The Highland Stags came away proud of their loss giving Bristol Apache a real scare in the American Football Division 2 Finals.
Just a year after being admitted to the British American Football Association (BAFA) NFC 2 North, they fought their way to a direct shootout for the UK Division 2 overall title in London on Sunday.
A flawless league campaign and sparkling semi-final success against Scunthorpe Alphas, saw them face off against a native and experienced Bristol side in the ‘Britbowl’ final at the New River Stadium.
Kicking off day two of the Britbowl weekend with a 17-7 win are the winners of the 2022 Bristol Apache D2 Championship! They had a tough competition against Highland Stags who had a good first half 🏈 pic.twitter.com/PkkJWLdYWT
— BAFA (@BAFAOfficial) September 4, 2022
It was a monumental effort from the Northern team to have such a brilliant bid to claim the crown, although their eight wins from eight regular season league games will almost certainly take them to Division One next season.
The Highlands team led for much of the match before Apache came back strong at the end of the game to win 17-7, which is a much slimmer scoreline than winners are used to.
Bristol Apache are a “fantastic team”
Stags general manager Tom Hutchison said his side’s brilliant campaign had been a real eye-opener across the country.
He said: “We put absolutely everything into this game and left nothing there.
“At the end of the day, Bristol are a fantastic team, who have been in the league for many years and have been in Division 1 in the past, so we know how strong they are.
“We came into the game as underdogs, which was my preference, and we won until the fourth quarter.
“They were averaging 40-50 points per game until they played us, so keeping them at 17 points is a fantastic achievement.
“I’m disgusted because we had a real chance to win, but I’m really proud of the boys for reaching this stage.
“We performed above expectations, including within our division, not to mention the country, and I’ve had messages from various people across the leagues congratulating us for surprising a few people.”
Stags look to kick off after final loss
While players can shut down for a moment and reflect on their efforts, work continues behind the scenes to reshape Highland Stags for the future.
Hutchison said, “It’s important to remember this is our first year in the league. For most clubs, that’s when they would start to build on that.
“We have the foundations of a fantastic team and a bright future ahead of us.
“We suffered the heartache of a loss, which we are not used to, but we will definitely be back on the winning track next season.
“We are looking forward to our awards ceremony and will set a date for it soon.
“There is also our AGM and our players vote for everyone, for example my job is pending re-election.
“It really is a player-driven club and they can put in whoever they want and it will be a key date on our calendar as we look at our targets for next year.”
Huchison will also focus on bringing in additional funds to help the Stags renew and update gear for the 2023 season, which is expected to start around April, with players returning in January to begin their preparations.
For more information on the Stags, or to get in touch with the club, see their Facebook page.
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[Highland Stags proud after pushing Bristol to brink in UK American football Division 2 final]