As the SFL Regular Season hurtles towards a rapturous conclusion, the race for the coveted 10 playoff places is turning the final corner and heading into the home straight. Of the 18 teams that populate the SFL standings, only 2 can’t mathematically make it to the big dance. 16 clubs are still in with a chance of glory which is a testament to the quality of play and meticulous game-planning that goes on week-by-week. As with the majority of weeks during Season 10, the matchups brought us at least one upset, the odd thrashing and many games that came down to the wire. That is what’s so beautiful about the SFL. It captures that ‘Any Given Sunday’ feel of real life sport (something few E-sports can claim to do).  

Anyway, I’m sure you guys aren’t here to read my thoughts for longer than you have to, so we’ll get on with it. Below is, the Official SFL Week 10 Review (as seen by the Beat Writers). 

London Knights @ Queen City Corsairs

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The Queen City Corsairs hosted the London Knights at ConPro Field in Buffalo, NY, this past Saturday night in the APM Music Game. After dropping four straight games, the Corsairs were back to their winning ways heading into the game, beating Atlanta and Carolina in route to being a Wildcard favorite. A win against London would cement them in the running for a playoff spot. Meanwhile, the Knights were suffering three straight weeks of losing by six points or less, especially against top competition. Unlikely that London (3-6) could make it into the playoff race at this point, they hoped to play spoilers to a Queen City (5-4) team that is hot on the trail of a playoff spot.

Despite keeping their games lose these past few weeks, London fell hard against Queen City, losing 34-13, their largest margin of loss since Week 6 against Indianapolis. Queen City’s rushing attack did just what people expected it do: run all over the weak run-defense of the Knights. HB Ash Odom, who would earn APM Music Game MVP for his performance, rushed 32 times for 219 YDS (6.8 AVG) with 2 TDs. He had a long of 28 YDS, but it felt like he was ripping big gain after big gain on the London defense. Queen City’s WR Chris Curtis had a stellar day, too, compiling 119 YDS on 6 REC with 1 TD grab. London’s defense only recorded a single sack and interception on the day, not enough to stop the QCC offense from steamrolling them. London’s offense was a steady balance of Michael Martin passes (14-30, 166 YDS, 1 TD, 2 INT) and Spencer Mair carries (26 CAR, 95 YDS, 1 TD), but it just didn’t seem like they were clicking on all cylinders. Defensively, QCC also managed to rack up stats. Corsairs’ DT Koa Kaleo had a great performance with 3 sacks of Michael Martin. London and Queen City will play again, this time in London, in the final week of the season.

The London Knights (3-7) travels to face the Carolina Skyhawks (2-8), who are already eliminated from the playoffs. If London can win, they’ll prove this season was not a bust. Queen City (6-4) travels to Alaska (8-2) in interconference play that could make or break the Corsairs Wildcard hunt. The big story of that game will be Ash Odom’s return to the place that made him a star last season. Can Alaska help knock off Odom and his Corsairs, or will Odom prove the money Queen City gave him this offseason?

Odom on his way to over 200 yards

By Zane Doty

Indianapolis Red Devils @ Chicago Wildcats

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In life things don’t always work out the way you plan. Hard work doesn’t always pay off. Outcomes don’t necessarily reflect the reality of the situation and at times you are left with still more questions. This is likely what an Indianapolis team who had a very big hit to their path towards a first year first ever playoff berth is feeling right now. A game they would lose in overtime to an underperforming Chicago team begs the question of what the heck happened.
For all intents and purposes this was a very even game. Both team’s defenses showed up and contained the offenses. In very typical Central division style both Chicago and Indy’s Ds dictated the pace of the game and set the tone that was very physical. To show you exactly how close this game was consider the below group of stats.

Four of the biggest statistical indicators of success that you can measure teams on that should leave to victory are highlighted. How long they possess the chance to put points on the board vs how long their opponent doesn’t have that chance (ToP). Success of those possessions (TYds) and your ability to minimize that success. Execution of successful plays in clutch situations (3rd%). The ability to gain more chances to score and take away chances for your opponent (TO).

In all four categories Chicago and Indianapolis nearly mirrored each other. In all intents and purposes they were basically the same team except for one thing. 14 points off of special teams play. The only part of the game that eliminates both team’s best collection of players and instead combines one average to potentially above average player (returner) mixed in with 3rd stringers and depth guys. It was in this area that Chicago made the difference and without it we would have seen a comfortable win by Indy.

Instead Indy had to press to come back late in the 4th quarter and play near perfect 2nd half defense just to force overtime. After a stop by the Chicago defense the ensuing punt return was returned for the sudden death overtime TD. The Red Devils were left stunned with Chicago equally surprised at what they just pulled off. For Indy this would be the 3rd loss they would suffer in which a special teams TD would serve as a big determining factor.

This game wasn’t a given for Indy but it was a game that should have been won. To take a gut check like this so late in the season may be a killer for this young team definitely earning everything it gets. Their road to the playoff now goes through Sioux Falls and Tulsa. Two of the very best in the league.

By Steve Vetack

Oklahoma City Renegades @ Tulsa Desperados

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The second meeting in Oklahoma pitted the two teams from the Sooner State in their second meeting of the season. The first meeting had the Oklahoma City Renegades fall to Tulsa Desperados in a game that wouldn’t define this game, being as it was only week one. 9 weeks later, and these two teams face each other again. Spoiler Alert, the team from Oklahoma wins! This game started eerily enough as OKC drove down field quickly against the Tulsa Defense. Donk Bonkers opened the game up early with a TD run, trying to show the opponent’s who the real runner of the day was. Dawkins day began to show signs of the times for him, as he had a fumble off a double tackle, thankfully for him, the ball went out of bounds. After a good run though, the drive stalled. The first quarter ended with a 7 to 3 Renegades lead. The 2nd quarter was promising for Tulsa as Sir Charles Robinson bombed a huge 53 yard bomb to his favorite target of the day, Sonzo Robinson, yet it stalled and ended with a Carrol field goal. With the score 7 to 6 in favor of the OKC Renegades, they would get the following kickoff. But you see, the kickoff was a bit of a scare for them as the return man was popped and dropped the ball like is was a greased pig. The recovery went to Tulsa so it looked like a repeat from earlier games for the Renegades. But they did not relent. After Sonzo caught a beautiful pass in the end zone, they scored and took their first lead, 13 to 7. Tulsa then kicked off and Deacon Nickens went to work. A 35 yard pass, a Donk Bonkers set series of runs, and they were inside Tulsa territory again. Nickens then hit Deezer Powell on a corner route to score, making the score 14 to 13 to regain the lead. Nate Hazlep made a huge pick later in the quarter as he took advantage of an overthrow. Before halftime, only down by one, the Renegades knew that today could be very different than week one. Von Senuik made a crucial interception, then Donk Bonkers took a huge 75 yard run to the house where he then set up for the coming out party of a lifetime. He invited Tulsa as a thank you, but they refused the invite. At the half it was 24 to 16. The Renegades would not relent though. After Tulsa stalled out thanks to a HUGE sack from Cole Irvine, who was everywhere in this game and ended the day with 2 and a half sacks, Tulsa had to punt again. Not sure, but maybe they thought punting scored points. Regardless, both teams added to the punt game as the score got more out of hand, 31 to 16 OKC. In the 4th, there really wasn’t a whole lot going on, but the win for one of these teams. Tulsa knew that they were in trouble, but notout of it yet. After a rare drop from Steven Bush to stall the drive, OKC went for a field goal, only for it to be blocked and picked up by the Tulsa Defense. After back and forth punts, Sir Charles hit Khourey Jones for 47 yards in what was thought to be a comeback drive. Only for Dawkins to be stopped a yard shy of the first, later in the series. On 4th and 1, Cole Irvine swatted a potential completion over middle to get the ball back in OKC’s hands. With few ticks on the tock remaining, Donk Bonkers drove the Renegades deep into enemy territory with little effort as Bonkers ended the day with 205 yards and a score. Unfortunately, the drive would only stall out for a 42 yard field goal attempt. The kick was wide right. With 1:46 left in the game, Sir Charles knew that it was Go Time. And go he did, as he was to go to his target Khourey Jones on the first play to score a 67 yard completion for 6. With the score now 31 to 23, it came down to the onside kick. With no timeouts and this being the last play chance for Tulsa, the kick just didn’t go their way. Deacon Nickens just sat on the ball 3 times in the victory formation, to keep the Renegades playoff hopes alive. SFL, look out! The Renegades might catch you sleeping. I told you the team from Oklahoma would win!

By Justin McCormick

Carolina Skyhawks @ Atlanta Swarm

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Should you have checked in at the end of the 3rd quarter of this Eastern Conference claah, you would have seen that the (at the time) 2-7 Skyhawks were in cruise control, riding a 20-0 lead over the Atlanta Swarm. Had you then nipped off to make a coffee or a quick brew (that means ‘tea’ for all you ‘Muricans) you would have returned to a Carolina team in full-blown meltdown, remarkably trailing 24-20 and you would have eventually seen them succumb to an 8th loss on the season. Now, I’ve seen some unlucky teams across many sports, but Carolina are possibly the most unlucky team I’ve ever seen! Those of you that see me a lot in the Discord chat will know that I’m a Browns fan, so that statement REALLY means something. The Skyhawks just can’t catch a break. They have an attractive build, a decent roster, they just can’t get over the hump. They don’t deserve to be where they are, based on their play, although that seems to be the lot for the Skyhawks in Season 10, and the players will suffer for it. 

I don’t want to be too down on Carolina for their game with the Swarm because, for 33 minutes of clock time, they played a perfect ‘road game’ performance. They were streets ahead of Atlanta in nearly every stat on the box score, and players like AJ Francis and Jalan Miller were putting the team on their back. Francis finished the day with 168 yards on a whopping 48 carries and Miller tormented the much heralded Atlanta secondary with a 9 catch, 2 touchdown performance that took him over 100 yards on the day. So you may be thinking, what happened? How did the Skyhawks snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? My answer is gameplan. Throughout the fourth quarter, Carolina became way too conservative. They shied away from doing what had brought them success over the first three quarters and started to grind the ball on every down. I imagine nearly half of Francis’ carries came in the fourth quarter, making it easy for Atlanta’s defense to key in on him despite his talent. Carolina should have won this game; they didn’t. It’s as black and white as that.  

Atlanta need to count themselves lucky that when Boo Chisolm gets hot, he gets ‘surface of the sun’ hot. The man caught fire in the fourth quarter, catching 3 touchdown passes and spearheading a Swarm comeback that never looked like it was going to happen.  The wide receiver effectively scored 18 of Atlanta’s 24 points, cementing himself in Swarm folklore with this one immortal quarter. Credit also has to be given to quarterback, Demar Woods, for his workhorse attitude and resilience after a bad day at the office. Despite Woods’ clear pitfalls as a quarterback, he seems to have that ‘clutch’ gene that so many signal-callers don’t have. His lack of consistency is his glaring weakness, and it shows when you take a look at his season numbers compared to other SFL throwers. One unit that did stay relatively solid was the Swarm’s defense. EK Vinson showed his extensive experience, snagging 2 picks at crucial times apiece to kill all of Carolina’s momentum late in the game, whilst also fuelling his own offense to score points. I still cant believe Atlanta found a way to win this game although im not sure the coaching staff will be too pleased. The Swarm have playoff ambitions, and performances like that, aren’t going to cut it at the next level.  

By Slinn Shady

Alaska Storm @ San Francisco Sharks

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52 reasons not to run down my alley!

(Unfortunately, the Beat Team couldn’t provide a detailed recap of the game this week)

Sioux Falls Sparrows @ St. Louis Gladiators

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The red hot Sioux Falls Sparrows (7-2) and slumping St. Gladiators (3-6) met at the
midday timeslot at Budweiser Stadium. The game represented a must win for the losers of 5 straight in St. Louis and for a team looking to gain home field advantage
in the Sparrows.The result? Well the short version is complete domination by Sioux Falls. From beginning to end, the Sparrows were in complete control in nearly every facet of the game. The first half, in particular, was excruciatingly brutal, as Sioux Falls gained a 31-0 lead in one of the most lopsided halves in the SFL this season.

Sioux Falls would put in the closer and shut down the Gladiators, more or less, the rest of the way. Ending the game at 34-10. Julian Tyree continued his late season surge to the tune of 344 passing yards and 2 touchdowns, which was especially impressive considering Robert Redford went down. St. Louis simply wasn’t able to get much done with the swarming Sparrow linebackers and safeties.

By Christian Pundt

Dallas Ruffnecks @ San Antonio Vaqueros 

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The struggling Dallas Ruffnecks came into San Antonio hoping to play spoiler to the San Antonio Vaqueros.The Vaqueros were looking to get back into a groove in time for the playoffs.

The first drive of the game started off with an innocuous 6 yard run to RB Mike Davis. The next play, a run by Davis off the left side started out similarly to the previous, but this time he broke a tackle and with a key block downfield he was gone; 70 yards later, he wound up in the endzone, giving the Ruffnecks at 7-0 lead. San Antonio’s first drive started off with a couple of precise passes and the Vaqueros quickly found themselves at midfield. A deep pass over the middle was tipped by the Dallas defense and looked like it was going to fall harmlessly to the ground, but a very aware Logan Keel plucked the ball from the sky for the Vaqueros gave them great field position at the DAL 25 yard line. 2 short passes later the Vaqueros were face with a 3rd and 1, a hand off to Anderson Silver looked like it would easily gain the first down but a streaking Heath McDaniels Sr. came flying from his LB spot and stopped Silver just inches short of the first down, resulting in a short field goal for San Antonio and a 7-3 ballgame. The remainder of the first quarter ran down with either offense being able to get much more down against either defense. The 2nd quarter started with a Vaqueros drive that whittled down to a 4th and 1 on the Dallas 40 yard line. San Antonio elected to go for it, a decision that proved genius as QB Josh Miller hit Daley Holder over the top of the defense and he strolled into the endzone, giving San Antonio the lead 10-7. The ensuing Dallas drive resulted in their own 4th and 1, trying to replicate their opponents, they went for it. Unfortunately for Dallas their star WR James Hands had a ball hit him directly in the hands but couldn’t haul it in and gave the ball back to the Vaqueros. San Antonio didn’t waste the opportunity, driving down the field to the Dallas 4 yard line, where a hand off to Anderson Silver resulted into a touchdown and a 17-7 lead. Dallas not wanting to lose control of this game in the first half drove down the field on the next drive and was able to put up a field goal and draw closer to the Vaqueros, 17-10. With 2 minutes remaining in the first half, the Vaqueros started a drive that would end in a punt and give Dallas one last drive to draw even with 37 seconds left until the half. However it seemed that the Ruffnecks were content on going into the half down 17-10 with a first play run. The next 2 plays however were passes but neither resulted in a first down and a punt ended up not hurting Dallas as time expired in the first half. The 2nd half began as a defensive struggle, San Antonio only getting a field goal to push the score to 20-10 half way thru the 3rd quarter. The teams traded field position back and forth over the next few drives, each team getting pinned deep within their own 5 yard line. A drive starting for Dallas with 2 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, began at their own 4 yard line, a hand off to the left side revealed a wide open field for Mike Davis, who screamed down the field away from every Vaquero and rumbled 96 yards to the endzone. The run quieted the home crowd and stunned the Vaqueros, bringing Dallas to within 3 points, 20-17. Building off the momentum from the offense the Dallas defense held the San Antonio offense in check on their next drive, resulting in a punt. Dallas return man, Troy Loshaw fielded the punt and began to spin to attempt to break away from the gunners of San Antonio, but the gunners weren’t fooled and slammed straight into Loshaw, who fumbled the ball and San Antonio pounced on the ball and gave themselves great field position. The Dallas defense was able to keep their momentum though and stopped San Antonio from capitalizing on the fumbled punt and held them to only a field goal, leading to a 23-17 lead for the Vaqueros. The Dallas offense was stifled for the remainder of the game after that, unable to get anything to work against a renewed Vaqueros defense. With 2 minutes left in the game Josh Miller hit Daley Holder on a near identical play to their last connection for TD, this one coming up with the same result, essentially icing the game for the Vaqueros, 30-17. The following Dallas drive didn’t go anywhere after the Vaqueros touchdown and a 4th down attempt resulted in a turnover on downs. Several plays later a run by Anderson Silver, who danced his way around would-be tacklers, danced into the endzone one more time and gave us our final score of the game, 37-17.

Week 11 sends the Dallas Ruffneck back home, looking to stand their ground against another potential playoff team in the Vancouver Legion. The San Antonio are traveling down south of the border in Mexico to play the Mexico City Aztecs, in a game that has extreme playoff implications with only 2 weeks left in the regular season.

When the ball is in the air, Holder goes to work

By Ryan Michaels

Tallahassee Pride @ Mexico City Aztecs

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The Season 10 darlings travelled to Mexico City to take on the Season 9 champs in
what will go down as a throw down for the ages, in terms of both on-the-field action
and the unis (the Aztecs were tricked out in their tron-themed gear and the Pride in
their white-outs). All-World runningback Ray Bentley (but absurdly late beat writer)
lead the charge for the 5-4 Aztecs in their venture to end the unbeaten streak of the
Tallahassee Pride.

The Pride received the ball to begin the game scoring a quick strike from
Christiansen to Gossett in a start that looked a lot like many Tallahassee games this season. While Mexico City’s first drive would stall, Tallahassee quarterback Christian Christiansen would throw three consecutive redzone interceptions that would turn into a 13-7 lead for the Aztecs by the half.

The third quarter would be a continuation of the defensive struggle. Neither offense
would find much room to work, each having a turnover of their own. The fourth quarter was somewhat of a change-of-pace and partook to be one of the more interesting quarters and better comebacks of the season. Kole Varner kicked things off with a long 45 yarder to put Mexico City up by two possessions in a 16-7 ballgame. Tallahassee responded with an underneath passing drive that stalled around midfield and forced a punt. Luckily for the Pride, this resulted in the Aztecs being pinned back deep in their own territory. Ray Bentley and Matt Willson were not able to get the Aztecs past midfield and gave the ball back to the Pride.

Christiansen and the rest of the Tallahassee offense finally started to click on this
drive, with a combination of different passing combinations and a downhill rushing attack. The Purple and Gold drove into the redzone before stalling and having to settle for a field goal with about 4 minutes remaining. Frank Goodin made one of the head-scratching calls of the season, opting for an onside kick that was easily
recovered by the Aztecs. This brought upon arguably the most high-profile awkward series of events this seasons. Willson and Bentley and the rest of the Ramos Gang mustered 6 yards, entering a 4th and 4 scenario and a 51 yarder for likely Pro Bowl kicker Kole Varner. The Golden Leg of Varner easily nailed the Snipe Shot… but one of the Mexico City generic blockers was called for a questionable clipping penalty to send Mexico City out of position for a field goal. The Pride received the ball back and went on perhaps the most clutch run this season. Christiansen found Gossett for two straight 20 yard 50/50 balls to begin the drive, moving Tallahassee past the midfield point. From that point, Pride OC Alex Bond, diversified the attack with a combination of underneath routes and rushes to put Tallahassee inside the 10 yard line. Christiansen then found Wilson on a savage fade route to put the Pride up 17-16 with 40 seconds remaining. On the ensuing kickoff, the Aztecs were ironically called for another clipping penalty, putting them in rough field position to start yet again. Hall-of-Fame candidate Matt Willson was not done yet, however, leading the Aztecs to the Tallahassee 40 on several clutch throws in the face of much pressure by the vaunted Tallahassee defensive line. The almighty Kole Varner lined up for a 57 yard field goal that fell juuuuuuust short, sending the Aztecs to the .500 bubble and making the Pride the first team with double digit wins at 10-0.

By Christian Pundt

Houston Hyenas @ Vancouver Legion

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In the second game of this divisional rivalry coming out of the western conference, the Hyenas traveled north to try and sweep the legion while keeping their playoff chances in good shape. The Legion, desperately needing a win to avoid being eliminated from making the playoffs came into game two searching for their second win in three weeks. In what seems like an every week thing for the Legion, they played another tightly contested game that ultimately came down to the 4th quarter and the play of the stars. The Hyenas jump out to an early lead in the first quarter, but was diminished quickly in the second quarter by shutdown defense and big plays from the Legion offense. In the third quarter the legion scored fourteen points to the Hyenas three leaving the score at 27-20 setting up a great fourth quarter with another great ending.

With both defenses clamping down in the fourth, it left a seesaw battle of who is going to score next and who is going to put the nail in the coffin. Late in the fourth quarter, on 3rd and 8 from the Vancouver 30, Ahmed Cheema threw a dart to Badr Ajlouni on a streak route for a touchdown to tie the game with five and a half minutes left. With just 2 minutes left in the game, Cheema threw his second interception to cornerback Dante West to give the Legion one final chance to seal the game instead of going into overtime. The Legion put together a drive taking them into field goal range where they hit a chip shot field goal to take the lead with forty seconds left. The late field goal proved to be the game winner as the Legion won a pivotal game at home. My game MVP award goes to Tom Pepper who managed to put together a great game after starting out slow in the first quarter. Houston who sits at 5-5 will head home to take on division rival San Fran where both teams will need a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. Vancouver heads to Dallas to try and secure another much needed win to also keep their playoff hopes alive. Regardless of the outcome,  every game in the last two weeks of the regular season are very important for every team top to bottom. Good luck to everyone and thanks as always for reading. One love.

Ajlouni rising HIGH!

By Jeremy Vega
Apologies for not being able to get photos for every game this week, although the ones we did get were gold. Again, a huge thanks to the efforts of the beat writers, keeping the league exciting and keeping writing relevant.