Week 9 of the SFL Regular Season kept the E-Sports juggernaut running at full velocity, displaying yet more reasons why this is such an amazing league to be a part of. The sheer mix of teams and their playstyles and strategies ensures that every match up is unique and that the SFL fan base never quite know what they’re going to get. Week 9 brought us high scoring shootouts, defensive struggles and games that hung in the balance until one magic play. There were comebacks, upsets and more than one piece of special teams brilliance (I love when there’s special teams brilliance).
Only 1 singular undefeated team now remains and the playoff race is tighter than ever. Let’s review another great week of action in the SFL.
Houston Hyenas @ Alaska Storm
The Alaska Storm and Houston Hyenas offenses both showed up and gave us a thriller with a final score of 40-37. Both QBs shredded these top 5 defenses as Cheema threw for 436 yards along with 3 touchdowns and 2 ints. Cockren who won Player of the Game, threw for 347 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 int. Jeff Comeau led Alaska receiving with 6 catches and 98 yards with a touchdown. Houston’s leader was Badr Ajlouni who had 11 catches with 158 yards. He wasn’t the only WR to surpass 100 yards. Future HOF, D.R Sim had 10 catches for 125 yards and 2 touchdowns adding to his resume. Alaska took off early holding a 31-13 before almost collapsing and allowing Houston to storm back and narrow the margin. Luckily for Alaska, kicker Brad Brechett kicked the go-ahead FG with 9 seconds to go. Houston travels up north to Vancouver to take on the Legion, while the Alaska Storm travel to take on the San Francisco Sharks who suddenly have positioned themselves for a playoff spot in this crucial match-up.
By Mahmoud Ajlouni
Mexico City Aztecs @ London Knights
Late season games between teams in the Eastern Conference of the SFL have mostly been nail-biting, tension-filled games of high quality play on both sides of the football. These games have really backed up the consensus at the start of the year that the East was the strongest conference. Games such as the one we had at the weekend between the London Knights and Mexico City Aztecs are what keep the East ahead of the curve of the SFL. This match up (the last international game of the season, or so we think) featured two teams fighting tooth and nail to put their name in the hat for postseason play. The previois meeting had ended up 16-10 to the Knights, with the visitors taking home the ‘dub’ after some stellar defensive work, limiting Ray Bentley to under 100 yards rushing and generally bottling up the Mexico City offense. Alas, a repeat of this did not occur; the Aztecs rolled out of London with a 27-21 victory, including a personal haul of 189 yards and a touchdown for Mr. Bentley. Mexico City evened up the season series and really showed what championship calibre performers they are, coming back from 21-10 down at one point in the game.
The Aztecs (a team who seem ticket heating up exactly at the right time) didn’t do anything spectacular to get one over on London, they just didn’t panic, trusted in Ray Bentley and pounded their way to a hard-fought win. Some would say that it’s the perfect way to win on the road. Matt Willson had an efficient performance, lobbing 20 passes for 179 yards and touchdowns, with his and Dijon Swann’s seemingly telepathic relationship in display yet again. The Mustard Bird reeled in 9 catches for 83 yards and 2 touchdowns, showing safe hands and an ability to exploit London’s coverage weakness. The defense had a couple of notables on a day where they stopped the bleeding in the second half after a shakey first. Landin Mack (8 tackles, 1 PD and 1 INT) continued to outshine his more illustrious linebacker partner with an all-action performance, showing his ability to be always near the ball by picking off Michael Martin in the first half. Strong Safety, Pablo Zamora, also produced when it mattered by making timely big hits on Spencer Mair, limiting him to under 100 yards on the day. The Aztecs played a good ball game, headed by an MVP-like performance by Ray Bentley. It’s rather poignant that he was the difference in this game, literally.
For the defeated London Knights, this game played out in parallel with their season; a fantastic first half followed by a second half collapse. A win in this match up would have been doubly beneficial for the Knights, giving them not only the victory, but a season sweep of the Aztecs and a huge advantage in playoff seedings. Unfortunately, a defensive capitulation put an end to those thoughts, with Ray Bentley seemingly able to run up the middle time and time again without consequence. Jeffrey Daggs’ 18 tackles are a testament to how large this hole in the defensive line was
the free safety had to make far too many hits, in turn taking away from his pass defense and return abilities. Slinn Shady had another fairly quiet game, with defensive end, Eyal Rushinek, making the biggest statement of intent (1 sack, 3 tackles for loss). On the offensive side of the ball, London had a nice balance of run and pass, something which served them well until Mexico City started reeling them in and the pressure started mounting. Michael Martin is showing signs of improvement all the time as we near season close, and his confidence in the receivers
Is clearly at an all-time high. Martin threw for 246 yards, 3 TD’s and 1 INT, 66 of those yards heading to Andre Godspeed and 143 of them to Jockamo ‘big play’ Jones. Both receivers managed to snag themselves a touchdown, and both continue to answer critics by hanging about in the top 15 pass catchers in the league. In the end, London will have been mightily frustrated by this loss. Once again, a solid performance ends up in a sour taste of defeat. Surely things will turn around soon? Well, there’s three weeks left…no time like the present.
By Slinn Shady
Chicago Wildcats @ Tallahassee Pride
In this one at the Lion’s Den, Tallahassee jumped out to an early 3-0 lead before stretching it out to 10-nil when Eniola burst open for a 30 yard touchdown towards the end of the first quarter. Chicago responded with a kickoff return touchdown to make it 10-7 at the end of the quarter.
Tallahassee began the second quarter with two long drives for touchdowns to make it a three-possession game. Around the midpoint of the quarter, Chicago put together a well-balanced drive of their own that ended with J. Calvin Kim pounding the ball into the endzone. The ensuing drive brought the game some life with a pick six by Maurice Spurgeon to bring the game 24-21 with under two minutes remaining in the half.
Despite the Wildcats getting the ball to begin the second half, the Tallahassee defensive line managed a stop. Tallahassee managed to be the first to put third quarter points on the board with a long touchdown to Gossett over Spurgeon, making the game 31-21. Little action ensued the rest of the quarter as both defenses tightened up.
The stalemate continued through much of the fourth quarter, with neither offense really in striking position to right around the two-minute mark. Tallahassee managed a 35 yard field goal to extend the lead to 13. Lightning would strike twice, however, as Chicago managed a second kickoff return for a touchdown (the third non-offensive touchdown, and fourth in two weeks special teams score allowed by Tallahassee) to bring the game into a one possession scenario. The Pride managed to get the job done with deep punt, pinning Chicago deep into their own territory. Three straight excellent defensive plays forced the Wildcat offense into losing 13 yards, eventually getting a safety in crunch time, effectively ending the game.
Final: Tallahassee 36, Chicago 28
Tallahassee voted on their players of the week with a not so surprising result. WR Ken Gossett was voted offensive player of the week with a 9/212/1 statline with seven votes. Meanwhile, the big man himself, DT Fats Johnson had six votes to be selected as the defensive player of the week. Johnson finished with a statline of 4.0 tackles, 4.0 sacks, and 4 tackles for loss.
The defending runner-up Chicago Wildcats now approaches the season with their playoff hopes against the wall with several things needing to break their way to earn a wildcard spot. In Tallahassee, morale is high with a 9-0 record as the last unbeaten team, but, of course, they remain cautious heading into a tough stretch of conference matchups with Mexico City, Atlanta, and Carolina.
By Christian Pundt
Dallas Ruffnecks @ San Francisco Sharks
The visiting 1-7 Dallas Ruffnecks were playing for pride, trying to play spoiler to the surging 3-5 San Francisco Sharks playoff dreams. A win in this game would put the Sharks right back into the frenzy of the Wild Card playoff mix while a loss would all but leave their playoffs hopes dead in the water.
The Dallas offense took the field first and started around their own 30 yard line, unfortunately only a few plays into the drive a pass to a deep post route run by Mike Osayi was picked off by Sharks safety Max Jackson. The Sharks threw the ball all over the field on their first drive of the game, throwing the ball 4 times for big yards and only running the ball once. The final play of the drive resulted in 6 points for the Sharks on a pass from Luyindula to Django Anoa’i in the middle of the end zone. The ensuing Ruffnecks drive ended quickly in a 3 and out, San Francisco taking over at their own 35 yard line. Immediately the Sharks took to the skies once more, throwing 3 more passes and quickly moving to the Dallas 37. A handoff to non-contract RB Max Maximus 2 plays later resulted in a 33 yards scamper, untouched, into the endzone. Shortly into the 2nd quarter, Ruffneck QB Mason Kirby hit WR James Hands on a fly route down the left hand side, hands won out on a jump ball and sprinted into the endzone as the DB fell down on the battle for the jump ball. After a couple of punts by each team Dallas took over at their own 19 yard line, on 3rd down another post route to the middle of the field resulted in another interception by Sharks safety Max Jackson, his second of the day. The interception gave San Fran amazing field position on the Dallas 28 yard line. From there the Ruffnecks got a dose of Ryan Moats, 4 straight runs and he had them down to the DAL 1 yard line; they couldn’t capitalize on the goalline situation and had to settle for a field goal. A nice kick return by Dallas safety Troy Loshaw put the Ruffnecks into nice field position at their own 44 yard line. A drop by non-contract WR Sneakers Alamo put Dallas into a 3rd and 8 situation, the long to go situation let the Sharks defensive linemen pin their ears back and slam Mason Kirby down to bring up 4th down and a punt with 2:30 left in the first half. A hand off up the middle to Ryan Moats broke wide open and he turned on the jets and streamed down the field, finally chased down by Kody Hill and tackled at the Dallas 18 yard line. The following play was a corner route ran to perfection by Django Anoa’i as he and QB Jacques Luyindula just played a simple game of catch for Anoa’i’s 2nd touchdown of the first half, putting San Francisco up 24-7. After another punt by Dallas, the Sharks threw another corner route to Anoa’i who broke a tackle attempt by Kody Hill and ran the length of the field for another touchdown, his 3rd of the first half alone. A handoff to Mike Davis appeared to be an attempt to run the clock down to half time, but a few key blocks, a nice juke and a broken tackle later he was in the endzone on what was a 68 yard touchdown run that no one saw coming. At the half the Sharks had outgained the Ruffnecks in total yards 300-195 and saw the turnovers playing a big part in the score as the Sharks had 10 points off of Dallas turnovers. After several drives resulting in punts by both teams, the Sharks drove down the field but the drive was halted abruptly as a tipped pass in the endzone wound up in the hand of Dallas Safety Kody Hill. A deep pass down the middle to James Hands was caught behind the safeties and it looked like he was going to be able to outrun the defnse, but wound up being chased down from behind by Sharks CB Merrick Itera. First play into the 4th quarter resulted in a touchdown after a handoff to Mike Davis went up the middle of the Sharks defense, pulling Dallas to within 10 points, 21-31. The following drive by the Sharks drove them down the field and a soft pass over the top of the Dallas defense into the hands of Sharks WR Gabriel Manning led to another San Francisco touchdown, putting them up 38-21. Dallas looking like they were going to answer the San Francisco drive, methodically worked their way down the field into the Sharks red zone where 3 straight checkdowns out of a run formation turned no huddle to Mike Davis stalled the drive and resulted in a field goal. A nice punt from Sharks punter Eric Walsh pinned the Dallas Ruffnecks down at their 5 yard, making a drive seem unlikely. After 3 straight incomplete passes, Mason Kirby found receiver James Hands over the middle of the field for a clutch 1st down conversion on 4th down. Several plays later came another 4th down, this time a pass across the middle to Mike Osayi converted and kept the drive alive. After the two 4th down conversion Dallas began to pick apart the Sharks defense but was taking too much time off the clock, not giving themselves very much time to work with to orchestrate a 4th quarter comeback being down 14 points. A passed to James Hands on a quick out route resulted in the the games final touchdown with 1 second left on the clock. An onside kick attempt was failed by the Ruffnecks but it didn’t matter either way. Sharks come out on top in this one, 38-31.
PoTG: SF WR Django Anoa’i – 7 rec for 143 yards and 3 TDs
Honourable Mention: DAL WR James Hands- 9 rec for 175 yards and 2 TDs
By Ryan Michaels
Carolina Skyhawks @ Oklahoma City Renegades
Carolina came into Oklahoma City trying to stop a 3 game losing streak, each of those games being lost in the last 30 seconds of the game. Oklahoma City was looking to stop a 3 game losing streak of their own.
Behind the arm of OKC QB Deacon Nickens and the quick feet of RB Donk Bonkers the Renegades quickly streamed down the field on the first possession of the game, but stalled inside the 10 yard line of the Skyhawks, leading to a field goal and the first lead of the game. With their first drive the Skyhawks answered with a drive over their own, quickly crossing over into the OKC side of the field. CAR RB A.J. Francis took a hand off at the OKC 38 and went straight up the middle of the OKC defense, gashing them completely and scampering into the endzone for a 7-3 lead. After only 3 plays the Renegades answered the Carolina TD with a deep throw down the middle as Deacon Nickens was hammered in the pocket to WR Tiberius Bovine. The pass was hauled in right in front of a safety who went for the ball but came up just short resulting Bovine going untouched to the endzone. Another 3 plays, another TD. A deep pass to CAR WR Jalan Miller right over the head of OKC CB Eric Sutton and Miller was gone. A 71 yard TD, 14-10 Carolina over OKC. With a little under 3 minutes we received our first defensive stop in the game. At the end of the first quarter the Carolina Skyhawks were up on the hometown Oklahoma City Renegades, 14-10. A little over 1 minute into the second quarter and the Skyhawks struck again with a short pass from QB Biddix to WR Miller in the front of the corner of the end zone. As the 2nd quarter wore on, Carolina was content to just grind down the clock with short passes and runs, continuing to wear down that OKC defense. A long drive down the field stalled at the OKC 27 yard line for the Skyhawks, resulting in a field goal and the lead extending to 24-10. The first play from scrimmage after the Carolina field goal; the Renegades handed the ball to Donk Bonkers, who took the ball and ran like a was powered by a jet engine off the left side, leaving every Carolina defender in his wake as he streaked down the field for a 69 yard TD run. At the half the teams went into the locker rooms at, 24-17 Carolina over OKC. Carolina dominated the first half Time of Possession, 14:59 to 7:01, and over doubled the Renegades yards on the ground, 153-75.
At the start of the 2nd half, the Skyhawks continued with their bellcow, AJ Francis, but the drive stalled out early and resulted in a punt. Coming out with a vengeance, the Renegades came out throwing the ball, 2 plays into the drive and they went from their own 35 yard line to the Carolina 20. A nice 12 yard run by Donk Bonkers put OKC down to the 8 yard line where a quick out route to Tiberius Bovine on the left side brought the score even at 24-24. After the OKC score the defenses decided to come out of the locker rooms and just slammed the brakes onto each offense. A deep pass over the middle to Tiberius Bovine, who fought thru a defensive pass interference call, broke thru the defense of the Skyhawks and lead to another long TD for OKC, but the PAT was blocked by Carolina and held the Renegades to only leading by 6 at 30-24. The Renegades took the ball and the lead going into the 4th quarter, but couldn’t do anything with the ball and ended up punting it away from the 50 yard line. The next drive by Carolina ended in disappointed as Deacon Nickens was intercepted by OKC Safety Brady Clarke. With around 6 minutes left in the game the Renegades turned to their man, Donk Bonkers to start to run the clock down, but an interesting call by the Renegades OC brought about a pass deep down the right side that was deflected and intercepted by the Skyhawks, giving them new life. A clutch 1st down by AJ Francis kept the drive going to Carolina but the failing to get any yards on the next 3 plays led to another 4th down. This time the Skyhawks decided to not press their luck on 4th and 12 and punted the ball away with 3 minutes left in the game, putting their faith in the defense to get the ball back and give them another shot at tying or taking the lead. The Carolina defense proved themselves up to the challenge and gave the Skyhawks offense one more shot with 1:48 left in the game. A very fast drive down the field put Carolina at the OKC 32 yard line where Mark Biddix was sacked and brought about another 4th and 12. A clutch one-handed grab WR Trystan Dieciseis over the middle of the field brought a huge first down at the OKC 12 yard line. A quick slant to Dieciseis gave Carolina a 31-30 lead over OKC with 12 seconds left in the 4th quarter. The final drive of the game started for OKC with 8 seconds left after the kickoff. An out route gave them some room to attempt a hail mary, but Deacon Nickens was sacked to finish off the game.
Week 10 sends the Carolina Skyhawks to Atlanta to take on the Swarm, a team looking to rebound from a loss to the Queen City Corsairs. The Oklahoma City Renegades travel to Tulsa to do battle with the Desperadoes, who lost their first game of the season to Sioux Falls.
Player of the Game- CAR RB AJ ‘The Monstet’ Francis- 40 carries, 223 yards and 1 TD, 5.6 YPC
Honourable Mention – OKC TE Tiberius Bovine – 5 receptions, 144 yards receiving and 3 TD’s 28.8 YPRMichaels
By Ryan Michaels
Indianapolis Red Devils @ St. Louis Gladiators
The game between the Red Devils and Gladiators was a matchup of one team grasping for a possible last hold on a playoff hope and the other taking the first step in their path to a playoff berth of their own making.
Indianapolis holds their own playoff destiny in their hands as they sit third in the Central behind top seeds Sioux Falls and Tulsa who they will play the last two weeks of the season. They took a first big step towards fulfilling that destiny with a hard fought victory over St Louis who has been in a free fall since a 3-1 season start. Now 3-6 they have all but lost a path to a playoff seed.
The game was defined as much by Indianapolis stout opportunistic defense as it was by the pivotal Gladiator mistakes. An ineligible receiver, clipping and a couple holding penalties all came at perfect moments to either halt promising drives by St Louis or give Indy a second chance in which they were able to capitalize. The ability of Indy to strike with big momentum shifting plays particularly in the first half defined both the game and their season to this point.
Dan Daly once again proved he is one of the most dangerous wide receivers in the league. In the blink of an eye he has the ability to break a 60-yard TD catch which he did once again in the first quarter. A magnificent double move that left the corner completely lost made for an easy 9th TD on the season (4th in the league). Eli McCormack added another 100-yard game to complicate matters further for St Louis.
But it was the very opportunistic and selectively impactful HB Matthew Mitchell who caught an early TD pass on a red zone swing pass and clinched the game with a late 11 yard broken tackled TD. With only 35 yards on the game Mitchell was almost a non-factor except in the all-important points category in which he accounted for 14 (a classic SFL fantasy football sleeper).
The Red Devils secondary provided 3 interceptions (FS Shaun, SS Conolly, CB M. Vetack) and great coverage for 4 coverage sacks. While they allowed a total of 421 yards they were able to have several key stops which resulted in shorter field punts, field goals and a key missed field goal. Points off the board was this D’s best stat of the day.
St Louis was able to put up a fight in huge part because of HB Denzel Diaz’s huge game with 128 yards which included a 54-yard TD run that got them back in the game late. The defense was very good in the second half after taking a gut punch in the first. Down early by 14 they were able to hold off Indy until the Mitchell TD which came off of a deep in their own territory 3 and out by the offense in the 4th. 3 interceptions and costly penalties on offense was a tough task to take on and in the end it proved to be too large of a hurdle.
MVP: WR Dan Daly – 8 rec 134 yds TD 16.8 yds per catch
Looking to Week 10
Indy takes on Chicago in Level 2 of their path to the playoffs.
St Louis takes on the role of spoiler in a matchup against Sioux Falls.
By Steve Vetack
Vancouver Legion @ San Antonio Vaqueros
The Legion 3-5 entered San Antonio 5-3 looking for redemption from the loss they suffered at home the first time these two teams played. It was a closely contested game that came down to the final minutes, and this game was no different. While the Legion dominated the game and the first three quarters with long drives drives consistently converting on 3rd downs, going 76% and picking up 29 first downs. Including controlling the ball for a staggering 31:27 out of 44 minutes. Everything was going right for the Legion, but it was a late fourth quarter surge by the Vaqueros and blown coverages by the Legion defense, that ultimately gave the Legion their sixth loss of the season. Huge days by the Vaqueros star wideout Daley Holder and their rookie quarterback Josh Miller, in his first ever SFL game, helped this team steal the win at home.
Entering the fourth quarter, the Legion were up ten points and attempting to run the clock out as much as possible. With the Vaqueros Defense clamping down on the run, it forced Tom Pepper to attempt a deep ball that was intercepted and was the momentum swing the Vaqueros needed. After a couple of deep balls to Holder that went for touchdowns, the vaqueros took the lead late in the fourth and forced the Legion to play from behind for the first time all game. After one final drive by the Legion with great time management, they put themselves into perfect field position to attempt a hail mary. The pass was unsuccessful and the Vaqueros stole the win at home and moved to 6-3 keeping them in a great playoff position. Daley Holder and Josh Miller have earned MVP’s of the game. Next week The Vaqueros will host the Dallas Ruffnecks and the Legion will head back to Vancouver to take on the Houston Hyenas.
As always, thank you for your support of the Beat writing team. One Love.
By Jeremy Vega
Atlanta Swarm @ Queen City Corsairs
The Queen City Corsairs and Atlanta Swarm met in an Eastern Conference matchup that pitted two potential wildcard hopefuls against one another at ConPro Field in Buffalo, NY. Queen City was coming off a win over Carolina last week that snapped a four-game losing streak. Meanwhile, the Swarm were coming off a closely-contested battle against Mexico City that ended with a loss. Both teams were amped to try to extend themselves toward the postseason, with both offenses poised to make statements.
The Swarm, however, were unable to generate enough offensive production on the day, and lost 19-14 to the Corsairs. The biggest surprise on the day was the lack of production from Atlanta RB BDG Hollewood, who rushed 17 times for 13 yards, adding a score on the ground. Queen City’s defensive line, led by DT Koa Kaleo, who had 4 TFL and 1 ½ Sacks, stifled Hollewood the entire game. This forced Atlanta to turn to QB DeMar Woods, who connected on a long touchdown pass to WR Boo Chisholm, but was picked off twice by Corsairs FS Phoenix Blue. On the other side, the Atlanta defensive performed fairly well against Queen City’s 1-2 punch, with Caswell and Odom. The Swarm defensive intercepted Caswell twice, but gave up a touchdown strike to WR Memphis Blue. RB Ash Odom had a much better day on the ground than Hollewood, running 32 times for 11 yards. The Player of the Game was Queen City K Ricky Matthews, who was 4/4 on FGs with a long of 45 yards.
Queen City hosts the expansion team London Knights, who are angry after a tough loss to the Mexico City Aztecs. Both teams are vying for a playoff spot, so it should be a tight matchup. The Swarm hosts the Carolina Skyhawks, who got over their loss to Queen City by closely defeating the Oklahoma City Renegades. Both teams are hungry for wins, so the winner will be decided by who wants it the most.
By Zane Doty
Tulsa Desperados @ Sioux Falls Sparrows
And then there were one. After four quarters of intense simulation football, the Tulsa Desperados were finally dealt their first loss of the season, falling to a confident Sioux Falls Sparrows 17-27. In the first half alone, the Sparrows were able to put 24 points on the board, more than enough to topple the Desperados, before icing that cake with a field goal in the fourth quarter. Charles Ball improved on his performance from last week’s tilt against St. Louis, but the possible Defensive Player of the Year still seemed to be a shadow of weeks past. This marks his third game in a row without an interception, and only his fourth this season. On the other side of the ball for Tulsa, Sir Charles Robinson threw a season-tying three interceptions against Sioux Fall’s secondary, completing just over 50% of his passes (17 complete out of 33) for a modest 213 yards and one touchdown, to Desperado wide receiver Sonzo Robinson.
For the Sioux Falls Sparrows, it was a complete 180. Quarterback Julian Tyree had an unbelievable 24 for 27 passes completed for 395 yards, 3 touchdowns, and not a single interception. Wide receivers AJ Warren and Michael Moore saw the most action, with 9 and 7 receptions respectively, but it was Shaun Harrelson who made his presence known in the Dakotas that evening, with 5 receptionsfor 134 yards and all 3 of the Sparrows touchdowns. Defensively, the Sparrows were clicking, as Chris Dodd, Alex Parker, Nick Fargo and Levant Irvine combined for 21 tackles, 8 assists, , and two interceptions, with the third going to cornerback Nick Popp. The Tulsa Desperados travel home to take on fellow Sooners, the Oklahoma City Renegades, while Sioux Falls heads to the Gateway City to take on the Saint Louis Gladiators for Week 10 of Simulation Football League’s 10th season.
By Ray Bentley