Will the Huddersfield Hawks Fly High Again This Season?

American Football can take your breath away; one play can get a crowd on their feet and dictate the momentum of a game. That’s exactly what happened on March 25 in Bradford, an amazing win over our varsity rivals which featured an incredible play for the Hawks offense.

The ball was tossed back from the Runningback to Quarterback Dan ‘ClayJay’ Berry on a flea flicker – one of the most exciting plays in the sport. Berry then stepped up and hit Max Tavard for a Touchdown, the crowd erupted along with the players on the Hawks sideline. This game ended 34-20 to the Hawks and rounded off the first ever winning season for this team, finishing with five wins and two losses which saw the Hawks promoted to Division One in the British University American Football League (“BUAFL”).

However following this tremendous season, the Hawks will be facing tough times ahead. Huddersfield recently saw the departure of Head Coach Greg Boyland, who had been Head Coach for the Hawks for the past four seasons. Coach Boyland was known for his run-heavy offense which saw great success last season with the wide array of talent in the Hawks backfield, led by running back Rhys Morris. Coach Boyland also instilled a great philosophy in the Hawks, which was to hit harder than the other team, both defensively and offensively. This message may not have been complicated, but it was the basis to winning this game. All the tactics in the world can’t get around being physically dominated in every position and battling on every down.

Compounding the loss of the Head Coach is the loss of the team’s Offensive MVP Rhys Morris and Defensive MVP Chris Faccin due to graduation. Morris led this team in Touchdowns last season and without his rushing this offense would have struggled to put up the points it did last season. Chris Faccin was a strong captain for this team who used his skills and knowledge to bring the best out of the less experienced players on the team. On the field Faccin was a ball hawk at safety, sniffing out plays and attacking the ball like a shark.

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Finally, another devastating loss has been Michael McGougan, who was a large presence down in the trenches and in a run heavy league like the BUAFL his talents for stopping the run were incredibly valuable. Furthermore McGougan was an asset to the locker room as he set a great example to new players with his strong work ethic, leadership and morale boosting qualities.

I spoke to Mike McGougan to gauge his views on the Hawks and their upcoming season:

“(Repeating last season’s winning record) is not going to be an easy task, we have lost some irreplaceable and talented players on both sides of the ball but that’s the nature of university American Football. I have every confidence in the new coaching staff and their ability to deliver another winning season.”

In a time of uncertainty for the Hawks, McGougan seems confident in the potential for this team to come out even stronger from these changes.

A positive for this upcoming season is the play from Quarterback Dan ‘ClayJay’ Berry, who has continued to develop his multi-dimensional game in which he can pass from the pocket and be a threat running the ball. If ClayJay can be a strong leader of this team and execute plays the way we know he can, ClayJay can help in transitioning this team from a run-heavy team with a limited passing attack, to a multi-dimensional offense which can attack a team in a number of ways. Mike McGougan summarised his play well:

“Dan Berry can make all the throws and move the chains with his feet, I’m confident he will put the offense on his back this year.”

It is too early to see which direction the Hawks will take this season. To be a winning team, the Hawks need a strong influx of rookies to come in, the coaching staff need to gel with the players and veterans need to step up to new found responsibilities. If this happens, the Hawks can fly high in Division One American Football this year.

Daniel Stevens

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