FOUR years ago, Burnley Tornados didn’t exist - and now the club is the third-best youth side in the country!
On Saturday, the Tornados enjoyed the most exciting day in their history as they travelled to Don Valley Stadium, Sheffield for their first-ever Britbowl Final.
They were ranked as number one seeds, gave them a tremendous confidence boost, having come out of the regular season with an impressive 11/12 winning record.
The Tornados were fired up for their first game against Scottish League runners-up, Inverclyde Phoenix.
Burnley lost the toss so were on defense first. Having shut out the Phoenix with tackles from Lewis Freeman and Matty Brammer, Burnley were able to take to the field and started with a score from centre Phil Robins.
Burnley began to capitalise, with their strong defense stopping the Phoenix and letting the offense put a further 12 points on the board from Andy Hawkes.
Unfortunately Burnley were unable to complete the extra two-point conversions and so at the half were 18-0 to the good.
The second half was much the same with the Tornados scoring again from Hawkes and an excellent 33-yard interception touchdown run from Xavier Sutcliffe, his second interception of the game.
The Phoenix rallied and were able to score a touchdown and a one-point conversion, but the Tornados fought hard and had three knockdowns against the Phoenix, resulting in the Tornados taking the ball and ending the game by taking a knee to eat up the clock.
The final score was 32-7.
This put the Tornados into the semi-finals against division rivals Woodham Warriors, who were out for revenge, having only ever lost in the Conference League to the Tornados a couple of weeks previous.
Burnley won the toss and were on offense first. Jake Peppiate handed the ball off to Hawkes, who ran through the defense on a 30-yard run to score Burnley’s first six points.
Woodham came back strong and scored twice, but couldn’t capitalise on their two-point conversions as Brammer knocked the ball away.
Burnley then equalised with Phil Robins stretching the ball over the goalline and Hawkes getting the two-point conversion to take the Tornados into the lead at half-time at 14-12.
The second half was very much a defensive game for the Tornados with Sutcliffe and Brammer working very hard with the tackles. Unfortunately the Warriors dodged a couple of the Tornado players and were able to score a touchdown – the only score of the second half, to win the game 14-18, and take them into the finals against London Warriors.
Burnley Tornados would now play London Blitz to vie for third place.
Having lost the toss, Burnley were once again on the defense and were able to easily stop the Blitz from scoring.
Hawkes ran in again for his first of two touchdowns, taking his rushing yardage for the tournament to an impressive 337.
Peppiate, Tornados quarterback, connected with Phil Robins on all occasions to make the extra points, and at the end of the first half the Tornados had shut out the Blitz and were comfortably winning at 24-0.
The second half started with the Tornados overconfident and unable to score, so the defense were back on the field and Sutcliffe got another interception and ran it back 12 yards for a touchdown score.
A penalty on the play meant that Burnley didn’t score the conversion and were a little shaken by this, allowing the Blitz to get on the scorecard with a touchdown.
However Sutcliffe again stopped the conversion with a knockdown.
With a comfortable lead, Burnley started to play some of their younger rookie players and Patrick Berkins was able to run the ball 26 yards for a touchdown score. This was the last score of the day and Burnley finished third with a 36-0 win against the Blitz.
It was an extremely difficult task for the coaches to pick the MVPs for the tournament, but it was eventually decided that for his three interceptions – two for touchdown scores - it would be Sutcliffe, for the amount of touchdowns and yards he had run it would be Hawkes, for the tackles and sheer presence on the field Brammer and for the safe hands and playing on both offense and defense for most of the tournament it would be Robins.
Quarterback coach Cameron Stewart said: “It was a very emotional but very rewarding day in which the Tornados players made everyone associated with the club proud.”
The club has had tremendous support from parents and family members, now known as “Stormchasers”, and if anyone is interested in playing American football, boy or girl, and is aged over 11 then they should check out the website www.tornadosafc.com or e-mail the club at firstname.lastname@example.org
The final words came from head coach Tony Edwards: “It was a great performance from all in the club, I’m really proud to have had the chance to lead the team this season; 12 months ago a group of individuals walked through the door and today they walked out at the national finals as one united team. I hope this memory lives with them forever so that they can look back in years to come and say to themselves; we were truly great.”