Cardinals ready for business

AMERICAN FOOTBALL: Ipswich Cardinals are ready to get back in business for the 2002 season. Following a successful scrimmage against the Essex Spartans last weekend, the preparations are finally over as the campaign begins this weekend.

IPSWICH Cardinals are ready to get back in business for the 2002 season.

Following a successful scrimmage against the Essex Spartans last weekend, the preparations are finally over as the campaign begins this weekend.

Sunday marks the beginning of a new era for the 17-year-old club as they finally attempt to prove they can live with the big boys in Division One.

General manager and club owner Ralph Alexander is hoping the success of last season, that culminated in the Division Two Britbowl champions title, can be carried over into the heady atmosphere of the top flight in British gridiron.

The club's head coach, James Mitchell, and his assistant Mike Keith are fully aware of the task in hand and also realise the huge obstacle the team's opening opponents represent.

Last season the Southern Sundevils, based in Portsmouth, reached the semi-final in the Division One play-offs, losing out to the East Kilbride Pirates. Their American coach Jim Roberson is renowned as leading an almost regimental unit of young, fit players and last season's passage to the final four was spearheaded by the amazing skills of running back Tony Stitt.

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This year the San Francisco 49ers trialist has been joined by another powerful ally in the shape of ex-Brighton B52s star Cliff Reid. But the Division Two champions are no slouches themselves and are adamant they can leave their mark this season.

Once again the Cardinals will be reliant on their no-nonsense, aggressive defending – the hallmark of all their recent triumphs.

Despite a few significant retirements, as players chose to bow out at the top, Mitchell has forged an intimidating group.

Veteran British players like Shaun Rapley, Andy Cowling, Peter Moore and Paul Barclay have again been joined up with the talents of Americans Cartez Hester and Brian Petterway. The lure of Division One has also tempted three players with championship medals from other teams as Gary Gonzalves and Steve Picket (London Capitals) and Luke Box (London Olympians) have joined this season.

Offensively, there is also a mix of new and old as serviceman Marvin Jimerson takes up the quarterback reins. The beef in front of the multi-talented Texan is anchored, as usual, by centre Marcus Woolf, while Picket and another newcomer Willie Farrow will add muscle to the points scoring half of the squad.

The Cardinals have prospered from the arrival of several players with college experience, including Warwick University's exciting Steve Coles.

Whether his talents will outshine last season's Britbowl MVP (Most Valuable Player) Paul Borstel remains to be seen and with support from Stuart Brereton and Stevie Stephens in the backfield the ground game looks strong.

Jimerson's targets downfield will be veteran receiver Ian Girling and the speedster Matt Nicoll, with tight end Matt Donaldson making up the trio.

Once again the club has been boosted by the continued sponsorship of Maritime Cargo Processing. Charles Wilkinson's invaluable backing has ensured Alexander's headaches are only small ones again.

Electricity suppliers 24/7 have sponsored the match balls and game day sponsors are also welcomed.

The Cardinals' first home fixture is on Sunday, April 28, against the London Mets at Northgate Sports Centre.

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