Renegade Outlaws Outscored as Exiles Excel
Kent Exiles Junior 18 - 14 South London Renegades Junior
After a nervous start and finish, the Kent Exiles Junior team came away from Croydon with a tough, but well earned road win against the South London Renegades. First half touchdowns from Sam Rogers and Ryan Nestor, and a fourth quarter interception return by Charles Mulvihill were enough for the Exiles in the end, despite a late rally from the Renegades.
WR Sam Rogers with a scoring grab
Kent made life difficult for themselves on the game’s first series. After mishandling the kickoff return and being called for holding, the Exiles started their first drive inside their own 10 yard line. After failing to move the ball on the ground, QB Ben Abbott looked for Dan Reeves on third down, but a tipped pass was intercepted by a Renegades DB and returned 25 yards for the opening score. The conversion was missed, and the Exiles trailed 6-0.
However the Exiles bounced back immediately on the next series with a quick scoring drive. Slotback Nestor found room on the outside for a big gain into Renegades territory, and a few plays later Abbott hit Rogers on the fade down the left sideline, the big receiver being taking two defenders with him as the Exiles moved inside the South London 10. On third and goal, Abbott again found Rogers at the back of the end zone to tie the game at 6 apiece. Kent thought they had hit the 2-point conversion as Abbott found Reeves, but the officials ruled the receiver down just short of the goal line.
Ryan Nestor leaps above for the go-ahead score
The Exiles defense had some early success against the Renegades offense, with some excellent gang tackling stifling their opponents running game, and forcing several three-and-outs for the home side. Early in the second quarter, Kent strung together another scoring drive after the defense had provided good field position, and from the Renegades 10, Abbott looked for Nestor over the middle, who made a leaping grab in traffic for the score. Another missed 2-point conversion made the score 12-6, and the momentum had swung significantly towards the Exiles. South London tried to come back in the last few minutes of the half, with a couple of pass completions and some strong running from their RB #24, but the Exiles stepped up to match it, with Robert Kwan and Haydn Allen making impressive stops.
The third quarter saw the Exiles move the ball in spurts, but the Renegades also had some success with some defensive adjustments, getting pressure on QB Abbott. Victor Omolauje ripped off a tackle-breaking 25 yard burst to take Kent into scoring position, but again the Exiles were frustrated in the red zone, and had been unable to establish a comfortable lead.
INT Return by Charles Mulvihill
The Exiles had to wait until the top of the fourth quarter to gain some breathing space, and it was the defense who provided the big play. The Renegades went to the air, but Charles Mulvihill jumped the route from his linebacker position, and returned the interception untouched for a 35-yard score. After another failed conversion, Kent led 18-6 and seemed to be in a strong position, but the game wasn’t over, and the drama was about to increase in final period.
Yannick Obara made his presence felt with a bone-jarring tackle on the ensuing kickoff, and the Renegades started in their own half. After a punt, and a penalty, the Exiles found themselves backed up inside their own five yard line, and were forced to concede a safety, when Abbott was tackled for a loss in the end zone. However, after forcing another punt, Kent put a drive together and Fola Dare appeared to have sealed the game with a 15 yard run to the left corner of the end zone. However, a very late flag for holding negated the score and on the next play, disaster struck. Abbott and Dare fumbled the exchange in the backfield, and neither was able to fall on the loose ball, which was pounced on by a Renegades linebacker, who returned the ball 80 yards the other way to pull within a score. The conversion failed, and what could have been a 24-8 deficit was now 18-14.
South London appeared to be gaining some momentum as the clock ticked down, and they put the ball in the hands of their dangerous running game. After a few plays to move into Kent territory, a dive play up the middle by the Renegades fullback found a crease in the Exiles D for a big gain with only safety Nestor to beat. However, the final big play of the day belonged to Kent, as Nestor made the tackle and was able to strip the ball loose, and after a scramble in which a couple of Renegades had a shot at the recovery, LB Obara jumped on the ball for Kent to preserve the lead.
Kent went three and out, but forced a fumble on the punt return, with Jamie Prentis capping an excellent performance on both sides of the ball with the recovery, and Kent survived a last-ditch “Hail Mary” attempt by the Renegades to leave with the 18-14 victory.
“We showed what we were capable of at times today,” said coach Stewart Muir after the win, “but we still have to iron out some of the mistakes that are hurting us. The Renegades are a tough, athletic team with a lot of potential, and I’m proud of the way we showed the mental toughness to make the plays that were needed when the game was on the line. For the second week running, the team the showed the effort and heart that we asked for and a lot of different guys stepped up to contribute, not just two or three. The game was a little closer than we would have liked, but getting that first win of the year should give us much more confidence going forward.”
The Exiles Juniors have two weeks off to practise hard before taking on the East Kent Mavericks on the road on 15th May. Details of the Kent Exiles Junior teams and fixtures can be found on www.kentexiles.co.uk.