Gridiron West kicked off with the Curtin Saints up against ex-Saint Ty Henry and his newly formed club, the Swan City Titans.
Playing for the first time at Farrell Oval in Stratton, the Titans suited up in a white tint to face off against the Saints in their last season wearing the black and gold, with the gold being replaced by orange for the 2018-19 season.
The coin toss went the Titans way, whom elected to receive. Veteran Chris “Everywhere” Clarkson took the kick-off sending the ball a solid 45 yards. With a mix of seniors and rookies, the Saints Special Teams allowed a few gaps early with fold safety AJ Wright collecting his first of seven tackles for the day eventually stopping the Titans at the 43.
Making the move to the Titans to take up a coach and Quarterback position, Henry would have been keen to move the chains efficiently out of the blocks. The first drive of the season resulted in a 13-yard touchdown by air with the following 2-point conversion coming good.
Kick-off by the Titans floated for 35 yards downfield with Clarkson returning for a gain of 18 yards. Rookie Quarterback Scott Collins took to the field for his first start after taking the redshirt behind Justin Sottilare during the 2016-17 season. It was a nightmare first drive as the run failed against a wave of Titan linemen and both passes incomplete resulting in a turnover on downs at the 50.
The Titans came out trying to push the run game but on 3rd down, Henry held the ball a second too long as Linebacker Rhys Nairn blindsided him, punching the ball out in the process. The Titans tried to recover but ultimately knocked the ball back, giving Wright the opportunity to jump on and recover the ball. Collins took advantage leading the offence to their maiden first down with the help of Running Back Michael Blackburn and star Wide Receiver Luke “Air” Hegney. The next two plays were unfruitful placing the Saints at 3rd and 8 forcing Collins to air it out. Unfortunately, the ball fell short allowing the Titans the opportunity to record their first and only interception of the day.
The second half opened with the Titans pulling off an onside kick and recovery. The resulting drive resulted in a touchdown putting the Titans up 20-0. As the night continued, the Titans added on another touchdown and conversion with the Saints only score coming off the last play of the game. Both touchdown and conversion were completed by Hegney.
The Saints missed opportunities on defence with a lack of tackling discipline allowing the Titans to gain multiple first downs from punt situations.
With rust clearly showing on both sides of the ball, the Saints will go back to the drawing board to create opportunities for Collins to move the chains on game day. Blackburn showed promise in his debut for the Saints with the move of Offensive Tackle Wright to the defensive line proving a master stroke.
The Saints will be playing the Wolverines on Saturday at 4pm up at Forrest Road, Padbury. This will be a chance for Collins and Co. to display the talent that the coaches know they have.
Saints 8 v 28 Titans
Offensive MVP – Luke Hegney – 7 receptions for 80 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 conversion
Defensive MVP – AJ Wright – 5 solo tackles, 1 assisted tackle, 1 sack and 1 fumble recovery
Most Saintly Performance – Chris Clarkson – Mr Everywhere
Sponsored by Natural Choice Waterford
With key pieces moving on from last season and injuries striking the team, Clarkson stepped in on all sides of the ball as Kicker, Half-back and Linebacker to be Round 1’s Most Saintly Performance.