Following the cancellation of our pre-season games, due to adverse weather, we began the season at Essex, who scheduled us to play East Kent Mavericks first. After a tentative start, with uncharacteristic dropped catches, an early 13-0 lead was increased to a 44-13 win. A comprehensive 42-6 victory followed against Essex Spartans, who narrowly avoided being shut out with a late consolation score.
Wembley Stallions were defeated with a dominant performance on both sides of the ball. This included a pick 6 by a rookie defensive back, resulting in a 42-0 shutout. On the day, our offence had only 2 drives that did not result in scores, with 8 players contributing to the scoresheet.
Wembley hosted the next tournament. A 44-0 shutout against London Blitz included 3 fumbles recovered by our defence, whilst the Blitz nose tackle was a non-factor due to the efforts of our centre. This was followed by a second defeat of Wembley 46-6.
Our final game matched us against our own development team, the Outlaws. This was a fixture that was never supposed to happen and only transpired when 4 other clubs in the South-East withdrew their youth team prior to the season.
Our major concern was the possibility of a player on either team accidentally being injured by a fellow Exile.
Nevertheless players on both teams insisted on playing the game with full contact and no concessions.
Although the Rebels emerged victorious the Outlaws became the first and only team to hold us below 40 points during the regular season with a 39-6 final score.
At our home tournament we elected to begin against East Kent. The first half was comparatively close.
After a rare fumble, the opposition recovered the ball at our 5 yard-line and were poised to score but a fantastic interception by one of our linebackers ended the threat. The 30 points we scored after the break resulted in a 43-7 win.
Our next opponents – Essex – began running the ball well before our defence stiffened, resulting in our third shutout victory – 48-0.
During the game two reserve nose tackles made an outstanding contribution with pressure and sacks of the Essex quarterback despite both playing the position for the first time. London Blitz forfeited the next game, citing a lack of healthy players.
9 players contributed to the total 91 points scored on the day in only 2 games.
We retired to the clubhouse to watch England defeat Sweden in the World Cup to end a successful day having now already won our division.
The Outlaws home tournament concluded our regular season. An offensive explosion led to a 61-6 win over Wembley.
Whilst the rematch against the Outlaws ended 31-6 this was our narrowest margin of victory so far in what was another hard fought game. The play of the game was perhaps a fumble recovery by our nose tackle, who was then driven over the goal line with help from the rest of the defence. On the day, our 3-headed monster of running backs contributed 9 scores between them.
Every team in the conference had been awarded a forfeit win over London Warriors who withdrew the night before their first scheduled tournament. As a consequence the Rebels completed their second consecutive 12-0 regular season.
An average points scored of 45 per game led the nation, as did 5 points conceded per game
As the tie breaker, the latter meant we were the number 1 seed at Britbowl for the second year in a row.
The Kent Exiles are the only youth team in the country to have qualified for the National Finals in each of the past 6 years.
A squad of 17 players travelled to Derby for Britbowl. This included a linebacker who had flown back from holiday especially for the tournament. Our first game was against the number 8 seed East Kilbride Pirates, winners in 2016 and runners up in 2017.
Our early 7-6 lead evaporated as the Pirates had 2 further scores and a conversion for a 20-7 half-time lead.
Whilst narrowly outscoring the opposition in the second half and driving as time expired, the deficit was too much to overcome.
The final score was a 26-14 loss. East Kilbride would go on to win the tournament with greater margins of victory in both subsequent games, including the final.
Following the disappointment of our first defeat of the season, our next opponents were the defending champion Cobham Cougars. A 49-7 victory showed great resilience by the players.
The final game of 2018 was against former multiple champion Highland Wildcats. This was a great tit-for-tat competitive game.The pivotal play was an outstanding interception return for a TD by our starting nose tackle, leading to a 31-18 win.
Overall, the team won 14 of 15 games and finished ranked fifth nationally. The only loss was by 12 points to the national champions.
We scored 450 points in the regular season and 92 at Britbowl.
I would like to thank all the players for their effort and dedication during the year, their punctuality (mostly!) and remembering their kit (mostly!). In addition thank you to the other coaches, as well as all parents and our supporters.