Twenty plus degree heat, a ten-hour day, eight touchdowns, and a near fifty-point game was endured this past weekend as the Nottingham Sport took in the British American Football Association (BAFA) Division One Northern Play-Off Final between the Nottingham Caesars, and hosts Northumberland Vikings.
Unfortunately for the Caesars, it wasn’t to be, the hosts eventually running out 34-13 victors and taking promotion to Premier North themselves, at the third time of asking, much to the delight of the home Head Coach Bryce Stevenson, captain Conor Joyce, and vice-captain Robbie Brumpton.
The Caesars though, they’ll look to go again in 2024, having come so close, perhaps against the odds, this time around, they building season on season for that step up; last season the Caesars finished 7-3, this time it was an undefeated 10-0 in NFC1 South, posted a final record of 11-1.
On Sunday though, it could have been the Caesars day, but for a devastating, third quarter from the hosts, which threatened to seem them run away with proceedings, the Caesars having led 13-7 at the break courtesy of Wellington Tafireyi and Josh Oluwatosin TDs, along with a Sam Fraser PAT.
They could have had more as well, it was very much a game of two halves, the Vikings however kept the visitors within arms’ reach, snatching a score of their own through Jacob Shotton, who finished the contest with a TD and four PATs.
The game would also perhaps be remembered for a couple of scuffles, and the odd injury for added measure; however, for whatever reason (and there’s plenty) the Caesars just couldn’t put the contest to bed and, upon the restart, the Vikings ran away with it.
Further TDs were added by Ross Conley, Johnny Mbuyi (rushing) and Lee Davison saw the hosts move out of sight with a 20+ margin (wider than most, including the respective HCs, expected ahead of the tie) – the hosts’ score further added to with those four PATs from Shotton.
On the Caesars touchline, where the Nottingham Sport were pretty much encamped all game long, it afforded great insight into what goes on as Vanden Warner and his coaching team of Grant Lawless, Mike Holden et al, prowled throughout, verbally and physically.
The Caesars Sports Therapist, Becky Stratfull, was kept busy throughout, be it occasional on-field work, or keeping the players in-line, on the touchlines (including an instance of a pillow, duvet and grapes with a Caesars player, and this reporter – don’t ask).
Caesars captain, Will Hobbs, was more-and-more vociferous as the contest wore on, releasing rallying calls in an attempt to fire up the Caesars for that one, final push, he, and his playing, showing much emotion as the clock ran down, and the season ended in heartache.
Speaking of emotions, one moment that will live long in the memory, the reaction of the Caesars QB, Liam MacGovern, towards the end of the contest, he knowing that the season was now done with, and taking the outcome very much to heart; the Caesars though, they’ve nothing to be ashamed despite the result.
Now though, it’s back to the drawing ahead of returning to camp early next year, ahead of the 2024 season; the Caesars of 2023, they gave one hell of an account for themselves and, when all is said and done, and the dust settles, can be proud of it all. In theory, they came just one half of football away from being promoted.
There’s always next year…..
NOTTINGHAM CAESARS 2023 RECORD (11-1; NFC1 South Champions)
Regular Season (10-0) – Sheffield Giants (W 38-0); Sheffield Giants (W 22-12); Birmingham Bulls (W 20-0), Sandwell Steelers (W 50-0); Northants Knights (W 32-9); Sandwell Steelers (W 50-0); Northants Knights (W 47-24); Chester Romans (W21-14); Chester Romans (W 21-7); Birmingham Bulls (W 19-0)
Play-Offs (1-1) – Scunthorpe Alphas (W 20-6); Northumberland Vikings (L 34-13)
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*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @petermannwriter the Nottingham Caesars 2023 team.