By Brandon Haight
Indianapolis Spitfire @ Las Vegas Fury
Season 12 Week 10
The game chosen this week sees a 3 – 6 explosively offensive team in the Indianapolis Spitfire travel to Las Vegas to do battle with the 4 – 4 Las Vegas Fury, holders of the 10th and final spot in the playoff seeding.
Before I look at my B Side game of the week, I wanted to reach out to a member of each organization to help us understand where they are in Season 12, and what things they are looking to focus on in order to find success in this week’s game.
Starting with the road team, I spoke with Jet Christie who is the General Manager and Starting Wide Receiver for the Indianapolis Spitfire. This is how our interview went:
A time of change has fallen over the Indianapolis front office and locker room. Lots of moving parts and shifting responsibilities. Has this been to the detriment of the team do you think? As all of these pieces are trying to find their rightful place?
There has definitely been a lot of change in Indianapolis in every aspect. Has it been to the detriment of our success this season? I’ll answer that this way: I think our record will improve as we continue to love forward and find our footing and stability. First year head coach, first year GM, ownership transition, 4 in&season roster moves. Obviously we’re going to have our growing pains, but long term, I will say that I don’t think this season will prove to be detrimental to the team.
You had a whirlwind experience as you came into the SFL. You were on board as a rookie, and the next thing you know you are the General Manager for on of the twenty-one franchises in this league. Tell the readers about how that transition came about and how it has shaped your time here in the SFL thus far.
I was benefited by absolute perfect timing when I joined the league. When I first joined the league, I immediately reached out to James Richards, the Indianapolis owner at the time, and let him know that I wanted to be a part of the Indy organization because it was based in my hometown. Making that initial connection went a long way because a week later, James was talking about how he could use some front office help. I threw my name in the mix and about 4 hours of conversations later, I was the GM of my hometown team. Being put into that position that quickly I think has made me more apt to listen and actively seek help than I would have been otherwise. Also, coming into the league at the same time as a lot of these rookies, I’m very aware of how valuable rookies can be and what responsibilities they could potentially handle.
The Las Vegas Fury are sitting at the number 10 spot in the standings right now. If the season were to end today they would punch their ticket to a wild-card game in the playoffs. Indianapolis is certainly not eliminated from playoff contention, but you are fighting a serious uphill battle at this stage of the season. Is there an extra motivator for you and for this team now to play as a spoiler? Knowing that you could roll into Las Vegas and knock this team off of their playoff perch in their own house? Or is this just a business as usual keep your head down and keep grinding, and let things happen the way that they are going to happen scenario for the Spit Fire?
Zero percent of our motivation lies in being able to affect the outcome of other teams’ seasons. We’re not satisfied playing spoiler. Our goal every week is to go out there and get a win for ourselves regardless of our opponent and to prove that we’re for real. Watch us.
Next I had a chat with Merrick Itera, the General Manager and Starting Cornerback for the Las Vegas Fury. Here is our interview:
You recently saw your Las Vegas Fury land on within the top 10 ranking, beating out other 4-4 teams to take that last playoff spot were the season to end today. It’s been an up and down season for Vegas, so does the knowledge that you sit inside the playoff bracket cause you concern, knowing that there are other tips nipping at your heels to drag you out of that 10 spot? Or does it give you a boost knowing that your ability to play post season football in a few weeks is in your hands?
To be honest – I’m proud of the fact that we’re still hanging around after the early season schedule we had to navigate. Being in the post season bracket heading into week 10 is always a morale boost, but there aren’t any teams you can look past in this league, and we’ve got to go at least 3-1 (depending on who else is in the bracket and where they fall) to finish out the season in order to claim our spot. Plus, with the relative closeness between ranks 1-15, there’s just no telling what happens from here. All you can do is play your game to the best of your abilities, and pray to the SFL Gods that it’s enough to get you a ticket to the dance.
The schedule gods seemed to be in your corner as your team had a handful of match ups against squads that were hanging near the middle to lower portion of the standings over the last several weeks, the perfect opportunity to undo your three game slide against Tallahassee, Alaska and New Orleans who are three clear play off teams. The only blemish during that stretch was a 4 point loss to Atlanta that most pundits pegged you as a clear favorite, how have you taken the outcome of that game and changed things up for how you approach each week? Clearly something has gotten back on track after your win over Carolina this past week.
I’m not sure the Schedule Gods favor ANY of the teams within the Top 7 from last year! We faced a real murderer’s row of teams to start off S12, and we’re happy that we survived relatively unscathed, other than our loss to ATL.. that one hurt quite a bit. I mean, we really though we had things under control in that one, but the 2nd half rolled around and we couldn’t get anything going, while ATL really found their groove and hurt us on some big plays we wish we could have back. Credit to the Swarm, though – some teams might have limped in to the 2nd Half after being so thoroughly dominated at home in the 1st Half, but they didn’t let that happen. Dunhill stayed composed and, when it mattered most, got them the points they needed, putting it on the D to bring it home. Lee and company were able to do that, stopping Redford on that 4th and Goal run that I don’t sincerely believe many defenses could duplicate.
The Spit Fire have a certified gunslinger under Center in T.D. Drew. Their bread and butter for most of the season has been to air raid the ball all over the field. This past week, we saw a surge from running back Keith Swearingen that seemed to inject the offense with new life to compliment that passing attack. What do the Fury do now to try and accommodate for an Indianapolis team that not only seems to be showing that they are not just a one trick offense, but also one that is coming off a huge momentum boosting win last week?
We feel like this game might finally be the game where we put it all together on both sides of the ball. Drew’s shredded multiple secondaries this season, but I don’t think he’s seen a secondary like we have here in Las Vegas: Pro Bowlers at both levels, Play Makers on either side of the Safety Position and a great rookie CB who has been targeted heavily this year and held his own against the likes of multiple big name WR’s lining up against him, including Deezer Powell, Jeff Comeau & Daley Holder. I think our run defense is better than the stats show – unfortunately we’ve had a few big runs go against us throughout this season – and our pass defense gives up a lot of short throws which add up throughout the game. When it comes down to it, though – I don’t think we’re as worried about the Spitfire as they should be about facing the Fury! It’s going to be a great game this weekend, and I expect alot of big plays on both sides of the ball. If T.D. Drew wants to throw at us, I hope he’s got a short memory… and that he likes throwing to the left side of the field.
Story of the Game
For Indianapolis, the first quarter was a tale of two drives. On the first the Spitfire opted to lean on the pass heavy attack that we have seen from them for the majority of the season. Some excellent sideline and first down marker play from Trevor Ferrill and Jet Christie allowed Indy to sustain the drive for a time, but ultimately they punted the ball away, pinning the Fury at their own 5. The second drive featured a more heavy running attack, similar to the one seen last week against St. Louis. Tipping the playbook scales in the opposite direction seemed to bring about positive results as Keith Swearingen busted through defenders and rumbled his way to several impressive gains, ending the first quarter with Indianapolis well within the red zone. In between these two promising drives was a Fury series that featured some excellent passing out of the backfield to not only Robert Redford the running back, but also to their full backs as well. The Spitfire defense seemed to be fooled to a certain degree, but a costly clipping penalty on a first down Redford run, pushed the Fury back to a 3rd and 11, stunting their drive. Ultimately the quarter ended in a 0 – 0 score.
That promising drive ended on a lukewarm note as the Spitfire had to settle for a field goal to open the 2nd frame. MeUndies laundry littered the field throughout the first half of this game as three challenges were called for as well as three penalty flags. The penalties were dueling holds one for Spitfire Defensive Back Steve Vetack and one for the Fury’s Running Back Robert Redford. The Indy defense gave up their first touchdown in the last five quarters when Thomas Ramen ended the Fury’s first drive of the second half with a touchdown pass to Simon Templar. Things never really got back on track for the Spitfire either, as one promising drive was stalled by a deflating interception of T.D. Drew by Thomas Ramen Jr., followed by a huge return putting the Fury in excellent field positioning. A Dan Daly injury, leg cramps, that put him out of the game for a time. And two more touchdown throws from Ramen in the second quarter alone, bringing the score at halftime Las Vegas 21 to Indianapolis 3.
Things continued to get ugly in the 3rd quarter as Thomas Ramen continued his aerial assault against the Spitfire defense, completing a touchdown pass to a FOURTH different receiver in Tight End Poffo. T.D. Drew and Jet Christie hooked up on the following drive for a fifty plus yard catch and run that brought Indy within striking distance at the Vegas 25 yard line, but an errant throw led to a second backbreaking Thomas Ramen Jr. interception to suck any momentum out of the Spitfire offense. Vegas continued to control the tempo as Thomas Ramen connected with Bret Funk for his fifth touchdown throw of the game, and the 3rd quarter ended with the Fury in cruise control 35 to 3.
A John Blades Touchdown reception continued the Las Vegas train of momentum, as Ramen completed his sixth touchdown pass of the evening. Las Vegas then turned to their second string offense who put together their own short drive which ended in a 42 yard field goal. Thomas Ramen Jr. completed his hat trick of interceptions as he made an incredible sideline toe tapping pick to stall yet another Indianapolis drive. Indy continued to struggle moving the chains, as the clock wound down on a mirror opposite game from their dominant win over the St. Louis Gladiators in Week 9. The final score of this one was Fury 45 to Spitfire 3.
My Two Piece and a Biscuit
As a consolation prize for playing along with me this week. Both of these teams are entitled to a nice two piece and a biscuit on me. Here are my 3 highlights for each team whether in victory or defeat:
1. The Run D: It is worth mentioning that the Spitfire did all they could to make the Las Vegas Fury a one-dimensional team and it worked. They held the Fury to 94 total yards of rushing, 78 of which came from Robert Redford which something of a pedestrian day for the tailback, and keeping him out of the endzone was a win.
2. Power Running: Before the game got out of hand, you had to like what you were seeing out of Indianapolis’ power running game from Keith Swearingen. Keith churned out 61 yards and shed tackles multiple times. The fact that he only got 18 carries is further indicative of how Indy was consistently playing from behind and clock management was a necessity. Utilizing this balanced attack DOES work for this team when they are able to keep the score close.
3. The Biscuit: The Punts! Let me give a shout out to non-contract punter “First Name Unknown” D’Antonio of the Spitfire. I don’t have the exact number of times this gentleman punted, but there were two specifically where he was able to pin the Vegas Offense deep at their own 5 and then at their own 1 yard line. Had the Spitfire been able to stop the Fury on these particular drives, these punts could have been crucial in keeping Indy in this game.
1. Thomas Ramen: This was a no brainer. Indy did a fine job of shutting down the Las Vegas running game for the most part. But Thomas Ramen had no issues leading the charge on offense. Look at this stat line: 28 out of 38 73.68% completion, 397 yards, and 6 touchdowns to 4 different receivers. His movement in the pocket, ability to step up, pump fake, and even a little 9 yard jaunt to save a play were incredible.
2. Thomas Ramen Jr. Another in the Ramen family needs to be heralded on this day. Thomas Ramen Jr. was an absolute force, ball-hawking in the secondary against Indianapolis. His 3 interceptions of T.D. Drew removed any potential comeback from the Spitfire, particularly his second one that ended a promising Spitfire drive that was nearly entering the red zone. His first pick returned for 46 yards also set the Fury up in great field positioning which led to a Ramen touchdown pass.
3. The Biscuit: Vegas Wedding! Someone call Elvis to the Graceland Chapel because there is one hell of a betrothed pair in Las Vegas. The Thomas Ramen to Bret Funk hookups were lethal all night long. Ramen’s entire game was impressive, but his plays to Funk were the most spectacular, moving the chains and driving up the score against the Spit Fire. Of Ramen’s 397 yards passing, 174 of them went to Funk on 11 catches, targeting him 14 times. We could all be so lucky to find our soul mate.
I’m gonna head back to the other side of the country as I travel to the Carolina’s to see the Skyhawks host the Oklahoma City Renegades. The Renegades are still alive in the playoff hunt, which Carolina was eliminated from this week. Let’s see if OKC can continue a tough climb to find themselves in the bracket, or if misery truly will love more company.
See ya next week.