The Belfast Trojans secured the Irish American Football League North with a convincing win over the Carrickfergus Knights at Deramore Park.
A substantial crowd gathered under the ‘Friday Night Lights’ to celebrate the Fourth of July by watching one of America’s favourite pastimes – football.
The ‘Independence Day Bowl’, as it was dubbed, finished with a score line symbolic of the day itself, 50-0, to the ‘Green Army’ – one point for each U.S. state.
It was a decent start by both defences, as they each forced their opposition’s offence to punt away possession on fourth down. By the end of the first quarter however, the Trojans offence had found itself in the red zone after a series of successful runs and wide receiver screens by Dave Colvin and Fu Faapito.
At the beginning of the second quarter, Neil Montgomery capitalised on this strong field position and opened the scoring for the Trojans with a designed fullback run. Although the Knights failed to respond with a score, their running back was able to cause problems for the defending Irish champions over their next couple of possessions.
Arguably the moment of the match came close to halftime when Trojans quarterback James McKelvey, scrambling right to avoid pressure, threw a touchdown pass to Colvin even Aaron Rodgers would be proud of. There was further action before the half, as Jon-Erik Talvio made a ball-hawking interception and return for a touchdown off a Carrickfergus throw.
David Richardson made two strong catches for the Belfast team early in the third quarter, the second of which was a touchdown grab. Talvio showed his mettle once again with a fierce tackle that led to a punt on fourth down.
Shortly into the fourth quarter, Colvin rushed for a big gain setting up excellent field position for the team in green. Faapito caught another wide receiver screen that fell just shy of the goal line, but after a short play and some deliberation by the officials, a touchdown was awarded. Colvin added more points to his tally on a two-point conversion, which thereafter, became something of a habit when a touchdown was scored.
Despite the positive response from the Knights and in particular, mystery man,who made a superb snatch before galloping away from numerous Trojans, they could not score. Moreover, they failed to contain the home side a further two times, as wideout Andrew Wrightand linebacker Jonathan McConnell both recorded scores.
Player/Interim Head Coach of the winning side, Mark McGrath, spoke humbly of his opposition at the end of the game, ‘they gave us a real battle, I don’t think the score line really does it justice.’
The Knights have some positives to take away from the game, but one very important lesson to learn is, as Devenney revealed, not to fall behind early, because ‘when things start rolling downhill, it’s very very hard to stop that ball rolling.’ The Trojans have now just one game standing between them and a familiar place in the final of the IAF Association Shamrock Bowl.