The NC Tigers opened their 2015 campaign in Fort Lauderdale, Florida this past weekend at the USAFL Eastern Regional 18s tournament.
With a strong side traveling down for the tournament and to enjoy the Florida sun, the Tigers were looking to start the season off strong against some of the toughest competition in the Eastern USAFL. With the late withdrawal of the St Petersburg side, the event was contested between 3 sides with Tigers taking on the #1 ranked New York Magpies as well as the host Fort Flauderdale Squids. The tournament was held at the beautiful Central Broward Park Stadium, providing a superb location for the event.
In the opening match of the tournament the Tiger’s took on the New York Magpies, last year’s Division 1 National Champions. The Tiger’s battled with the Magpies from the opening siren, controlling their fair share of possession all over the field. Mike Hoffman led the Tiger midfield hitting the packs hard and finding plenty of the footy while Scott Bradley and Paul Duncan provided quality aerial targets up front. However, the Tigers weren’t able to capitalize on the scoreboard with Andrew Wesche and the Tiger defense working hard to limit the damage of a potent New York attack. A mark and goal from outside the arc by Nick Camilleri got the Tigers on the board, providing some momentum going into the half time break.
After the long break it was 2nd year Tiger Nelson Santos leading the way with his desperation for the footy resulting in a number of good smothers, disrupting the Magpie’s ball movement. Great running goals to Mike Hoffman and Scott Bradley allowed the Tigers to go goal for goal for much of the 3rd term as the team continued to string together some good passages of play. The experienced Magpie side were able to flex their muscles in the final quarter, making life very difficult for the North Carolina backmen with a number of scoring shots before Matt Sherman chipped in with a late goal. In the end it was the Magpies running out 43-point winners over the Yelow and Black.
In their 2nd match of the tournament the Tigers took on host side Fort Lauderdale Squids in the final match of the day. In a scrappy start to the game, neither side was able to grab a clear advantage with tough contested, football being played all over the ground. Matt Sherman earned a number of possessions on the wing for the Tigers while Mijo Cotic was pivotal at fullback, matching up well on one of the toughest goalscorers going around. Tiger for the day Denis Ryan put through the only major score of the first quarter to give the Tigers the lead going into the first break.
The visiting side had a number of chances to build on their lead early int he second, but were wasteful in front of goal, letting the Squids of the hook on a number of chances to take control of the game. The hosts would eventually make the Tigers pay when a couple of free kicks led to consecutive goals. Club president Justin Plumley led by example having a fantastic game for the Tigers, putting his body on the line time and again to the win the footy. His courageous play was rewarded late in the 3rd term when he marked and goaled to deservedly get his name on the scoresheet. Now playing as a free man in defense, Paul Duncan took advantage of a little space to be very influential for the Tigers, setting up multiple attacks forward off the halfback line. Rookie James Post capped off a solid first day of ruck work in a Tiger uniform by kicking his first goal of his career, to keep the Tigers within striking distance. Despite a number of potent attacks in the last quarter, North Carolina was unable close the deficit, with 2 late goals for the squids resulting in a 26-point win for the Squids.
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It was a strong showing from the Tigers against some strong opposition with plenty of positives coming from their first matches of the season. The Tigers next game action will be an Intraclub Black & White game on Saturday May 2nd before hosting the Atlanta Kookburras on June 13th.
Replays of the Tigers’ 2 Eastern Regional games can be viewed at the links below:
North Carolina Tigers vs New York Magpies
Fort Lauderdale Fighting Squids vs North Carolina Tigers