Of all the sports clubs associated with Bournemouth University, the American Football club, or the Bournemouth Bobcats, are one of the youngest, having been formed in 2012.
But as the team prepare for their first season in the British University American Football League (BUAFL), the squad’s coaches are full of excitement for this upcoming campaign with several players who have experience under their belts returning to the fold.
This will be the Bobcats’ first competitive season and they have been practicing since the middle of September. They’ll try to improve upon their 0-3 record from last year. To do that, the squad has been practicing in pads on Friday nights at Meyrick Park and Sunday afternoons at Wallisdown.
They have chalkboard sessions on Tuesdays where they examine film of their practices and then analyse them, while they were also visited by motivational speaker and former American football player Cameron Parker a couple of weeks ago. He talked to them about visualizing success and setting goals.
Leading the team is head coach Charlie Anderson, 23. Anderson has played for six seasons with both university and senior leagues, such as with the BNU Buccaneers, Watford Cheetahs and the Bobcats. He’s also one of the few coaches in the United Kingdom who holds a Level 2 qualification from the British American Football Coaching Association.
Although he’s the head coach, he’s also the defensive coordinator. That means his job is to design the base defence of the team and figure out how to stop the opposing offence. The Bobcats play in a 4-3 defence, and that means there are four defensive linemen and three linebackers behind them.
The Bobcats will embark on their maiden voyage in the BUCS League this season, and face a rematch with the Sussex Saxons on January 25, who they had a chance to beat two seasons ago in a full-contact game before ultimately falling 16-8.
Veterans of the team are itching to play the Saxons again because it was such a close game. The Bobcats were at the Saxons’ five-yard line with five seconds to go in that game, but before they could get off a play for a chance to tie the game, time expired.
“I’m excited this season to see the guys grow and lead from the front for the new team in the first year in the league,” said Anderson. “Everyone has worked so hard to get to this point and it’s impossible not to be excited about what’s to come.”
Joshua Edwards is returning this season as the offensive coordinator. He played last season but tore his anterior cruciate ligament in January, so he’s still recovering. But he has finalised his offence – which has been designed to be versatile and unpredictable – and has installed most of it during practices. Just from the base formation and some simple play calls, there can be at least 25 different options for what the offensive players can do. Other coaches in the squad include offensive line coach Darren Parry and Billy Ko.
Team captain Joe Rutter, who plays tight end, stands at over six feet tall and is another returner who cares deeply about this squad. Although he’s had a few sleepless nights, he believes the Bobcats can achieve something big this year.
“With regards to being excited about the season, there is an underlying tone of something special that I haven’t felt in the team before,” he said. “I can’t explain it in words as it is hard to pinpoint. We have a great collection of skilled athletes who have shown a great level of commitment and drive. It is also the process in which the team has approached the season with an increasingly professional manner.
“This team will be successful this year,” he continued. “It will be tough and we have set our sights high but don’t be surprised if you see the Bobcats in the playoffs come February and March.”
The Bobcats will begin their
season with a home game against Surrey Stingers on 8 November, at Bournemouth Sports Club. They next host the BNU Buccaneers on 16 November, and the first away game of the season will be 30 November against the Chichester Spitfires.
On 7 December, the Bobcats will host the Southampton Stags. After the much anticipated Sussex Saxons clash on 25 January on the road, the Portsmouth Destroyers will come to call on 1 February, while the team’s final game of the campaign is an away game against the Solent Redhawks on 15 February.