J.W. Doyle, Beat Writer
Banner image by J.R. Lawless
Mexico City. Founded in the mid 1300s and taken as the capital of the burgeoning Aztec Empire soon after, the most populous city in North America has played host to hundreds and hundreds of years of culture, history, and sports. For the past 4 years, one of their contributions to the sporting world has been the Simulation Football League’s Aztecs. The Aztecs joined in Season 5 and quickly became one of the teams to beat, making it all the way to the championship in their inaugural season (Season 5, whose championship game is widely regarded as the best SFL game to date). After a wonky sophomore season, Mexico City’s team bounced back and has been a postseason staple ever since, winning it all on a record-setting performance in Season 9. Since that championship, the Aztecs have made it back to the semi-finals once, but have not returned to the big dance. This season, on the other hand, things feel different in the locker room. Just ask record-breaking Hall of Famer Ray Bentley:
“I’ll be honest; I haven’t felt this good about the team since Season 9. I’m not saying not winning the championship would be a disappointment, but with the way our offense has been playing all season and the way our defense has stepped up, I feel fairly confident we’ll be able to make a deep run. We’ve already given Alaska the business back in Week 4, and hopefully our match-up against Tallahassee in Week 13 will give us more of a boost in the seeding. I can’t wait for the postseason, and look forward to competing with and against some stellar teams, players, coaches and owners.”
Helping to back up Ray’s confidence are some stats from Season 13:
– Matt Willson is operating on another level this season, with an astounding 32 touchdowns to 13 interceptions and the highest QBR at 110,4 – eight points higher than the next quarterback.
– Ray Bentley is right there with him, breaking a record for receiving touchdowns by a running back (currently at 11), averaging 6.4 yards a carry and 6.6 yards per reception. His yardage might not be as flashy as Reggie Streeter’s, but he’s also had 90 less touches and trails his total touchdowns by one; with the math averaged, Ray finds the endzone 6.99% of the time compared to Reggie’s 6.93%.
– Kole Varner is, once again, kicking it out of the park as one of the only two perfect kickers for the season, hitting all 20 of his attempted field goals.
– Even with their embarrassing loss to Houston in Week 12, the Aztecs have not scored less than 20 points a game all season, and have a staggering 401 total points on the season – 50 more points than the next highest scoring offense.
– The defense isn’t slouching either – Han Tyumi and Nick Daggs have a combined 14 interceptions between them.
– Five rookies will be experiencing the postseason for the first time as Aztecs: LB Coolio Diggs, LB Jon Adams, DE Thurgood Jenkins, P Henry Hako, and LB Jack Duddy.
Offensively, the Mexico City Aztecs haven’t seemed this dangerous since the Season of the Altered Beast. Matt Willson, already a Hall of Famer, is having the season of his career with an absolutely insane 32 touchdowns to 13 interceptions. If that wasn’t enough, his backfield counterpart Ray Bentley has truly become a dual threat this season, with 13 rushing and 11 receiving touchdowns, challenging opposing defenses to try and guess where the ball is going after the snap.
While Mexico City has suffered three losses on the season, they haven’t scored under 20 points in any given match-up, meaning they’re going to find the endzone one way or another, adding to the evidence that the Aztecs will reclaim the Most Valuable Player award this season. The receiving corps of K.L. Barrett, Richard Montague and tight end Mike Daggs have been effective weapons for Willson, with all three averaging above 11 yards per catch and 18 touchdowns split amongst them. Add those stats to Willson’s 74% completion rate; with four downs to work with, he’s just as likely to score as he is to grab his next set of downs.
On the flip side of the ball, the defense has been slowly but steadily rebuilding #TheWall. With the addition of copper DT Guapo Esteban to the team, the Aztecs have nabbed 19 interceptions all season – fourteen of them split evenly between Han Tyumi and Nick Daggs. Even their non-contract players are getting in on the action, with a “fat man pick-six” against New Orleans in Week 2, and scoring a safety against the defending champion Alaska Storm in Week 4. Fran Ogawa and Pablo Zamora have also quietly added to the wealth of defensive stats with 148 tackles and 5 interceptions between them – including a 69 yard score for Ogawa. Nice!
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the man with the golden leg, either. Since his MVP snub in Season 11, Kole has been perfect in the regular season, booting 75 out of 75 through the uprights (20 this season alone). Jeffrey Daggs, the other man on special teams, has over 1200 returning yards for both kicks and punts this season, as well as a touchdown.
Breaking records and running up scores seems to be the gameplan for Mexico City for the forseeable future. On both sides of the ball are locks for the All-Star game, and if they are able to put up good numbers against Tallahassee in the final week, Matt Willson and Ray Bentley could very well be the recipient of the first-ever Co-MVP title (Ray can dream). The last time this team felt this confident in their abilities, they were walking out of the championship game holding the trophy. Will Mexico City add to their hometown’s history and prestige yet again? The Simulation Football League’s playoffs begin Saturday, October 12th, at 5pm EST on Eleven Sports Network and Eleven Sports Next.