#9 Queen City @ #8 Tallahassee
by Matthew Slinn
If you’d have asked me at the start of the season to predict the four teams that would be competing on Wildcard Wednesday, I wouldn’t have said Tallahassee nor Queen City; I would’ve laughed and told you that they would both be Top 6 certainties, even with the restructured schedules. If you had asked me 2 weeks ago to predict the same two match-ups, I wouldn’t have chosen this one either – this time due to the Corsairs rotten run of form and a finishing week needing to win against a strong Baltimore squad. Well, as fate may have it, two of the greatest SFL heavyweights are set to collide, and picking a winner couldn’t be harder.
Queen City’s HUGE 45-33 victory over the Baltimore in Week 13 really pulled the Corsairs back into contention, giving them a playoff spot and forcing them into the ‘dark horse’ category in this season’s final stanza. After a soul-destroying run of poor results (including a loss on the road against the Pride), the perennial playoff contenders dug deep and really showed that they can rip apart any team. Ash Odom is not a spent force, Avry King seems to have magnets in his shoulder pads dragging him from tackle to tackle and Stephen Hacker may as well name the endzone after himself. On their day, this is a team to be feared. The main question is, will Thursday be their day?
The Tallahasee Pride have also stuttered and splattered through Season 12, splitting fairly average performances (I could site the 27-24 loss to San Francisco) with outstanding, season defining performances – think of their unprecedented 24-23 victory at the Alaska Storm’s ‘Eye’. Clever off-season additions have helped to off-set the tough schedule, 7-5 being a respectable record considering the time it takes for new players to bed in. AJ Francis has looked once again like a Top 5 running back and Sir Chappell teamed up well in an experienced secondary. The Pride are just above average in offense and defense scoring this season, although their defense has been elite when limiting yardage, on the ground especially. Providing they can bottle up Ash Odom and keep Stephen Hacker out of the endzone, they could repeat the result from earlier this season. However, put in a performance like they did in their last two outings (A loss to the Sharks and a narrow victory over Chicago) and they could be staring down the barrel of an early exit.
#10 Las Vegas @ #7 Sioux Falls
by Jeff Melinyshyn
Las Vegas coming off a beat down of Tulsa 52-13 and owners of a 6-6 record will travel to Liberty Park in Sioux Falls, South Dakota to take on the Sioux Falls Sparrows owners of a 7-5 record and coming off a loss to the Indianapolis Spitfire 24-21. What is shaping up to be a bitter rivalry will continue once this evening. Sioux Falls is currently 3-1 against Las Vegas. Keep in mind that Sioux Falls only loss to Las Vegas has come on the road week 1 of this season. Just a season ago Las Vegas traveled to Sioux Falls in the wild card game and Sioux Falls won that meeting 48-34. Las Vegas has been called the team that does not belong in this season’s playoff. The Fury got in with the help of Alaska, Atlanta, and Dallas all winning on Monday. Whether the Fury belong has yet to be seen.
Fury star running back Robert Redford had this to say: “I have the utmost respect for Sioux Falls, the players, coaches, and owner. Playing for them was an honor and I wish them the best whenever they are not playing the Fury. This is our second meeting in the playoffs with Sioux Falls, back to back even. We have done extensive game planning on how to expose their weaknesses. But we have found a few areas that we feel we can maximize our matchups and generate explosive plays. On a personal note, I intend to perform better than my 17-60-1 stat line from our last playoff meeting with Sioux Falls and put our team in the best position to win.”
Meanwhile Sparrows star running back Colin Hart had this “I just want to say I love all these Sparrows man, proud of them. Teams out there thought we were done, they thought they could stop us, they thought…. well it doesn’t matter what they thought because it’s not happening. We’ve got our eyes on that trophy and many teams are standing in the way. It starts tonight……KaPow!”.
Fury quarterback Thomas Ramen said “Right now Sioux Falls is looking past Las Vegas, but I’m here to tell you that you are going to see a different Fury tonight. Be prepared to witness the sinners from sin city roll the dice and win big because the house always wins”.
Sparrows Strong Safety A.J. Levye told the assembled media “I’ll be the first to say we’re often overlooked by people being the little team from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. That’s just what we want, each and every game!”.
Fury cornerback Merrick Itera had this to say “Sioux Falls has been dartboard fodder for us since they knocked us out of the playoffs last season. Let’s run down the list really quick… Nick Fargo, John Barnhart, AJ Levye, Alex Parker, Andrew Nyberg and Jay Ringgold… not to mention Hart, Tyree, Harrelson, Warren, Hearn and Porter on the other side of the ball. They’ve got the most hard-nosed defense in the SFL and dynamic play-maker in the backfield on offense. Some teams might look past them, but we’ve been looking up at them in both of our trips to the post-season. Every point any team can manage against them is hard-fought and well-earned. Every play is a war. Let’s be honest: No one is going to win this game… but the Fury will be the squad that SURVIVES it and moves on to the next round.”
I was able to catch Sparrows owner Jason McGee and he said “Vegas is a good team. They haven’t made it to a second straight playoff game on accident. We have to have a strong start offensively and win on 1st and 2nd down. If we can consistently set ourselves up well on 1st and 2nd down, we won’t have to take risks. We can chew clock and get ahead of them. Colin Hart led the league in total scrimmage yards & he’ll need to have a big day for us tonight. Defensively, we can’t allow big play scores. Redford is getting hot at just the right time, so we need Nick Fargo and Alex Parker to win that battle up front. We know Ramen will take some shots deep tonight, so we must take advantage and force some turnovers. AJ Levye set this defense up to do that very well a couple weeks ago. I think he’s done the same again for tonight. It’s a credit to him, because he has a lot on his plate right now and we want to bring home another win for him. It’s going to be a fight and we need to finish it.”
Max Jackson, Fury owner had this “The one thing that is great about this league is you have to do it every week. You have to be able to consistently come out and do the things that you feel like are a strength. Just because you had one good game one week, or you had a couple of sacks, or had a couple tackles, or threw a couple of touchdown passes, you must come back each and every week and prove it again. Robert will have all the opportunity to continue to do that, and to help us. His attitude and his preparation has remained consistent and that is always good to see. So, we’ll try and keep that going. Obviously, we have to try and keep that going.” Both teams seem eager and ready for this match up. This should be one hell of a dog fight. It is hard for me to see who will win and I bet the last team who has the ball will win. Also, whoever can get their defense going first and get a couple stops will more than likely win this game. I see Sioux Falls getting out here with the win in overtime. Redford v. Hart, Fury defense v. Sparrows defense, Ramen v. Tyree, Funk v. Harrelson. It will all be played out tonight.
When asked about tonight’s game Hart replied “Comments on the game? Oh, it’s not going to be a game.”
Possible Quarterfinal Matchups
If Sioux Falls and Tallahassee win: Sioux Falls plays Denver, Tallahassee plays Alaska
If Sioux Falls and Queen City win: Sioux falls plays Denver, Queen City plays Alaska.
If Las Vegas and Tallahassee win: Las Vegas plays Alaska, Tallahassee plays Denver.
If Las Vegas and Queen City win: Las Vegas plays Alaska, Queen City plays Denver.