By Various Writers
Atlanta Swarm @ Tallahassee Pride By Christian Pundt
Tallahassee (entering 7-0) and Atlanta (entering 4-4) met in the Lions Den last Friday in a matchup that had major implications in the Southern Conference standings. Although the Pride are running away in first place by three game lead with 4-5 remaining for most teams, the Swarm are in the thick of the playoff hunt, sitting well-positioned for a shot at the second seed in conference and an automatic birth to the quarterfinals, while also being in-line for a wildcard position. Many were considering this game to have upset potential after the Pride needed two pick sixes Week two in Atlanta to deliver a comeback victory versus the Swarm.
The game started awfully close as the Swarm led 7-3 after the first quarter.
The Pride kicked an opening field goal and the Swarm responded with rookie QB Marcus Dunhill directing an efficient drive, ending in a Boo Chisholm touchdown. Atlanta remained in control through much of the second quarter, although Tallahassee was able to pull ahead 13-10 at the end of the half.
All hell broke loose thereafter, as the Pride offense was able to get hot. Season 10 MVP Christian Christiansen landed 390 passing yards and four touchdowns on 29 completions for 35 attempts (three of those touchdowns and 248 receiving yards went to All-World WR Ken Gossett, while UDFA rookie Greyson Willis was able to see his first touchdown after signing on just a few weeks ago. Additionally, Season 11 MVP candidate Jaye Eniola tacked on another 24 carries for 176 yards and a touchdown as he gashed the Swarm defense and spread the Tallahassee time of possession to 25 and a half minutes (compared to 18 minutes for the Swarm). BDG Hollewood looked good for stretches during the latter half and Dunhill wasn’t shutdown the rest of the game as he would register another touchdown on a swing pass to Hollewood in the fourth quarter.
Despite this effort, the Atlanta offense was largely put to rest after the first quarter opening drive as the Tallahassee defensive line recorded ten sacks (Hale 4.5, Bane 2, Norwood 2, DeCue 1.5) and Alex Bond recorded a pair of interceptions. Tallahassee wound up winning the game 40-17, pushing the Pride into the second place in the automatic qualifying quarterfinal bids (only behind the 9-0 Alaska Storm, who the Pride remain behind based on number of wins and strength of victory), and pushing the Swarm to being the third time out of a playoff spot (only behind the Fury and Wildcats, and directly ahead of the Renegades), while sitting fifth in the Southern Conference.
Dallas Lobos @ New Orleans Pharaohs By Rob Roby
FIRST HALF: The 1-6 Dallas Lobos clashed with the up and coming New Orleans Pharaohs in Week 9 of the SFL season. The gun-slinging Lobos quarterback Shabazz Synergy was not shy in his direct assault against the Pharaoh’s defense. He converted his first touchdown pass of the day to wide receiver sensation Mike Osayi midway through the 1st quarter. Running back Donk Bonkers matched that touchdown early in the 2nd quarter with a 76-yard run for a touchdown to tie the game at 7-7. Synergy wasn’t done yet, as he converted a 45-yard touch pass to Junior Senior III to put the Lobos up 14-7. The Pharaohs young rookie QB Xander Gold, led the Pharaohs back downfield late in the 2nd with the help of Bonkers’ run assault. They eventually scored a touchdown through Bonkers on 3rd and short. The first half ended, 17-14 in favor of the Pharaohs.
SECOND HALF: The Lobos picked up steam, scoring 10 unanswered points to take a commanding 24-17 lead off of a field goal and rushing touchdown from Robbins. The Pharaohs strung together a 10 point streak of their own, quickly answering back to the Lobos assault. With the game tied at 24-24, the Pharaohs got more production out of Bonkers in the red zone who had 150 yards through the midway point in the 4th. This time Donk received a touchdown pass from Gold putting the Pharaohs up 31-24 with just 5 minutes left in the game. Synergy and the Lobos could not serve up a 4th quarter comeback and fell to 1-7 on the year while the red-hot New Orleans Pharaohs improve to .500 and flex their muscles at a playoff bid.
Sioux Falls Sparrows @ San Francisco Sharks By Matt Burnham
The Sioux Falls Sparrows (5-2) met the San Francisco Sharks (2-5) in the foamy waters of the bay, looking to build a nest and solidify their place at 2nd in the Western Conference. The Sharks, coming off of a three-game losing streak, desperately needed a win in order to take a bite out of a wildcard spot. An intense showdown between a high-end team and one struggling to put the pieces together was closer than it had any right to be.
Say what you will about Sparrows rookie running back Colin Hart…Actually, don’t, you can’t say anything other than, “That’s a grown-ass man”. Hart ran for 248 yards with 6 (you heard me) rushing touchdowns – the only offensive touchdowns for the Sparrows all game. You can blame the defense for a failure to stuff the run but regardless, Hart had the strongest game of his career. Julian Tyree threw for 306 yards, an impressive most yards thrown this season, with only 1 pick and a 22/31 rating, contributing a total of 554.
The Sparrows’ defense held their ground with excellent red zone defense and multiple goal line stops, but no picks or sacks. The Sharks’ offense was a force to be reckoned with this game. Kicker, Prefontaine went 0/1 on field goals, but even so, he was mostly used for the 6 extra points after the lawn mower that is Colin Hart ransacked the yard.
With the loss of HB Ogun Zulu early in the first quarter, the Sharks took to the air like never before. We’ve seen sparrows fly, but have you ever seen a shark fly? Sharknado aside, QB Rob Roby threw for 493 yards and 3 touchdowns, possibly his best performance yet, with no picks, going 45/64. On the flip side, a combined Zulu/Blackmon team only managed a meagre 27 total yards rushing. San Francisco’s biggest contributors were WRs Mickey Martino (184 yards, 2 TDs) and Gabriel Manning (188 yards, 1 TD), while even backup HB Blackmon managed 1 rushing TD. A lot of offensive work that had been grinding until now came through, but in the end it simply just wasn’t enough.
The Sharks defense suffered from inconsistency. The secondary would block passes and would even get 1 interception, while by the end the defensive line would sack Tyree 3 times. However, Hart would run rampant both past linebackers and defensive backs: 6 times. They’re on the mend from the early days of the season, but you can only be on the mend for so long – it has to be fixed, and soon.
Kicker Rahzaterian Sloan came away with a perfect 4/4; while not being able to deliver on a 3/3 record for onsides kick, 2/3 ain’t bad for a season still swimming with possibility.
The Gist is Colin Hart with his own two godlike feet on the ground. The Gist is the intense, electric Roby/Manning duo through the air. The Gist is that this has been my favorite game of the season. Both teams put on impressive displays, suffered through questionable spot placements, but held firm. With a score of 42-39, this game was close in every way. Sparrows at 554 yards total, Sharks at 520. Sparrows with 21:57 TOP, Sharks with 21:59 TOP. Real comfy. But as a spectator with a stake in the game, the closest thing about it to me was the closeness of my clenched butt cheeks.
Sioux Falls leaves the bay and returns to the nest to await the coming Storm. Meanwhile, San Francisco hopes to extinguish the flames of Fury’s phoenix. All next week.
London Knights @ Queen City Corsairs By Jeff Melinyshyn
In a rematch from Week 2, Week 9 had part 2 of London v. Queen City. This time the heavy underdog came out on top. In Week 2, Queen City picked off London quarterback Nathan Lee 7 times! In this matchup, Lee was intercepted just once. That alone takes away 6 extra possessions that Queen City got in Week 2. The games stats do not point to an obvious win for London. London had 140 passing yards, 36 total rushing yards, compared to 276 passing yards for Queen City and 127 rushing yards as well. The opening kickoff provided a spark that London needed and the deficit that Queen City could not come back from. Rookie strong safety Jeff Melinyshyn returned the opening kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown and coupled that with a perfect goal line stand which caused Queen City to kick a field goal instead of a touchdown to make the score 7-3, London. Queen City took the lead on a beautiful 7-yard pass from Caswell to Curtis. After that, London would add a field goal to tie it up at 10-10 in the third quarter. The other touchdown from London was scored by elite tight end, Tristan Carr after a beautiful tipped interception by corner back James MacDonald, who caught it on the tip. The very next play was an 8-yard touchdown thrown from Lee to Carr. The touchdown gave the Knights the lead for the second time at 17-10. After that it was just field goals, as London would go on to win the ball game in a closely contested battle, 20-16. Finally, Rex Ripley was able to get himself some carries, coach Gerald Smith said in his post-game press conference
“We wanted to give him looks last week, but having just been signed, figured we would use him as a decoy, but as you saw today he can bring a lot to the table and this is only the beginning”
Only the beginning indeed, Ripley had 47 total yards combined, 2 catches as well. The highest yardage for receiving yards was Carr with 70 yards on 7 catches. It was an abnormal game for London, but it worked. Meanwhile, on the defense it continues to be led by Slinn Shady and Melinyshyn. Shady had 8 tackles with 7 from Melinyshyn. On Queen City’s side of things, Caswell finished with 276 passing yards, 1 touchdown and an interception. Running back Ash Odom continues to flourish in this offensive scheme running for over 100 yards yet again. Odom finished with 108 yards and added 3 catches for 9 yards. Wide receiver Chris Curtis absolutely owned London’s defense with 142 receiving yards and scoring Queen City’s only touchdown of the game. Leroy Jenkins was the only Queen City defender to intercept Lee in this ball game. The leading tackler was Avry King, who finished with 8 tackles.
Queen City had a chance to finish London for the season and instead kept the playoff hopes alive one more week. Queen City moves to second in the Eastern Conference with the loss and now is 7-2. London, with the win, moves to 3-6 but still needs some help. Queen City has a tough matchup against a red-hot Baltimore squad looking to make its move up the standings. Queen City then has to play a road game at Carolina and finish with a surprisingly hot Chicago team that beat Carolina. London, on the other hand, is on the bye this week, then travels to Las Vegas in an interesting matchup of two still in the hunt teams. After that, London has two home games to finish the season with Baltimore and then Indy. Still everything is possible for London, but they are now in control of their destiny. Gerald Smith seems to have this team pointed in the right direction, but hopefully the bye didn’t come at the wrong time.
Carolina Skyhawks @ St. Louis Gladiators By Dylan Aciel
In this hotly anticipated battle between two excellent quarterbacks, one known for his legs and the other for his arm, the deciding factor ended up being the run game.
The game started off close, with both teams making quality drives downfield and key defensive stops. However, things changed at halftime. AJ Francis began roasting the St Louis defense, eventually racking up 347 yards and 4 touchdowns. This ended up being the deciding factor in the game, as St Louis were unable to muster up any offense past the beginning of the game. Despite a fine game running from Diaz, the St Louis offense once again struggled to throw the ball downfield. Quarterback Dylan Aciel, while having not thrown an interception in the past three games, has been hurt by this conservatism. He averaged a paltry 4.5 YPA, which Diaz outpaced on the ground. The Gladiators will look to turn this around next week against Chicago, and the Skyhawks will hope to ride this success to a victory against the Tallahassee Pride.
Says Skyhawks QB Jacques Luyindula of the win, “This was a win we needed to bounce back after the Chicago game and we knew it’d be tough. Got a lot of respect for the St Louis as a whole, especially their secondary. Luckily, AJ was able to pound away on the run, leaving the pass game a bit unnecessary and the defense did what they do best. Definitely a tough team to face and I’m happy to get the win this week.”
Chicago Wildcats @ Indianapolis Red Devils By Chris Colon
“A Defensive Match”
The Wildcats entered the 9th Circle and left winners, not without some concerns however. The game was hard fought by both teams. It was a tough, intense defensive match up. Both teams scored less than ten points combined. Quarterback E.T. King threw 4 interceptions in a win and quarterback Tom Pepper threw less than 100 yards. Both qb’s struggled to move the ball. Running backs Jared Willis and Keith Swearingen had a bit of a battle. Willis rushed for 96 yards on 22 caries while Swearingen though rushed for a lot less with 52 yards for 22 carries. Swearingen also chipped in with 11 catches for 24 yards, though it was the defenses and kickers who shined in this one. For the Red Devils, defensive tackle EZ Tempel came away with a two sack game. The secondary snagged 4 int’s for Indy, while Chicago, though they could not pick up any sacks or pull in any interceptions, played sound defense and forced plenty of turnover on downs. Both team’s kickers put the boot on the ball but it was Chi-Town’s kicker who booted two field goals through the upright. Both teams fought hard and courageously but struggled to get points on the board offensively. Defensively, both teams did plenty of things well and showed hardly any weaknesses in that area. Chicago won this one by a score of 6-3.
With this win, Chicago takes the season series and sweeps Indy. Chicago heads home for a Week 10 battle against the Gladiators while Indy is on bye for Week 10.
After the game, running back Jared Willis had this to say…
Jared, Chris Colon for the SFL Beat Team. Can you give us a word on how you guys felt out there?
“Those guys are super tough. That defense goes hard week in and week out. I give those guys props. They pushed us and we pushed back.”
Are you satisfied with this win or do you feel that some things need to be worked on?
“You’re never satisfied with a with a win in which you feel like points were left off the board. However, this team fights. We claw with our finger nails. Like the movie says, on any given Sunday you can either win or you can lose. We feel like we can fight with some of the top teams in the league. The Wildcats aren’t scared of any team. We have each others backs and fight together as a unit. Sorry gotta get to midfield for the post game prayer.”
Tulsa Desperados @ Alaska Storm By Jeremy Vega
Welcome to Alaska where if it’s not storming, it’s perfect out. Speaking of perfect, and no, its not Big Sexy and his insane record breaking season, it’s the Storm’s currently undefeated 9-0 record that came in unblemished and left that way. The Storm hosted the 4-4 Desperados who have magically turned their season around, like a rookie with a bad attitude who just got cut. They started off an unreal 0-4 being outscored 62-75 during that slide. Now, Tulsa has ripped off four-straight wins while outscoring their opponents 115-64. This Week 9 clash was voted game of the week for fan night, just barely beating out Round 2 of Vice Wars (plug). What was anticipated as a potential game of the year quickly turned into a forgotten one as the Alaska Storm did what they do best: that is win.
The first half of action wasn’t a blow out but sure felt like Alaska had control of the game. Going into halftime, the score was only 13-24 Alaska. Very manageable for Tulsa to climb back into it. Instead, the Storm had other plans as they kept Tulsa out of the endzone for the remainder of the game, even putting up two more touchdowns in the 3rd quarter to really ice the game early. MVP candidate Ron Cockren continued his impressive season with what might be his most impressive game ever. Ron threw the ball 48 times and connected on 43 of them. That is a whopping 89.58% pass accuracy. I do not know if that is an all-time record in the SFL, but it will be up there. Ron also threw five touchdowns in the game, two of them going to WR Optimus Cline who brought in 10 catches for 194 yards. Defensively we gotta shout out Alex Dominguez, who as we mentioned before, is having a monster, record breaking season. AD compiled 5.5 sacks & 7 tackles for a loss. Staggering for sure, but not as much as his league leading 31 sacks. Already having broken the single season mark, he still has three games left to play.
A tough loss on the road for the Desperados, but honestly they have nothing to hang their heads about. Yes, Tulsa now sits at 4-5 but are right on the outside looking in for a playoff berth. Despite the lack of points scored against Alaska, they still played a great game. QB Michael Martin completed nearly 60% of his passes & only threw one interception, which is a win sometimes. RB Sonzo Robinson managed 100 rushing yards with 1 touchdown, which is a huge win against Alaska’s 4th ranked rushing defense, who only gives up an average of 70 yards per game. Tulsa may have cooled off for the moment, but expect them to pick it up again heading down the final stretch of the regular season.
The Desperados will continue their road trip of three weeks, as they head down to Atlanta to face the Swarm. A rematch of Week 7, Tulsa won 23-9. Alaska will head to Sioux Falls to take on their Western Conference foe, the Sparrows. Also a rematch game where Alaska won 37-3 in Week 3. Thank you for the continued support of the Beat Team. One Love.
Denver Nightwings @ Las Vegas Fury By Jon Bond
Matt Rage’s pinpoint right leg and Robert Redford’s two dancing feet; They do call it football, after all. Rage’s 48-yarder, setting the franchise record for a regular season game and came close to tying the league mark of five, came on the Fury’s first series of the first half.
Who needs to reach the end zone when you have Redford chewing up yards and the clock, and Rage setting a Fury record with four field goals? Throw in a stingy Las Vegas defense for most of Sunday night, and a multitude of mistakes by Denver, and the Fury’s 19-10 victory puts them in the hunt for the playoffs.
The game became a kicking exhibition by Rage with three, yes, three 48-yarders in the first half. Redford put on a virtuoso running performance, patiently finding holes and then exploding through them. He added 174 yards rushing to the 214 yards he had in a win over Vancouver last week.
Denver’s Lilly Long got in on the kicking act with a 32-yarder to make it 6-9. At that point, 10 seconds from the end of the second quarter, the Fury’s kicker kept them ahead 6-9 going into the half. Jarrod McChesney’s touchdown run took Denver within 10-16 during the third, however, Rage’s fourth field goal, from 21 yards, made it 19-10 going into the fourth and finishing the game.
Mexico City Aztecs @ Houston Hyenas By Ryan Michaels
The near free falling Houston Hyenas played host to the Mexico City Aztecs in Week 9 of Season 11. Houston came into the game on a 3 game losing streak and were hoping to end their slide against Mexico City. The Aztecs entered the game at 5-2, their only 2 losses coming against the same team; the Alaska Storm.
Coming in to the game it looked like the Aztecs were going to try and rely on their workhorse back in Ray Bentley, who carried the ball 25 times for 112 yards and 1 touchdown. Quarterback Matt Willson had a decent completion percentage on the day but wasn’t able to gather up many yards through the air; completing 18 of his 27 attempts for 153 yards and 1 touchdown. His top target for the week was tight end Mike Daggs, who caught 6 of his 7 targets for 58 yards. As for the defense, they were led by free safety Jeffrey Daggs, tying for the lead in total tackles in the game with Hyenas free safety Blake Chance at 11 total tackles.
After last week, the Hyenas game plan looked like it would be to run the ball early and often, and while they attempted to do so the run game wasn’t nearly as effective as it was last week against the tough run defense of the Aztecs. Running Back Warren Murray toted the ball 17 times on the ground for 50 yards and was unable to reach the end zone. Hyena quarterback Kentez Johnson had another efficient week, completing 30 of his 41 passing attempts for 281 yards and 2 touchdowns. The top target for Johnson was tight end Yasin Clifton, who had a breakout game this week with 8 catches on 10 targets for 93 yards and 2 touchdowns; including the game winning touchdown with around 30 seconds left in the game. On the defensive side of the ball, defensive tackle Chad Takkul was able to break out of his slump and gathered 4 sacks on the evening.
The final score of the game was 14-17, Houston over Mexico City. Houston travels to Dallas to take on the struggling Dallas Lobos, hoping to keep their playoff chances alive. Mexico City travels to Vancouver to take on the Vancouver Legion as they look to regain their form and end their 2 game losing streak.