Sport is full of sound, and the silence in the stadium before the ball hits the back of the net, the crack of leather on willow as the ball races to the boundary or the grunt of the server as they serve heads for an ace. American football is no stranger to great sounds – the pop of shoulder pads or the famous ‘DOINK’ off the uprights.
It is these sounds that return to Manchester on Sunday 30th October! The BUCS American Football Division 1 North is underway with a derby clash between the University of Manchester Tyrants and the Manchester Metropolitan Eagles.
For the Tyrants last season, they’re first back in Division 1 after achieving promotion in 2020, it was a season of firsts. It was the first time in programme history that they had managed to stave off relegation at the first time of asking, a first Division 1 unbeaten regular season and it culminated in a first visit to the playoffs. The Tyrants will be looking to build upon their position as a challenger in Division 1 with a promising crop of rookies and returners who will be aiming to carry out the ‘process, not outcome’ approach of second-year Head Coach Mike Ripley.
When asked about how the Tyrants could build on last year, Ripley was keen to emphasise the “positive, hardworking attitude,” of the programme and that the team needs to “remember the lessons learnt from it,” rather than “live off of last year’s successes,” in order to be successful in the new campaign. The main lesson being “remembering how we win.”
The Great Britain U-19s Linebacker Coach places huge value on culture, believing “true success will follow if each player buys into the team culture and feels like they have contributed to it.” Len Dalsen, Tyrants Quater Back, offering “veteran leadership and a smart football brain,” was highlighted as a key threat for the Tyrants this year. Another is Tom Sanders, star Safety, who is looking to build on his rookie season which saw him attend All-Star trials. On a team level, the ‘dominating’ offensive line will be looking to drive the Tyrants forward this year.
The Eagles come off a similarly successful season which saw them finish with a 7-0 regular season record and gaining a promotion from Division 2. The similarities between the two teams don’t end with their unbeaten regular season records. Both teams ended last season with close playoff defeats to the respective eventually champions. The Eagles will be looking to channel both their winning ways and the disappointment of falling at the semi-final stage to show that they deserve to be considered one of the leading sides in the North.
In this, the first game between the sides since 2020, it is not only a battle between the city’s two universities but a battle between two Manchester-born Head Coaches. Both will be looking to secure bragging rights over a city that provided the 2022 Britbowl National Champions, the Manchester Titans. Ripley is proud of his, and his counterpart’s, contribution to developing Manchester’s reputation as a leading American Football town and says the chance to compete against his MMU counterpart is “extremely special”. He was gracious in wishing MMU every success for the new season, apart “from the two games against us of course”.
In the first ‘Manchester Bowl’ of the season who will gain early season bragging rights and continue their league unbeaten run?