Ray Bentley
Banner image by J.R. Lawless

Alaska is once again in the postseason. This simple phrase, a scant seven words, is enough to send chills down the spine of any veteran Simulation Football League player or coach. The reason is simple enough: they’re the reigning champions. Wait, excuse me, reigning repeat champions. I’m… I’m sorry, pardon me – they’re the back-to-back-to-back champions going back to Season 10, including an undefeated run in Season 11. Max Paul’s sixth-seeded Alaska Storm might not be hosting too many games this time around, but that didn’t stop them from overtaking the undefeated Tallahassee in Season 10’s championship game. To put it bluntly: if the Alaska Storm are in the playoffs, you can’t count them out.

For a team with such championship pedigree, the sixth seed out of ten might seem a bit low. The Alaska Storm’s 8-4 record matches their inaugural season’s record. While they might not have taken home championship glory in Season 8, Mighty Max Paul’s squad has grown considerably since then, without having posted a single losing season in their entire franchise history. They’ve only posted a single loss to a non-playoff team this season, and have gotten some real blowout wins in other weeks. Also, shh: they’ve already posted wins over both the #1 and #2 seeds. This is the Alaska Storm we’re talking about. They’re here to make a statement again, whether the other nine teams want it or not. To hear from the team’s offensive coordinator and quarterback, Ron Cockren:

“I was a little disappointed in myself for being the offense coordinator in not coming up to par like previous seasons, but it was a challenge in the last thing; win or go home.”

Team owner Max Paul was humble as always in his remarks:

“This was an interesting season. Both league wide and for our franchise. Individually, none of our guys stood out which is unusual. Our schedule was daunting but I think we navigated pretty well as we went 4-2 in both halves of the season. We’re proud to continue our streak of victorious seasons which currently stands at 6. As for or playoff opponent, the Seattle Tyrants, I’m not enjoying having to prep for them. Between the Sandman and Luyindula, it’s a pick your poison situation. We’ll plan as well as we can and hopefully give Ron a chance to work his magic once more.”

Some other things to note about Alaska this season:

– Ron Cocken has the offense under control once again, with an over 70% completion rating and ranked 5th for yards per attempt
– Fullback J.W. Doyle has been adding to the team’s offensive numbers; even though he averages 3.5 yards a carry, he’s also finding the endzone roughly once a game as well
– This season brings only one non-contract rookie to the playoffs as an Alaska Storm member, #23 RB E.J. Mincin
– Ranked 4th in average points allowed, 6th in passing yards allowed and 4th in rushing yards allowed defensively
– Kicker Aaron Dhude has the second most productive foot of the season, making 25 field goals

When it comes to moving the chains, nobody does it quite like Riverboat Ron Cockren. He’s been slinging the ball with finesse and ease for 5 seasons now; fitting that he’s ranked 5th overall in yards per attempt. It doesn’t hurt that he’s throwing it to the 7th ranked wide receiver (in yards) Optimus Cline, but he’s been spreading it around, too. Along with Cline, wide receiver Jeff Comeau has over 1000 yards on the season, and while Robert Merrill might not have a wild amount of total yards, he’s averaging at least a first down per catch. Fullback J.W. Doyle is also pulling his weight as a target, with two more average receiving yards than rushing yards. While he might not have explosive numbers, Doyle is still reliable in the backfield, averaging at least one touchdown per game. The offensive unit this season has been in a comfortable groove, and though their last outing was an upset by Houston, they’ve followed most of their losses with a slam-bang offensive showstopper. Tread lightly, Seattle.

The Storm’s defense is fairing the same. Alex “Big Sexy” Dominguez has been more subdued this season, “only” averaging a sack per game. Corner Ryan Davidson is an interception machine and has 215 total yards for the season – 1st overall. What Davidson’s counterpart Evan Carroll doesn’t have in yards he makes up in numbers with 8 total interceptions for the season. Linebacker Frank Champion is playing like his last name, and averages a little over five tackles a game. The safeties, Andrew Francis and Ryan Tobin, also have 9 interceptions between them,  for 106 total yards. No matter which way opposing offenses try it, the Storm’s turnover rate will get you sooner than later. And that’s without mentioning the prolific kicker, Aaron Dhude. Dhude has made 25 of his 26 field goal attempts for the season, but has at least 3 more field goals than the next highest kicker. Alaska is going to find a way to score, no matter what. Stand in their way and they’re likely to blow you right over.

About time to KICK IT into Quarterfinals!

For the past three seasons in the Simulation Football League, 20 teams have been held in the grip of an all-powerful Storm. It blows over teams in the regular and postseason regardless of where they’re staged; it has destroyed perfect seasons for some and cemented its own over the rest. Some say recently that it’s finally over, that this is the season another team takes the vaunted Simulation Football League’s 13th championship title. We’re here to tell you now: there’s a Storm Warning in effect for the playoffs, and beware the teams caught in the path.