Cardinals start new league with win

AMERICAN FOOTBALL: Southern Sundevils 6 Ipswich Cardinals 19. Ipswich Cardinals rose to the challenge of their first season in the top division of the British Senior League in fine style on Sunday.

Southern Sundevils 6 Ipswich Cardinals 19

Ipswich Cardinals rose to the challenge of their first season in the top division of the British Senior League in fine style on Sunday.

Taking on the Southern Sundevils at the Wellington Sports ground on the outskirts of Southampton, the visitors won a cracking match 19-6.

The prospect of the opening challenge against last year's beaten semi-finalists, away from home, was a daunting one for the Maritime Cargo Processing backed side.

Head coach James Mitchell had his squad well prepared though, but even he could not have envisaged the 19-point lead with just minutes left to play.

The match was all the more intriguing as a spectacle because of the contrast in styles of the two teams. The hosts employed an all-out passing attack, throwing the ball on virtually every single offensive play

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whereas Ipswich mainly kept the ball on the ground, switching running backs in and out and passing the ball infrequently.

The Cardinals had the first opportunity to score after both sides had seen their opening drives fail to come to anything when Steve Coles missed a 36-yard field goal attempt.

The speedy TXU worker soon made amends after safety Gary Gonzalves had intercepted a Cliff Boddington pass to win the ball. Breaking free down the left, Coles was celebrating long before he crossed the Sundevils' goal line from 34 yards out.

The PAT (point after touchdown) attempt was missed.

The Sundevils' highly effective passing game advanced the ball constantly, with Boddington finding the "underneath" receivers time after time for eight, ten or 12 yard gains.

The Cardinal defence was bending, but failed to break. Once the hosts had advanced close to the Ipswich ten-yard line, they had, in effect, run out of field and as the openings for receivers diminished, the opportunities for interceptions increased.

Ipswich linebacker Cartez Hester was the next to steal possession and the hosts ran out of time in their final possession of the half, going into the interval with a 6-0 lead.

Cardinals quarterback Marvin Jimerson was playing on both the offence and the defence and his interception at the Cardinal 11-yard line signalled the end of another promising Sundevil drive.

He guided the offence upfield and Nick Smith kicked his first successful field goal of the new season from 32 yards out to give the Suffolk side a nine point lead.

Again the Ipswich defence held firm to deny the hosts any score and the Cardinals took over at their own seven-yard line.

After a strong scamper from Stevie Stephens, Jimerson stole a little of Boddington's thunder when he completed two long-pass plays, firstly to Matt Nicol down the right sideline and secondly to Ian Girling, down the left.

Last season's Britbowl MVP (most valuable player) Paul Borstel blasted his way to the score from short yardage and with Steven Wells' conversion of the PAT and a 16-0 scoreline, the Cardinals began to realise a shock victory was in the making.

That score seemed to unsettle the hosts too and after throwing two incomplete passes, Boddington was picked off for the fourth time, as linebacker Paul Barclay delighted the travelling throng.

That interception led to another Smith field goal, this time from 34 yards, to extend the lead to 19.

In the fourth quarter things continued to go the Cardinals' way as Mike Reed and Luke Box chalked-up interceptions five and six and it wasn't until the two minute warning had been announced that the Sundevils finally got on the board.

Back-up quarter-back Teddy Baynam scrambled to his right and just released a pass before he was flattened by three hungry Ipswich defenders. He didn't see his intended target Dave Fredericks come down with the ball, but the consolation score was marked up on the scoreboard and the Cardinals ran out the clock.

As realisation sank in, the Cardinals squad and their general manager and owner Ralph Alexander can feel safe in the newly-found knowledge that they can compete in the top flight, but preparations for next week's first home fixture are already well under way. It'll still be a long hard season for the new boys and they're fully aware of that, but this win was a great way to start their 2002 campaign.

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