The Exeter Demons took the long trip to Nottingham to play defending champions; The NTU Renegades in the first round of the plate playoffs and came away victors in a last second miracle.
The last time Exeter made it to the post season was the 2010/11 season when they were narrowly defeated by the Cardiff Cobras in the semi-finals. Now, three years later, they make their glorious return to the plate championship playoffs.
The Demons seeding meant they would have to play all of their playoff games away, and the first of those was against the defending plate champions; the NTU Renegades.
The Renegades chose to receive the ball first, but a meagre five plays into their drive, NTU’s quarterback Danny Miller threw the ball straight into the waiting arms of Exeter’s Safety Rafael Serrano.
With a change of possession came the change of the quarter, as Exeter’s offence put together a series of runs and passes that ended with a three yard Alex Briggs touchdown as he danced, virtually untouched into the end zone to put up the first points of the game, putting Exeter up 7-0.
When the game re-commenced NTU continued their meaty assault on the Exeter D, but after a number of big gains, the stout Demons defence held firm again forcing the Renegades to go for it on fourth down.
NTU once again had the ball and this time they capitalised on the opportunity as GB running back Adam Hope went barrelling into the end zone on a 25 yard run that put the scores 7-6 Exeter when the PAT snap was fumbled.
The Demons destructive running game left the Renegades wondering where the ball was, as President Ollie Tribe, rookie Harry Brantingham and quarterback Finlay Brown combined for large chunks of yardage that put the Demons on the NTU goal line once again. It took a further four attempts but on fourth and goal, Exeter’s Finlay Brown bust a run to the outside and just stretched the ball over the goal line for the score, putting the Demons up 14-6 over the defending champions after the PAT.
It took the defending champions just one play to put the ball in the end zone, and capped it off with a questionable two-point conversion. For the first time in the game, the Renegades were up as the score board read 22-14 to NTU in the final quarter.
Soon after, though, Ollie Tribe powered his way into the end zone, and Alex Briggs caught the two-point conversion pass attempt to tie the game at 22-22, midway through the fourth quarter.
The Demons D came through once more stopping the attempted two-point conversion taking the score to 28-22 to NTU in the final minutes of the game.
When all hope seemed lost, the Demons offence then pulled off the seemingly impossible. Backed up inside their own half, with no timeouts remaining, the Exeter offence orchestrated a miraculous 55 yard comeback attempt with little more than a minute left in the game. With fancy footwork from Alex Briggs and Harry Brantingham and powerful, tackle-breaking runs from the workhorse Charlie Hall, the Demons were soon knocking on the door one last time.
With 3 seconds left on the clock, and 18 yards yet to go, tensions were high. The atmosphere was electric, the NTU side-line was screaming; the Exeter side-line could barely look. Quarterback Finlay Brown dropped back to pass, avoided pressure and found an open receiver – Charlie Hall –defender beaten, reeled in the pass and collapsed over the line into the end zone.
As with any score in American football, the conversion kick is an untimed down, and regardless of there being no time on the clock, the conversion kicked must be taken. So with the scores at 28-28, club president Ollie Tribe steps up to attempt the game winning PAT kick. With a hoard of screaming NTU Renegades charging at him to block it, Tribe calmly and coolly sent the ball sailing through the uprights to end the game;
Exeter 29 – 28 NTU.
With one playoff win under their belt, the Demons now must prepare for their quarter final match where they travel to Leeds Met next Sunday March 16th.
You can follow the team including game updates on their twitter feed: @exeterdemons.