By Christian Pundt
Sioux Falls Sparrows @ Alaska Storm
Welcome to the Semifinals![event_details id=”9673″ align=”none”] [event_results id=”9673″ align=”none”]
The Simulation Football League had reached the final four teams of Season 10. The second seeded Alaska Storm (10-2 regular season) won their right to this matchup by beating probably the toughest team in the tournament in the defending champion, Mexico City Aztecs. On the opposite sidelines, the #3 seeded Sioux Falls Sparrows (9-3 regular season) had one of the most undercovered chasedowns in SFL history as they reeled off six of their last seven to win the Central Conference over the Tulsa Desperados (who, at one point, were undefeated at 8-0). The Sparrows would then beat the Queen City Corsairs in one of the more interesting and closer games of this season’s playoffs, as SXF wide receiver AJ Warren and QCC tight end Mike Daggs both collected hattricks in Corsair quarterback AJ Caswell’s final career game.
Deviating from their normally aggressive stance, Alaska opted to defer to the second half, and Sioux Falls received the ball to begin the game. They went on to combine a healthy mix of Julian Tyree passing and Robert Redford runs for a six and a half minute drive that ended in a 20 yard field goal to make the game 3-0. Alaska would respond similarly to how they did versus Mexico City in the quarterfinals – with a Ron Cockren interception (to FS Chris Dodd). Luckily for Alaska, the drive went nowhere on a three and out, as the Sparrows punted the ball back to the Storm.
Both offenses stalled at the end of the first quarter/beginning of the second. Alaska caught a break after picking up a Tony Willis interception off of Julian Tyree. The high-powered Storm offense capitalized off of the mistake and drove the ball downfield to score a touchdown and pull ahead 7-3. Sioux Fall’s responding drive stalled around midfield, giving Alaska the ball back. They’d wind up having to punt the ball and Sioux Falls would take that opportunity to take a long offensive drive deep into the Storm’s territory that turned into a field goal at 45-second to-go mark. With under 30 seconds to go, Ron Cockren made another critical error throwing an interception in the flats that was returned to inside the 10-yard line. After a few punches, Robert Redford was able to drive it in for a touchdown to retake the lead at 13-7. Alaska’s desperation drive would wind up being picked off on the half-ending Hail Mary.
Alaska got the ball to begin the third quarter and sliced through the Sioux Falls defense with ease using their strong aeriel attack, ending in a wide open touchdown to retake the lead 14-13. Sioux Falls responded proactively, moving the ball downfield with their balanced attack, scoring on a 30 yard screen pass to Robert Redford for another lead change. Alaska, unfazed, drove right back down the field nearly every play being a pass, ending up a redzone strike to Robert Merrill, setting the Storm ahead 21-20 with about two minutes left in the third. The Storm finally manned up on defense, stopping the Sparrows around midfield. They got the ball back and as time expired in the third quarter, Alaska hit a long pass to Robert Merrill to make it an eight-point game.
With their season all but on the line, Sioux Falls drove the ball downfield like they had for much of the game – with ease. But Alaska made a play to really shut the door on Sioux Fall’s comeback efforts and blocked a chipshot 20-yard old field goal that would’ve made it a one-possession game. From that point on, Alaska’s defense put on the clamps and suffocated Sioux Falls’ season away. The Storm offense was able to put the game away with several clutch first down conversions to keep the clock moving. At the end of the day, the Sioux Falls Sparrows’ defense was on their heels for the entire game retreating and the offense couldn’t get the job done in the redzone.