by Christian Christansen, Tallahassee QB
Another week, another primetime showdown. Gaining nearly double the amount of votes as the previous fan night vote, Tallahassee versus Atlanta was clearly the game the league wanted to see. The matchup featured the beastly runningback, BDG Hollewood, and the ferocious Tallahassee defensive line that turned heads in week one. On the other end of the spectrum was the Tallahassee passing attack and the Swarm secondary. The key to the game would be which star player would get rolling and, of course, the star that got rolling’s team won the game.
The Atlanta Swarm won the toss and elected to receive. The first drive ended in a three and out with one of the Tallahassee generic linebackers delivering an absolute shot to Atlanta’s #1 WR L.B. Allen III, forcing a drop and a punt. Tallahassee got the ball around their own 40 yard line and got off to a slow start before hitting Ken Gossett on a deep ball for a third down conversion to get the ball inside the 10 yard line. A few plays later, Tallahassee would punch it in with Duke Wilson getting wide open in the back of the endzone for his fourth score in only 44 minutes of action. Atlanta’s next drive would stall around midfield after beginning promisingly, only to be stopped when the Tallahassee defensive line really turned up and began crashing the backfield. The Pride were able to advance the ball onto the Atlanta side of the field and ran into a 4th and short. Coach Goodin decided to take a shot and go deep on fourth down, but Christiansen overthrew Gossett, giving the Swarm the ball back in good field position. Atlanta’s next drive again stalled around midfield before getting an excellent punt inside the Tallahassee 3 yard line. Eniola began by getting the Pride out of the jam with a 12 yard first down carry to give Tallahassee some breathing room. Christiansen would take 3 shots downfield to Gossett, connecting on the last one and getting the Pride from the Tallahassee 20 to the Atlanta 20.
The quarter ended with Tallahassee leading 7-0 and Ken Gossett being the story of the day, already posting over 100 receiving yards and 2 game-changing plays.
The second quarter opened with Tallahassee right in striking distance and with both teams having the opportunity to catch their breath. Gossett continued right where he left off, going up and grabbing a 22 yard touchdown catch on the first play of the quarter. Atlanta started their next drive firing and really announced their presence with a 30 yard pass to Jay Frontz at midfield. The drive, however, would end controversially with a pair of near-first downs called inches short on both third and fourth down. Tallahassee got the ball back right around midfield with the series beginning with two of the weirder plays of the game. The first down play was a tipped pass that had the potential to be intercepted for a pick six. The immediately proceeding play was a rare scramble from Christiansen for 6 yards to get himself out of a bind with a collapsing pocket. Despite this, Tallahassee would stall around the Swarm 40 yard line and punt the ball for a touchback.
The Swarm began their drive from the Tallahassee 20 and ran into quick trouble, being forced into three and out with great play from the Tallahassee defensive line, particularly Fats Johnson, who recorded 2 tackles for loss on the drive and a third down sack. The Pride began the next drive in excellent field position around the 50 yard line. The offense marched down the field with little resistance before Christiansen hit Wilson, one-handed, on a 25 yard shot for his 5th touchdown of the young season. This put the Pride up 21-0 late in the second quarter.
The Atlanta Swarm were not done yet, as they began their drive with some excellent runs to BDG Hollewood and a deep ball into Tallahassee territory. The two minute warning came and Anthony Wyo nearly picked off a deep pass on the immediate proceeding third down play. The Swarm were just out of field position and decided to punt, pinning the Pride deep in their own territory. The aggressive Pride decided not to run the ball out and opted to “GO DEEP” again. However, the ball to Gossett was undercut and intercepted, setting up the Swarm nicely just outside of the redzone. It didn’t take long for Atlanta to strike, as Hollewood burst through for a 25 yard touchdown run nearly untouched on the first play after the turnover. Despite the disaster, Tallahassee opted to continue their aggressive play calling and Christiansen threw another pick on back to back drives to EK Vinson. Atlanta capitalized on this mistake by returning the pick to the midfield line. Atlanta marched down the field with most of its yardage coming on a broken screen play to Hollewood who made one of the sickest cuts of the entire week and gaining about 20 yards. The Pride defense was able to gather its integrity, stopped bleeding, and held up to force a long field goal that was made.
The half ended with the Pride leading 21-10. The air attack of Tallahassee through this point had dominated the game and really adjusted the Atlanta usually run-based game script.
The opening drive of the second half by Tallahassee was a disappointing three and out capped off by an embarrassing reception by rookie sensation Duke Wilson running backwards. Atlanta opened their second half up with a couple big runs by BDG Hollewood, including a “Hollewood-quake”-esque run where he broke 4 tackles en route to a 15 yard first down. The drive would stall shortly thereafter with some dominating play by Fats Johnson. Tallahassee was nearly stopped after several plays of incredible run support by do-it-all safety EK Vinson. An amazing catch by Ken Gossett over the middle of the field on third down saved the drive. Eventually, Tallahassee settled for a long field goal to make the game 24-10.
From this point forward, the gamescript became largely the same. Tallahassee’s defense would overwhelm Atlanta for first and second down, particularly because the Swarm had no answer for Fats Johnson, who would go on to record 4.5 sacks in the game. On third down, however, DeMar Woods channeled his inner-Macc Wavy and seemed to make the impossible play and somehow convert.
The story of the final frame was the overwhelming Pride defense and how they seemed to turn it into 9th gear in the redzone. Being lead by Johnson, Tallahassee consistently knocked Atlanta from goalline first down scenarios to out of the redzone. Offensively, the Pride went into clock-killing mode forcing the ball to Jaye Eniola to burn the clock, which was done very efficiently. The Swarm converted a field goal on their first redzone drive in this quarter, making the game 24-13, the closest it would be all day. Gossett would lead the Pride back down the field in response though with several clutch, chain-moving catches, resulting in a field goal.
The final nail in the coffin was perceivably WR L.B. Allen III going down with an injury, crippling the X factor for the Atlanta passing attack. Woods made the game interesting in the late game with several clutch third down conversions. The Tallahassee defense put the exclamation point on this game with 3:46 remaining in the game. On third and goal, Fats Johnson broke through the offensive line unblocked for a bone-rattling sack. Atlanta, forcibly, had to go for it on fourth down, but the Pride defensive line again swarmed the Atlanta offensive line, resulting in a sack for Otis Gibbons. From this point, Tallahassee began to really play, with Christiansen hitting Gossett deep one more time. The Pride ended up in the redzone before Vinson made a key third down clothesline to put Eniola on the ground and force a field goal. Shockingly, this field goal ended up being blocked with Atlanta completely overwhelming Tallahassee’s special teams unit. The Swarm got the ball around midfield before running into the Tallahassee closer. Fats Johnson wound up with his final sack of the game on a second down leaping sack to tear down DeMar Woods and force a 3rd and 20. Of course, Atlanta showed their resiliency and hit a deep ball over the middle of the field to continue the drive. The Swarm offense mercifully stalled with a failed 4th down conversion knocked down by the Tallahassee corner Kenny Stokes.
Tallahassee took a few victory formations and ended the game at 27-13. The game displayed some dominating efforts from the Pride passing game and defensive line, and a heroic effort by Atlanta quarterback DeMar Woods. In the end, Tallahassee’s was able to effectively establish their attack and shut down BDG Hollewood, and that proved to be the winning formula.
This matchup featured two of the league’s heavyweights in the Atlanta Swarm and Tallahassee Pride in an all-important conference game within the Eastern conference. In the Fan Night Game of the Week, the Pride came out on top 27-13 in a game that saw them pace the action by multiple possessions for much of the game.
The Pride established their passing attack early and often, of course running it through quarterback Christian Christiansen, but was taken to its unstoppable level on this night because of the dominating effort by Ken Gossett. The veteran receiver tallied 234 receiving yards on 10 catches for 1 touchdown just one week after Duke Wilson took the league by storm with a 200+ yard 3 touchdown performance of his own. Not to be overshadowed, Wilson had a great game of his own, going 6-66-2, serving primarily as a redzone threat that gave the Atlanta cornerbacks nightmares. The running game was less than spectacular, having nearly 20 carries, but averaging just under 3 YPC. The defense really showed up and spoke out to the league with them turning yet another offense into a semi-one dimensional attack. This was facilitated by their dominating defensive line headed by Fats Johnson, with veteran safety and Offensive Coordinator Alex Bond cleaning up in the back end.
The Swarm played their hearts out themselves, playing a relatively efficient game. At quarterback, Woods piloted Atlanta to a 261 yard effort with no touchdowns or picks. Hollewood, who the offense was supposed to run through, went 27 carries for 70 yards (less than 3 YPC as well) for a touchdown, with the bulk of the yardage coming on the long touchdown run to end the first half. He also contributed significantly in the passing game with 5 catches for 45 yards of his own. Boo Chisholm had 107 yards off of 5 catches and was the primary vertical threat, especially with L.B. Allen III going down late. Defensively, the front seven did a good job shutting down the Tallahassee run and EK Vinson played a great game on the back end cleaning up long passing plays and forcing two key turnovers that kept Atlanta in the game.
Tallahassee Pride Players of the Week: WR Ken Gossett and DT Fats Johnson
In two really easy decisions, Gossett and Johnson are the Pride players of the week. Ken Gossett became the second Pride receiver in as many weeks to tear up a defense, going for 234 yards on 10 catches for a touchdown with the 63 yard catch early in the first quarter to set up Wilson’s first redzone touchdown being his long and being the offensive play that really set the game in motion. Fats Johnson won Tallahassee DPOW for the second the week in a row, as he really stuffed the stat sheet, set the league on fire, and began making a serious and all-too-early case for SFL Defensive Player of the Year. He almost single-handedly ruined the Atlanta gameplan with his 9.0 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and EIGHT, count ‘em, EIGHT tackles for a loss.
Atlanta Swarm Players of the Week: QB DeMar Woods and FS EK Vinson
Quarterback DeMar Woods was instrumental in keeping Atlanta in this game throughout the second half, demonstrating some very clutch play that transcended what the stat sheet can provide. Woods produced a stat line, however, of 18-34 for 261 yards without a score or turnover. Clearly the best player on the field at any given point in time for the Atlanta defense was EK Vinson. Vinson produced 7 tackles and 2 interceptions that directly lead to 10 of the 13 points for the Swarm. Vinson’s presence in terms of knocking down balls and creating plays for other players also went unnoticed by the stat sheet, as he played a critical role in limiting the Tallahassee to 6 second half points.[event_details 7729] [event_results 7729] [event_performance 7729]