Game 9 – UTS vs Lions at Kyeemagh

This week’s matchup between the UTS Gators and Sydney University Lions was the most highly anticipated contest of this season in Gridiron NSW Division One. Sydney University was stunned in week 2 when the West Sydney Pirates handed them their first defeat in 99 games and the Lions were clearly well-prepared coming into this week and determined not to let it happen again at the hands of the Gators.

RB Freddie Khouiss

RB Freddie Khouiss finds running room on way to pay-dirt

The Gators played hard the whole game but numerous turnovers and an aggressive Sydney University running game were the Gators undoing as Sydney University gave UTS its first loss of the season, 19-40.

UTS took the ball first to open the game and looked impressive on their first two plays as running back Freddie Khouiss gained good yards and a first down. On the third play of the drive, quarterback Brad Leech’s pass was intercepted by the Lions which led to an 11 play, 48 yard scoring drive and put the Gators behind 0-6 early in the first quarter.

The Gators offense again looked impressive, albeit briefly, on their next possession gaining 18 yards in four plays behind Freddie Khouiss’ rushing and Leech completed two passes to slotback Matthew Schwarz and receiver Thomas Granger for 5 yards apiece but once again, Leech was intercepted and the Lions took the ball. The UTS defensive unit came out strong and forced 4-and-outs on SU’s next two possessions while UTS’s offense struggled and went 4-and-out on its next four possessions.

FS Jamie McGrory

Safety Jamie McGrory wraps up a Lion

Nearing the end of the 1st quarter, it was looking as though the game would be a series of punts back and forth but Sydney University broke the trend and got their ground game going and gouged the Gators for 51 yards in 9 plays before the Gator defense stopped them on 4th down at the UTS 12 yard line for a turnover on downs.

Sydney University capitalized on a long punt return just before the end of the 1st quarter which put them on the Gators 1 yard-line. It only took one play to punch it into the endzone for a 0-12 lead. SU put together another time-consuming, 10 play drive on their next possession and were again halted by a UTS defensive stop on 4th down as the secondary blanketed the Lions receivers forcing four consecutive incomplete passes and on 4th down, defensive end Tim Clulow tipped the Lions pass at the line for the turnover on downs.

The UTS offense came out energized by the defense’s efforts and began moving the ball with a good mix of run and pass but the drive stalled at midfield and the Gators were again forced to punt. Despite poor field position, the Lions had their ground game humming and churned their way down the field for their third straight unanswered touchdown, stretching the lead to 0-19 with time running out in the first half.

SB Matt Schwarz

SB Matt Schwarz bails out the offense with a catch over the middle

The ensuing kickoff was returned by wide receiver Justin Fatu-Leota 25 yards to midfield and 5 plays later, UTS got on the board with a 25 yard touchdown run by tailback, Tommy Benson and great blocking by the offensive line making the halftime score, 6-19 in favour of Sydney University.

The Lions started the 2nd half with the ball and wasted no time stretching their lead by scoring touchdowns on their first two possessionsΒ  and putting the Gators in a very deep hole trailing 6-33 midway through the 3rd quarter. On the Gators second possession of the half, Leech was intercepted for a third time and it looked as though the wind had completely gone out of their sails but on the Lions next play, linebacker Gabriel Marambio stripped the ball loose from a Lions receiver and nose tackle Jim Close pounced on the ball to give new life to the Gators.

The Gator offense took the momentum and marched 44 yards in 7 plays, scoring on a 14 yard pass from Leech to receiver Thomas Granger and making the SU lead a little less insurmountable at 13-33. Trying to capitalize further on the momentum, the Gators attempted an on-sides kick but were unable to recover the kick as it dribbled over the 10 yard boundary line. Sydney University then used the good field position to pass their way into the endzone and re-establish their 27 point lead at 13-40.

Despite the margin, there was no quit in the Gator team and their offense came out again with veteran quarterback, Peter Tos at the helm in his first action in several weeks following a calf injury, drove 48 yards, mostly on the ground, for another score as running back Freddie Khouiss bolted 15 yards for the touchdown and reignited the belief that the Gators could still come back.

Time was not on their side, however, and following one final drive, the Gators hopes were finally extinguished as a pass by Tos was picked off and Sydney University ran out the clock.

This loss ends the Gators run at an undefeated season but by no means ends their championship hopes.Β  The league standings now have the three perennial top teams locked in a three-way tie for first with records of 8-1 with 3 games remaining in the regular season. Assuming the Pirates, Lions and Gators win the rest of their games, the playoff seeds will be determined by point differentials which will have each team looking to rack up huge scores in their remaining games and should prove to create some very exciting football and a nail-biting run to the playoffs.

Next week sees the UTS Gators take on a resurgent Bondi Raiders team that has found good form in the second half of the season.

Come up the coast and cheer your Gators on to victory at Slade Park, Budgewoi, Central Coast. Kickoff at 1:00 pm.

Statistical Leaders (Game)

Player Comp/Att Yards TD (Yards) 2-PT INT
Brad Leech 11/24 85 1 (14) 3
Peter Tos 2/7 16 1
Thomas Granger 1/1 13
Player Rushes Yards TD (yards) 2-point
Freddie Khouiss 15 67 1 (15)
Tommy Benson 7 48 1 (25)
Marco Soriano 4 8
Brad Leech 2 8
Peter Tos 2 7
Player Receptions Yards TD (yards) 2-PT
Matthew Schwarz 8 54
Thomas Granger 3 39 1 (14)
Ben Loudon 2 19
Nick Giovanangeli 1 2
Kick Return:
Player Returns Yards
Justin Fatu-Leota 3 81
Mitchell Warters 1 18
Ben Loudon 1 13
Tuck King 1 6
Player Tackles (For Loss) Other
Marcos Delana 17 (1) Forced Fumble
Ryan King 15 (1) Pass Knockdown
Gabriel Marambio 14
Andrew Asher 11
Jamie McGrory 10
Moey Musawi 6
Jim Close 5 (1) Fumble Recovery
Matt Power 5 2 Pass Knockdowns
Stephen Marshall 5
Tim Clulow 4 (2) 2 Pass Knockdowns
Tristan Ireland 3
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