By Ryan Michaels

Houston Hyenas @ Tallahassee Pride

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The Final Four. One win and you play for the ultimate prize in the SFL. A loss and you go home instead. Hyenas are known mostly as a cowardly scavenger, but a little known fact about hyenas is that the Spotted Hyena actually kills nearly 95% of the animals they eat, an animal definitely worthy of this scrappy team from Houston. Lions: A dominant predator of the grasslands and savannahs, an animal of such a majestic nature would only be fit for this team from Tallahassee, undefeated through the regular season and hoping to become only the 2nd team in SFL history to finish an entire season undefeated.

Tallahassee and Houston have both exceeded their performances from Season 9

The first drive of the game started with the Houston Hyenas getting the ball and the big 4 on the defensive line of Tallahassee made their presence felt early, hitting Ahmed Cheema as he went to throw his first pass of the game. A stuffed run and a pass short of the sticks put the Hyenas down early with a quick 3 and out. Tallahassee started their drive at the 35 yard line, an offsides flag put them to a 1st and 5 at the 40. A handoff to Jaye Eniola burst quickly over the left side of the line and resulted in a first down. A deep pass between the safeties to Duke Wilson put the Pride down to the 22 yard line. The next play was a hand off to Eniola who broke a tackle from D.J. Majesty in the hole off the left side of the line, a quick juke around a blocker and he scampered into the end zone for the first score of the game; putting Tallahassee up 7-0. The following kick off was fielded by Ryan Michaels at the Houston 9 yard line who set up his blocking wedge and quickly bounced out to the left and set up one more block at the 45 yard line and from there it became a foot race to the end zone. Michaels would not be caught by the Pride and the Hyenas had immediately answered the Pride touchdown with a touchdown of the own, 7-7. The Pride would not be deterred from their plan, handing it back to Eniola who trucked over two Hyena defenders on his way to a 15 yard run. A few more runs from Eniola put them down to the Houston 10 yard line, but the Pride were unable to punch it into the end zone; having to settle for a field goal and put themselves back into the lead 10-7. The 2nd drive for Houston finally came with only 4 minutes left in the 1st quarter, after a nice return by Michaels set them up at their own 37 yard line and several plays later they found themselves in Tallahassee territory at the Pride 28 yard line. A really close play at the 1st down markers by D.R. Sim came within inches of a 1st down but it was ruled short and resulted in a 4th down and a field goal attempt by non-contract kicker, David Griffin, that sailed wide right and kept the score at 10-7. The 2nd Quarter began with a continuation of a Pride drive from the 1st quarter, a 3rd and 8 play that resulted in a batted ball by Hyena’s safety Blake Chance and a 4th down punt. The following drive by the Hyenas stalled at the Tallahassee 33 yard line and resulted in a punt that pinned the Pride down at their 6 yard line. Houston’s defense forced another punt from the Pride and drove themselves down to the Tallahassee 20 yard line where a field goal would this time find its home and tie the game at 10-10. The Pride took over on the next drive and a nice pass from Christiansen to wide receiver Duke Wilson would put them down to their own 37 yard line. The next play from scrimmage, Christiansen dropped back and delivered a bullet over the middle to Ken Gossett, who split the Houston safeties and screamed his way down the field. Ryan Michaels would catch Gossett at the 10 yard line but was unable to bring him down and the Hyenas other cornerback, Tyleek Jones, finished his tackle but unfortunately did so as -Gossett crossed into the end zone for a touchdown; putting the Pride back in the lead 17-10 with 53 seconds left in the 1st half. The Hyenas started their next drive at their own 30 yard line, hoping to draw even with the Pride before the half would come to a close. After a few swing passes to Warren Murray the Hyenas stalled one first down into the drive and the first half came to a close.

The monstrous Tallahassee front four got after Ahmed Cheema all game

The 2nd half kicked off with the Tallahassee Pride getting the ball at their own 26 yard line, and after a few nice plays from the offense the drive stalled at midfield. The Pride offense stayed on the field on a 4th and 1 and attempted a quick out route to Gossett but a quick jump on the route from Tyleek Jones looked like an assured pick six but the ball bounced off his hands and fell harmlessly to the ground resulting in only a turnover on downs. The Pride defense made sure to not let the turnover on down result in anything for the Hyenas and forced another punt from the Houston offense. As the Pride took the field again they looked to take over the game as they started the drive off with a pass over the middle of the field again. This time however the Houston safeties were in position as Blake Chance stepped in front of intended receiver, Ken Gossett, and came away with the games first turnover with 4:32 left in the 3rd quarter. Unfortunately the Hyenas were unable to capitalize on the turnover and had to punt the ball back over to the Pride. After the punt the Pride seemed unfazed by the interception on the last drive as they put the ball back into their star quarterbacks hands and let him sling it all over the field. Christiansen led his team down the field with several well placed passes to Gossett and Wilson and a few timely runs by Eniola put the at the Houston 23 yard line where the drive would stutter and lead to a 2nd field goal and a 20-10 lead. The Pride defense continued to prove their dominance over the Houston offense and kept them to a 3 and out on the ensuing drive.  After an out route to Gossett set them up at the Houston 41 yard line, the Pride went back to the ground as a handoff to Eniola went off the left side. Eniola ran right thru Ryan Michaels and had plenty of open field in front of him as he went the rest of the way untouched by the rest of the Houston defense and stretched the Tallahassee lead to 27-10. The Hyenas started their next drive and tried desperately to not let the game slip away from them in the fourth quarter with a pass over the middle to D.R. Sim and then a corner route to Badr Ajlouni and they found themselves on the Tallahassee side of the field. A sack by defensive tackle Mike ‘Fats’ Johnson put the Hyenas back to the 47 yard line of the Pride and a long 3rd down. Another sack for ‘Fats’ Johnson, his 3rd total of the game, brought about another punt from the Houston offense. An errant pass by Christiansen over the middle was picked off once again by Hyenas safety Blake Chance and gave the Hyenas another chance to claw their way back into this game with very little time remaining and the ball at the Tallahassee 41 yard line. A deep pass to Garren Malone put the Hyenas down to the Pride 10 yard line. Unable to finish the drive off with a touchdown the Hyenas elected to go with a field goal and bring it to a two score game, 27-13. Houston tried for an onside kick but was unsuccessful as the Pride recovered. A corner route to Ken Gossett found its mark as Gossett danced his toes inside the edge of the end zone for another score and a 34-13 lead for the Tallahassee Pride. With the game all but over the Hyenas attempted to make the score slightly more acceptable but a turnover on downs seemed to make it unlikely. The Pride took over at the Houston 33 yard line and changed to run clock mode, the Hyenas however would not go quietly as they called 2 of their 3 timeouts to keep 1:56 left on the clock as the Pride lined up for a field goal to extend the lead to 37-13. One more drive for the Hyenas started at their own 31 yard line and gave them one more chance to put up a few more points on the board. A deep pass over the middle by Cheema to D.R. Sim between the backup safeties was hauled in and Sim took it to the end zone to make his final house call of Season 10 and give us our final score of 37-20 as the Tallahassee Pride would wind the clock down on their ensuing drive.

Jaye Eniola had one of his best games as a member of the Pride

With the win, the Tallahassee Pride look to become only the 2nd team in SFL history to finish an entire season undefeated as they move on to the Championship game against the Alaska Storm in a matchup of the #1 and #2 seeded teams in the playoffs.

PoTG:

TAL WR Ken Gossett – 6 receptions for 144 yards and 2 TD’s

Honourable Mentions:

HOU WR D.R. Sim – 5 catches for 134 yards and 1 TD

TAL D-Line: Combined 12 tackles, 4 sacks total, 11 tackles for loss

Ken Gossett. A picture of seamless beauty and precision. They way he plays the game.

 

A small personal note from the Editor. All my luck goes towards Ryan for his expansion bid tomorrow night. Here’s hoping we’ll be writing recaps of a Washington Flight Victory in a few months! Shady out.