By Various Writers

Mexico City Aztecs @ Alaska Storm               By AJ Francis

First Half:                                                         The opening night game for the SFL in Season 11 was a matchup between the Season 10 Champions, the Alaska Storm, and the Season 9 Champions, the Mexico City Aztecs. Both teams, being the most recent champions and being from the same division, added a lot of heat to this rivalry and it was expected to be a close matchup. Alaska apparently decided they wanted no part in making this one a nail-biter as they took a 24-3 lead in the first half. The game started off relatively slowly, with a 3-3 scoreline at the end of the first. Once the second quarter started, Alaska scored 21 unanswered points on the back of their quarterback, Ron Cockren, who threw 3 touchdowns in the second quarter alone. The Alaska defense, time and time again, stopped the Aztecs, picking off Wilson once in the half and gaining 4 sacks courtesy of ‘Big Sexy’, Alex Dominguez.

Second Half: The Aztecs’ bread and butter on offense is running the ball down their opponent’s throat with former MVP running back, Ray Bentley. Since they were down so many points at the half, they had to abandon the run game early on, resulting in only 21 rushing yards in the second half and 63 total yards from Bentley on the night. Matt Wilson added 204 yards through the air and two touchdowns in the second half to bring the Aztecs to a final total of 17 points, but that was no match for Alaska as they built on their lead in the second half and were able to score 14 more points to March them to a 38-17 win over Mexico City. This game was a statement by Alaska to show that they are not done quite yet. Their defense collected 3 turnovers and 6 sacks (all by Alex Dominguez) and their offense put up 348 yards en-route to his blowout win. Look for Mexico City to bounce back in a big way next game, as well as for Alaska to continue to dominate teams on both sides of the ball.

Atlanta Swarm @ Chicago Wildcats                By Marcus Dunhill

First half: Chicago opened the season hosting the Atlanta Swarm and both teams looked nervous,  having a rough time moving the ball at the start of the game. After multiple possessions by each team, the Atlanta Swarm started a drive on their 42-yard line. The ball was handed off to BDG Hollewood and he scampered 58 yards to the endzone for the first score of the game. Chicago tried moving the ball effectively,  however they couldn’t get it far. They picked up a first down and ended up punting the ball away. Atlanta came back with their best passing drive yet, making it to the Chicago 14-yard line. They ended up settling for a field goal, making the score 10-0. Chicago got the ball back tried to move the ball and on a 3rd down play, Atlanta gave them a new set of downs with an offsides penalty. Two plays later, ET King couldn’t take advantage, throwing an interception that was caught by Pat Ketza, Atlanta’s 2nd year corner. Atlanta responded by moving the ball efficiently with the passing game to Chicago’s 45-yard line. BDG Hollewood was then able to run 45 yards for his second long touchdown of the day. This score made the game 17-0. On the following kickoff return, Corey Carter was able to break free and return the ball 90 yards for a Chicago touchdown. With Chicago on the board, it made it a 10-point game. After both teams punted, rookid quarterback, Marcus Dunhill, moved the Swarm to the Chicago 10-yard line before throwing an interception in the end zone to Blake Hamrac. After the interception, Chicago ran the clock out on the first half: Atlanta 17 Chicago 7.

Marcus Dunhill looked to have already improved The Swarm’s passing game from Season 10

Second half: To start the second half, Atlanta moved into Chicago territory with their much improved (from Season 10) passing game. On the Chicago 43-yard line, Hollewood ran 43 yards to the endzone for his third touchdown. On the first play of Chicago’s second half drive, J. Calvin Kim was able to run for 47 yards. Two plays later, E.T. King passed to Kendall Gilbert for a touchdown, making the score Atlanta 24 Chicago 14. After Atlanta punted on the next drive, E.T. King threw a costly interception to Aaron Lee. Atlanta was forced to settle for a field goal making it a 13-point game. On Atlanta’s next possession, Marcus Dunhill threw a 40-yard touchdown to Javon Walker, increasing their lead to 20. Followimg yet another Wildcats punt, Marcus Dunhill threw his second interception of the day, which was caught by rookie, Jesse Vick. After the interception, both teams had multiple failed drives where they ended up punting. With 2 minutes left on the clock, Chicago drove to the endzone with a passing touchdown from E.T. King to Kendall Gilbert (his second on the day). This narrowed the gap to 13, however Chicago failed an onside kick and Atlanta got the ball back with 1:10 left. Dunhill took a knee and ended the game. Atlanta 34 Chicago 21.

The experience of Kendall Gilbert will be important for success in the Windy City this season

Dallas Lobos @ Oklahoma City Renegades    By Ryan Michaels

Dallas came into Oklahoma City looking to get their season started on the right foot, trying to comeback from a disappointing Season 10 campaign that found them at the bottom of the standings, finishing the season with a 2-10 record. Oklahoma City played host, hoping to improve their record from Season 10, having found themselves in the playoffs even though they finished the regular season at 5-7.

The game began with Dallas receiving the ball and starting at their own 46 yard line after a nice return on the opening kickoff. One quick pass and they were in to OKC territory, the next, however, would be caught by Mike Osayi coming across the middle of the field and he would get popped hard by a linebacker from the Renegades; jarring the ball loose, OKC would jump on the ball and after a challenge by Dallas, retain possession from the fumble recovery. Two plays later, Deacons Nickens would drop back to pass and toss a long, arcing ball over the left side; the wide receiver laid it all on the line and went full stretch dive to haul in the pass behind the Dallas defense, being touched down at the Dallas 28 yard line. After a few more plays, the drive stalled at the 18 yard line, just short of the first down marker and resulted in the game’s first points, a field goal for OKC, putting them on top 3-0. Dallas started their next drive attempting to answer the OKC field goal with points of their own. A strategic drive down the field ended in the OKC endzone with an 18 yard catch and run from Shabazz Psynergy to the non-contract tight end, Big Merc Meadowlark, who broke a tackle with ease as he cruised into the end zone, putting the Lobos up 7-3. After the teams traded punts, OKC drove themselves down the field and put themselves within the Dallas 10 yard line. A quick slant from the right side of the field from Deacon Nickens to Hunter Jones gave the Renegades the leads again, 10-7. The following drive by the Lobos stuttered as it entered the red zone of the Renegades and they had to settle for a field goal, tying up the score 10-10. Not to be outdone, OKC took over and drove to the 50 yard line; a beautiful pass to Deezer Powell on a corner route found its ways behind the Lobos corners and the receiver strolled into the end zone untouched, putting OKC back out in front once more, 17-10. Another Lobos drive stalled just inside the Renegades red zone and they had to settle once more for a field goal, pulling to within 4 points, 17-13. That was how the score would look as they went into their respective locker rooms at half time.

The 2nd half started with a slow, methodical drive by the Renegades, taking exactly 3 and ½ minutes off the clock and another quick slant pass to Deezer Powell found paydirt from 10 yards out, extending the Oklahoma City lead to 24-13. Dallas would answer with a methodical drive of their own, finishing it off with a slant route caught by Mike Osayi across the middle of the field from 15 yards out. The extra point however would be blocked by the Renegades and keep the scoring from closing in even more: 24-19. After a punt on the Renegades’ next drive, Dallas would take over with their sights set on taking the lead from OKC. From the OKC 49 yard line, Psynergy dropped back to pass and found a streaking Junior Senior III on a seam route up the middle. Senior would haul in the pass over top the OKC safety and find his way into the endzone untouched by the defense, giving Dallas the lead, 26-24. However, they wouldn’t keep the lead for long as the Renegades drove down the field and found themselves inside the 20 yard line but stalled there and settled for a field goal, taking the lead back from Dallas, 27-26. Dallas would answer back once again, a deep pass over the outstretched hand of a OKC cornerback and into the hands of wide receiver, Mason Kirby, allowing him to run unscathed and into another lead change, 33-27. With half of the 4th quarter expired, OKC took the ball and drove down the field, having to settle for a field goal and a 33-30 deficit. Dallas took over with a chance to ice the game, but strangely decided to continue passing the ball; stopping the clock several times and allowing OKC to get the ball back with plenty of time left on the clock and a chance to take the lead and possibly ice the game themselves. A deep pass down the middle to Tybeerius Bovine set up OKC inside the Dallas 40 yard line at the 38. After a few runs by J.W. Doyle, a literal threaded needle pass across the middle to Bovine put OKC down at the Dallas 16. Two plays later, Hunter Jones grabbed a pass in the middle of the end zone on a play with an offsides call and gave OKC the lead, 37-33, with 18 seconds left in the game. The kick return setup Dallas at the 31 yard line with 14 seconds left on the clock. The first play from scrimmage however would have OKC defender, Al Clint, step in front of a pass intended for Mason Kirby and the game would be sealed from there with a kneel down ending the game the next play. Oklahoma City Renegades 37 – Dallas Lobos 33

PotG – OKC QB, Deacon Nickens – 34/48, 416 yards and 4 touchdowns, 125.0 QB Rating.

Honorable Mention – Dallas Lobos WR, Mike Osayi – 224 yards and 1 touchdown on 19 receptions, 11.8 Yards per catch.

Sioux Falls Sparrows @ Tulsa Desperados    By AJ Francis 

First half: In a battle of two teams who lost in the quarter finals last season and with both going 9-3, this was expected to be a close matchup. The first half of this game proved to meet those expectations. The defenses were in full swing as the score after the first two quarters was 6-0, with Tulsa kicking two field goals and holding the high-powered Sioux Falls offense in check. The highlight of the half was A.J. Levye’s interception in the end zone off of Michael Martin. On the Sioux Falls 14-yard line, Martin dropped back to pass and threw it to his wide receiver around the 5-yard line, where it consequently bounced off the receiver’s hands and into the hands of Safety, A.J. Levye. This was a huge play for Sioux Falls as it destroyed any momentum Tulsa could have gained as well as limiting the score at the half to only 6-0 instead of 13-0.

Michael Martin will want to improve his performance in the future as he looks to bed in with his new team

Second half: The second half of the game proved to be a much different story. After being shutout in the first half, Sioux Falls made some half time adjustments and put up a whopping 35 points, while only allowing 7 points to Tulsa. This was done primarily on the back of rookie running back, Colin Hart, who had 197 of his 234 yards in the second half, whilst also rushing for 3 touchdowns. Sioux Falls’ defense continued to hold strong and forced two more turnovers: a second interception by A.J. Levye and an interception by rookie cornerback, Andrew Nyberg. Julian Tyree also contributed to the second half blowout with 2 passing touchdowns. Overall, this game was not as close as anticipated. Sioux Falls looks to ride high into next week and Tulsa looks to make adjustments off this game and get on a winning track.

Colin Hart lowering a stiff pad in to a would-be tackler

San Francisco Sharks @ Las Vegas Fury        By Jon Bond 

Fury’s Quick Offense Overwhelms Sharks, 41-7

With Ramen in top form, handing the ball off to Redford to power run, it rendered Moats and his Sharks coaching staff unable to adjust. The Fury took on the first drive and 100 rushing yards later, a 7-0 lead. 3 sacks in a row on Ahmed Cheema would then force a punt from the Sharks. Then a go route to “Too Much” Funk put Vegas up 14-0, followed by a non-stop ground and pound, resulting in a halftime score that was 38-0.

Not only did the Fury use a shockingly simple power run game to lead them to victory in their opening Season 11 game, but Robert Redford would have a total of 311 rushing yards to place #16 in the rushing record book.Eventually,  the backups were put in and then Micky Martino caught a touchdown pass from Ahmed Cheema to keep the game from being a shutout.
In the fourth quarter, Max Jackson’s most significant contribution was to divert the attention of Coach Jon Bond by asking a question on the sideline as Robert Redford came up from behind for the ceremonial dousing.

London Knights @ St. Louis Gladiators          By Jeff Melinyshyn

This game was quite possibly the best game of the Week 1 slate. The intensity of this matchup was started when the schedule came out. The trash talking was from both sides, players took to twitter and after insults upon insults, the battle was finally about to play out. The matchup was more of a boxing match than a football game with each team exchanging blows. In the comeback win, London quarterback Nathan Lee chucked the pigskin all over the field to a tune of 451 yards and had 5 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. 273 of those yards went to James Hands who torched the Gladiators defense and hauled in 4 touchdowns for player of the game honors. Free agent signee, Tristan Carr, helped chip-in as well with 80 yards and 1 touchdown. Meanwhile, on the Knights defense, it was all about the rookies. Leading the rookie class was 25th overall selection in the draft, Tyrone Zeus. The Gladiators offensive line had no answer for the relentless rookie, who had 9 sacks as the Knights defense combined to sack Gladiators quarterback, Dylan Aciel, 14 times. 6th overall selection, strong safety Jeff Melinyshyn, and second year linebacker, Slinn Shady each led the team with 9 tackles. Undrafted free agent free safety, Nathan Blake, chipped in with 8 tackles and a key interception to turn the tide. London will have to stay focused because it’s a home game against the Queen City Corsairs. That could be a big statement game for them.

Meanwhile, St. Louis had their share of punches landed in this slug fest as well, and for the most part controlled most of this game. Gladiators quarterback, Dylan Aciel, torched the Knights secondary for 532 yards and 2 touchdowns. Wide receiver, Nick Finch, had 91 receiving yards. Running back Denzel Diaz led the way on the ground with 69 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown; he also had 35 receiving yards. The outlier in the stats was defensive end, Scott LeRoux who did not record a single tackle or sack. Rookie strong safety, Ethan Kye, had his first career interception on a tip drill. Free safety, Freeman Peltier added to the list of Gladiators picking off Nathan Lee passes. St. Louis won the turnover battle but what cost them was not finishing those drives as touchdowns or even field goals. Rookie kicker Matthew Martin missed his three field goal chances, which would have made the score a lot different. St. Louis gets the chance to get back to an even record next week against the debuting New Orleans Pharaohs. They will be hoping that they can be more clinical in the redzone and come away with the victory.

Baltimore Vultures @ Carolina Skyhawks

Unfortunately, The Beat Team were not able to cover the Vultures- Skyhawks game a thoroughly as we would have liked, however, pictures tell the story of a thousand words…

The Skyhawks defense intercepted Mike Dazzo a humbling 5 times

Jalan Miller attempting to elude a defender on his way to 56 yards receiving. Partner in crime, Mark Strike managed 71 yards and a touchdown

The Baltimore defense also joined the pick party, both safeties intercepting Jacques Luyindula

Rookie running back, Troy Gaines had a mixed start in the SFL, gaining over 200 yards but never quite making it into the endzone when it counted

Houston Hyenas @ Queen City Corsairs         By Ryan Michaels

This game started with plenty of buzz around both of these teams. Both having made the playoffs last season, Queen City coming in to Season 11 with 4 championship trophies under their belt, Houston a perennial playoff team since their introduction to the SFL in Season 6.

The 1st half started with Houston getting the ball first but they were unable to do much with it and punted it away to the Corsairs. With their first possession, Queen City methodically moved down the field and set themselves up inside the Hyena 10 yards. Ash Odom took a hand off in the Corsairs backfield and slammed his way up the gut, bouncing off would-be tacklers and dragging several Houston defenders into the endzone with him for the game’s first touchdown and a Queen City lead, 7-0. The Hyenas tried to answer back with a drive down the field of their own but it stalled just inside the Corsairs 30 yard line and they had to settle for a field goal, pulling the score to 7-3, Queen City leading. The second quarter started with Houston kicking another field goal to pull within 1 point of Queen City, 7-6. After several punts back and forth, Queen City took over and despite a clipping call giving them a 1st and 32 from the Houston 38, they drove down the field and Ash Odom once more took a handoff inside the Hyena 10 yard line; this time he bounced it out to the left and strolled into the end zone untouched, Queen City extending their lead 14-6. Just before the half ended, the Hyenas were able to pull themselves closer with their 3rd field goal of the 1st half, going into the break down 14-9.

As the second half began, the Corsairs started off by quickly driving down the field and into the Hyenas half of the field. Caswell dropped back from the 23 yard line and layed a literal perfect pass to the back shoulder of Chris Curtis as he crossed over the goal line and gave Queen City an even bigger lead, stretching it to 21-9. The ensuing Hyenas drive ended in another punt and gave the Corsairs the ball on their own 36 yard line. The first play from the drive was a trap handoff over the left side to Ash Odom, who streaked down the field, only being touched once as he crossed over the goal line for another Queen City touchdown; pushing the score to 28-9. After an INT by Queen City cornerback, Oskar Dunklee, to stop the next Houston drive, the Corsairs took over at their own 29 yard line. Another methodical drive down the field led to another handoff to Ash Odom, this time he bounced off the right side, found daylight once more and rumbled his way into the end zone for his 3rd touchdown of the game.  Another Houston punt gave the ball back to the Corsairs and they once again drove down the field, this drive being capped off by another dime of a pass finding it’s target in the back of the endzone to non-contract receiver, Elgin Villanueva. With the game all but over, the Hyenas took over at their own 34 yard line. A deep pass to the left side of the field found D.R. Sim just behind the Queen City cornerback, who attempted to bring down the Hall of Fame wide receiver. Sim broke out of the tackle and outraced the rest of the Queen City defense on his way to the end zone and giving Houston what would be their only touchdown of the game with 5:02 left. With both teams just winding down the clock for the rest of the game, we arrived at our final score, Queen City 42 – Houston 16

PoTG – Queen City RB, Ash Odom – 214 yards and 4 touchdowns on 22 carries, 9,72 YPC

Indianapolis Red Devils @ Tallahassee Pride                                                                      By Jeff Melinyshyn

If you want to talk about a tale of two halves, look no further than the Indianapolis at Tallahassee game. Indy came out firing on all cylinders in the first half. Indy was up 14-7 and was looking good for the first win of the season. Indy quarterback, Tom Pepper threw for 253 yards and 1 touchdown. Rookie running back, Keith Swearingen ran up, down, and round Tallahassee for 109 yards and his first career touchdown in the SFL and had 5 receptions for 18 yards. The leading receiver for Indy was Dan Daly, who hauled in 9 catches for a whopping 108 receiving yards. The leading tackler on Indianapolis was free safety Ashley Rose Finch ,who had 5 tackles, 3 assists, and a tackle for loss. In week two Indy will play at home and will face a very good Baltimore Vultures squad.

Tallahassee turned it on in the second half. The only score in the first half was a typically powerful run by Pride running back, Jaye Eniola. Eniola finished with 161 rushing yards and a touchdown and 16 receiving yards. Fellow Pride running back, Alan Urban also scored in the 3rd quarter. Pride quarterback, Christian Christiansen led the Pride back from a 14-7 deficit. He threw for 160 yards and hooked up with receiver, Duke Wilson for the game winning score with 9 minutes left in the 4th quarter to take a 21-14 lead. Wilson finished with 69 receiving yards on 9 catches. On defense, Tallahassee got major contributions from rookie defensive tackle, EJ DeCue and free safety, Tanner Hendrix. Hendrix led all Pride defenders with 10 tackles and his first career interception. DeCue had two tackles and a tackle for loss. Defensive end, Kevin Bane recorded the only sack for Tallahassee. Tallahassee travels to Atlanta to take on the Swarm in Week two.

Vancouver Legion @ Denver Nightwings        By Kody ‘Thrill’ Hill

The last game of Week 1 as both the chilly states against each other in a newly found rivarly game. The game was really low-scoring. The top players for the game would be Vancouver’s halfback, Kody Hill and Denver’s quarterback, Josh Miller. Anyway, lets see how both teams did!

1st Quarter
Both teams seemed even with each other as the only points were from a field goal by Eric Walsh. Vancouver’s main way of yards was from passing, with some amazing plays by Trevor Ferrill and Brett Killan. Josh Miller did well also but not enough to get some real progression going.

2nd Quarter
The quarter was mainly a low scoring affair like the previous one. But then, big game heroics from the Denver’s wide reciever, Jockamo Jones, resulted in a big yard touchdown to give Denver their franchise’s first score and the start of many. Other than that, there was no progression from either team. The rushing game was looking weak so far. But that could change in the 2nd half.

3rd Quarter
With a one score lead in Denver’s hands, both defenses produced good results. Denver’s halfback, Jarrod McChesney really let loose and started looking like a high caliber offensive weapon. 9th Pick from the SFL Draft, Kody Hill, was having a really hard time trying to get a spark. He had a few good plays but none important like the preseason game.

4th Quarter
Both offenses couldn’t really get an edge and it was still a one score game even after Denver got a FG to set the game up at 10-3. Denver’s defense were shining to keep the game in their favor. As the last minutes rolled in, Denver secured their first franchise win against the coach’s old team. Now a rivarly is born.

Next week, Denver plays Mexico City and The Legion play current champs, Alaska Storm.