Can you believe we’ve made it to and through Week 8 already? It seems only yesterday that excited new rookies were being signed to their very first SFL contract, amid much trash talking and team-build scrutinizing. The art of prediction was being exhibited across the SFL back then and I guarantee that nobody thought Season 10 would pan out as it has done (me being no exception). I, for one, had the Indianapolis Red Devils going 2-10, propping up the Central Conference and generally having a terrible season. As it happens, they sit right at the heart of a tight playoff battle, currently 4-4 and coming into some kind of late season form. It just proves that, despite all the speculation and foretelling by us so called ‘experts’, you can never predict sport and you can never predict the SFL.

Luckily for the Beat Writers in this segment, we’re reviewing what has already happened without delving into the uncertain realm of prediction. So, let’s see what Week 8 had to offer, shall we?

Dallas Roughnecks @ Alaska Storm

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One team was trying to keep up their momentum; the other, trying to stop a losing streak. Looking at the record between these two teams, Dallas at 1-6 and Alaska at 5-2, the story wouldn’t quite be what you’d expect. Dallas, coming off their first win of the season against the Oklahoma City Renegades; Alaska, coming off their 2nd loss in as many games against the surging San Francisco Sharks.

In the early goings of this game, it looked as though it could a defensive struggle. Both teams went 3 and out on several drives. A deep pass to Dallas wide receiver James Hands opened up the game and set up Dallas for the first score, a swing pass to Mike Davis from 3 yards out. The ensuing drive brought Alaska star wide receiver, Optimus Cline, who climbed the ladder over Dallas cornerback, Crash Combs, to haul in a deep pass to help set up Alaska’s first scoring play, a 1 yard run from their non-contract running back, Stanley Nordelus. As the 2nd quarter started, Dallas went back to Hands, who once again broke free from the secondary on a deep pass, only this time he wasn’t going to be stopped as he ran wild for an 82 yard TD. Alaska quickly answered with a touchdown of their own, finding Robert Merrill in the back of the endzone. A FG after an INT by Alaska and another TD for Merrill put Alaska up, 24-14 at the end of the 2nd quarter. At the half, both teams were virtually even in every category, except one. Alaska dominated the Time of Possession, 14:05 to 7:41. In the second half, the Alaska offense continued to put up points while the Alaska defense stifled the Dallas offense well into the 4th quarter. Alaska scored another goal line TD from Nordelus, his 2nd TD of the game, to put them up 31-14 by the end of the 3rd quarter. The 4th quarter showed much of the same from Alaska. A deep pass to tight end, Yasin Clifton, put them up 38-14. A late TD run by Dallas running back, Mike Davis, put them to 38-21 but it was too little too late. A FG with little over 2 minutes left in the game was just icing on the cake for Alaska and gave us our final, 41-21, Alaska over Dallas.

In Week 9, the Alaska Storm host the 5-3 Houston Hyenas, fresh off their narrow victory against the San Antonio Vaqueros. The Dallas Ruffnecks visit the 3-5 San Francisco Sharks, a team looking to rebound from a loss to the Vancouver Legion.

Player of the Game: Ron Cockren 35-46, 408 yds and 3 TD’s. 124.2 QB Rating

Honourable Mention: Dallas WR James Hands: 7 Rec, 245 yds and 1 TD

By Ryan Michaels

London Knights @ Tallahassee Pride

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These Eastern Conference foes came into this game on drastically different runs of form. The home Tallahassee Pride were riding a 7-game unbeaten run, riding high on the confidence of a so-far unbeaten season. The London Knights had just lost four on the bounce, still reeling from a 31-29 defeat to Atlanta the week previous. Everything pointed towards another home drubbing on the Pride’s part (a potential repeat of the 42-13 Box Score from earlier in the season) and only a select few of the SFL faithful were giving London a chance. Little did they know that the Knights would rise on the back of a ‘British Underdog Spirit’, fighting fire with fire against the men in purple and testing them more than any team has even come close to this season. What transpired was a potential ‘Game of the Year’ candidate, a 45-48 scoreline and the perfect way to set off yet another exciting weekend of SFL action.  

As the season has progressed, The London Knights have forged the reputation of being a ‘defensive grinder’, a team that doesn’t produce wonders on offense but holds fast on defense and does enough to win. However, judging on the last two weeks, that script has totally flipped. The Knights’ offense has captured ‘big-play fever’ recently and that carried on against Tallahassee’s much admired defense. Michael Martin, despite only completing 50% of his passes, had over 200 yards and 3 touchdowns, hitting Andre ‘The Bull’ Godspeed for one score (3 catches, 44 yards) and tossing two deep bombs to a galloping Jockamo Jones to earn two 6-pointers. Jones is quickly becoming one of the most dangerous ‘big play’ threats in the Eastern Conference, going for 156 yards off just 6 catches on the day. This rejuvenated passing output was backed up by huge contributions from Spencer Mair, Jeffrey Daggs and Frank Axemall. Mair carried an exhausting 34 times for the Knights, putting the team on his back and trucking for 170 yards and a touchdown. Axemall was a beast in the trenches, hitting Christian Christiansen 3 times and cementing his shoulder pads into the quarterback’s memory. Daggs managed to get himself a haul of 12 points alone, bookending the scoring with his second kick return touchdown of the season and Season 10’s first ever punt return touchdown. One thing is for sure, Tallahassee will be glad to see the back of the playmaking free safety after he absolutely tore them to shreds.  

Speaking of playmaking ability, the Tallahassee Pride squad has an abundance of it. They hold eye-popping talent across the board with a head coach who knows how to get the best out of that talent. Three men who, yet again, had productive games were Christian Christiansen, Ken Gossett and Duke Wilson. Christiansen unleashed his arm for a total of 534 yards and 4 touchdowns, racking up the numbers on huge plays in important moments. It was in the third quarter when ‘Dub-C’ really stepped it up, orchestrating big play after big play to help the Pride pull away from London and create a lead that would last until the end of the game. A great quarterback is nothing without his receivers, and it showed with Gossett and Wilson combining for 425 yards and 4 touchdowns (3 for Gossett, 1 for Wilson). One man who has taken a backseat this season behind the ‘Touchdown Trio’ is running back, Jaye Eniola. Eniola has been relatively quiet during Season 10, however he made himself heard on Saturday, rumbling for 111 yards and 1 score on just 11 carries. It was Eniola who kept the Pride afloat when they looked to be on the verge of sinking, and Tallahassee’s coaching staff will no doubt be thrilled they have a player they can count on when things get rough. And things did get rough, for a time, but the Pride proved that they can survive a scare.  

Next week sees the London Knights hosting the Mexico City Aztecs, a game that is equally important to both teams as they look to stay strong In the playoff picture. 

Tallahassee falls back into inter-conference play, hosting the Chicago Wildcats. I’m predicting a Game of the Year contender between these two experienced outfits, so be there SFL Nation.    

By Slinn Shady

Mexico City Aztecs @ Atlanta Swarm

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The Aztecs were firing on all cylinders for the first quarter against the Atlanta Swarm, throwing 14 uncontested points on the board in Georgia before their US brethren were able to answer back, but answer they did, putting up 10 of their own points to Mexico’s 0 in the next quarter. While Mexico City quarterback Matt Willson had 4 less yards than Atlanta counterpart DeMar Woods, he only had one interception to Woods’ season-record-tying five throwing against the revitalized Wall.

Dijon Swann and Ray Bentley were able to punch in touchdowns for the Aztecs, while BDG Hollewood and LB Allen III did the 6-point scoring for the Swarm, but the difference was star kicker Kole Varner, who booted a combined 9 points through the uprights to help Mexico City walk away with the 23-17 win. The Mexico City Aztecs travel to London for a rematch against the Knights, while the Swarm head north to ConPro Field to take on the Queen City Aztecs in a match that just might determine Wildcard positioning heading into the final stretch.

By Ray Bentley

San Antonio Vaqueros @ Houston Hyenas

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Unfortunately, we were unable to provide any detailed coverage of the Vaqueros @ Hyenas game.

Queen City Corsairs @ Carolina Skyhawks

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The game started out pretty evenly matched. Both squads’ defensive units played solid, holding the offenses to no points in the first half of the quarter. Queen City struck first, however, with AJ Caswell finding wide receiver, Memphis Blue, for a touchdown strike. It would remain a back and forth contest from there on out, with neither squad being able to get on the scoreboard.

Carolina managed to get on the board quickly in the first half thanks to a strong rushing attack. The ball was punched in by the backup running back, Barr, but AJ Francis was carrying the load for most of the drive. After some three-and-outs on both sides, the Corsairs entered the red zone again, but could not come away with a touchdown. They settled for three to put the score at 10-7. The Skyhawks took the ball with only seconds left before halftime, but Francis made some nifty moves, breaking numerous tackles, and taking the ball 63 yards for a touchdown to put them up 14-10 at the half and momentum on their side.

The third quarter was uneventful except for a pair of field goals by both squads, putting the score at 17-14 in the fourth. Both defensive units played well. The Queen City unit, fresh off a defeat by Tallahassee, zoned in on the passing attack of Mark Biddix, who was held to 168 yards on the day. In doing so, they opened up running lanes for AJ Francis, who put up 180 yards on 27 carries. Meanwhile, the Carolina defensive did well in stopping Ash Odom, who ran 23 times for only 97 yards. Despite their constant run-stuffing, the Corsairs did not abandon the run.

Heading into the fourth, the Corsairs were driving into the Carolina redzone. Odom found a wide-open hole in the mid-level of the defense, but was stopped short of the goalline. Despite the Skyhawks’ line making stops previously, it couldn’t keep Odom out of the endzone on the ensuing play and he stumbled in to put Queen City up 20-17. What ensued next was a tight battle for field position, with both punters getting their work in for the day. Carolina caught momentum first, and Mark Biddix made it count in the fourth. He took the Skyhawks all the way to a 1st and Goal in hurry-up offense. With 41 seconds left, he found Trystan Dieciseis in the corner of the endzone to go up 24-20. Caswell and the Corsairs got the ball back with under half a minute to play and a long way to go. Caswell was sacked on the first two plays of the drive. Then, on a third and 20 with 24 seconds left and driving from their own 23 yard line, AJ Caswell threw a lofty bomb to WR Chris Curtis, who took the ball 77 yards to swing the lead for the Corsairs and silence the home crowd. Although Biddix and his team had one hail mary chance left after that, Queen City safety Zane Doty intercepted the ball to seal the win for Queen City.

Queen City moves to 4-4, while Carolina falls to 1-7. The win moves Queen City into wildcard contention as playoffs near, but Carolina seems to be all but done in for the postseason.

Queen City hosts the Atlanta Swarm next week, while Carolina travels to face the Oklahoma City Renegades.

By Zane Doty

Sioux Falls Sparrows @ Chicago Wildcats

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Sioux Falls continued its dominance as they took down Chicago in a high-powered game. They headed into “The Thunderdome” and managed to drop 38 points on the Wildcats. The offense was clicking on all gears as Julian Tyree completed 27 passes for 276 yards and 2 tds. Redford, the superstar rookie running back ran for 110 yards on 29 carries to go along with 2 tds. Their defense was great, allowing nothing big and Christopher Dodd came down with a interception. A huge momentum shifter was after AJ Warren’s huge 94 yard kick-return touchdown. Standing at 6-2, a CRUCIAL matchup loms next week as they host the unbeaten Tulsa Desperados in what could decide the conference winner at the end of the season.

The Wildcats’ struggles continued as they fell to 2-6, putting their playoff chances on life support. The Dion Hawkins loss is bigger than what it seemed as they went from Eastern Conference Champs to amongst the bottom of the league. They had a decent showing against Sioux Falls,  just not enough to best the Sparrows. Former MVP, E.T King, had a decent game, throwing for 255 yards and a td along with an int. J.Calvin Kim managed to score a td and his longest run of the night was a 43 yard scamper. The defense struggled to contain Sioux Falls and allowed them to fly right over their claws. Next week, at 2-6 they fly down to the seemingly unstoppable 8-0 Tallahassee Pride.

By Mahmoud Ajlouni

Oklahoma City Renegades @ Indianapolis Red Devils

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Unfortunately, we could not provide a detailed analysis of Oklahoma @ Indianapolis

St. Louis Gladiators @ Tulsa Desperados

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The Tulsa Desperados extended their expansion team record streak to 8-0 with a 23-14 dispatching of the St. Louis Gladiators. Much like Tallahassee in their game with London, the unbeaten side were behind at the half before rallying late to secure the win. The Gladiators managed to match their adversaries blow for blow on offense, with Denzel Diaz impressing with another couple of touchdowns on the ground.
Dylan Aciel had another fair rookie outing with nearly 75% of completions through the air, but he left points on the board, which would go on to hurt the Gladiators. Star kicker Joseph Carroll was the deciding factor, hitting all three of his field goal attempts which would prove decisive in Tulsa’s victory. Sir Charles Robinson proved worthy of his knighthood with another pair of touchdowns on the day. The franchise QB outgained his opposing number with half the attempts, proving the Desperados big play credentials.
By Liam Crowter
San Francisco Sharks @ Vancouver Legion
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The San Francisco Sharks came to Vancouver to play the Legion in their second divisional game of the season. Game 1 was a blowout, with the Legion picking up their first win of the year and the Sharks sliding to 0-3. With the Sharks turning around their season since employing a full coaching staff, they came into the game heavy favourites amongst the community. Both teams would enter the game fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Blow after blow was traded between the two teams as it was a very tightly contested game. Voted into the fan night slot, it surely didn’t disappoint anyone as the game came down to the final minutes before a winner was decided. With the game tied at 27-27 in the 4th quarter, with just under four minutes to go, the Legion running back and workhorse, Jonathan Sanchez, ripped off a 50 yard touchdown run to take the lead. With under three minutes, the Sharks and quarterback, Jacques Luyindula, put together a drive of their own getting down to the Legion twenty yard line with just about a minute left in the game; the Sharks, were attempting to tie the game, Jacques forced a pass over the middle that was intercepted by cornerback, Maajor Key, who ran it all the way back for a touchdown to end the game. That was his second interception of the game that he ran back for a touchdown. With a final interception by Maajor on a last second hail Mary attempt, he would finish the game with three interceptions. For this performance, I am awarding him the MVP of the game.
The Sharks will host the Ruffnecks and the Legion will travel to San Antonio for the second of their divisional matchup next week. Good luck to all four teams this weekend and thank you as always for the support.
One Love
By Jeremy Vega

 

Once again, a huge thank you to the Beat Writing Team for a great week of analysis and commentary. We’ll be back again next week, with more reviews.