The Pythons’ offence held their nerve to score a vital touchdown on a fourth down from one yard outRobert Guy

The Cambridge University Pythons American Football Club (the Pythons) continued their strong start to the season with a nail-biting 15–14 win over the Kent Falcons in their first home game of the season. 

Facing a very physical Kent side who had also made a winning start to the campaign, a repeat of the Light Blues’ 35–8 victory against Royal Holloway never looked likely. A close match was anticipated, and this seventh meeting between the two sides did not disappoint. 

The Pythons lined up slightly differently than they did against Royal Holloway: in an ambitious move that few university teams would ever dream of, starting Quarterback and overall captain Tom Carr also started the match as a Defensive Lineman. The Light Blues also saw the return to the starting line-up of formerly injured Wide-Receiver Oli Iyer, while rookie first-year Tight-End Sam Clarke had his strong training performances rewarded with a place in the starting line-up.

The match began with instant Pythons pressure as Kent found themselves on their own six-yard line after an illegal block during their kick return. Emboldened, the Pythons defence held Kent on the six-yard line for fourth down in which Kent lined up to punt the ball. Unfortunately for Kent, a mixture of Pythons pressure and poor snapping led to a safety to give the home side a 2–0 lead. The rest of the first quarter saw the Pythons and Kent trade offensive drives in a tightly-fought battle for control.

The second quarter saw the Pythons offence get into their stride: Carr and Joe Moore lit up proceedings in the Light Blues’ first offensive drive with a 25-yard completion. Though this came to nothing and even allowed the away side the ball at their own 25-yard line, a superb strip-sack from Carr on Kent’s next third down saw possession returned to the Light Blues. And Carr, in point-scoring mood, rumbled the ball into the end zone himself from two yards out, with an extra point kick from Ethan Brown giving the Pythons a 9–0 lead at half-time.

Yet Kent were to come out fighting for the second half, and the third quarter saw the typically strong Pythons defence buckle as Kent came to dominate for the first time in the match. Their first offensive drive of the second half included a 17-yard completion and successive running completions that resulted in the away side securing their first points of the match via a touchdown. But in what would prove to be a crucial moment, Kent failed to convert the touchdown, leaving the Pythons with a three-point cushion.

Nonetheless, the away side continued to pile on the pressure, scoring again on their next offensive drive to take the lead, 14–9 in their favour, for the first time in the match. The Pythons’ defence, seemingly impenetrable during their domination of the first two quarters, appeared to have collapsed. 

However, they soon regained their composure, forcing a fumble on a Kent punt to give their offence the ball at the away side's 17-yard line. Moments later, a pin-point Carr pass to Eli Calocane put the Pythons on the one-yard line, but the next three downs were unsuccessful. So with five minutes left on the clock, the Light Blues’ fourth and final down from one yard away from the end zone needed to result in a score. With those on the sideline unable to watch, the Pythons’ dynamic duo of Carr and Moore combined again to give the home side a narrow 15-14 lead.

With little time remaining, it was down to the Pythons’ defence to stand strong. An Ethan Cox interception and a Carr sack ensured Kent were pegged back, leaving the away side panicking as they ran out of options. With just two minutes left to play, this choking squeeze enabled the Pythons to get the ball back, giving them the ability to end the game so long as they secured a final first down marker.

But to add to the drama, the Light Blues failed to do so and, with 10 seconds left on the clock, Kent were given a lifeline. But with hearts pounding on the final play of the game, a majestic Oli Iyer interception denied the away side the winning points to give the Pythons their second win of the season in as many games.

Cambridge Pythons: Carr (c), Bransden, Richer, Moore, Choksey, Calocane, Rae, Brewster, Iyer, Alloway, Brown, Adeosun, Stockdale, Knott, Val Mas, Amin Said, Haidar, Bennett, Dalton, Lorenz, Balletine, Chan, Cox, Venner, Liu, Comb, Muzani, Clarke

The Pythons’ next game takes place on 27th November in Cambridge against the UEA Pirates. All are welcome to attend and admission is free. The Pythons recruit throughout the year; no previous playing experience is necessary. Anyone interested in joining one of the fastest-growing sports in the UK can contact them via their Facebook Page

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