Oklahoma City vs. St. Louis 

Deacon Nickens stared at the dark figure in the doorway when a friendly voice called out, “You ready?”  It was Mandrake Purp as he came in and embraced his offensive leader. Deacon Nickens replied, “Let’s go!”  The rematch from earlier in the season had high hopes and expectations from both teams, as they met this time at Robber’s Cave in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  It looked as if St. Louis was going to be blown out early as Deezer Powell caught a first drive TD pass from Nickens, and Deacon Payne set up a safely on a failed run by Diaz as he was caught in the backfield and end zone by non-contract linebacker, Derek Pounds.  The “weight” was on, as Deezer Powell took another grab from his QB and too it to the house for 36 yards and his second touchdown of the first quarter! Now up 16 to nothing, St. Louis looked to have their season end on a blowout. But the St. Louis defense would have nothing of it.  The second quarter had a tip drill pick by Colin Douglas as he would take it to the house for a pick 6. The Renegades had trouble for most of the 2nd quarter moving the ball as Donk Bonkers found little to no success on the day.  After a Mandrake Purp sack with was his second of the half, St. Louis gave the ball away.  Steven Bush caught a number of catches in this game, including a catch at the St. Louis 28 which set up yet another TD catch to Deezer Powell.  The half ended on a Field Goal by the Gladiators as they tried closing the gap, now down 23 to 10.

St. Louis’s problems continued as Dylan Aciel couldn’t keep from throwing picks, as he and Nickens combined for 7 interceptions on the day.  The first was caught by Al Clint, as he was then rattled by a sack from the last deacon that you want to have put his hands on you, Deacon Payne.  Aciel was in need of serious prayer afterwards. However, being pinned inside their own red zone, the Renegades were forced to punt when disaster struck.  The Gladiators, swords in hand, blocked a punt and recovered it down at the OKC 5 yard line. Denzel Diaz took over, and finished off the one play, 5 yard drive with a dive for a touchdown.  OKC looked to be losing their grip on the game, ending 3rd quarter, 23 to 17.  

The start of the 4th quarter was nothing to miss in this game.  After a promising look from St. Louis, Eric Sutton got a pick at the OKC 42.  After a Steven Bush first down, then a Scott LeRoooooux sack, then a 27 yard catch by Deezer Powell, then a one hander by Powell at the 12, OKC looked to be running away with it.  A quiet Manny “Ice Man” Icenhower made a tackle which stalled Bonkers, and forced a pass play where Freeman Peltier caught an end zone pick to secure possession. The Gladiators were far from done.  Sadly, the promising drive for St. Louis was stalled by another Eric “Stick-Em” Sutton, who grabbed his 2nd pick of the day.  The Renegades drove down to into opposing territory, but were stopped by the stingy D of St. Louis.  Johnny Omega kicked a 41 yarder which “doinked” off the right upright. St. Louis would drive once more.  With under 3 minutes, St. Louis needed a miracle. Diaz got yardage, then they stalled, and on 4th down, missed a huge touchdown play and turned the ball over.  OKC killed the clock, but was stopped by Scott LeRoux as St. Louis had one timeout left on the punt.  With under 2 to go, Aciel girded himself and drove. Starting from their own 38, they had 3 straight incompletions before Nick Finch caught a first down grab as he got out of bounds at the OKC 44.  On the next 4th down, Aciel hit Elijah Swain for the first, then Finch on a 5 yard out.  Swain again caught a first down grab as they had under a minute to go. Then, after a few plays, Aciel hit Nick Finch to tie the game.  The extra point gave St. Louis a 24 to 23 lead. The first lead all game. OKC’s playoff hopes relied on Nickens. Steven Bush made a couple of big grabs to set up OKC as they called timeout with 3 seconds left.  Johnny on the spot was up to kick. Johnny Omega had to kick a 44 yard Field Goal to win it, after missing an earlier 41 yarder. The snap was good. The kick was up, in, and good. Sealing the game and the win for the Oklahoma City Renegades.  A wonderful end to St. Louis’s season as they fought all the way, but the Renegades survived for a bit longer. A wonderful game.

Houston vs. Dallas

The Dallas Ruffnecks played host to the visiting Houston Hyenas in the final game of the regular season for both teams. Dallas picked up a huge spoiler-type victory over the Vancouver Legion in Week 11 and were looking to keep the Hyenas, fresh from a victory over the San Francisco Sharks, from attaining the 2nd Seed in the Western Conference.

Both teams first drives started off with 3 and outs as both teams went backwards, Houston losing 3 yards and Dallas losing 8 yards. After an interception by Dallas safety Troy Loshaw, the Dallas offense started to lean on their workhorse back Mike Davis with 2 nearly 10 yard runs. A deep throw to the Houston 13 yard line set up Dallas perfectly, but a hard hit by Houston defensive tackle Chad Takkul as let the pass was let go put Kirby to the ground and he wouldn’t be able to get up. The injury put backup quarterback Shebazz Psynergy into the game, but he was unable to punch the ball into the end zone for Dallas and they had to settle for a field goal, taking the lead 3-0. Houston took over on the next drive began to lean on their own feature back, Warren Murray. A deep post over the middle to Houston receiver Garren Malone, set up a field goal for the Hyenas from the Dallas 13 yard line, tying the game at 3-3. The remainder of the first half became a defensive battle, neither offense able to sustain drives. The closest to scoring was a Dallas drive that went down inside the Houston 10 yard line but a pass to the back of the endzone was intercepted by Hyena safety Blake Chance. Both defense’s continued to dominate each offense after the half, interceptions by Blake Chance and Dallas safety Kody Hill kept both defense off the field. The first touchdown of the game game with 3:30 left in the 3rd quarter with Houston quarterback Ahmed Cheema hit Badr Ajlouni deep down the right side on a wide open route and Ajlouni strolled into the endzone, putting Houston up 10-3. A field goal for the Hyenas put them up 13-3 in the early running of the 4th quarter. The Ruffnecks drove down the field with 4:30 minutes left in the game and put themselves inside the Hyenas 15 yard line, but were once again unable to capitalize for a touchdown and had to settle for a field goal, bringing them within 7 at 13-6. An onside kick attempt by the Ruffnecks was recovered by the Hyenas and set them up at the Dallas 38 yard line, putting a lot of pressure on their defense. Dallas’ defense seemed up to the tough task, bringing the Houston to 3rd down but a run up the middle by Warren Murray gave them a first down and brought about the 2 minute warning. After 2 runs by Murray lost 5 yards and brought another field goal attempt by the Hyenas, kicker David Griffin, who missed one earlier from 42 yards out, nailed it from 47 yards out and gave the Hyenas a 9 point lead, 16-6.  Dallas got the ball at their own 27 yard line with 1:44 seconds left. A corner route to James Hands found its target and got the ball to midfield as well as stopped the clock as Hands got out of bounds. Another deep pass to Hands on the outside was caught in front of Ryan Michaels and put Dallas to the Houston 30 yard line. After a sack of Psynergy kept the clock running, Mike Osayi hauled in a pass over the middle through heavy pressure from the defensive backfield of Houston and put them down to the Houston 8 yard line. Dallas quickly ran to the line of scrimmage in a no-huddle offense and immediately threw a strike into the middle of the endzone to Shea Carroll who leaped into the air and caught the touchdown pass through a huge hit from Blake Chance, bringing Dallas within 3 at 16-13. Dallas attempted another onside kick and unfortunately was quickly pounced on by Houston. The Hyenas knelt on the next to plays to wrap up the game.

PoTG: HOU WR Badr Ajlouni – 7 receptions for 100 yards and 1 TD

Honourable Mention: DAL WR’s James Hands and Mike Osayi – Combined 19 receptions for 221 yards from backup QB Shabazz Psynergy.

Carolina Skyhawks vs. Tallahassee Pride

And here it is. The Tallahassee Pride and Carolina Skyhawks bookend their seasons in the storied I-75 rivalry. It’s a much different scenario now than in week 1, as the Pride has separated themselves from the rest of the pack at 11-0, while Carolina’s postseason bid was mathematically ended just a few weeks ago as they rest at 3-8. The Pride are shooting for history to be just the second team to not finish the season undefeated, but also to do it while winning the championship. The Skyhawks, with a team composition built to give Tallahassee trouble are looking to stop that.

The game opened just like how we all feared it would. Carolina received the ball to begin the game only to throw an interception to Anthony Wyo a few plays into their opening drive. Set up in excellent field position, Christian Christiansen picked apart the defense en route to throwing that sick end zone fade to Ken Gossett that we’ve been seeing all year. T backhalf of the first quarter, was marred by turnovers on both sides. In Tallahassee’s first drive after their touchdown, Christiansen’s deep ball intended for Duke Wilson was tipped and picked off, setting Carolina up around midfield. After driving the ball, Carolina quarterback Mark Biddix saw his deep ball down the middle field be picked on a leaping grab by the OTHER Pride safety Alex Bond. The Pride’s ensuing drive spilled over into the second quarter as they were able to capitalize on this second Biddix turnover on a long post route over the middle to Duke Wilson to set up a goalline situation that turned into a Jaye Eniola touchdown run. Through the rest of the second quarter, Carolina’s offense would fail to gain any traction against the vaunted Tallahassee defense. Meanwhile, Tallahassee’s first drive fully in the second quarter around the seven-minute mark resulted in a long touchdown pass to Duke Wilson, making it a 21-0 three possession game. The rest of the half was marked by the two offenses stumbling into a 21-0 halftime score.

The second half turned into a game of cat and mouse as the Skyhawks worked to find some semblance of an offense (as they eventually would), and the Pride attempted to just run out the clock. With roughly five minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Pride pinned the Skyhawks back deep in their own territory. Carolina was not able to overcome the swarming defensive line of the Tallahassee Pride and were sacked for a safety, making the game 23-0. Carolina found themselves to respond on the next drive, kicking a field goal as time expired in the third quarter. The defensive back and forth continued until roughly four minutes were available in the game, when AJ Francis scored on a goalline screen to make the game 23-10. Tallahassee would go onto close out the game on the legs of Jaye Eniola and the defensive line.

The Tallahassee Pride are now 12-0 and are in a unique position as one of the league’s rare undefeated teams. Only one of these teams have gone on to win the SFL Championship. But the playoffs are single elimination and everyone’s record is set back to 0-0. Meanwhile, Carolina finishes the season 3-9, tied for fifth in the Eastern Conference. While the season as a whole may not have seen the results they wished for, Carolina has a strong potential nucleus in place of future bright APF minds and gamechanging players that include, but are not limited to, RB AJ Francis, DT Christopher Colon, and FS Sir Chappel.

The TAL TAL TAL Offensive Player of the Week for Week 12 is RB Jaye Eniola. Eniola toted the rock 29 times for 91 yards and a touchdown, along with one catch for one yard. Eniola has really came on down the stretch (finishing with 4.4 YPC), powering the Pride to three straight victories (two, of which, were absolute thrillers) and looks poised to enter the conversation as an elite runningback with his contemporaries such as Ray Bentley (4.5 YPC) and AJ Francis (4.7 YPC). On the defensive end, FS Anthony Wyo stood out above the rest. The tragically underrated free safety has gone overlooked for much of the season because his impact as a centerfielder simply does not show up in the stat sheet week after week. Wyo saw his presence show up this week to the tune 11.0 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, and an absolute crushing interception to begin the game. Eniola and Wyo put the exclamation mark on a regular season marked by subtle dominance for the Tallahassee Pride and, individually, look to be massive gamewreckers come playoff time.

Chicago vs. Sioux Falls

The Sioux Falls Sparrows hosted the Chicago wildcats in their final home game of the regular season. The Sparrows were fighting for playoff seeding, but unfortunately the Wildcats were playing for experience as they had already been eliminated from possibly making the playoffs. The day did not go as planned by the wildcats, as MVP of the game, runningback Robert Redford, had an amazing 17 receptions for 106 yards. A major contributing factor in the Sparrows offence going 66% on 3rd down and picking up 17 first downs. Quarterback Julian Tyree of the Sparrows continued his hot streak and will look to continue his performance in the quarter-finals. The Wildcats were unable to sustain drives throughout the game against a feared Sparrows defence, as they were stuffed primarily on 3rd down. Only mustering a 46% rating and going 0-2 on fourth down. The Sparrows easily picked up another win 30-10. Looking forward, the Wildcats will head into the off-season looking to make a lot of adjustments to get them back to the big dance in Season 11. The Wildcats in just their first two seasons have been to the top and the bottom of success. Owner Shann Varner certainly knows how to climb the ladder to success as he has shown in his career and will undoubtedly show again . I was able to get his thoughts on his team this season and moving forward. He really only had one thing to say, “if you are not first, you’re last” – Ricky Bobby The Sparrows will head into the playoffs as a heavy favorites to win it all. With a Great team all around, they will be forced to take on the very consistent Queen City Corsairs in the quarter-finals. The Sparrows have brought their best all season and have no plans to let up as they navigate what will be the best playoff tournament this league has ever seen. I wanna wish everyone who didn’t make the playoffs nothing but the best next season, and to all teams competing in the playoffs, good luck.

Atlanta vs. Mexico City

The Atlanta Swarm had their playoff hopes crushed before their eyes with a systematic dismantling of their offensive capabilities by a revitalized Wall during the final week of the Simulation Football League’s 10th season. During their first series, Atlanta looked like it would be making a statement about their place in the postseason, but an errant pass from DeMar Woods to L.B. Allen III’s helmet halted their fortunes and would end up yielding the only points Atlanta would score all half with a field goal. Mexico would also score on their first series, with a Willson-to-Barrett touchdown pass, but from the looks of things in the first quarter, it would be anyone’s game. Then the second quarter began, and the Aztecs quickly stepped up their game. A missed field goal from the Swarm would see a 67-yard rocket boost touchdown from the former MVP, Ray Bentley, and immediately after an interception from DeMar Woods would set up a beautiful corner strike to K.L. Barrett for another touchdown, putting Mexico far ahead of the competition at 3-21. By the end of the half, it would be 3-24. In the second half, Mexico slowed things down a bit, notching another touchdown to handsome receiver Richard Montague, while the Swarm attempted a comeback in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, they needed more than a field goal and a touchdown pass to L.B. Allen III, and with a score of 13-34, the Swarm were eliminated from playoff contention. Mexico City captured the #7 seed, highest possible for Wildcard Wednesday, and will play host to the Oklahoma City Renegades on Wednesday, March 28th for the chance to tangle in the divisional matchup on the line.