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Ashley Jackson, Ray Bentley, Beat Writers

The ashes have settled from the fiery battles that have unfolded this postseason, and two teams stand at the gates of the Championship Game, prepared for glory: the Denver Nightwings and the Seattle Tyrants. Both teams have been battle-tested this season, proving that they deserve to be here with their well-crafted playbooks, week-to-week adjustments, and excellent management of player and team builds. However, at the end of the day, only one team can reign supreme as the Simulation Football League’s 13th Season Champion. Only one of these teams has the pedigree of a ruler, though, and that’s one of the many reasons that the Seattle Tyrants will rule the roost at the end of the day.

We spoke with several members of Seattle to get a better picture of how the team is feeling about their first championship berth. Quarterback Jacques Luyindula has been marshaling the offense all season, and with good reason: he has 28 touchdowns to 18 interceptions, 3284 yards and a quarterback rating of 101.4 – 2nd overall in the league for the season.

Jacques Luyindula raising the scores and his QBR

When did you first join the Seattle Tyrants?

I first joined Seattle back when they were still the Dallas Lobos. They reached out to me after my season with Carolina and I felt it’d be a great fit for me. I was more than right with that assumption.

Tell us about your first encounter / experience with the team? What made you want to join?

My first experience with Dallas actually came after my rookie season, where Steven reached out to me to join the team. I was genuinely interested in becoming a Lobo at the time, but had personal issues come up around the same time, so my mind wasn’t really focused on the league. I finally got my chance to join the team after my second season with Carolina when Crash reached out to me to join the team. Crash and Steven are definitely the biggest reasons why I decided to join after my sophomore season, since they were very welcoming and truly seemed to be invested into the league and the team. On top of that, the rumors around how strong the locker room was always intrigued me and I was more than glad to find out the rumors were true, if even under-hyping the bond we have as a team.

He might be #11, but at the Championship, Luyindula seeks to be #1

What was the feeling in the locker room after the Alaska Storm quarterfinal game? Following that, what was the feeling after the game against the Baltimore Vultures, where you punched your ticket to the championship?

After the Alaska game, most of us honestly didn’t know how to feel. Being on the verge of elimination had a few guys on the sideline hanging our heads, but I knew slinging it to Kirby (the GOAT) would bring it home. One quick pass and a burst of speed later and the mood completely flipped. It’s been a while since I’ve screamed that loud (minus yelling over stadium noise) and it was emotional for all of us. The Baltimore game had us feeling the same way, but I’d say to less of an extreme. It was similar circumstances we faced but in a much more manageable scenario. To me, winning against Baltimore to go to the Championship game felt like we truly improved this year after all the doubt and questions posed on us at the beginning of the season, making it further than we did last year.

Final thoughts on Season 13 – not just Seattle’s, but yours?

To me, this season has been another learning experience for me, as every season has. It was nice finally having a season where I still had chemistry with the receivers going into the year and not needing to rebuild it all over again, which I feel has been a big help to us. I think whether we win or lose this game, this season has been a great experience for all of us and gives us a lot to build off of next season, but of course I hope we can come out on top.

The one thing I’ll say when being a rookie is be determined and never give up on yourself and your team. Trying to get drafted and signed can be challenging at times, especially depending on the position you go for. Because of this, you gotta remain open to playing really any position since at the end of the day, being in the league is the real fun of it all, no matter what spot you play. On top of that, being on a team also means you gotta remain positive no matter what your team’s record is. Plenty of the guys on my team have experienced losing seasons, and so have I. But we still support one another no matter the consequences and really it’s only made us stronger as a team understanding the struggle going through a season like that.

~Jacques Luyindula, Seattle QB

While Luyindula is on the field calling audibles and strategizing with his receivers, he also has one of the best pressure relief valves in the entire league in running back Zack Sandlin. The Season 12 MVP, as well as All-Star Game Coach (and MVP, but… don’t ask him about it), Sandlin himself has been pulling his weight. While he might not be having the blockbuster season he did last year, it might not matter in the end: he’s in the championship game, and if he has his way, that’s the title he’d elect to win.

Reigning MVP Zack “The Sandman” Sandlin

When did you first join the Seattle Tyrants?

I joined the Tyrants when they were still located in Dallas and known as the Lobos. I was drafted #2 overall prior to Season 12

Tell us about your first encounter / experience with the team? What made you want to join?

My first encounter with the team was actually my first ever experience with the Simulation Football League as a whole. I happened to tune into the second half of the Dallas vs Tallahassee game at the end of Season 11 and watched Dallas comeback and win against a very stout Tallahassee team. I was intrigued enough to join the SFL Discord and start getting involved in the community. During the S12 Draft process, then Co-Owner Crash Combs reached out to me about the possibility of playing running back for the Lobos even though I was listed as a linebacker. We talked and I was eventually drafted onto the team. When Crash took over as full owner and moved the team to Seattle….I just couldn’t bring myself to leave. I fell in love with the team, the atmosphere, and the people. Crash also offered me the position of Defensive Coordinator that I’ve been operating as this season. It meant alot that he was willing to take a chance on me not only in the draft, but to hand my the proverbial keys and ownership to part of his team. These guys on this team are my family, and that’s what made me want to join and ultimately stay.

Sandlin side-steps the Swarm on his way to the promised land

What was the feeling in the locker room after the Alaska Storm quarterfinal game? Following that, what was the feeling after the game against the Baltimore Vultures, where you punched your ticket to the championship?

The feeling in the locker room after the Alaska game was….electric. At first it was astonished disbelief. I don’t think anyone believed what they had just witnessed. We were out. We had lost the game. Then….Kirby catches a ball over the top and scores. We were utterly dumbfounded and beyond excited to move on to the Semifinals for the second year in a row. We were also determined to start preparing for a rematch with one of the only teams to beat us this year. Baltimore was a very tough game to prep for and a very exciting game to watch. punching out ticket to the championship game was amazing. i’ve mentioned it a couple times now, but at one point during the Baltimore game I literally took my headset off my head and spiked it. It was exhilarating and a moment I don’t think I’ll forget for a long while. After the adrenaline wore off from the Baltimore game we, as a coaching staff, started immediately prepping for our next and biggest challenge so far.

Final thoughts on Season 13 – not just Seattle’s, but yours?

This season has been one hell of a rollercoaster of emotion. On a personal level, I believe I’ve had a very respectable season. Nowhere near the same production as last year, but we’re still winning and that’s what really matters to me. I’m not all for personal stats or accolades. I would be just as happy if I was at the bottom of the league for rushing. Team first. I’m also extremely proud of the defense we’ve managed to put together this year. It’s been a tremendous group effort, but I think it’s quite an accomplishment to go from bottom 2 in the league in defense to top 5 in the league in defense in just one season. Just saying.

“The only thing that kept me going was stories. Stories are hope. They take you out of yourself for a bit, and when you get dropped back in, you’re different- you’re stronger, you’ve seen more, you’ve felt more. Stories are like spiritual currency.” ― Neil Gaiman, The Sandman: Book of Dreams. I think this quote is pretty appropriate. This season, win or lose tomorrow, has been a great story. It’s been something that I will cherish forever. It has definitely made me stronger as an individual and as a member of this community. Oh, and Denver…better sleep with one eye opened, cuz Mr. Sandman is coming to your hometown – and he has a score to settle with you. #LongLivetheKing

~Zack Sandlin, Seattle RB

In addition to the two cores of Seattle’s offense, we were also able to get a moment with star wide receiver Junior Senior III. With 888 yards on the season, averaging almost a first down per reception, as well as four touchdowns, JS3 is one of the many reliable weapons in Luyindula’s holster.

Luyindula threads the needle straight to Junior Senior III

When did you first join the Seattle Tyrants?

I joined the [Dallas] Lobos / Tyrants for Season 11.

Tell us about your first encounter / experience with the team? What made you want to join?

My first experience with the team was that i knew Crash from before i joined. Ryan (ADPP) got Crash to join, then they both got me to join. When i joined, I wanted to either go to the team Crash was on or the team Ryan was on. Both were General Managers at the time, Crash of Dallas and Ryan of the Houston Hyenas. It was obvious from just hearing Crash talk about Steven that Dallas was the kind of atmosphere I wanted to be in. It truly is a family atmosphere. The attitude of everyone in that locker room is to do whatever it takes to win a championship.

What was the feeling in the locker room after the Alaska Storm quarterfinal game? Following that, what was the feeling after the game against the Baltimore Vultures, where you punched your ticket to the championship?

The feeling in the locker room after the Alaska win was at first disbelief. I had actually just written out a sappy end of season message to our guys and had just posted it when ALK decided to take a knee. Then the unthinkable happened and the G.O.A.T. Kirby caught that pass and, had I not been already out of my seat, I would have fallen out of my seat.

After the Baltimore game, we were an emotional wreck. We’ve worked so hard this season to get where we are and to see it pay off was a great feeling.

Final thoughts on Season 13 – not just Seattle’s, but yours?

This season has been different for me. I took on the additional role of being Asst. DC and it’s been a huge challenge. On the field, I didn’t have the numbers I’ve had had in the last couple of seasons, but that doesn’t really bother me as long as we’re winning and I’m not doing anything to hurt the team. I just want to shout out our guys in the locker room. Most people probably never see them talk, because they don’t like to chat outside of the locker room, but they are the complete reason we put in so many hours. They’ve become like family, even the new guys, Pete, Nick, Angel, & Poptart. See you on the other side

Find a team environment you connect with. Be a positive member, both of the team and of the league. Help the new people that will be coming into the league. Most of all, have fun and enjoy the moments that you help create.

~Junior Senior III, Seattle WR

As assistant coordinator, JS3 oversaw the second-best defense in the league as far as points allowed (21.58 per game on average), and was responsible for the best run defense in the league – something the Nightwings don’t want to hear. Unfortunately for them, we also met with some of the defensive standouts for Seattle, including league veteran, Free Safety Mahmoud Ajlouni.

Mahmoud Ajlouni slid back into the shoes of Free Safety with ease

When did you first join the Seattle Tyrants?

I signed with the Tyrants this past off-season after taking a one season hiatus from the free safety position.

Tell us about your first encounter / experience with the team? What made you want to join?

Well, JS3, Crash and Tristan all reached out to me on different occasions and asked if I was interested, which I was. I was going to reach out to them even if they didn’t, because I liked the possibility of me joining their team. Me and JS3 are both Chiefs fans so that helped the recruiting process, as well as me and Tristan being teammates before back in Season 10 for the Vancouver Legion. The cherry on top was how well Crash runs his team and how good of an owner he is. All that combined made me just instantly accept the offer. They were all welcoming so it was real easy to commit.

Ajlouni showing the Tyrants defense isn’t just all roar

What was the feeling in the locker room after the Alaska Storm quarterfinal game? Following that, what was the feeling after the game against the Baltimore Vultures, where you punched your ticket to the championship?

Words can’t even come to describe it. JS3 wrote out a paragraph how great the season was despite it ending sooner than we wanted it to. Then next thing you know, all of a sudden, the legendary walk-off play happened and everyone was just speechless; at the same time, [we were] so excited we were just screaming in the locker room. Baltimore was a game we really wanted to win especially after losing to them earlier in the season. It was a roller coaster of emotions, knowing we just punched our ticket to the championship after that back and forth shootout.

Final thoughts on Season 13 – not just Seattle’s, but yours?

I will never forget this season, no matter how it ends. I had a career year in many aspects, but just the group of guys in the locker room and the front office everything they have done has made this one of the best seasons in my whole SFL career. Everyone is always positive in the locker room, helping each other out. It’s a brotherhood in there and it’s just one of the best run franchises in the SFL.

GOOD LUCK! IF YOU CAN BELIEVE IT, YOUR MIND CAN ACHIEVE IT!!

~Mahmoud Ajlouni, Seattle FS

Defensive tackle Denzel Maverick has been having quite the season for himself, with 14 solo sacks in the regular season to his name. If pressure on the quarterback is the game, Maverick is the name… you don’t want to see coming your way.

Denzel Maverick getting ready to ruin Skyhawk quarterback Sully Richardson’s day

When did you first join the Seattle Tyrants?

I was drafted by the Dallas Lobos during the last Winter Season. [Season 12]

Tell us about your first encounter / experience with the team? What made you want to join?

Great pre-draft conversations, really made me want to end up there

What was the feeling in the locker room after the Alaska Storm quarterfinal game? Following that, what was the feeling after the game against the Baltimore Vultures, where you punched your ticket to the championship?

Overjoyed and very very proud. The same thing with the Baltimore game, but with less shock probably!

Final thoughts on Season 13 – not just Seattle’s, but yours?

Personally I took a step back last season, but the team thrived, which is all that matters. “Maverick: “I feel the need …” Goose: “… the need for speed!”” – Top Gun

Come join an amazing league that is more like friends hanging out then anything else. The locker room environment is something everyone should experience regardless of age, or background.

~Denzel Maverick, Seattle DT

We also caught up with free safety Pete Mitchell, one of the Tyrants non-contract acquisitions from the Couch-To-Field program instituted mid-season. He quickly became a part of the burgeoning defensive family, and will be seeing his first Simulation Football League Championship Game from the field itself.

When did you first join the Seattle Tyrants?

I joined the Tyrants 6 or 7 weeks ago, during the Couch-to-Field push to expand team rosters to allow rookies to get on-field.

Tell us about your first encounter / experience with the team? What made you want to join?

My first encounter was great with the GM [Tristan Carr]; he really let me know that I would help make a difference in their run for the championship. The locker room was great; they all welcomed me with open arms and let me get right to work on helping the team!

What was the feeling in the locker room after the Alaska Storm quarterfinal game? Following that, what was the feeling after the game against the Baltimore Vultures, where you punched your ticket to the championship?

After the Alaska game it was like “WTH just happened?!”, but after the Baltimore game we were like “we belong here and now everyone else knows that.” Now let’s go win this this championship!

Final thoughts on Season 13 – not just Seattle’s, but yours?

My season has been great, I’m learning so much from my teammates and getting better every week. The season is a grind but I now know I can handle it! I ain’t here for a long time, but I’m here for a good time!

If you love football and are looking for a way to experience the excitement of being a part of a team, league and locker room, then you owe it to yourself to join the SFL. You will not regret it.

~Pete Mitchell, Seattle FS

The team wouldn’t be where it is today without the steady guiding hand and leadership of team owner Crash Combs. Ascending last season from General Manager of the Dallas Lobos to their owner, he took swift action, moving and rebranding the team in an effort to make it truly his. With the loss of Lobos owner Steven Mullenax to Mexico City, Combs had a heavy weight to shoulder as his squad had the reigning MVP, but was eliminated in the semifinals of Season 12. Questions abounded as to whether or not Crash was up to the task to take the team, now branded the Tyrants, back to the postseason. After a few weeks, those questions stopped almost entirely, so we decided we’d throw some different ones his way.

What was the origin of the Seattle Tyrants? Why move the Lobos?

I loved being a Lobo and my time with Steven. I just wanted to put my own flavor to the team. So growing up in the Seattle area a good part of my life and couldn’t think of a better place to put a team. Also being a kid who aways loves dinosaurs and wanted to be a paleontologist having a mascot as fierce as a TRex was a must.

Tell us about your first encounter / experience with the team? What made you want to join?

I joined in season 10 after some prodding from Ryan Karpinski (ADPP), I was picked up shortly after by the then Ruffnecks, a 3 win team that season. I shortly after became dc and gm of the team.

What was the feeling in the locker room after the Alaska Storm quarterfinal game? Following that, what was the feeling after the game against the Baltimore Vultures, where you punched your ticket to the championship?

The Alaska game was straight disbelief in the locker room. You never expect to end a game that way. Lots of incoherent yelling was most of the first 5 minutes after that game. The Baltimore game felt like relief. After such a back and forth game you just kind of are relieved one way or another to be off the edge of your seat. We pretty much went into business mode minutes after knowing we had to do everything we could to win the championship.

Final thoughts on Season 13 – not just Seattle’s, but yours?

This season was a challenge. I’ll be the first one to tell you I was a terrible defensive coach. So going into the season you know people expect you to fail after two seasons as the worst DC in the league and your future hall of fame owner/OC leaving. I have always been a more offensive minded player so the transition was luckily easier than I even expected. Win or lose I couldn’t be more proud of the team and staff we have. Our players are always engaged with each other and positive, our coaches work their tails off every week because they want our players to be the best they can be. Our front office brought in great non contract rookies who have gelled right into the already established locker room aside from the roster they built to get us here.

The Championship game against the Tyrants is tonight, October 30 on Eleven Sports: what are you telling your guys to get them pumped up in the locker room before the big show?

I don’t need any type of “do it for the Gipper” speech for our guys. They have been so involved all season and have been ready for this game since we beat Baltimore.

For any new rookies or people who haven’t made the jump yet and joined the league, the community is 100% worth it. The people are great, being a part of a team is it’s own experience and the draft is a fun experience for any new person to the league. I’ve made some great friends in my short time in the league and encourage everyone to take the leap and meet some great people.

~Crash Combs, Seattle Owner, Head Coach

Playoff comparisons suggest that the Tyrants would have a better passing performance then Denver, as Seattle has averaged 325 passing yards per game compared to Denver’s 231. Rushing, as well, gives Seattle the edge with 239 yards rushing to Denver’s 133 per game. Both teams have super running backs in Zack Sandlin and Jarrod McChesney, but stacked up against the #1 rushing defense in the league, the Nightwings truly have an uphill battle against the Tyrants to move the chains. With the game set to kickoff tonight, Seattle will prove once and for all they deserve their tyrannical throne; for Denver’s sake, let’s just hope they don’t make the Nightwings extinct.

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