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Exiles Juniors End Season With Tough Loss

Kent Exiles Juniors 0-6 East Kent Mavericks

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The Kent Exiles Juniors went in to their final game of the season against the East Kent Mavericks mathematically out of the playoff race but still with plenty of pride to play for. After a 34-24 defeat to East Kent earlier in the year, the Exiles still had the chance to finish above their division rival if they could deliver a win by 11 points or more. With the game being the last junior game for several long-time Exile junior players, some of whom had been with the team since youth 5-on-5 days, there was still plenty at stake.

The Mavericks received the opening kickoff and made a bright start, putting together a solid opening drive before the Kent defense held firm in the red zone and forced a turnover on downs. Kent answered straight back with a dynamic first offensive series. The offense was bolstered by the return of Centre Tom Rowles and Tackle Joe-John Elliot, and the backfield paring of QB Ben Abbott and all-purpose man Ryan Nestor found gaps in the East Kent D to take Kent into scoring position. However, the Exiles were unable to punch in an opening drive score. After these two drives however, it became clear that this game was not going to be a repeat of the shootout earlier in the year,as both defenses had clearly learnt the lessons from that game. After struggling to contain the Mavericks dangerous scrambling quarterback Gabe Harrison last time, Kent's defense stepped up and provided excellent contain and swarming team defense. DE Victor Omolauje patrolled the outside effectively for Kent, forcing the play inside and making several solo tackles himself.

Kent showed flashes on offense but were unable to convert this into 1st half points, and deadlocked at 0-0, the Mavericks put together a drive as the half wound down. After a deep pass that was almost picked off by Exiles corner Billy Moore, QB Harrison scrambled for a couple of first downs and punctuated this with short completions to his receivers. In scoring position the Kent defense held firm again, and on 3rd down, a scrambling Harrison was taken down by a hard, but clean hit from Haydn Allen, from which he would not return. East Kent's field goal attempt on the next play fell short, and the half ended without a dent in the scoreboard but with the game in an intriguing postion.

Kent received the second half kickoff but were forced to punt. East Kent came out for their first series with their back-up quarterback and switched to a power running game to try and move the ball, with their #44 making gains behind strong blocking. The Mavs faced a long third down in Kent territory and called what looked to be a reverse to a receiver - however with Kent reading run, the receiver pulled up and threw the option pass, completing it deep down the right sideline for the opening score, despite the efforts of DB sebastian Petitt. East Kent missed the conversion, but had a slender lead.

Kent had plenty of time left to get back on level terms but were forced to punt on their next two possessions. However the Kent defense fought back, bending but not breaking, and Yannick Obara snuffed out a drive by pouncing on a fumble for the Exiles.

Late in the 3rd period, the Exiles defense had an impressive series, with Fola Dare, Chas Mulvihill and Robert Kwan providing big stops, and coupled with penalties, East Kent punted from deep in their own end. Kent had good field position, and the offense appeared rejuvenated. Spreading the Mavericks defense out, Abbott and Dare, in at RB, found space up the middle to move the chains and put Kent in the red zone. Frustratingly, the Exiles couldn't punch it in for a score with incompletions on 3rd and 4th down. Kent had picked up some momentum however, and the scene was set for a gripping, final deciding period.

After forcing a punt the Exiles found themselves driving into East Kent territory. With Nestor drawing a double team on every play, Kent explored other avenues to move the ball, and from the East Kent 25, Abbott went for the kill, airing it out into the end zone for Dan Reeves who had slipped behind the Mavericks coverage. However the difference between a tyingscore and an incompletion was only a matter of inches, as the ball eluded the diving receiver, and Kent again came away empty.

Time was ticking down and with the Mavericks opting to run the ball more in the second half without their starting QB, Kent were running out of chances. The Mavericks threatened the Kent end zone, but again the defense held firm. Kenneth King, putting in time on the defensive line made a great tackle for loss on the Mavericks RB and the Exiles secondary stepped up as Kwan defended a fourth down pass. With just under 4 minutes left and no time outs, the Exiles had one last chance to get the win - if they could drive the ball for a touchdown and conversion from their own 10.

With the game on the line, the offense rose to the occasion. Abbott, Dare and Nestor each made solid gains, with Stefan Rand making a great downfield block to spring Abbott for more yardage. The 2 minute warning arrived, and Kent had crossed midfield and were knocking on the door. After a short gain and a couple of incompletions, however, the Exiles faced 4th down. Abbott, given excellent time by the offensive line looked downfield for Alex Orphanau and in heavy traffic, the rookie made a miracle catch, taking the ball away from two Mavericks, and picked up a first down inside the 20 yard line. With the clock running, Dare made a tackle-breaking burst over the right side, dragged down at the 5 yard line, and after an Abbott run to pick up a first down at the three, Kent had 4 shots for the win but less than a 30 seconds remaining. In the hurry up offense Abbott dropped back and threw a strike to Orphanau in the right flat for what appeared to be the game tying score - but it was heartbreak for Kent as the offense were called for an illegal shift. Kent were backed up five yards, and with 4 seconds left had one last play. Abbott looked for Nestor, but it wasn't to be the Exiles day, as an East Kent DB batted the pass away, and the game was over at 6-0.

Exiles season, but despite the 2-6 record the Exiles can be proud of their performances. Often undermanned the squad did not lose a single game by more than 11 points, and most could have gone either way.

Head Coach Samartin now bids farwell to several of his players as they graduate to the senior team, and the rebuilding of the junior team for next year starts again, but with many of the team remaining for next season, the future could be bright for these young stars. 

You can read all about the Exiles preperations for 2012 at


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