Black Country Blues Leave Pirates Down And Out
August 12th, 2019
Sandwell Steelers 21 – East Kilbride Pirates 20
The Pirates’ 2019 Season came to a premature end on Sunday as they narrowly lost out in the Division 1 Playoff Quarter Final.
EK were first in possession but immediately had to punt. However, Sandwell’s initial drive stalled when Ryan Miller picked off a wayward pass from home QB Tristan Varney. Their second drive also came up short, and a low snap saw their punter retrieve the ball with his knee on the ground leaving the Pirates with good field position. QB Neil Baptie gratefully accepted the gift and straight away found James Lightbody with a 34-yard pass into the endzone. Greg Atkinson added the PAT for an early 7-0 advantage. A Gordon Wallace interception on the last play of the period gave East Kilbride the ball to start the second quarter.
A brief, 4-play drive was soon capped by Baptie’s second TD pass of the day. He completed an 8-yard throw to Struan Bailey and Atkinson again converted to double the lead. Sandwell went 3 and out and EK increased their first half superiority by driving down field and scoring for a third time. On the 10th play of the drive, Baptie found Fraser McDonald from 23 yards for the TD. A high snap meant Atkinson was unable to get his PAT kick away, and in the end he was happy to fall on the loose ball. As the half drew to a close, the Steelers finally started to show some momentum on Offense, and their “hurry up” drive inside the last 2 minutes almost brought them success. On the last play of the half, a completed pass looked all set for the endzone before a timely tackle by Ker Stuart held the receiver inches short of the line to preserve the 20-0 advantage.
Both sides punted on their first possessions after the break before the home side finally got on the scoreboard. From their own 25-yard line, mainly running the ball, they progressed to the EKP 10 yard line on 11 plays before Varney connected with Steve Kinnersley for 6 points. However the PAT attempt failed leaving the visitors 20-6 ahead going into the fourth quarter.
Sandwell started the period driving into Pirates’ territory but the East Kilbride Defence stood strong, forcing an incompletion on 4th Down from the 3-yard line. EK then appeared to adopt a “hold what we have” mentality and tried to see the game out and use up as much time as possible. However, two quick pass completions, either side of a penalty for a late hit on QB Varney soon saw the Steelers at the 3-yard line. From there running back Raph Chisholm carried over before Varney passed to Rowan Huggins for the 2PAT, bringing his side to within just 6 points of EK. The Pirates were unable to move the ball, but a good punt pushed Sandwell back as the game moved inside the 2-minute warning. With judicious use of the sideline and their time-outs, the Steelers moved the ball steadily upfield before Chisholm scored again, carrying in from 8 yards. With only seconds left, Gavin Lawrence’s PAT split the uprights to give the home side their first lead of the day. The Pirates, with only 1 time Out remaining managed to squeeze in 5 plays, however the QB was felled on the last of those by a late hit. This gave a free, untimed down to end the game, but Baptie had to leave the field as he had received medical attention after the incident. Angus Mackintosh was called on to heave a “Hail Mary” as far as he could, but as he scrambled to make room, the ball came loose and was recovered by Sandwell to end the tie.
On a day when there were several candidates, the OnPoint Financial MVP award went to Defensive Lineman Steven Kane. Kaney announced after the game that he was retiring following a long career that had seen him win numerous awards and become the central pillar around which the Pirates defence has been built for several seasons. Everyone at the Club wishes him, and all the other retirees, all the best.
Report by Bill Campbell
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