By Christopher Burnette

The SFL Pro-bowl has arrived and it promises to be an amazing match-up with phenomenal talent on both sides of the ball; much to the delight of SFL nation fans and contributors. We will preview all of the great head-to-head pairings as well as the strengths and weaknesses of both the Miami and San Diego teams.

Miami Goliaths

San Diego Top Guns

First of all, let’s take a look at passing offense. This matchup promises to be an exciting one to watch as the reigning championship team Alaska Storm’s quarterback, Ron Cockren, is on one side of the ball for San Diego, while his opponent from the big game (Tallahassee Pride QB, Christian Christiansen) is on the other. With the quarterback talent ratcheted up, it will be up to the wide receivers to make the difference in the passing game. Optimus Cline and Junior Senior III look to be difference-makers for Miami, while Jockamo Jones, D.R. Sim and Ken Gossett go to work for San Diego to try to put them over the top. While the passing game should be competitive on both sides, this reporter has to give the edge to San Diego.

Despite being the last quarterback taken in the Season 11 draft, Johnson probably went into the easiest situation of all the rookie signal-callers. Still, he had alot of pressure on his shoulders and he thrived under it.

The quintessential ‘All-rounder’, Colin Hart has that special blend of speed, power and dexterity in the passing game. Sioux Falls traded down TWICE in the draft and still bagged Hart. A+ from me.

One of the biggest draws for everybody to watch this Pro-Bowl absolutely must be the rushing offense from both sides going against one another. What an absolute treat we have to see one of the most talented rookies in the SFL in Colin Hart playing for San Diego. This is a man who has the potential to be the best running back in the SFL at some point during his career, and is known to dextrously get past anyone who gets in his way. Who happens to be playing alongside Colin Hart for San Diego? The Corsairs’ own Ash Odem – the league’s second-best overall rusher on the season. What a duo! Meanwhile on the other side of the ball, we have Season 11 SFL champion and league rushing leader, Jaye Eniola. What an exciting set of running backs Miami has with both Eniola and Aztec star and SFL favorite, Ray Bentley. I had the opportunity to talk with Bentley about the game and he shared some of his thoughts:

CB: How do you feel about representing your Aztec team in the Pro-Bowl, seeing as you are such a close-knit group?
Bentley: I’m exceedingly proud that our team was able to have five excellent representatives, on all sides of the ball, including special teams with Kole Varner (my MVP choice, personally). I’m hoping that I can redeem my previous Pro-Bowl performance, and much as I enjoy my camaraderie with my teammates, Jeff Daggs is going down.
CB: What are your hopes for this Pro-Bowl and what are your expectations for the Miami team you are a part of?
Bentley: I think that Miami has one hell of a backfield and with Slinn Shady and Jack Brown with us, I can see the team going the distance. Hopefully I can stack up to the power of Eniola and Hart, but I am mainly keeping my fingers crossed for no fumbles!
CB: How do you expect the game to go and what are you looking forward to the most?
Bentley: Going up against any Mighty squad is an intimidating affair already, but one he drafted out of superstars? Yeesh! I think it’s gonna be a complete 180 from last season’s Pro Bowl, with the victory going to whichever squad can pull of that 2 minute drill magic. If I had to guess a final score, I’ve got to homer, and say Miami on top 35-31 on a dizzying final series that shows
off everything the SFL is.
CB: Thank you Sir Bentley, and best of luck to you in the Pro-Bowl.

The face of Mexico City may have regressed slightly since Season 9, but #27 still plays like a man amongst boys, and definitely deserves his place in the Pro Bowl.

Overall, I have to give the rushing advantage to Miami – but only by a hair.

Shifting to defense, the San Diego pass rush looks poised to halt the air attack of Miami. Taqwaun Hale and the legendary “Big Sexy” Alex Dominguez are set to be the
difference-makers at the defensive end and defensive tackle positions respectively for San Diego. They will be supported on the defensive line by rising star, defensive tackle EZ Tempel. Miami counters with their own big man in Mike Johnson, while Scott LeRoux and Tyrone Zeus combine for a fearsome pass-rush threat. While the potential for getting to the quarterback is strong on either side of the ball, overall the advantage appears solidly on the side of San Diego with the league’s two most prolific defensive line players.

It’s great to see Mike Johnson make it into a Pro Bowl after being somewhat snubbed last season. When he made the shock move to Vegas, many expected his production to fall under the weight of carrying a new franchise. Season 11 has shown just how good ‘Fats’ really is.

Slinn Shady has been the best linebacker in the SFL for two seasons now. Changing his role slightly from Season 10, Shady played more in coverage, heading all linebackers in pass deflections, which makes it all the more astounding he racked up nearly 150 tackles. Hall of famer in the making?

Now to examine what very well could be one of the biggest factors between these teams – stopping the running game. I already mentioned Mike Johnson for Miami, who can shut down almost any play, but their line will also receive support from one of the best run-stopping strong safeties in the league in AJ Levye, and a plethora of outstanding linebackers. Among these are
well-known standout Slinn Shady as well as the big-hitter, Aquantis Shyne. Even with the
run-stopping talent these players bring, it will still be hard to top the capabilities of Dominguez for San Diego. Still, I have to give Miami a slight nod when it comes to stopping the run.

I like to call this guy ‘Big Game’ Armstrong. Always a player who shows up when it’s on the line, #38 was the anchor of a pretty fearsome defence in Denver this season. I expect him to be a franchise player for the Nightwings, and a perennial Pro Bowler.

The secondary sports plenty of talent for both teams. Look for Oskar Dunklee and BJ Armstrong to make their presence felt at cornerback for San Diego while Maurice Spurgeon holds down the free safety position. For Miami, veteran AJ Levye hopes to be a true playmaker for his defense while some quality cornerbacks in their own right with Ryan Davidson and Maajor Key do their best to shut down Ron Cockren’s passing targets. While it certainly promises to be a dynamic and interesting back and forth to watch, I expect the advantage to go to San Diego.

Never count out AJ Levye. The 6-Season veteren doesn’t always bring the best numbers, but he carries an impact and an influence with him that the Sparrows defence can’t do without.

Special Teams looks to be a back-and-forth between one of the league’s strongest kickers in Kole Varner for Miami and a set of amazing kick returners for San Diego, led by the number-one returner Max Jackson. Like all of the other head to heads, this too will be very interesting. Will the kicker give Miami the edge or will Jackson make that point moot? Only time will tell, but for now I am giving the nod to Miami.

When I discovered football, the first player I loved watching was Josh Cribbs. There was something electric about knowing he could take a kick return all the way, with grace and power. Max Jackson gives me that same feeling. Says it all really.

There you have it folks. We’ve taken a look at the strengths and weaknesses in the build-up to what promises to thrill and amaze. So much talent will be on display and nothing can be said for sure. We have to wait until the game is played to see how it all unfolds. Thank you for taking the time to examine all that this season’s SFL pro-bowl has to offer and make sure to remember to tune in and support your favorite team and players. Or, simply be amazed and entertained by the best the SFL has to offer!

Thank you and enjoy the Season 11 SFL