Ashley Jackson, Beat Writer
Banner image by J.R. Lawless
I find myself at Vultures Field sitting in the office of Mr. Tim Johnston, Co-owner and Coach of the Baltimore Vultures, waiting for him to come in from team practice. On my way into the office, found myself passing by the field where I saw looks of determination, will and drive on the faces of everyone out there – players and coaches. Over the course of the Simulation Football League’s Season 13, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with most, if not all, of the Vulture squad. They have always had this one common goal – win the championship! It certainly seems that this season they’re on course to do just that. Before too long, Mr. Johnston arrived. ” Hello “Ashley! Great to see you again” he said.
“You as well TJ!” I replied. He closed the glass door to his office behind him, then walked over and shook my hand before sitting down in a large, overstuffed chair behind his large wooden desk.
“What can I do for you Striker?” he asked.
“Well, I was wondering if you could give me some little known facts about the Vultures. I think its important for your fans to know as much as they can know about this organization, especially with your playoff berth!” I said.
“OK Striker; I’ll be happy to help. Here are some facts:”
– Mike and Joe Dazzo have never missed the playoffs. This is their 8th season (5 with the Baltimore Crabs; 3 with the Baltimore Vultures).
– At least five new rookies will experience the SFL playoffs with the Baltimore Vultures this postseason: DE Mac Chimah, FS Marvin Hymes, DT Tucker Lewis, DE Chad Roland, and OLB SirRon Yates IV.
– The City Baltimore has won 3 NFL titles (pre-merger), 2 Super Bowls, 1 Grey Cup, 1 USFL title – but 0 SFL championships.
– Baltimore has been one game away from the title game a few times (on one occasion missed a field goal in closing seconds which would have sent them to the title game).
– Four out of the initial 10 user players (S3 Baltimore Crabs) are still in the league: Eddie Gauge (now DC with the Houston Hyenas), Ramos Lynn (owner of the Mexico City Aztecs), Joe Dazzo and Mike Dazzo.
– Baltimore uses two colors (red or black) for their logos on their helmets to represent the two types of vultures in the Baltimore area (red headed / turkey vultures and black vultures).
– The Vultures are the third black bird team in Baltimore, along with the Ravens and Orioles.
Clearly Mr. Johnston came prepared for this interview. “TJ, thank you for you time as always! I will be keeping my eye on your guys during your playoff run!”
“I think we have a good shot!” he replied.
“Me too, and I’m looking forward to seeing you make magic out there on the field.” I responded. With the foundation provided by TJ, I was confident that not only would I be able to deliver a great postseason preview, but that the Vultures themselves were confident that this was finally their season.
With their record upon clenching at 8-1, the Baltimore Vultures are continuing to prove that they’re a force to be reckoned with. They are currently in the top 5 in standings on both offense and defense. On the offensive side of the ball, they average 31 points, 291 passing and 112 rushing yards per game. Their total offensive output has been 3659 yards and 30 touchdowns for the season at the moment. With offense being able to convert 3rd down 83 times during the season, it’s no wonder they have 18 passing and 12 rushing touchdowns added to the stats column. You have star players like T-Roy Ganies dominating as a top-five running back in the SFL. Gaines has netted 12 rushing TDs, as well as 216 carries for 1068 yards, which means he’s sure to get at lease 5 yards a carry. Those are needed for the 3rd down conversions, as well as crucial plays. The Vultures offense is rounded out with stud receivers Bishop Warfield, Daley Holder, and Lloyd Gram averaging 12 yards per catch and scoring 12 TD between them, opening up the field for quarterback Mike Dazzo to work his magic. Dazzo has 2524 yards from 265 completions (out of 346 attempts) for a completion rate of 79% and a quarterback rating (QBR) of 93.7. With a Hall-of-Famer this consistent under center, I understand why he was chosen to be the leader of this offense.
On defense, Baltimore is ranked in the top five as well. This season, they’ve been able to keep teams from scoring an average of no more than 24 points a game. Their defense has also limited teams to only 13 passing and 9 rushing touchdowns – adding the yardage up on those plays sees them only having given up 368 total yards when allowing a score. Defensive star Aman “The Great” Takess has 1 interception and 79 tackles this season, which averages to be 9 per game. Tony Wills is reading offenses well, gathering 4 ints, 43 tackles and 31 assists. Giovanni Bolt, meanwhile, has 70 total tackles and gets 8 tackles per game, while Joe Dazzo is causing a bit of disruption for opposition with a half sack a 3 tackles for a loss. Rounding out the defense, Hendix Thornberry and Mr. No Fly Zone himself Kaz McFly have taken out aerial assaults from unsuspecting QBs, collecting 15 interceptions between the two and both maintaining about 5 tackles per game.
Finally, it’s impossible not to mention Shark Tarkington making clutch plays as their all-important kicker. Shark has a 94.74 percentage against the uprights, making 18 out of 19 field goals attempted thus far this season. Giovanni Bolt, as well, is making a difference on special teams with 22 punt returns averaging 7 yards, and 35 kick returns averaging 22 yards.
Baltimore was able to score some great talent during the Rookie non contract signings that happened last month as TJ alluded to earlier in our interview. The new rookies acquisitions were all hired to help add even more high-T levels to the defense. All new rookies proved themselves worthy of being a member of Baltimore, and will have the chance to experience their first SFL playoff games in about 3 weeks.
I truly believe the Baltimore Vultures have exactly what it takes to make it to and win the SFL Championship this year. Take in consideration these facts: Baltimore is a historic and well seasoned team. They are able to retain their roster season after season, which allows every team member to progress and get better as team and individually. Thomas Paterniti and TJ, the Mad Scientist, are thinking outside the box when making playbooks. Personally, I like the genuine overall attitude and skill of the team. Everyone watch out! The Vultures are circling to collect their prey. Will it be you?