Okai The Noo As Phoenix Sweep The Pirates

June 7th, 2023

East Kilbride Pirates 21 – Tamworth Phoenix 33

With Neil Baptie still sidelined by injuries suffered in the previous game between these two teams, and Scott McKigen, who was the QB who finished that game, also unavailable, East Kilbride gave Cameron Dunn his first senior start at Quarterback. Dunn’s journey to this point has been an interesting one. He started playing with the now-defunct Edinburgh Wolves Youth team, before transferring to the Napier Knights and then going on to take part in a student exchange programme to spend part of his senior year at a US high school. On return, he played in the U19 age group with the Pirates before progressing to the senior team as a linebacker rather than in his customary QB role, as well as playing uni-ball back at Napier. From there, he embarked on a scholarship to finish the last two years of his degree in the US with St. John Fisher University in New York State where he’s been kitting up with their varsity team, the Cardinals. Sunday was his first game back since returning to Scotland. He had to watch however as Tamworth’s Offense took to the field first. They moved the ball steadily on the ground and duly scored when Bryan Okai carried home from 38-yards for an unconverted TD. The teams then went through a stage of 3-and-out drives, with both punters getting a chance to shine. That pattern was broken late in the period when Fergus “Goose” McNiven intercepted a Tamworth pass and returned it to the Phoenix 20-yard line. It took EK just one play to capitalise, Dunn connecting with Struan Bailey for the score. Scott McDonald converted to give the Pirates a 7-6 lead.

Despite an early missed 31-yard Field Goal attempt by the visitors, the second quarter saw Defenses on top, with the home unit forcing turnovers on  successive Tamworth possessions. Interceptions by Sean Dickie and Marcus Galanti helping keep the Phoenix attack at bay. As the interval approached, EK increased their lead. Dunn once more connected with Bailey, this time from 40-yards out. McDonald’s PAT was again good for a 14-6 advantage. With the last play of the half, Tamworth attempted a 42-yard Field Goal, but the kick was well short of the target.

The Pirates received the restart kick off but failed to make any headway, and a good punt return saw Tamworth start deep in Pirates’ territory. A succession of short runs took them to the 15-yard line, and from there James Horne was able to find his receiver open in the endzone. The Extra Point was good, reducing the Pirates’ lead to just 1 point. That lead disappeared completely on the next Phoenix drive. It was running back Okai who again did the damage. His 20-yard TD run was also converted, putting his team 20-14 ahead. East Kilbride bounced straight back though, and a 10-play drive concluded with a 15-yard pass from Dunn to Fraser McDonald and the PAT saw the Pirates back in front 21-20 as the game headed to the fourth quarter.

Just three plays into the final period, the lead changed hands yet again. Okai scored his third TD of the day on a 2-yard run and James Hobson added the Extra Point. As EK tried to respond, disaster struck. Forced to punt from deep in their own territory, McDonald’s kick was batted up in the air by Daniel Shodipo, and it was he who reacted quickest to grab the loose ball as it rolled into the endzone. The PAT drifted wide right, but Tamworth now held a 2-score lead. Despite their best efforts, EK couldn’t score again, their closest being when Dunn was intercepted in the endzone.

Cameron Dunn received the MVP award for his 3 TD performance but still another disappointing result for the Pirates, who now fall to 1-3 for the season. There is no time for EK to feel sorry for themselves however, as they are straight back into action this coming Sunday (June 11th) when they host Leicester Panthers at GHA Rugby Club.

Game report by Bill Campbell
Photos courtesy Duncolm Sports Photography – you can find a full gallery from the game here


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