09 Mar PRIDE’s undefeated streak broken by France
By Lucas Milsom (Sports Journalism Student at SGS College)
France Academy 28 – 12 Pride Academy
The Bristol Academy PRIDE rematch against the French National Team was a gratifying sequel for the touring French players, as Bristol fell short in a Saturday night shootout at Wise Campus.
Bristol Academy’s second international game against the French this academic year was a tough one to watch for home players, and fans alike, as France came away with a 28-12 victory.
Nevertheless, supporters were treated to exceptional performances and big plays throughout the four quarters on both sides of the ball.
Last October, the PRIDE went across the channel for their first international test against the French National Team. The game was a tough one for Bristol players, but they came through in the clutch to win it with a pick-6 by Bristol cornerback and college football aspirant Eddie Onamade along with a terrific touchdown by running back Tapiwa Craig.
Bristol’s focus has been on maintaining the undefeated record they’ve established over the past 12 months and taking a home win against France. Where as after their loss against Bristol last October, the French had their focus set on getting even by taking back a win against the defending home side.
There was no doubt coming into this game that fans would be treated with a hard-hitting shootout, as both sides gave it their all for the full 60 minutes.
The game got off to a shaky start for Bristol.
After a drop on the opening the kickoff (which was luckily recovered by Bristol), Calvin Stitt went out guns blazing to open up the first quarter with deep shots downfield and hard running by Tapiwa Munemo moved the offence downfield. Unfortunately, the drive came to an end as France’s defence held strong and forced an incomplete pass In the endzone on a 4th and long, which put the French side in a good position to take the lead early in the first quarter.
Bristol’s defence went out to the field after the turnover and led a solid all round performance, stuffing France’s running game up the middle along with numerous tackles for losses on the outside led by linebacker Uchenna Obasi and safety Cameron Burkinshaw, leaving France, like Bristol were, in a 4th and long but they managed to score on a 24-yard pass for a touchdown.
Bristol’s offence was ready to answer the French score. After a three and out from both teams, a perfect throw by home team quarterback Stitt along with a super-diving grab by Lander Imbimbo moved them into the red zone, where Imbimbo came good again with another big play for the touchdown, after a quick pass by Stitt on the outside, to make the score 7-6 after a failed two-point conversion.
Both defences performed outstandingly in the next three drives as no points were scored by either side until France managed to stick another seven points on the board on aanother roll-out pass for the touchdown and a PAT, leaving Bristol with an 8-point deficit as the score went To 14-6 in favour of France.
Bristol were backed up deep in their half after France’s kick-off, putting them in a tough field position which was taken advantage by the opposing defense. After a three and out and a botched punt of 7 yards, France were given an excellent opportunity to put points on the board.
France came out and took that opportunity to give them a two-score lead. With two consecutive long passes and strong running through the trenches, the French offence pushed the ball into the end zone for a touchdown along with the PAT, leaving Bristol in a difficult position on offence to try and chip away at France’s 21–6 lead in the closing minutes of the first half.
Throughout the third quarter of play, Bristol’s defensive line came through for them by disrupting France’s momentum. Pride’s Swedish prospect Eric Sjostedt caused devastation on the line with a forced and recovered fumble, along with Alex Ngunjoh’s recovery after another forced fumble. Bristol’s defense went all-out to give their offense good field position and opportunities to score. However, their efforts seemed in vein as their offense failed to take advantage of the turnovers and good field position.
Along with Bristol, France failed to score after two turnovers by the Bristol offence. Their second drive was ended on third down with a game changing sack for a loss of 12 yards by Bristol rookie, Louis Gallagher, forcing France to punt on fourth down.
After the two demoralising interceptions, Bristol’s offence decided to reward the defense for their efforts and cut into France’s lead with a drive of toughness, determination and strength led by Bristol’s offensive line and receivers, as Stitt scrambled, Munemo ran and finally Stitt threw his way into the end zone with a solid catch by receiver Stefan Collins to make the score 21 -12 after a failed two-point conversion.
Bristol’s defense were not the only ones who had answers for their turnovers and efforts. France’s running back came out and made a huge run for 70 yards before being brought down at the goal line by safeties Fabio Baio and Chase Johnston. The French offense gave the viewers a last show of determination as their offensive line pushed them into the end zone for a final touchdown and PAT, leaving the final score at 28–12 to France. A disappointing result for Bristol but a well deserved victory for the French players.
Despite the loss and trailing through the game Bristol’s defense did not stop grinding and imposing their will with many defensive stars coming up and making big plays for their team. The defensive line held France’s running game for very little on the outside and up the middle and and put France in a fourth down situation on 70% of their drives. However, their secondary struggled to maintain their coverage on deep passing plays and play action passes throughout the game.
Bristol’s offensive came through in clutch moments of the game and did really well at protecting the quarterback with only one sack on the day for France’s defense. All though they struggled with the deep ball, short passes worked well against the French secondary and allowed them to drive down the field on both of their scoring drives for touchdowns.
The most impressive aspect of Bristol’s play is that the players did not allow the scoreboard to affect their play and they kept trying to chip away at the French lead until the final drive despite the odds against them.
It will be interesting to see what Bristol will take forward from the loss and how it will affect their play in their upcoming game against touring Canadian team, Selwyn House.