Depleted Cardinals outclass Aztecs

American football: Bristol Aztecs 0 Ipswich Cardinals 29OF the ten gridiron games played in the British Senior League on Sunday, only one resulted in a home team win and the travelling Ipswich Cardinals kept their unbeaten record on track.

OF the ten gridiron games played in the British Senior League on Sunday, only one resulted in a home team win and the travelling Ipswich Cardinals kept their unbeaten record on track.

Having beaten Bristol Aztecs at Northgate last weekend, the return match at the British Aerospace Welfare Association sports ground in Filton, Bristol, saw the Suffolk side go one better by not conceding a point.

This victory means they have scored 253 points and given up just 18 while compiling their league leading six-out-of-six record.

This road trip looked a daunting prospect with as many as eight Cardinal players unable to suit up and an Aztec side promising a much harder contest after last week's 39-6 mauling.

And so it proved as the visitors were slow out of the blocks, unable to shake off the long, hot journey and the hosts giving their all to try to halt the Cardinal juggernaut.

Bristol managed to drive as far as the Ipswich 23-yard line before surrendering possession while head coach James Mitchell's frustrations were not eased until the final two minutes of the half.

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A promising drive, led by quarterback Marvin Jimerson and helped along by a late hit and pass interference penalties against the hosts, culminated in a superb catch by tight end Matt Donaldson of an 11 yard pass from Jimerson in the Aztec endzone.

Sandy Francis' extra point attempt was charged down and at the interval the Cardinals held a 6-0 advantage.

As the second half got under way, it became evident the Cardinals offense had stepped up another gear. The Bristol defense were at sixes and sevens as they failed to counter the bruising runs of Paul Borstel, the out-and-out speed of Steve Coles and the twisting runs of Stevie Stephens.

Add into the mix the passing threat from Jimerson as well and it was obvious there was only one team that would run out winners of this encounter.

Jimerson sprinted around the Aztec defense from 32 yards out to register the Cardinals second score, capping a magnificent 80 yard drive that surely impressed the spectators, however partisan.

Francis kicked the extra point to increase the lead to 13.

Inspired by their colleagues, the Cardinals defense also stepped up a notch. Bristol's huge offensive line were neutralised by Ipswich defensive linemen Chris Webb, Justin Beard, Paul Barclay and Donaldson, allowing linebackers Cartez Hester, Tony Groden, Luke Box and the relentless Peter Moore the opportunities to pulverise the Bristol running game. When attempting to run outside, the Aztec runners were quickly cut down by Stuart Brereton and Tabari Thompson.

The Cardinals scored again on their next possession when Borstel powered into the endzone from six yards out after another impressive drive and, as the clock ticked into the fourth quarter, Jimerson completed a 50 yard pass to his favourite target Brereton, down the right hand sideline for the fourth touchdown of the day.

Francis completed the rout by kicking a 32 yard field goal, taking the score to 29 but the celebrations by the Suffolk men were muted by a late Bristol surge that nearly spoiled the Ipswich party.

The gutsy hosts seemed determined to register some kind of response but the Cardinal defense wouldn't open up and the last pass attempt fell into empty space, leaving the Ipswich offense just 55 seconds to run out the clock and claim another fine win.

This victory has almost certainly clinched Ralph Alexander's team a play-off berth and, unfortunately, consigned the Aztecs to a Division Two spot next season.

As the joyous squad travelled the long way back to Suffolk, all thoughts turned to next week's huge showdown against the PA Knights, considered by many as a real powerhouse these days and, of course, there's the little matter of a Division Two Bowl game two years ago from which many Ipswich players are still smarting.

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