It was the battle of Clayton on Saturday when the Warriors travelled up the road to meet their new neighbour the South Eastern Predators for a clash of bragging rights in Clayton in the Gridiron Victoria Under 19 competition.
With both teams fresh from a league wide Easter bye week this was going to be a battle to the end and that is exactly how it started with both teams in hot form. The Warriors led by QB Nicholas Whitehead were able to march down the field with each possession and score but all the good work would be undone when the Predators took advantage of some sloppy defense by the Warriors scoring on the first offensive play in two of their first half series.
The inability to finish tackles or wrap up their opponents kept the Predators level with the Warriors in the opening half. The Warriors are used to fast starts but they have relied on their defense to keep the lead and stop opponents from putting up big scores against them however Saturday told a different story and with a slim 32-26 lead at the half it was evident a change needed to be made.
Head Coach Callum Marini and his brother and fellow assistant Kieren Marini asked more from their defense at the half. Not much more could have been asked from the offense as they scored on each possession they had in the first half but the defense were sloppy, lazy and full of mistakes. A switch needed to be flicked and indeed it was in the second half.
Game MVP Jomo Kigotho was moved from Defensive End to Outside Linebacker, Defensive Lineman Joshua Deakin was moved opposite Kigotho to Outside Linebacker also and Dmitri Maksoutov exploded in the second half landing the days crunch award after being challenged by his coaches at the half to beat out his brother Anton Maksoutov who ran all over the Predators at Running Back and folded a Predator ballcarrier in half on a kick return.
The Defense were back to their usual game plan and attached the Predators at will. Standout performers Kigotho, Deakin and Dmitri Maksoutov were also joined by Nosetackle Nick Hughes in stuffing the run game and physically overpowering a Predators team who knew the game was getting away from them. A second half shutout was produced and the Warriors ended the game winners with a 54-26 scoreline.
Offensive weapon Benjamin McGaw was a standout yet again with two touchdowns on the day, one being from a kick return whilst the other was a Wide Receiver reverse. Tight End Vish Sivakumar was able to reel in a 20 yard pass from Whitehead and Deakin was also able to punch in a score of his own with a run from fullback, but the outstanding performance by Running Back Anton Maksoutov was the difference maker for the day as Anton was able to run all over the Predators for 4 touchdowns and over 100 yards rushing.
The Warriors face the Western Crusaders on Sunday 10th April with kick off at 1:30PM at Henry Turner Reserve, Maribyrnong Blvd Footscray. The Crusaders and Warriors have a history of close games with multiple draws and the rest decided by less than a score. The Warriors are undefeated after 7 weeks and will need to improve on today to keep that streak going.