On February 18th the Stampede travelled down to Swindon to take part in a joint training session and scrimmage with Swindon Storm and Berkshire Renegade. Being National League Division 2 and Division 1 teams respectively it was the perfect opportunity to get a feel for the intensity of league football and learn from hugely experienced players and coaches. It was also the very first outing for the Stampede’s new electric purple uniforms, supplied by Ridge Sports – a leading European sportswear manufacturer.
The day started with drills in position groups to get players warmed up and started to encourage friendly competitiveness between the three squads. After running through various pre designed scenarios the squads then split to prepare for 11v11 game practice.
First up was Stampede vs Storm where Hereford took the ball on offence to start a drive. Things didn’t go to plan from the outset as the very first snap of the day was a fumbled exchange between Centre Kyle Jones and QB Stephen Hall. The ball was subsequently recovered by Swindon and forced the Stampede defence on to the field. A mixture of aggressive play by the D line and linebackers stuffed a number of runs and forced the Storm to turnover the ball on downs. Stampede’s second offensive series went more successfully. Rushes by Running Back Emile Blenkinsopp, Quarterback Stephen Hall and catches from James Lawrence saw the Stampede move the ball downfield before being stopped on fourth down. The encounter eventually went the way of the Wiltshire side by a score of 3 touchdowns to Nil, but a good showing by the Stampede against a seasoned opposition. Some standout play at Cornerback by JJ Spencer was commented on by coaching staff, as well as some crunching tackles made by Linebacking veteran John ‘Irish’ Bateman.
After a short break it was time to take on Division 1 side – Berkshire Renegades. An outstanding defensive performance from all kept the Renegades out of the end zone. Unfortunately the Offence, despite some hard running couldn’t punch the ball in for a score. The tie ended 0-0 but was a massively beneficial experience to take on such a well drilled squad. Quarterback Stephen Hall noted after the game, “Their Defensive line was very productive, constantly keeping me under pressure and reducing my time in the pocket.”
Head Coach Paul Kent was strangely familiar with surrounding as he returned to his previous hunting ground. Having played Quarterback in Swindon and worked as Offensive Co-ordinator there for some years, friendly banter was exchanged between veteran players and coaches. Kent commented after the game, “I was very pleased with how my guys performed today. To come up against such strong opposition and give such a good account of themselves was quite satisfying.” He added, “We do still have a lot of work to do before I see us being ready for Associate fixtures, but the solid foundation is there. We have some really talented players who will do great things for this club.”