Ray Bentley, Beat Writer
Banner image by J.R. Lawless
When the whistle sounded at the end of Season 12’s championship game, the Denver Nightwings were not where they wanted to be. A 2 point deficit was enough to separate them from the Alaska Storm, and to close the book on an almost fairytale journey to the final showdown. While it wasn’t the result fans back in Denver were hoping for, it only helped to steel team owner Jeremy Vega for Season 13. “We went pound for pound with Alaska at their best,” said Mr. Vega, “and despite losing, I walked away knowing I have grown into a coach capable of making the correct adjustments week to week, getting this team to compete at the highest levels. That mindset carried over to this season and once again we have positioned ourselves to make another run at the SFL title.” This time, however, things look a little different. For starters, with an impressive 9-1 record, the Nightwings hold the number one seed for the postseason – meaning if a rematch with the Storm is inevitable, they would have to travel to Denver to claim their 4th title, an almost reversal of roles from the last season. If Vega has his way, that’s exactly how things will shake out: “If Denver makes it to title game again this season, there is no other team we would rather play than Alaska. The Nightwings will be ready!” One thing is for certain – the Nightwings are a formidable presence in the Simulation Football League this season, and if they have any say in it, for many, many seasons to come. Let’s take a look at some of the numbers coming out of Denver:
– Kramer Jackman hasn’t missed a single kick in his entire career, going 59 for 59 field goals (25-for-25 this season alone!)
– After dropping a game in Week 2 to their nemesis the Storm, the Nightwings have gone on an 8-game winning streak – the longest streak in franchise history
– Four rookies will be seeing the postseason for the very first time: DE Nick Miller, LB Adam Wiseman, CB Lee Adama and WR Bryce Batttle
– While not as flashy as Reggie or Ray, Jarrod McChesney has continued his fumble-less streak into this season’s 232 carries (808 overall without butterfingering)
– Josh Miller is having his best season in his career, with a higher completion percentage, quaterback rating, more yards, more touchdowns, and LESS interceptions (20TDs to 10INTs) than ever before.
– An astounding 15-1 record at home over the last 16 home games; over the past 2 seasons, 20-5 record
– The Nightwings have a franchise record for lowest points allowed this season, averaging roughly 18 points per game.
The Nightwings have been on a tear. After dropping their only game of the season (at time of press) in Week 2, Denver has taken to the skies on an eight game long winning streak. Offensively, the Nightwings are having a banner season; something to cheer for, considering the same thing could have been said of them last season. As mentioned above, Josh Miller is averaging 2 touchdowns to every 1 interception, and if he finds a receiver (which he does 72% of the time), 7.1 yards to a completion. Jarrod McChensey, while not as explosive as the previous season, has also been a quietly effective machine, bringing in 12 rushing and receiving touchdowns without a single fumble for the year, or for his career, at that. Meanwhile, the receiving corps (Jockamo Jones, Logan Keel, and tight end Avery Allen) are themselves keeping their heads down and producing positive yardage for the Nightwings; the three of them have produced another 11 scores to help bolster Miller and McChesney’s battle plan. In total, they’re averaging 27 points a game – a top ten offense – and they’re shining on the other side of the ball, as well.
Defensively, Denver has been a juggernaut. Throw an unstoppable object at this unmovable force, and, well – the object stops. Look no further than Week Eleven’s 14-37 drubbing of the London Knights, where Denver’s D was able to hold Reggie Streeter to 185 yards and 2 touchdowns – the only offense London was able to produce all game. Safeties Josh Vasquez and Nicholas Warner are helping limit opposing team’s deep threats with 8 interceptions between them, while BJ Armstrong and Justin Jones have been consistent forces at the cornerback position. On the front seven, defensive tackle Bailey Bacca and linebacker Mike Sawchuck have been putting pressure on antagonistic quarterbacks, helping to force some turnovers out of fear that a sack from one of these two might be coming.
Which leaves… Kramer Jackman. The All-Star kicker has been perfect in his career over two seasons, with 25 for 25 field goals made in Season 13 alone. Kramer’s leg by itself is worth triple its weight in gold, and himself was the difference against the Las Vegas Fury in Week 10. Out of the 10 games Denver has played at time of publication, Kramer has hit a 50-yarder in 4 of them, with his longest so far being an impressive 53 yards. If the offense and defense can’t get something going, they’re confident that the man who is neither Jerry Seinfeld’s neighbor, nor an astoundingly popular comic book actor, will be there to help kick them over the top.
The Denver Nightwings remember how last season ended. The memory is fresh in their mind each week when practice begins; when they take the field against their opponent; afterwards when studying the tape. But they’re not dwelling on what could have been, or how if this one play had gone the other way. They keep that memory fresh as motivation: last year at 2nd seed, they weren’t able to overcome the final hump. This year, holding onto #1 seed currently? All bets are off. While other birds might circle, Denver’s squad chooses instead to fly higher – and this season, always forward.