Daniel Miller stole the show for the Nottingham Caesars as they squeezed by the Coventry Jets 27-20. The American running back scored all three of the hosts touchdowns as the Jets fell to their twelfth straight loss over a spell that stretches back nineteen months. Miller’s three scoring runs were for a combined seven yards but the real damage was done as he racked up close to 200 on the ground.
Debutant Jets Head Coach Paul Rickhuss had a lot to be pleased about though as his side fought back from a slow start "I'm proud of every one of my players today, they gave everything. Although we've come up short this time we'll work on the things that we've got wrong and come out Sunday ready for the West Coast Trojans".
Elliott Strong kicked off the season for the Jets and although his kick was a little short, the athletic Junior team graduate made amends by forcing the returner out of bounds. Nottingham began in Coventry territory and soon moved to within field goal range. Daniel Johnson opened the scoring by converting a 28 yard kick for a 3-0 lead. As well as starting at quarterback for the Caesars Johnson's kicking was perfect, converting two field goals and three extra points.
A short kick off didn't offer Coventry an opportunity to return so they began in their own half. Joe Brammer, another of the Jets 13 junior players making their senior debut, started at quarterback and was unlucky to see Chris O'Dea out-muscle his intended receiver for a tremendous interception. O'Dea returned the ball 38 yards to Coventry's 12 before Brammer forced him out of bounds.
Nick Bevan made a couple of tackles for losses but after an 11 yard pass on third down Miller converted a fourth and short for the first of his hat-trick of touchdowns. The Jets responded with a nine play drive which saw them move 55 yards for a touchdown. Tony Perkins had runs of 11, 9 and 12 yards and Brammer found his groove to complete three passes including the 10 yard scoring strike to, yet another debutant, wide receiver Thomas Singleton-Wells. Strong's resulting extra point kick was blocked, leaving the Jets trailing 10-6 late in the first quarter.
Rookie cornerback Marcin Wójcik was called for two pass interference penalties on Nottingham's ensuing possession, however, they worked in Coventry's favour as the yardage that the Caesars would have earned on the completions would have dwarfed the 25 penalty yards. The drive came to nothing though as Jake Skelton and Adam Biggs broke up passes to thwart Nottingham's progress. Sean Hanlon looked impressive at running back as he dragged tacklers for a five yard gain on his first carry before injury cut his game short. Linebacker Skelton was also an early casualty in a game that was bruising but played in the right spirit.
Nottingham opened the second quarter with a 10 play drive that resulted in Miller’s second score, a 2 yard dive up the middle. Coventry failed to respond this time though as the first in a series of dropped catches saw them go three and out. The Caesars fared little better on their next drive as Dominic Olney made the first of his two interceptions deep in Jets' territory. Sam Hyde collected the first of his six receptions to shift Coventry up to midfield before the hosts stamped out the drive. A good punt from the Caesars saw the Jets backed up to their goal-line and a fumble on the next play gifted Nottingham the ball and Miller his hat-trick for a 24-6 lead.
Coventry couldn't get their offence out of its self-imposed slump and as the drops continued the Jets discipline began to show cracks. Daniel Shodipo and George Eremionkhale were perhaps a tad fortunate not to be ejected as a less level-headed set officials may have given them their marching orders. But the Jets survived until the break without suffering further damage. Coach Rickhuss and his staff made adjustments and restored discipline and confidence in his young squad, which included no fewer than 28 players making their Jets senior debut, and the second half showed a marked improvement.
Hyde was a key part of the turn-around, the second year player, who won Rookie of the Year honours in 2011, had three receptions on the first drive. However, his thirty yard catch at the Nottingham goal-line was called back for a penalty and the scoring chance was gone. The Caesars took full advantage as Johnson booted a 31 yard field goal to pad the lead to 27-6. Nottingham's celebrations were shortlived though as Olney returned the kick-off 75 yards for a score that gave the Jets renewed hope. Brammer's extra point pass fell incomplete as the drops became infectious.
Now trailing by just two scores Coventry attacked the Caesars' offence with renewed vigour and were rewarded with Olney's second pick. His 27 yard return handed the Jets tremendous field position only for another costly penalty to push them back. Marcus Boswell stole the ball back for Nottingham though as the third quarter see-sawed to a close. Mufaro Dune offered the Jets a glimmer of hope as his sack and forced fumble almost resulted in a Coventry possession at the Nottingham 10 yard line. The Caesars fell on the loose ball and were able to punt to the safety of midfield.
Brammer led the Jets into Nottingham's redzone with completions to Singleton-Wells, Olney and Matthew Penrice but couldn't drag his side over the goal line. Coventry forced another fumble as Dune and Biggs penetrated into the backfield but once again the home team reacted quickest and punted out of danger. This time a seven play drive, including two huge completions to Hyde, resulted in a 23 yard touchdown run from the imperious Perkins. The bullish running back followed up the score with another two points on the conversion to haul the Jets to within a score at 27-20.
Nottingham sealed the victory with a well put together, time consuming, drive that ended with a kneel inside Coventry's redzone. Hyde finished the game with 107 yards on six receptions from Brammer. The Jets look in good hands with the young quarterback at the helm and he can feel aggrieved to have ended up with just 15 completions from 37 attempts for 171 yards. On another day Brammer could well have had an extra one hundred yards passing and an extra touchdown or two to add to his scoring strike. Singleton-Wells also impressed with four receptions for 23 yards and a score as well as 62 yards on kick returns. Olney backed up his impressive day with six tackles, trailing only Biggs, who was involved In nine. Perkins finished with 18 carries for 135 yards and one touchdown