Essex Spartans fell short of a Hollywood style comeback as they fought back from 19-0 down at the end of the first half, to lose 14-19 in their home game with Bury Saints.
Spartans were kicking in the first half and Bury were aggressive from the start as, despite being in their own half on 4th down, instead of punting they ran, failing to make the yardage, and turning over the ball on downs. However, the Spartans couldn’t capitalise and went 4th and out, an accurate punt putting the Saints back inside their own 10.
From the next possession, the Saints got their running game going, a tactic that the Spartans struggled with all game. The Saints earned a couple of first downs in quick succession, seizing the momentum, before turning over the ball as the quarterback failed to bring the ball under his control from the snap, resulting in a turnover in possession. To make matters worse, the Saints were then penalised from roughing the quarterback, moving the ball 15 yards and on to their 13.
But again, the Spartans couldn’t take advantage, turning over on downs, and on the last play of the quarter, the Saints quarterback found a receiver, bringing them to their 37.
So, it was scoreless at the end of the first quarter, but the Saints offense was about to get rolling. The running game again caused the Spartans problems, along with discipline, as a first down run had 15 yards added due to a late hit. The Saints quarterback and running back were getting a lot of joy and it was only a matter of time before they were positioned in the Spartans 10, running in for a touchdown. The following kick was good, giving the Saints a 7-0 lead.
The Spartans needed to compose themselves and settle in again, but things got worse as on the second play after the kickoff, the ball was fumbled on the a run, allowing the Saints to run in another touchdown. The kick play was unsuccessful due to an inaccurate snap and the Spartans were left with it all to do at 13-0.
Spartans did find a first down in their next possession, but again hit the wall, giving the ball back to the Saints around halfway. This time the Saints hurt them with their passing as they moved to the Spartans 33, before they reverted to their running game, the quarterback and running back giving the Spartans the run-around. The defence just couldn’t deal with them, and it was no surprise when the Saints ran in another touchdown, failing to get the 2 point conversion, 19-0.
There was a chink of light for the Spartans as on the resulting kick-off, Ernest Owusu returned to the Saints 20, but the Spartans again failed to get any momentum going, quarterback Myles Peterson failing to connect with a number of passes. The Spartans trudged off 19-0 at half-time, with Head Coach Sean Benton having to pick up his side.
The 3rd quarter didn’t start much better for the Spartans. Despite Lawrence Reid returning the kickoff to halfway, the offense couldn’t get going and turned over the ball on their own 15.
Then came a moment of controversy. As the Saints turned the ball over on downs, Eugene Tangney was called for targeting, being automatically ejected from the game. Tangney was clearly upset with the call, having to be calmed down by his teammates, but it seemed to spark the offense into life as, from the next play, Felix Olu ran near the length of the field to score a touchdown and, although the 2 point conversion failed, the Spartans were on the scoresheet, 6-19.
The momentum was with the Spartans as Ernest Owusu intercepted a Saints pass, but a fumble seemed to dampen spirits as the Saints regained possession. But the Spartans weren’t to be denied as, on the last play of the 3rd quarter, the Saints quarterback was hit, fumbling the ball, the Spartans running in a touchdown and a 2 point conversion. It was 14-19 and the Spartans were on the verge of a massive comeback.
The 4th quarter began with the Spartans defence dominating the Saints, with the quarterback sacked and the ball being turned over on downs on the Saints 15. But again, Peterson’s passes weren’t connecting and the Saint regained possession. The Spartans defence wasn’t giving up, the quarterback again sacked before Harry Shelton intercepted around halfway.
Finally the passing game worked as Joe Parsons was picked out, before a running play earned a 1st down. The Spartans were again their own worst enemy as a fumble resulted in a turnover on the Saints 30.
The Spartans regained possession on their own 32 just after the 2 minute warning, with Jimmy Dawson taking over quarterback duties. He picked out Felix Olu on 4th down, on the Saints 45 with less than a minute left. Playing hurry-up offense, Dawson picked out a receiver again, spiking the ball, with 12 seconds left. With time enough for one play, Dawson was sacked, and the clock ran down, leaving Spartans so close to a great comeback.
Final score: Essex Spartans 14 Bury Saints 19