Division Busted Wide Open
Sharks Situated 3rd in Division with 3 Wins and 2 Losses
After a strong start to the season, the Cornish Sharks campaign to win their division and qualify for the playoffs has coughed and spluttered, but this week in their fifth game, the Sharks are back to winning form beating Swindon Storm 54-2 at the Shark Tank.
With both Swindon Storm and Cornish Sharks standing at 2 wins and 2 losses when they faced off at Treviglas School on Saturday, the Sharks had the slight edge having beaten the Storm in the first game of the season 7-16 at Swindon. However, Swindon Storm had beaten Oxford and Oxford has beaten the Sharks, so the Division II South West has been very tough to predict. Having secured a win against Torbay Trojans the week before, with reduced numbers and key players unavailable, the Sharks were feeling good, but knew Swindon to be tough opponents, so nothing was taken for granted.
To make things even more interesting Coach Smallworth had been insulted about his age this week on social media, with someone accusing him of running only a limited number of plays but as Coach Smallworth explains: “Having a game plan is all well and good and any good coach will have one, having studied their opposition and taken account of their own squad’s capabilities and limitations. But what people sometimes don’t appreciate is that if your squad changes on the morning of the game, and your starting QB for example isn’t available, it’s a complete game changer and you need to adapt and think on your feet and yes, to some extent, be cautious. But just because this old dinosaur had to limit what was on offer to meet new challenges, doesn’t mean I don’t have a few surprises up my sleeve when my full starting line is available as it was this Saturday against Swindon Storm.”
So the Sharks really had the bit between their teeth when the game kicked off with Sharks receiving the ball on the 5 yard line to start their offensive drive. Moving the ball effectively up the field with a strong performance with both pass and run plays from new Shark’s QB Joby Wolfenden-Brown. In 4-5 plays the Sharks had their first score on the board with a touchdown from a pass to Leigh Ambridge (wide receiver) who was in the end zone. Point after from Dave Kriehn (slot receiver) was good so the score was 7-0.
As the game progressed, the Sharks defense put pressure on the Storm offense forcing them to make mistakes. One by one, the Swindon base plays were shut down by the Sharks, and it became a very frustrating game for them - their offense struggled to get past three plays and punt with possession returning to the Sharks.
It became obvious as the game progressed that the Shark's Offensive Line started to dominate the defensive lineman from Swindon. They opened up some massive holes for the running backs and giving the quarter back loads of time in the pocket to pass the ball with some great pass protection. This is a line that is made up of experienced and youth players and they are gelling together as a unit under the coaching of Ryan Girling, the first Cornish Academy player to gain a scholarship in the USA at Graceland University, Iowa. He has brought the knowledge he gained in the States as well as from his time under Coach Bob Shaw.
Coach Smallworth and his coaching team had been watching game film of Swindon in the week previously and had identified a number of areas of weakness. So he set up a number of formations to test the Swindon reaction, trying to exploit the weaknesses identified. He showed the run and their defense moved players up to cover the run so then he would pass the ball, which took them by surprise but was a successful formula with four TDs being scored in the air (two each for Perran Andrews, and one each for Dave Kriehn and Leigh Ambridge) and two TDs on the ground – one by Shaun “Rhino” Griffen (his fifth TD in five games) and one by QB Wolfenden-Brown, who kept the ball and ran around the defenders 20 yards into the end zone.
The score at half time was 35-0.
The second half saw the Cornish Sharks defence, which has flourished under new Defensive Coordinator Mark Wilkins, follow through with the plans they had been practicing which worked well and kept the Swindon Storm offense off the field. Their only points came when they blocked a Shark’s punt, which then bounced around in the end zone and ran out the back for the two points. The Shark’s Defense added to the notable score with no fewer than six interceptions, two of which resulted in touch-downs - interceptions by Leigh Ambridge playing Strong Safety and Josh Theophanides Middle Line Backer running the ball in for TDs. Richard Howlett, playing linebacker got two interceptions. All extra points were kicked by David Kriehn and all hit their mark.
Coach Smallworth said of the game: “It was a great team effort today, we worked hard the previous week preparing for this game and by moving personnel to areas where we can maximize their effectiveness it worked and defense was strengthened. We worked hard on the passing game, which has been a sore point this year and to see the defense applying pressure, was good to put it in action and show it has some impact on our opponents and I hope it will continue to get better.
“Finally, seeing our young academy players really making their mark is such a proud thing for me as I have coached and watch them develop since they were 13 and 14 years of age. Matt Chapman (Penzance Buccaneers) – playing linebacker/fullback who has come through the academy made a tackle yesterday that would make any seasoned player proud and Jake Law (St Austell Spartans) bulldozed his way through the Storms defense playing fullback to open up a running lane for Shaun Griffen. More are coming up in the forthcoming months. In fact, one was unable to play on Saturday because he wasn’t 18 until Sunday, so I am really looking forward to him joining the ranks at the next game.”
Great News Coverage - thanks to Cornish Guardian & Newquay Voice