Hawks Kick Off Their Title Defense
Kicking off their inaugural USAFL Division 3 title defense, the Philadelphia Hawks kicked off the season fighting up a weight class against the New York Magpies. While Philadelphia closed the season on a sweet note, the Magpies were left with a sour taste in their mouths after being knocked out of the finals tournament by Austin – so this was sure to be battle from the start.
Perfect weather at Lower Perkiomen Valley Park awaited the teams, although the steady late-spring sun drove the temperatures into the high 80s. Slightly soft sod from recent rains meant that getting a good bounce was going to be difficult, but not impossible.
Opting to play two 20-minutes halves across two games – the second being a mixed-squad scrimmage – both teams wanted to push their match fitness. With plenty of new faces on both squads, it was a good time to get a run-out before the upcoming Eastern Regional Tournament.
After a brief push forward by the Hawks after the bounce, New York fought back with repeated visits to their forward 50, with accurate kicking getting them out to a quick three-goal lead. Towering ruckman Matt Carlsson was able to gain the upper hand in ball-up contests, while Magpies co-captain Connor Delves provided vicious pursuit through the midfield. The Hawks were up to it, as John Hinchen and Dean Kakouras helped to disrupt play through the center of the ground. By forcing the Magpies to work the outside of the ground, the Hawks stayed within reach through the half.
At the break, the Magpies held the upper hand by 19 points, with the Hawks gathering to try and game plan a comeback.
There was a clear change to the Hawks team that came out after the break. Vocal and active, they came out like a house on fire and pushed the ball up from clearances again and again. Hard running and accurate kicking from Chris Gough got the Hawks on the scoreboard, his second goal coming on a superb juke and handball from debutant Rohan Crawley in the front pocket. Crawley would follow up with a goal of his own – his first as a Hawk – to bring the Hawks within a goal.
After a bit of back-and-forth in the midfield, the Hawks managed to tie it up when Chris Casey snuck a mid-range kick inside the left upright for a goal. Unfortunately, that would be all of the scoring for the Hawks for the day, as the Hawks turned up the heat through the last eight minutes of the game. Pinning the ball in their front half, they slammed home two more goals and a behind while barely allowing the Hawks past the center square, wrapping the game up with a 13-point advantage.
June 15 sees the Hawks travel to Raleigh, North Carolina for the 2019 USAFL Eastern Regionals, before travelling to New York to take the fight to the Magpies on their home ground.
Philadelphia Hawks: Gough 2, R. Crawley, Casey
NY Magpies: TO COME
Field Umpire: Sean Holmesby
Goal Umpires: Brian Barrish, Drew Tyson