American Football: Valentine makes Olympians' day

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The Independent Online
THE BRITISH American football season reached its conclusion yesterday when the London Olympians defeated the Leicester Panthers 34-6 to win the Coca-Cola Bowl at the Alexander Stadium, Birmingham.

In doing so, the Olympians finally laid to rest their reputation as the team which cannot win when it matters, with a display of dominance which utterly overwhelmed their opponents.

It was a messy, ill-tempered affair - the two teams combined for more than 300 yards in penalties - but the Londoners will care little for the manner of their triumph. They had lost in four previous bowl contests, but proved to be irresistible at the fifth time of asking.

On offence, the Olympians effectively mixed the run and the pass, their American quarterback Leonard Valentine throwing three touchdown passes, the running back Richard Dunkley adding two further scores on the ground.

In contrast, the Panthers were unable to establish their own formidable ground attack. Warren Sweetman, a highly rated running back who has attracted the interest of the world league's London Monarchs, could muster only 73 yards against the British game's meanest defence.

The Panthers were unexpected bowl contenders, defeating the defending champions, the Birmingham Bulls in last week's semi-final to earn their first championship game appearance. But simply being there seemed the limit of their aspirations. They trailed by 22 points at half-time and were never a factor. Their American quarterback, Akim Kargbo, had a wretched afternoon, ultimately leaving the game with an ankle injury in the fourth quarter.

Valentine, by contrast, completed passes at will, including touchdown from 51 yards to Leroy Innes, 20 yards to Gerry Anderson, and 15 yards to Steve Sobers. On the ground Dunkley, the league's most productive running back, finished with 118 yards from 24 carries. The Panther's only touchdown came when it was too late to matter, the running back Andy Sweeney scoring from a yard out with five minutes remaining.

'This is the culmination of three years' hard work,' Philip Andriesz, the Olympians' owner, said. 'The difference today was that we had a good all-round team performance, something we've never managed in previous Bowl games.'