Rivalry Suggestions Squashed!
In what may be the shortest travel for an away game for any team this season, and kick-off two hours earlier than usual, the 5 and 2 Dublin Rebels took the field at the National Sports Campus in Blanchardstown for a division matchup against the 3-4 South Dublin Panthers, with a shot at the SBC South title, and a home semi-final on the line for the Rebels.
The stage was set, and as the game kicked off, returner Cathal Keane would set the tone, providing the Rebels Offense with excellent starting field position for the game’s first drive. Behind an O-Line that would control the trenches throughout the day, and coming off a huge game on the ground last week, Pete McMahon ran with vigour, finding holes and exploding through gaps in a porous Defense from the home team.
Combating a holding penalty, with an Andy Dennehy to Paul Grogan connection to regain the lost yardage and setting McMahon on his way to score the game’s first points. The Rebels held the first lead of the afternoon, and would never let up. 6-0, Rebels.
A crunching tackle from defensive end Simon Mackey on the ensuing kick-off gave an already motivated Rebel Defense a standard to live up to. Feverish ball-hunting and a hit from safety Raphael Meyer that wouldn’t be out of place in an NFL highlight reel established a tone for the game that was impossible to ignore. Seemingly instant pressure on every down, lead to an ill thrown pass finding CB Andrei-Vlad Vasilescu for his second INT in the past two games, a defensive showing with a taste of everything they had to offer.
Quite possibly the scariest backfield tandem in the league, QB Jack Fagan and current Shamrock Bowl MVP, Wellington Omorodion took the field less than 20 yards from the opposing Endzone, trading runs to either side, and despite having a score called back for holding, little could be done to stop Wellington as he steam-rolled towards the goal line, carrying any defenders brave enough to grab hold of him into the Endzone. The two-point attempt would fall through the back of the Endzone incomplete. 12-0.
Inspector Clouseau stealing from Pink Panther?
Good blocking and vision on the return gave the Panthers starting field position near their own 40. Seeing the RB fighting for positive yards, Line-backer Matthias Durot saw his opportunity to pick his pocket and ripped the ball from his hands, and placing it right back into the hands of the momentum filled Rebel Offense to close out the first quarter.
Two huge runs being called back due to penalties, and the wet conditions leading to incompletions through the air resulted in a 4th down incompletion and a turnover on downs.
Unhappy with only one forced turnover, Durot saw his opportunity once more, and the game Defensive MVP took it happily, like a carbon copy of the first, wrenching the football away and bringing the Offense back on the field, hoping to see an improvement on the previous outing.
Running through defenders as often as around them, Omorodion reminded the Panther Defense of the dangers of falling asleep when facing an Offense as heavily armed as the Rebels. Big gains on the ground laid the groundwork for a fingertip grab over the middle from Paul Grogan, strolling through the heart of the Panther defense to walk across the line for the games 3rd score of the day, and the veteran Tight Ends first since returning from a long injury layoff. A bobbled snap forced the conversion attempt to fail. 18-0 Rebels.
A Bird? A Plane? No it’s Mackey!
Carrying on from a great performance last week, the Rebel Defense gave up no yardage on the ground or through the air, LB Robert Smith slicing and dicing through the line to get into the backfield on almost every play to force a punt. In a change from what many regular humans can do, Special Teams Swiss Army Knife Simon Mackey ghosted through the punt teams line and after a Superman-like take off, blocked the punt. Mackey then came inches away from recovering the very same ball he laid out to block. The Rebels Offense being gifted the best field position of the season through incredible defensive effort.
Pete McMahon came close to his second TD of the game, being tackled twice on the 1-yard line, that 1 yard would be covered by a QB sneak from Dennehy to add to the first half score line. Adding to his rushing total, Dennehy walked in the two points from two yards out on the following play. 26-0
Swallowing up anything in their path the Defense forced another punt, this one bouncing out of bounds at the 5-yard line.
Backed up at the 5 yard line, the Champions took to more dominant running, led by Offensive MVP Alfredo Meneses the Rebels domineering O-Line gave the offense some breathing room. Incompletions and solid tackling from the home Defense brought out the Rebels punt team for the first time in the game.
The change of possession didn’t last long.
An errant throw from the Panthers QB Ian Cahill would fall gracefully into the hands of Meyer for yet another takeaway for the Rebels Defense. Incompletions, not helped by the rain soaked game, and a lack of running room forced the Rebels into a rare 4-and-out, giving the ball back to the home team.
The home offense continued to struggle to get any yardage versus the monstrous defense, and a bad snap on a 4thdown punt play, placed the Rebel offense deep in scoring position.
Keeping the game on the ground, and with a good lead, Omorodion punched in his second TD of the day, extending the lead further. 32-0.
Consistent tackling and air tight coverage forced the home team to punt yet again.
Continuing to show the depth of the Rebels squad after a plethora of changes, and facing third and long, Dennehy threw a rainbow to rookie WR David Duffy, who rose to make a spectacular high point grab at the 6 yard line and energize the Rebels side-line. McMahon followed through on Duffy’s big play, crossing the goal line to add to his tally for the season, 38-0.
Determined to get in on the scoring party, and get the Defence on the scoreboard, LB Conrad Cook plucked an interception out of the air, and took off like he was running the 40 at the NFL combine, took the ball all the way back for 6 points. Omorodion followed up his teammate, and fellow Team Bicep member and converted the two-point attempt. 46-0.
So Close But So Far…..
Not to be outdone by his defensive teammate, stalwart Ross McCooey saved what should have been the play of the day for last. With 2 seconds remaining on the clock and the Panthers finally knocking on the door of the Rebels Redzone, a tipped pass looped high into the air, falling into the arms of the waiting McCooey on his own 21 yard line. Number 51 took off towards the sideline, a powerful stiff arm followed, then a high step to avoid a diving tackle, it looked like McCooey would take it to the house, but the wheels seized up, and despite tacking the return 78 and a half yards, the final few inches eluded him to finish the game without the score the play thoroughly deserved.
The Dublin Rebels finish the regular season 6-2, winning the SBC South, earning a bye and home field advantage for the play-offs, and going on to host the winner of the Belfast Knights versus Belfast Trojans Wildcard game next week, in a Semi-final on the 5th of August at Sportslink in Santry.
By Calum Walsh