The London Blitz opened their 2017 campaign with a win against the Bristol Aztecs. Eager to get to work after what has been a long preseason, the Blitz found themselves against a very familiar opponent, a team who handed them their first loss outside of London in some time. With that memory fresh in the minds of all that played last year, the Blitz knew that their opponent was not to be underestimated.
Welcomed off the bus by a cold and dreary day, the Blitz started out as they intended to go on, running the ball behind a strong offensive line, made up of a mix of experienced veteran stalwarts and fresh new faces, there were opportunities for running backs Glen Toonga and Gabriel Quartey to impose themselves on the game. The first drive was capped off by a Toonga coast into the endzone with quality blocking on the right side of the line.
The Blitz continued to move the ball effectively in the air as well as the ground as Joe Thompson led the team down the field, engineering a drive that ended in a field goal, putting the Blitz up 9-0. Down early, the Aztecs offense began to show signs of life, moving the chains in the air, attacking the Blitz defence at the perimeter, scoring with a jump ball in the left corner of the end zone. All too aware of what occurred last year, the Blitz did not take their foot off the gas and continued to intersperse power running with effective passing and added to the score when Joe Thompson went to his third read and found Jasper Van Dooren crossing the back of the end zone. After another Aztecs score through the air, Thompson would find Van-Dooren again with a back shoulder fade. A long Quartey run put the score at 36-23
Defensive highlights included a diving interception by rookie Dotun Ademiji who left mouths gaping on both sides with some uncanny ball skills, picking the ball off millimetres above the turf, and another pick by Jose Van Ooten, who weaved his way through attempted tackles before being downed in the opposing red zone, put the game to bed.
Finishing with 196 all purpose yards and a score, Gabriel Quartey made an immediate impact on his first game in navy and white, his first touchdown of his Blitz career promises to be the first of many.
As ever after the first game of the season, there are a host of things to work on, especially as the next two weeks will bring some very stiff competition versus the Bury Saints and London Warriors, but the foundation was laid for a competitive season and young playmakers have already emerged. The Warriors fixture, the first of three this season, will see the Blitz return to their home field at Finsbury park and after a year on the road, the team certainly realise that there’s no place like home.