Ashley Jackson, Ray Bentley, Beat Writers
Banner image by J.R. Lawless
The Quarterfinals have come and gone, and with their passing, only four teams remain in contention for the Simulation Football League Championship. There were last minute thrillers, broken hearts, and out-of-place blocked and missed field goals. The defending champions, for the first time in 3 seasons, will not be playing in the title game, and the two teams they’ve taken down will face off in the semi-finals. With the Mexico City Aztecs eliminated in their playoff game against the Pride, that also means that for the first time since Season 10, the SFL will be crowning a never-before-seen champion on October 30th; the question remaining now is which of the 4 teams left will be the one adding a ring? With the talent remaining in the postseason, it could very well be anyone. Enough about the future, though – here’s a quick breakdown of the action seen in the Quarterfinal round of the playoffs.
#10 Houston Hyenas – #1 Denver Nightwings
14 – 34 Final Score
Player of the Game: Jarrod McChesney, HB #32 (23 ATT, 129 Yards, 2 TD; 23 Rec Yards)
Well, this is absolutely not the way Houston wanted to end their run. Eddie Gauge’s vaunted defense showed promise in the first quarter, holding the Nightwings to a pair of field goals, but Denver isn’t the #1 seed for nothing. Their high powered offense took off in the second quarter, with Josh Miller throwing a touchdown pass and eventual player of the game Jarrod McChesney crossing Hollywood Boulevard not once, but twice. Normally it wouldn’t be too much of a backbreaker for the Hyenas, but the Houston offense wasn’t able to get anything going until the fourth quarter, when Kentez Johnson was able to find the always-reliable Leroy Brown as well as Toby Geeslin to finally put points on the board for the beleaguered last seed. Sadly, a pair of touchdowns was a drop in the bucket compared to Denver’s 20-point margin of victory. They Hyenas might have gone home without the result they wanted, but considering their season record and the fact that they were up against the top-seeded team in the league, it wasn’t with their tail between their legs. Denver moves on to host the Tallahassee Pride in the Semifinal round; both teams have been to the championship but each has fallen to the Storm. Now that Alaska is out, which team will take advantage?
#8 Atlanta Swarm – #2 Baltimore Vultures
20 – 30 Final Score
Player of the Game: T-ROY Gaines, HB #35 (23 ATT, 207 Yards, 1 TD; 37 Rec Yards, 1 Rec TD)
While the quarterbacks on each side (Dunhill on the Swarm, Dazzo on the Vultures) might have racked up almost double the yards that on-the-ground efforts did, it was Baltimore running back T-ROY Gaines who was the X-factor in the quarterfinal matchup between the Swarm and the second-seeded Baltimore Vultures. Atlanta leaned on their quarterback’s cannon arm all game, with Marcus Dunhill having almost triple the yardage of his backfield counterpart, BDG Hollewood. Unfortunately for the Swarm, all that air attack left them wide open to an interception from Vultures safety Giovanni Bolt, allowing the almost equally-divided Baltimore offense to carve more time off of the clock. Beat writer Ashley “Striker” Jackson was able to catch up with the coaches on each side of the game afterwards for their thoughts:
Baltimore Vultures Owner Tim Johnston: “We knew going in – this game was going to be a battle. Atlanta is a well coached team with great players. I told Andy Hamilton we needed to win the turnover battle, and we did, 1-0. This game could have turned on one play. We were fortunate to get the win.”
Atlanta Swarm Owner Marh Chisholm: “So looking back on the game, I think we were in the fight all 12 rounds. I tried a defensive strategy that I’ve never used before and it didn’t have the effect I thought it would. Offensively they were able to neutralize Hollewood’s screen game most effectively. They brought their A-game, and we just came up short.”
#6 Alaska Storm – # 3 Seattle Tyrants
28 – 31 Final Score
Player of the Game: Zack Sandlin, HB #32 (34 ATT, 190 Yards, 1 TD; 20 Rec Yards)
I’m reticent to recap the game in this segment, because I’m not quite sure if you’d believe me even after telling you. At the half, the defending champions went to the locker room with a one point lead. With two seconds remaining in the game, congratulations were exchanged and hands were shook.
Then all hell broke loose.
With two seconds remaining in the game, down 28-23, Seattle lined up in a non-hail mary formation. Wide receiver Mason Kirby ran his route, and for reasons nobody is sure of, was mostly uncovered in doing so. Tyrants quarterback Jacques Luyindula only needed a second to see his receiver and the wide-open field in front of him; one dart later and even the announcers (Cameron Irvine and Charles Dougherty) were beside themselves. While it was reminiscent of the Season 5 championship game, what happened next absolutely wasn’t. While the Tyrants had taken the lead and extinguished the game clock, they had a score to settle for the other 20 teams left in the league. The defending 3-time champs were now on the outside of the postseason looking in for the first time since Season 9, so instead of taking the extra point and having that be that, Seattle rubbed salt in the wound by running player of the game Zack Sandlin in for a 2-point conversion. Please don’t take my word for it though; the replay is available on YouTube here. It has absolutely earned its place in the SFL history books, along with Mason Kirby – now, will they cement it with a trophy?
#5 Tallahassee Pride – #4 Mexico City Aztecs
Final Score: 33 – 28
Player of the Game: A.J. Francis (11 ATT, 109 Yards, 2 TD; 2 Rec Yards)
The last time these two storied teams met up was in Tallahassee in Week 13. The Aztecs were able to walk out of there with a victory and home-field advantage heading into the postseason. Fitting, then, that Frank Goodin’s Pride would travel south of the border to deal Mexico City a loss in quarterfinals. While the Pride offense was fairly even handed, with Christiansen and player of the game A.J. Francis roughly splitting duties 2-to-1, the Aztecs weren’t able to get much going out of Ray Bentley on the ground. Fortunately for Mexico City, with probable MVP candidate Matt Willson under center, they were able to move their offensive plan to the air… just not to another wide receiver. Bentley ended up shouldering the offensive production for the team, ultimately hampering a normally creative Aztecs offense. Thanks to Tallahasee’s excellent play on special teams also, blocking a punt that could have swung momentum back in the Aztec’s favor, the Pride will now move on to face former championship contender Denver in the semifinals. Both of these teams have lost in the big dance to Alaska, but now that the Storm have been eliminated, it’s anybody’s game. Tallahassee will be playing for more than just their name this time.