Every game in sports has a story to it, an overarching narrative that adds to the drama of the occasion. Often it’s newly forming, sometimes it’s coming to an end, and on rare occasions it’s an ongoing rivalry that heats up with every meeting. Houston vs San Antonio is one of those rivalries. What started out as a friendly, geographical competition turned into a tale of revenge after The Vaqueros put a 55-0 beating on The Hyenas during Week 12 of last season. The result of the game became even more poignant for the Hyenas after a 1-2 start had them playing catch up with the leaders of the West. Houston needed a win to stay in playoff contention, whilst also regaining some pride after Season 9’s drubbing. I had an extremely informative conversation with Hyenas owner, Demond Simean ahead of the Week 4 clash.

Shady: So, you pretty much dominated Dallas last week…that victory surely gives you an edge going into Vaqueros Stadium after they lost against Alaska. Thoughts?

Demond: The win against Dallas was great for the Hyenas as a whole we were down in the standings going into that game at 0-2. I do agree it does gives Houston an egde for this week matchup due to SA losing last week. A win this week can push us back in the run for a playoff spot.

Shady: For sure, for sure. Houston’s defence has been stellar so far this year and I expect this to continue at the weekend. Is there an area of the game where you are looking for an improvement??

Demond: As an owner & coach you will always find some type of flaws or improvement that is needed for your team. You’re correct the defense has been playing outstanding thus far. SA knows Houston very well, due to the Owner use to be the Defense Coordinator for the Hyenas. Last season Hou & SA split the two games played at 1-1. The offense stills need more improvement although we scored 40 points which 8 of those were scored by the defense. Look for the offense to be a lot more crisp this week.

Shady: Well they say defenses wins championships, so you’re all set if that’s the case.
Before the season started, I had Houston and San Antonio pegged as potential wild card teams. How much impact will a positive result have on the overall playoff outlook in the West?

Demond: I wish it was more easy done than said. But yes I agree defense does win championships. the key to the game is to outscore the other team, without a strong defense your team has no chance. When the season started I had my eyes on Alaska & SA as the key teams to beat in the west. Houston has never beat Alaska which is sad to say & SA knows us very well as I stated before. So to answer the question A win Sunday will be key for us & move us up in the standing to make a real push for the playoffs & become a team that most teams do not want to see in the post season.

Shady: Ahhh it’s just come back to me what the scoreline read the last time the two teams met. SAV are a dangerous team, is there any player that you are wary of more than the others?

Demond: Well I was more concerned about Jason German but I’ve just seen that they have released him & signed Anderson Silver, I have no idea what he can do on the field. But I tell you this no team should sleep on Daly Holder, I’m not sure if I spelled the first name correct…..lol.

Shady: You’ve highlighted Daley Holder as a potent threat on the outside and I habe to agree. I would guess Ryan Michaels is the man to stop him. Are you confident Ryan is up to the task, or will it be more of a team effort?

Demond: Holder is a threat to anyones defense, but I have a lot of faith in Ryan Michaels cover skills. But just an FYI expect Michaels to have help over the top from FS Blake Chance.

Shady: Man thanks for an awesome interview, it’s gonna really help with the article. Fly last question is two-fold…How are you gonna deal with those big daddy punts by Arminius Davis? And, neck on the block time…What’s your prediction for the final scoreline?

Demond:
We’ll have to win the field position battle, meaning to keep SA from getting crossed their very own 40 yard line this is when the defense will come into play. We have to play smart & physical vs this team.
If we allow SA to crossed the 50 that will hurt us in the special teams, their punter has a strong leg.
We can’t afford to allow this team to pin us deep.

Shady: And, sorry to be cheeky, but the final score?

Demond: I will always lean towards Houston, & the final score of the game 28-17 Houston.

Shady: Big respect for the interview and best of luck on Sunday.

Houston Hyenas: A team that’s clicking in all the right ways

I’ve watched a lot of hours of SFL action since joining the league in October, and I don’t recall ever seeing a team come out of the locker room as red hot as the Houston Hyenas did on Sunday against San Antonio. Demond Simean and his coaches must have been building some pretty powerful hype before the game because the road team seemed intent on snatching the heart out of San Antonio and mailing it back to them in little pieces. Something was in the air on Sunday, and whatever it was had the effect of Popeye’s spinach on every Hyenas player.

From the very first play, you could tell that young quarterback, Ahmed Cheema was feeling it. Cheema opened his passing account with a picturesque pass down the right sideline into the safe hands of receiver, Garren Malone, taking Houston well into the Vaqueros ‘ half. A mere two plays later, the young signal caller was passing down the middle to the same receiver for the Hyenas’ first touchdown, showing immaculate timing to hit Malone in stride. This was the first of 4 touchdowns on the day for Cheema, as he went 16 for 23 with zero interceptions and a total of 263 yards. Excellent numbers for a young rookie.

All of Cheema’s 6-pointers came in the first half as he dominated the San Antonio secondary, hitting Badr Ajloijni on a 32 yard pass down the sideline for a touchdown towards the end of the first half having previously sent the experienced DR. Sim in for two scores. The second of these endzone breakers was a perfect lob down the middle of the field, hitting Sim in stride after he had beaten inexperienced Safety, Nicholas Warner on the play. This performance from Cheema really showcased an uncanny ability to put touch onto his passes, with most of his balls dropping over the heads of a defender and into the grateful clutches of his receivers. Cheema doesn’t have a cannon, but he doesn’t need one when he has such a feel for the ball.

As good as Ahmed Cheema was, the real man of the moment was Houston’s running back, Warren Murray. Murray had shown glimpses of what he can do during the first three weeks although I had him pegged as a decent runner with more of a feel forctje passing game. Boy was I wrong! Against a fairly decent Vaqueros defence, Murray ran with an abusive level of effectiveness. Not since Ray Bentley’s performance in the Season 9 championship game have a seen a back take over a game like Murray did on Sunday.

His first major chunk of yardage came early in the first with Houston up 7-0. I can’t even remember how many tackles he rode as he slipped through the middle of the Vaqueros’ defence but it was a heck of a lot. The prototype back showed electric eel-like slipperyness, eluding defenders on his way to am 84 yard touchdown run. It’s wasn’t long before he was at it again, breaking through an arm tackle, sidestepping the hapless San Antonio safeties and burning all the way to the 2 yard line. That play ended the first quarter, and you can all imagine what happened at the start of the 2nd; a 2 yard touchdown run, giving Murray his second on the day.

Houston seem to have found themselves a running back who has a knack for breaking the first tackle and gaining at least some yards on every play. The amount of times that he sliced away from a would-be was easily in the double figures, and his numbers on the day show how consistently he ran the ball. Murray gained 257 yards on 21 carries, bringing with it a 12.2 yards per carry average. That is big time!

Up until now, the Hyenas have been known for having one of the stingiest defences in the SFL. The offensive success of DR. Sim and his boys overshadowed the defensive play of Houston, but it was solid as a rock once more. Pressure was applied to Joey Langdon, big hits were made on the Vaqueros’ new running back and The secondary made 2 excellent picks, one of which saved a touchdown and stalled San Antonio with a few seconds left on the clock.

Cornerback, Ryan Michaels was responsible for the first pick, showing skin tight coverage on his receiver and soft and to corral the pass. At one point during his return, I thought he was headed for 6, but am important tackle from a retreating lineman thwarted him.

There isn’t much else to say about the defensive play of the Hyenas right now. They’re one of the best at the back and they proved it; they get after the ball and they proveD It.

Houston ownership will be hoping they can carry on this level of performance shown in the last two weeks because, if they do, they’re one of the most dangerous teams in the league. I know I wouldn’t fancy facing them.

San Antonio Vaqueros: What on earth happened to the defence?!

San Antonio lost this game 42-17. The score at half time was 42-14. Now, I understand that teams can take their foot off the gas, put their backups in and see a game out safely, but how does a seemingly decent defence give up 42 points in one half then 0 the next?! It doesn’t make sense to me.

The first half was just an abysmal defensive performance all round. The front seven was being bullied, barely getting pressure and allowing Warren Murray to break every first tackle made against him. Players were showing poor technique in the tackle, reaching with arms and falling by the wayside rather than hitting with the shoulder and driving Murray back. San Antonio’s defence needs to get into the habit of hitting the runners soft bits with their hard bits, then they might get some success against the run.

As bad as the front seven we’re, the secondary was even worse, not managing to snag an interception all game (or even get close to one for that matter) whilst also gettimg beaten deep on at least four occasions. One man who had a particularly tough day was Safety, Nicholas Warner. Warner is new to the Vaqueros roster, and on this evidence his level of play needs to improve, dramatically.

On offense, Joey Langdon and his boys put up a valiant fight, hitting some fairly impressive numbers against a hyenas defence that has showed SFL leading promise this season.

Langdon ended the game with 263 yards on 26-39 passing, gaining two touchdowns and throwing two interceptions.  Langdon has quietly established himself as one of the better quarterbacks in the league, and I’d say his arm was on decent form again on Sunday, finding his two favourite targets on regular occasions.

The talismanic receivers brought in a touchdown each, Holder’s looking particularly impressive as he stuck  one mammoth paw out whilst spinning to grab a turn around, one-handed catch in front of a Houston defender. It was a highlight reel play from a big time player.

Making his debut for the Vaqueros was running back, Anderson Silver (I’m assuming no relation). Silver had a mixed bag of runs but, considering it was his debut, he grinder out a hardworking performance, gashing Houston’s defence for 109 yards and 4.0 yards per carry. Silver looks like he will be a shrewd capture,and provided he can keep progressing his player, we should see him getting better and better each week.

San Antonio shouldn’t be too concerned by this loss. Their offense played fairly well against a next level defence and the way the Vaqueros’ defence wilted under pressure will be an anomaly. Still expect San Antonio to be fighting for a playoff spot come squeaky bum time during late season.

A few thoughts from a disgruntled owner…

After the game had ran it’s last play, I caught up with San Antonio Vaqueros owner, Greg Corky, to discuss the match and pick his brain about his plans going forward.

Shady: I felt quite confident of a San Antonio victory going into this game. What were your predictions before kick off?

Corky: I felt really confident that it was going to be a tight game and a lot of give and take back n forth. Without giving away too much I made a miscalculation as to what my boy Demond would do. In other words he zigged when I thought he would zag lol. That being said he probably would have whipped my azz anyway and if I got to lose losing to him doesn’t hurt so bad.

Shady: You mention Demond had a few tricks up his sleeve that caught you off guard. Was there an area of the game where Houston surprised You? Or a player that Did?

Corky: Like I said I don’t want to give away too much because we have to play them again.

Shady: Ahhh keeping your cards close to your chest see. Well, let’s talk about next week. The Gladiators await. Confident of getting back to winning ways?

Corky: That is going to be a tough game these are not your daddys Gladiators this is a whole different breed of cat. They’ve won the season series with a tough Chicago team that was in the Championship last season let’s just say they have turned a corner and will be hard to get by.

Shady: Awesome man, thanks for the thoughts and good luck next week

Corky: No problem anytime and keep up the good work.

Despite clearly hurting from the loss in Week 4, I think Corky is quietly confident of returning to winning ways in Week 5 against St. Louis. That game is going to be tight, with home field advantage maybe playing a factor in giving the Vaqueros the edge.

As for Houston, they just need to keep doing what they are doing. This could be a Vancouver-esque winning run. C’mon Houston, let’s have you laughing come the end of the season.