Jacob Clear, Beat Writer
Banner image by J.R. Lawless
Welcome to Houston, the fourth most populated city in the US, well known for its rich history in sports. They’re home of the Rockets, the Dynamo, the Astros, and of course, the Hyenas. At first what seemed like a poor season for Houston in the SFL became, in the backend, a season summed up with a just one line from Hyenas defensive tackle Fats Johnson:
“I have always believed in miracles.”
Defensive coordinator Eddie Gauge was amazed at the turnaround. “Several weeks ago, DR Sim, BJ [Loveless], Kentez [Johnson] and I were on a conference call that I generated. An intense meeting was held regarding the current status of the team, along with the need to get things turned around immediately. It got very heated, to a level that we have never experienced before together. After the meeting, we didn’t speak to each other for a few days. However, since then we have been competitive in every game since. Our confidence is through the roof,” stated Gauge, “…we just have to take each game one at a time.” DR Sim is also thrilled how well his squad persevered, “We were 2-7 when Week 11 rolled around, and all hope was pretty much lost. We didn’t know or think that we had a shot at getting into the playoffs.”
Gauge has worked wonders on his defensive unit in the the waning weeks of the season. Just last week had they managed to hold the back-to-back-to-back championship winning Alaska Storm to 14 points. Speaking on the task ahead, Gauge stated “Winning [against] three straight playoff-bound teams speak volumes in regards to the mental toughness of this team. We’re battle-tested! The veteran leaders of this team have been here before. We know what it takes to win and & can’t wait to put our talents on display this weekend. In my opinion, the chances of victory are increased if two things happen. We remain healthy and we win the turnover / field position battle. We do that and there isn’t a team in the league we can’t beat.”
Gauge’s confidence has left a lasting mark on the rest of the squad. Rookie DE Jacob Clear said “The place has a certain vibe to it. When the coaching staff has confidence in his players like these guys do, you’re bound to play good football.” Quarterback Kentez Johnson recalled “It was a rough start man. Honestly, I didn’t think we’d make the playoffs. Thanks to Demond and Eddie for everything though, and honestly, they never gave up and always gave 100% even when it looked rough. As far as how we’ll fare, I’d be lying if I said we have a shot at making the ‘ship, but I definitely think we have a shot at beating Chicago. After all, we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t earn it.”
Team owner D.R. Sim, when asked, said that “The major statistic is winning the turnover battle. No matter which game it is, turnovers will always matter. I also like to win time of possession, keeping the ball on the ground to burn the clock is a key strategy I like to use. Our quarterback, Kentez Johnson, has more INTs than he does TDs (20TDs to 26INTs). That’s a stat line I’m not proud of. Our running back [Warren Murray] has fumbled twice this year & we lost one of those fumbles. We must stay healthy as well. Murray has gotten hurt during a few games. He’s a big contributor to our offense, and we need a really big game from him.”
The “one game at a time” approach to the finals is what means the most for this Houston outfit. On the other hand, the “just happy to be here” mindset could avert the team’s gaze from the championship podium, and considering they’re one of the ten teams to make it to the dance this season, Houston getting serious could be a dangerous proposition for most teams. Here are a few facts about the Hyenas going into the Season 13 Playoffs:
– Houston is the only team with a losing record (5-7) to make it into the postseason, based off their strength of victory over playoff bound Alaska, Mexico City, and Chicago
– Hyena non-contract rookies entering the postseason for the first time are #69 DE Jacob Clear, #94 DE Scott Subtile, #7 K Matthew Flynn, #83 TE Dante Woodson and #13 WR Toby Geeslin
– Eddie Gauge’s defensive mind has his squad ranked 8th for average points allowed per game and total points allowed, and has the 6th best pass defense and first-ranked run defense in the league
– Offensively, Leroy Brown has been a bad man for Houston this season, ranked sixth in total yards and fifth in average yards per catch (16.9, thank you very much)
– Rookie Ayden Davis is making a name for himself as the only defender on the squad to take a pick all the way back to the house.
Offensively, it’s been a bit of a struggle for the Hyenas this season. While the above-mentioned Leroy Brown has been making plays, quarterback Kentez Johnson is having an up and down season with 20 touchdowns to 26 interceptions. His counterpart, hall of famer D.R. Sim, hasn’t breached the 1000 yard mark for the season but is reliable for almost 18 yards per catch. Running back Warren Murray has had an average season, churning out 9 rushing touchdowns and 3 receiving touchdowns, but averages 4.9 yards per carry – a reliable, if not showstopping, weapon in Houston’s offensive arsenal. The team truly shines, however, on defense.
Eddie Gauge was inducted into the Hall of Fame during the SFL Sims Atlanta experience, and he has proven to those who didn’t vote him in the first time why he belongs there. With one of the hardest final 3 weeks to close out a season in the Simulation Football League, Mr. Gauge got to work, taking down Chicago (in the Windy City, no less!), Mexico City and Alaska to earn their ticket to the postseason. If the above paragraph seemed a little short, its only because the Hyenas more than make up for the lack of offensive production with their overflowing amount of defensive stars. League veterans and rookies alike have combined to make a unit that has struck the fear of God into most opposing offenses. The cornerbacks, rookie Ayden Davis and last season’s Defensive Rookie of the Year Everett Garrison have 7 interceptions between them, while Gauge and Anthony Wyo, the safeties, share 13 for a team total of 20 for the seaosn. The front six, meanwhile, are holding it down with 260 tackles between all four of their stars (Mike “Fats” Johnson, Chad Takkul, Rodney Panani and BJ Loveless).
Now that they’ve captured the 10th seed, it seems like the Hyenas have indeed had the last laugh over teams such as Sioux Falls, Queen City and Las Vegas. The question before this team is now: will they be content to have made their postseason appearance, or will the hunger for more prove to be insatiable all the way through til the end? Owner D.R. Sim knows he’s got a team full of dawgs, and they were able to prove their mettle getting here. Don’t be surprised if they keep it up, cause nothing gets inbetween a hungry Hyena and its meal of choice.