|This article needs additional citations for verification. (July 2011)|
|Home stadium||Abingdon Rugby Club|
|Head coach||Andrew Day|
|General manager||Martin Fitzpatrick|
|League||BAFA National Leagues|
|Division||BAFANL Division II South West Conference|
|League titles||2 (1995, 2006)|
Oxford Saints American Football Club is an English American football club that competes in the BAFANL (British American Football Association National League). Currently the team competes at senior level in the South West Conference. The club is based at Abingdon RFC in Oxfordshire and their matches are played at weekends from April through August. Set up in 1983, Oxford Saints are one of the oldest American football teams in the UK and have competed every year since their inception.
The brainchild of Steve Abbott, the team began life as Oxford Eagles, but following a Radio Oxford phone-in competition the team was renamed Oxford Bulldogs, and they began playing in 1984. Bulldogs contemporaries at the time were such illustrious Britball names as the London Ravens, Heathrow Jets and Stock Exchange Stags. Bulldogs first three organised games were won and set the tone for a long and successful future.
As American football's popularity increased the first British league was formed, and in 1985 Bulldogs officially joined the AFL. Bulldogs stormed through their first season with an 8-1-1 record, being defeated only by the London Ravens at the quarter final stage of the playoffs. In 1986 the AFL became the Budweiser League and for the next three seasons Bulldogs played with mixed success, once again reaching the quarter finals in 1987.
In 1989 Bulldogs were joined by local rivals Abingdon Pharaohs, strengthening the squad and broadening its local fan base. The Budweiser League then morphed into the Combined Gridiron League and then the CMAA, an unsettled period in Britball's history matched by Bulldogs' distinctly average 4-6 records over each of those two seasons.
1991 saw a quantum leap in the structure of American football in the UK as the British National Gridiron League (BNGL) was formed. It was a period of stability within the game that was matched by Bulldogs' increasing success. Instrumental in this success was American head coach, and former Chicago Bear, Steve Conner. Conner led the team to a 9-1 record and the club's first playoff appearance for four years, defeated once again at the quarter final stage in a thriller against Sutton Coldfield.
1992 saw Bulldogs move into a new era as they became Oxford Saints. Driven forward by their general manager, Roger Hedges, the club secured their first major sponsorship deal and moved to a new home at the Oxford Stadium in Cowley. Another 8-2 season followed but yet again Saints fell at the quarter final hurdle, this time to the DeLonghi Knights in Farnham. It was the same story the following year as the Knights and the quarter finals proved too big to overcome.
Prior to the 1994 season Coach Conner returned to the US leaving a legacy of professionalism, pride and talent that would serve Saints well. Richard Emerick, another experienced US coach picked up the reins and although Saints failed to make the playoffs after a 6-4 season things were beginning to take shape.
An experienced squad led by the inspirational BJ Johnson at quarterback featured myriad offensive talents; running backs Nick Whitford, Billy McMahon and Jason Lowe ran behind a huge and powerful offensive line of Steve Abbott and Everett McLean, and Steve Belcher led a fleet receiving corps. The defence was equally potent with no-nonsense Saints hall-of-fame defensive lineman Morris Coleman (who styled himself on retired Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman Mean Joe Green), the Whitford brothers, Nick and Paul, joined by a young Andrew 'Snake' Day, Danny Hawkey and a talented secondary featuring Nick Wykes, Iain Noakes, Kevin Joseph and American Airman Scott Grady. The wheels threatened to come off during the 1995 season when Emerick was forced to return to the US for family reasons. Long time Bulldog/Saint and defensive co-ordinator Chris Janes stepped up and took the head coaching role mid-way through the 1995 season. Finishing the season with a 6-3-1 record in BNGL Division 3, which featured a last gasp tie with London Blitz, Saints made the playoffs albeit facing every game away from home.
After the (now defunct) Invicta Eagles were swept aside in the first round the highly fancied London Blitz and then Colchester Gladiators were vanquished in epic confrontations leaving Saints to face Gwent Mustangs in the final at Leicester's Saffron Lane Stadium. A 14-6 victory, inspired by MVP 'Snake' Day, followed and Oxford Saints were finally champions.
Saints' subsequent promotion saw them placed in BNGL Division 2 for 1996, and after a respectable campaign league restructuring saw them competing in Division 1 in 1997. A superb 9-1 season behind second-year quarterback Wayne Mayers had Saints going all the way to the semi finals where they were defeated by the Nottingham Caesars. Disappointing campaigns followed and when the league was restructured again in 2000 Saints found themselves in Division 2 of the British Senior League.
A 7-1 campaign in 2000 was followed by an impressive 8-0 season in 2001, both ending in semi final disappointment at the hands of the PA Knights and Ipswich Cardinals respectively. After a poor 2002 season Coach Janes moved upstairs as Director of Football and Phil DeMonte took over as Head Coach.
Coach DeMonte only stayed at Saints for one season and the team again made the playoffs eventually beaten by Gateshead Senators. With Coach Janes back on the sideline for the 2004 season the team compiled a 4-5-1 record before racing through the newly formed BAFL division 2 in 2005. Saints' 9-1 record had them among the favourites for the title but this time Kent Exiles ended their hopes.
With the experienced Mayers at QB, Saints added powerhouse running back Chris Taylor to their 2006 squad and roared through their season 9-1. This time they crowned their achievement by winning the Division 2 title. Behind the powerful running of Game MVP Taylor and the sure leadership of Mayers Saints came from behind to beat West Coast Trojans 29-28 in one of the most exciting matches ever played on these shores.
In 2007, Saints' general manager Roger Hedges died.
Promoted to BAFL Division 1 in 2007, consecutive solid seasons of 6-4 and 4-5-1 respectively have seen Saints cementing their position and gradually rebuilding the squad.
Season 2009 saw Saints take another big step forward. With Chris Taylor again leading a powerhouse running game and Jay Taylor growing in confidence at quarterback several additions were made to the playing and coaching staff. Long time BAFL offensive wizard Len Scott and former London Olympian Matt Coppinger boosted the offensive coaching staff, Defensive back Nick Wykes returned as player coach after a 3-year hiatus and former Saint and PA Knight Steve Belcher returned at wide receiver and kicker, providing the highlight of the season when he landed a record 57-yard field goal as time expired to defeat Birmingham Bulls in week 7. As several of the younger members of Saints' squad matured into their roles and began making their mark, Saints immediately began to click and behind a marauding defence began an assault on the Division 1 crown. Led by Andrew 'Snake' Day and Ian 'Ice' Harry and featuring stars in the making such as Chris Ellis and Jonny Dover, Saints' defence only gave up 6 points through their first 3 matches. Saints' hopes of a conference crown were dashed in the final game of the season by a strong Tamworth Phoenix side, the only side to beat Saints in regular season play, and Oxford's season ended one game later in an epic encounter against Cambridge. An 8-2 mark represented huge progress and also a swan song for legendary head coach Chris Janes, who retired from active coaching and assumed the role of general manager.
Len Scott assumed the head coaching mantle for the 2010 season. Scott reinforced Saints' roster with an infusion of Oxford Cavaliers players and rookies new to the sport. The already strong Saints defence was bolstered with the addition of Dean Bryan, Adam Cartwright and Clive Russell, while the offence, under the tutelage of Matt Coppinger, featured rookie running back sensation Kyle Micallef alongside Jay and Chris Taylor and a growing group of young British talent.
Competing once again in the South West conference of Division 1, Saints got out to a strong start before running into the Premiership-bound Phoenix, and defeated all but the Tamworth-based outfit en route to a 7-3 record and a second straight playoff contest against Cambridge. Confident after the nailbiting encounter of 2009 Saints were stopped agonisingly short of reaching the Division semi-finals as the Cats prevailed 13-7. 2010 and 2011 proved to be difficult years for the Saints due to various changes in the coaching staff and the departure of Head Coach Len Scott. During this time Chris Janes became the interim Head Coach before Andrew Day was officially appointed to the role.
With lots of changes happening to the Saints in recent years, 2014 marks a special point in Saints history with the departure of loyal Chairman John Farley. Saints Veteran Martin Fitzpatrick takes the reigns of the club with a mostly new committee to drive the team forwards.
On the field, 2014 was a strong year for the team beginning with a huge recruitment drive. Two rookie taster events were held in the early stages of the year which drew strong interest from the local community. The team enjoyed a large input of fresh blood and had one of its best rookie classes in recent memory.
Along with the large increase in rookies, a number of experienced University players also joined the squad reinforced by the big contingent of existing veterans. The 2014 campaign featured three QB's at week 1 with OBU Panthers James Sharples and Harry Brookmyre along with Oxford Lancer Andrew McKenzie.
Sharples had the starting position secured with McKenzie in the number 2 slot. The year started off in excellent fashion with four straight wins and many predicting Oxford to have an undefeated season. In week 2 the Saints travelled to the Lincolnshire Bombers and although securing the win, they lost 2nd string QB Andrew McKenzie to a season-ending leg injury. This elevated Harry Brookmyre to the 2nd string position behind his University teammate James Sharples.
Week 4 saw the Saints take on the equally undefeated Peterborough Saxons in what was called the Battle Of The Undefeated. A statement game against what was assumed the only likely team to cause an upset, and the Saints came away with a big win at home.
The middle of the year saw the Saints stall and suffer disastrous defeats. In week 5 a huge 26-6 blow was dealt when the team travelled to play the Shropshire Revolution, with the Saints defense giving up three scores within the first quarter of play alone. A 2nd half improvement saw the Saints defense shut down Shropshire and prevent any further scores, but the damage was done and the team failed to catch up.
Further defeats were dealt against the Saints in week 6 when Lincolnshire travelled to Oxford and overcome in a close fought game. With two extremely talented American nationals on their roster, the Saints defense struggled to contain their mobile Quarterback and his equally elusive Runningback.
Week 7 saw a nail-bitingly close defeat of 21-20 against the Shropshire Revolution with a missed PAT being the deciding factor. With three back to back losses, the Saints outlook to reach the playoffs was grave.
However with a large number of rookies gaining valuable experience in their first year, the tides were to soon change with Oxford finding early season form again.
A dominant 39-16 victory over league newcomers Sandwell Steelers in week 8 and then the last road game of the year saw the Saints earn a 33-12 victory over Peterborough Saxons. Due to a shortage of available officials, the Peterborough game was played on a rescheduled date which meant the Saints were missing a decent number of starting players including the majority of the offensive line. With some tweaking however the Saints put together an offensive line with many players also playing defensive line the same game. What could have been a disaster waiting to happen turned out to be one of the strongest displays of the year.
The Saints narrowly missed out on the playoffs due to a tie breaker situation between Oxford and Shropshire, who went on and made it to the semi-finals before being beaten by the Merseyside Nighthawks. Oxford closed out the year with their 7th win of the season, against the Leicester Falcons.
2015 preparation began early with two hugely successfully rookie training events held in a state of the art 3G Dome facility. With the team looking to return to weekly training in mid-January, the Saints hope to have another strong recruitment year that can rival 2014.
Another league restructure now sees the Saints competing in SFC2 West (Southern Football Conference Division II, West) This puts the Saints up against old foes and league newcomers alike. In 2015 the Saints will be taking on Cornish Sharks, Gloucester Centurions, Swindon Storm, Bristol Apache and new team Torbay Trojans.
Oxford Saints Hall of Fame
Oxford Saints constituted their Hall of Fame in 2008.
- Com - Pam Hedges
- LB - Richard Davies
- RB - Gary Walker
- OL - STC David Creese
- CB - Nick Wykes
- DL - Morris Coleman
- LB - Andrew Day
|1988||Budweiser League||Premier||S.London & West||6-4||N/A|
|1989||Combined Gridiron League||Crown National||Central||4-6||N/A|
|1991||British National Gridiron||Premier||Midlands||9-1||QF|
|1992||British National Gridiron||National||SE Midlands||8-2||QF|
|1993||British National Gridiron||National||Midlands||5-4-1||QF|
|1994||British National Gridiron||National||South East||6-4||N/A|
|1995||British National Gridiron||Div 3||South Central||6-3-1||Champs|
|1996||British National Gridiron||Div 2||South||5-4-1||N/A|
|1997||British National Gridiron||Div 1||South/West Midlands||9-1||SF|
|1998||British National Gridiron||Div 1||South West||5-5||QF|
|1999||British National Gridiron||Div 1||South West||2-7-1||N/A|
|2000||British Senior League||Div 2||South West||7-1||SF|
|2001||British Senior League||Div 2||Southern||8-0||SF|
|2002||British Senior League||Div 2||Southern||3-7||N/A|
|2003||British Senior League||Div 2||South/West||6-4||QF|
|2004||British Senior League||Div 2||South/West||4-5-1||SF|
|2009||BAFL||Div 1||South West||8-2||QF|
|2010||BAFACL||Div 1||South West||7-3||QF|
|2011||BAFACL||Div 1||South West||-||N/A|
|2012||BAFANL||Div 1||South West||SF|
|2013||BAFANL||National Division||South West||4-6||N/A|
- Oxford Saints Official Website
- Oxford Saints Official Facebook Page
- Oxford Saints Official Twitter Page
- Official Website for the British American Football Association National League