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Kent Head West to Get Revenge

Bristol Aztecs 11 - Kent Exiles 18


The Kent Exiles (2-4) snapped a 2 game losing streak to move to a 2-1 1a divisional record, with a gutsy road win against the division-leading Bristol Aztecs (3-4).

Rebounding from a heavy defeat against the London Blitz a week earlier, and a 28-18 home reversal to the Aztecs 4 weeks earlier, the Exiles relied on key performances from the full depth of their squad, as several players stepped up their game in critical situations.

Kent gained an early advantage in the field position battle as safety Mark Evans intercepted Bristol QB Dave Keen on the game’s third play, giving the Exiles the ball inside the Bristol 40. Kent’s opening offensive series saw receiver Hana Rabuzin make further history, after becoming the Exiles first ever female player a week earlier, her 15 yard catch-and-run from a Matt Duncan pass set Kent up with a first down inside the Bristol 20. However the drive stalled when Bristol’s sacked Duncan for an 11 yard loss on 4th down.

After an exchange of punts, Kent began the 2nd quarter with an impressive drive. Jordan Cropper, stepping in at tailback, ripped off a 28 yard run over right tackle to take the Exiles into the Bristol redzone. Duncan then hit Sean Starwind on consecutive passes, the second of which the receiver caught in heavy traffic for a 13-yard touchdown. Tom Proctor blocked the extra point attempt, and the Exiles led 6-0.

The Exiles defence, led on the day by the linebacking corps of Mark Vickers, Paul Samartin, and Aaron Alexis, forced another Bristol punt. After a 17 yard punt return by Alex Campbell, Kent found themselves again in the Bristol redzone with time running out in the half. Duncan completed passes to Glen Boyle (4 receptions for 27 yards) and then Adam Pearson inside the Aztec 5-yard line, to set up Jordan Cropper on a 3 yard blast into the endzone. After another missed extra point, the Exiles took a 12-0 lead into the interval, aware that Bristol had already showed their come from behind ability against them already this season.

QB Dave Keen showed his ability as the Aztecs began the second half with much more purpose. Interspersed with some good running by tailbacks Matt Barrett and Nick Proctor, Keen marched his unit down the field to set up a Chris Hunt field goal to cut the deficit to 9. That was all the scoring for the 3rd period, but Bristol began the 4th looking to score again.

This time however, Keen’s pass was perfectly read by Exiles standout linebacker Aaron Alexis (11 tackles, 1 INT) whose interception and 22-yard return turned the momentum back to the Exiles. Duncan then connected with Boyle for 10 yards, Starwind for 9, and then Boyle one more time for 4 yards and the touchdown, the fullback taking 2 Aztec defenders and the referee with him into the endzone.

Kent led 18-3 with around 9 minutes to go. Keen went back to work for Bristol, hitting Matt Barrett on a middle screen which the running back turned into a big gain inside the Exiles 20, and the drive was capped by Nick Proctor’s 1 yard burst into the endzone, followed by the 2-point conversion to bring the Aztecs to within a touchdown at 18-11.

However Paul Pester recovered the ensuing onside kick, allowing Kent to burn vital seconds, and Bristol’s last chance ended when Campbell picked off a Keen pass to seal victory.

For the Exiles, Matt Duncan put in a stellar performance with 16 of 37 passing for 147 yards, 2 TDs and no interceptions. Duncan spread the ball around to 6 different receivers, the pick being Starwind with 7 for 68 yards. Cropper led the Exiles ground game with 53 yards and a TD. On defence, Vickers made 12 tackles and Samartin 8. Commenting on the win, Coach Mitchell said: “this was a great performance at a time in the season when it was needed most. I’m really proud of the way guys stepped up, we got big plays from a number of different sources today. Hopefully this will be a big turning point in our season”. Kent’s next game is on the road against Ipswich in 2 weeks time.


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