fell very short and into the hands of C Alan Gray, he rumbled downfield for around 25 yards but more importantly to himself, he held on to the ball. The same could not be said for the gloveless RB Kevwe Uwotu who was harassed in the backfield and coughed up the ball on the opening play. Defence took to field and DT Joe Atkinson, still bitter from missing York’s last bout with Lancaster, clattered the running back in the backfield. For all the Centurions hard defensive work, the Offense struggled to move the ball and ultimately their was another Uwotu fumble. The York Centurions defence rallied, determined not give up the precious field position. The Bombers completed a fairly innocuous, short pass over the middle, the receiver was the lined up by LB Dan Denby and LB Rafe Hunter Hallet and they were able to knock the ball loose. One of the Bombers lineman forgot that his hands were made of concrete and attempted scoop up the bouncing ball. He was immediately blasted by FS Stephen Bates and the ball ripped from his clutches. The subsequent fumble was dived upon by a host of Centurions, rookie DE Shaz Altaf ultimately coming up with possession.
The turnover injected a much needed spark into the Offense. QB Tom Lathem set his feet and threaded the ball through the Defence to find the outstretched hands of WR Max York who strode on to the end zone untouched. The Centurions were true to form and were unable to tack on the extra two points. The half came to a close at 6-0 in York’s favour.
Lancaster came out firing after the break and put together a few passes to set up their own score, they were less fortunate on the two point attempt. Defence looked a little weary after a gruelling first half so it fell to Offense to step up. Lathem was knocked out the game after a big hit so QB Theo Hewit took to the field and wasted no time in making his mark. A smooth fake hand off sent Lancaster’s Defensive Line (Who call themselves the Nigerian Nightmare, despite playing like more of a day dream) to the running back. Hewit then pumped the safety into biting on an out route, reset his feet and drifted the ball into Max York’s hands. He duly obliged by taking it to the house for his second TD. The two point was a nifty slant route from the same man as the Centurions took up an eight point lead. The Bombers responded with a long touchdown drive that was extended after a controversial penalty flag turned a 4th down stop into a new set of downs. Their 2pt attempt was intercepted by CB Zyen Ubaid with the troublesome intended receiver violently knocked out of the game by Bates during the return. Uwotu had been given a snazzy pair of the gloves for the second half and he put them to good use. RG Ben Grainger obliterated his opposite lineman and the rest of the Centurions O-Line stood firm to allow Uwotu to slalom up the centre. When in open field the jets kicked in and he sped the remaining 60 yards to the endzone. York punched in the 2pt attempt with some bloody nosed running from Rookie FB Dalton Weir.
With a ten point lead, the Centurions Defence forced the Bombers into 3rd and very long but to everyone’s dismay they were able to haul in a big pass and get the first down despite tight coverage from Rookie CB Olufemi Johnson. The QB now in rhythm, York could not stop the passing TD or the 2pt attempt and so the lead was cut to only two points heading towards the end of the game. The Centurions’ offence ran hard and took a big chunk of time off the clock, in spite of WR Matt Brindley agonising giving a way a holding penalty to negate a big run. Injuries had forced LBs Hallett and Chudnovsky into Offensive Line duties, they battled on admirably. York’s 4th down attempt fell short so the Centurions Defence were sent back on to defend a long field and a narrow two point lead. The second half had not been vintage York Defence but they simply needed one more play.
DE Ben Matthew and DT Tom “Floor” Hodgson remained ferocious throughout and so Lancaster were forced to continue the passing game. The attempted a pass to their slot who has a significant height advantage over SS Sam Lock. Lock’s coverage was tight enough that it allowed FS Bates to jump on the route and get a big paw on the ball sending it skywards. The crowd, who has been deafening prior to the snap watched anxiously as the ball began its descent. CB Zyen Ubaid, who had been balling twice as hard in memory of a close friend tragically taken too soon, peeled off his coverage and secured the falling ball. What followed was without a doubt the best blocking the Centurions have put out on the field, Ubaid slithered left and right as bodies crashed into one other across the field. Eventually he was brought down before he could wriggle free but it was already enough to secure the victory. The offence went back on in their ludicrous shotgun kneel formation and the clock gloriously expired.
The celebrations ensued with Flares, Champagne, and Air horns filling 22 acres. The Centurions had secured a winning record on the season and the Lancaster Bombers were once again silenced and sent home with a big L attached to them. President Andrew Chudnovsky then hoisted the Roses Trophy amid raucous cheers, the hard work and perseverance of the season making the champagne taste particularly sweet. The York Centurions retained their crown against their bitterest rivals and confirmed exactly what the crowd had been screaming all game
“Roses are White, Lancaster are Shite”