by Slinn Shady, London LB
A Meeting of Saints
Coming into Season 10, the Sharks and the Vaqueros had one major thing in common: their unique builds. Both squads had caught the attention of the league due to the outlandishness of their owners’ strategy, bringing simultaneous levels of intrigue and skepticism. I, for one, came into this season of the opinion that both teams would find success provided the coaches had a sound game plan to back up their alternative ideals. After Week 1, it seems like the more experienced Vaqueros staff have been able to make the most of their playbook more effectively, however Week 2 held no guarantees for San Antonio.
San Francisco were coming off a painful loss in their first game, at home, to fellow expansion team, the Indianapolis Red Devils. No doubt the Sharks would be looking for vengeance, sniffing out any sign of Vaquero blood.
Crowds filed into the Vaqueros Stadium. Food was being eaten, drinks being drunk. The teams were lined up for the national anthem. The stage was set.
The battle of ‘The Saints’ was about to begin.
First Quarter: Somehow…No Touchdowns!
The game kicked off and there were fireworks almost immediately. San Antonio were on the second play of their opening drive, when Joey Langdon hit tight end, Aaron Miller, over the middle and in full stride. Miller showed surprising speed for a big man, rumbling all the way to the 5 yard line before being brought down by the San Francisco safety. After such a successful play, it looked like the Vaqueros were certain to score, only for Jason German to be halted short of the sticks twice in succession. San Antonio had to settle for three and the Sharks defense could hold their heads high after an important stop.
The dogged play of their defense seemed to spur the Sharks offense into a quality opening drive of their own. Jacques Luyindula was showing confidence in the pocket, finding his targets efficiently. Especially impressive was a bullet strike to George Calderon, the big tight end showing what he can do in the passing game. San Francisco replicated the missed opportunity of their opponents however, stalling in the redzone and sending their kicker out for a chip shot field goal. Chris Kicks swung his foot…and missed! He looked to the sky and cursed the day he missed a field goal that my one-legged grandmother could have made.
The quarter wound down to a battle between the 20’s, with Luyindula showing a particularly good understanding with wide receiver, Gabriel Manning, hitting him with short, efficient passes.
Quarter number two started with a near perfect drive up field by the Vaqueros. Play like this really shows the improvements made by San Antonio over the off-season and solidifies them as genuine playoff contenders. Jason German led the way, getting involved in the passing game and generally being a first down machine. His quickfire runs were accented by Joey Langdon’s pinpoint arm, finding all three of his receiving options before eventually hitting Daley Holder in the endzone on a post route. Langdon was heating up.
Back came San Francisco, although their offense seemed to be struggling. Luyindula just couldn’t hit any of his targets and without much run support and a couple of Sharks drives failed without much excitement. Towards the end of the 2nd however, this narrative changed.
The Sharks managed to get the ball back after excellent work from linebacker, Chester Field, forced the Vaqueros into a punt. Field’s great work was rewarded when (seemingly out of nowhere), Luyindula showed his cannon arm off and hit Gabriel Manning in full stride, deep over the middle. The quote-unquote ‘second best receiver in the league’ showed his impressive speed for a big framed player and powered his way to 7 points. Manning is legit and anybody who sleeps on the Sharks will be sleeping on Manning too. The quarter and the half trudged to an end with San Francisco clamping down on the Vaqueros, not giving them room to breathe.
Going into the third, San Antonio had won the field position battle, San Francisco looking like a big play for 6 was always possible. But the question remained, at 10-7, which way would this one go?
Third Quarter: D-Fence! ‘clap, clap, clap!’, D-Fence!
The third quarter was an absolute barnstormer if you get your kicks to a solid defensive match up. I am one of those people, but even I can’t make that sound particularly exciting on a written match report, so, to become as efficient as these two defences, I’m going to use bullet points to list what occurred during the quarter:
• Joey Langdon intercepted by Merrick Itera (who returned the ball nicely)
• San Francisco couldn’t capitalize on the ideal field position
• San Antonio working it on 3rd down; Daley Hornish and Daley Holder both making the world class catches they are quickly becoming known for
• Chester Field quickly becoming a fan favourite in San Francisco. The dude is a tank.
And, being honest, that’s about it! On to the 4th!
Fourth Quarter: Experience Pays Out
The fourth began with a chip shot for Antonio Flowerglass, putting the Vaqueros into a 13-7 lead. Ryan Moats’ young squad would need to show some unexpected character and more than a little daring if they were going to pull off the win. The following drive for the Sharks looked promising, and could have signaled an unlikely comeback, but a potential touchdown pass to Gabriel Manning was thwarted by the man himself, failing to turn around as Luyindula mistimed his pass on a wide open route. This moment spelled doom for the resilient Sharks and their young quarterback, who looked rattled.
This miss-throw was compounded by the fact that Daley Holder plays for the Vaqueros. The man rose up, caught a Joey Langdon bullet one-handed and outsprinted the Sharks’ secondary to the endzone. This was a must see play from an elite receiver and even the away fans could only look on with envy. The score was now 20-7 to the Vaqueros and they seemed almost unassailable now. San Antonio turned the screw further with yet another field goal from star kicker, Antonio Flowerglass.
During the final two minutes, San Francisco tried in vein to gain something from the game, even if it was just some pride, but Luyindula’s inexperience told, and two more bad interceptions were thrown, one a great athletic play from linebacker, Obi Okoye.
Player of the game: Joey Langdon.[event_details 8168] [event_results 8168] [event_performance 8168]