Written by Cliff Grizzly and Matthew Slinn
Images by Jonny Law
Keys to Victory
Louisiana Revolution (6-1) @ Houston Hyenas (3-4)
The Revolution continues their winning ways heading into Week 8 where they’ll be facing a team who just can’t seem to play consistently well. The legendary Reggie Streeter is quickly climbing the SFL record books, and this week, make sure and tune in to his greatness. He’s had three straight games rushing for over 220 yards…yeah, he’s pretty talented. Give Streeter the ball and force Houston to stop him. Pichler has been a solid signal-caller this season, and his job will continue to be easier if Streeter keeps up this pace. Houston has the 19th ranked offense in the SFL, so keep playing well on defense and this game could be in hand early.
Houston better come to play this week. Louisiana is playing great and they love to let everyone know about it. If the Hyenas want to win, they have to contain Streeter – plain and simple. Take your chances letting Pichler air it out, but do not allow Streeter to gash your front seven on a regular basis. The only loss the Revolution have suffered this season was a game in which Streeter rushed for 55 yards…so, simply put, stop Reggie, give yourselves a chance to pull off an upset. On offense, Kentez Johnson will have to play better after only completing 50% of his passes last week and throwing 5 picks. A repeat of last week’s offensive performance would be detrimental, and pretty much guarantee a loss against the red-hot Revolution.
St. Louis Gladiators (3-4) @ Las Vegas Fury (3-4)
The answer to more wins for St. Louis starts with one thing: protect Javier Vazquez. He’s been sacked 20 times already this season, making it hard to get in a rhythm. Run it early, use your backs to help block pass rushers, and give Vazquez some time to do his job. Las Vegas has been passing the ball A LOT this year, but last week they won with their rushing game. So, be prepared for a rushing attack, but don’t forget that they do fancy the passing game. Don’t risk them beating you deep down the field in order to stuff the run.
Las Vegas added a new wrinkle to their offense last week, an effective running game. Leading up to Week 7, Las Vegas hadn’t rushed for over 100 yards in a game. Against Florida, RB Scott Johnson ripped off over 200 yards on the ground. But, the question is: did the Fury figure out how to rush effectively? Or was Florida just that weak against the run? Try and get that rushing attack going again, it will allow that strong passing game to be even more effective. St. Louis has a well-balanced attack on offense, but they have shown some weaknesses at offensive line. Get ready to go after the opposing QB hard. Get Rhett Sawyer some one-on-one opportunities against the pass protection, and knock this offense off track.
Portland Fleet (1-6) @ Vancouver Legion (3-4)
Portland has had a rough season thus far, and has nowhere to go but up coming into Week 8 in Season 15. With one victory under their belt, they will have to continue to build upon their strengths in order to pull off another upset this week. With the worst rated offense and defense in the SFL, it’s hard to find any advantages, but they have proved that they can compete against tough competition. The Fleet are averaging under 50 yards a game on the ground, so rushing the ball is not going to be their key to victory. They have to rely on quarterback Matt South to play his best football in order to win. This will require great performances by the o-line and receivers. Vancouver has a top 10 defense, so finding openings will be tricky. Portland also has the worst rated defense in the league, but their linebackers are their strongest asset. They will have to keep Vancouver’s offense off the field as much as possible in order to stand a chance.
This week, Vancouver has a chance to win a game that, let’s be honest, they should win. Offensively, score early and put the pressure on Portland’s offense to put up points of their own. The Legion does not need to come up with any fancy schemes, just do what you always do and plan on finding success. Defensively, Vancouver’s defense should be able to stop the run with no issue, so focusing their attention on the pass game should be key. Play tight coverage on the outside, and go ahead a send some extra pass rushers to make life miserable for Matt South.
Chicago Wildcats (4-3) @ Jacksonville (5-2)
This weekend could prove tot be a must win game for the Wildcats. The problem? They have to travel to a red-hot Jacksonville Kings team. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Chicago’s elite defense can keep them in any game, but they are facing an offense that put up a 40-burger in the home of the defending champs. With the way the Wildcat offense has lacked production since they lost their star tight end, the D will be hard-pressed to keep them in with a shout. If Chicago want to come away with the W, E.T King needs to adapt to life without his comfort blanket and get back to early season form. This could be the perfect week, as players always play better against their former team. He also needs help from his receivers. The newly formed group of James Tobon, Greg Soto and the experienced Davius Reid are due for a breakout performance. Can they come up with the goods against a Kings D that struggles against the pass?
Are there any squads in the SFL that are playing better than Jacksonville are right now? The Kings currently look like they could take on all-comers – I just hope they haven’t peaked too early. Quarterback, Christian Christiansen, had arguably his best performance of the season last week in the Hive, finding the end zone 3 times whilst keeping the ball from the opposition’s mitts, CC can be a streaky, confidence-based player, so riding that high into this week could prove disaster for an admittedly strong Chicago defense. The Wildcats’ pass defense is excellent, and their rush D is the best in the league, so the Kings’ signal-caller may find himself having to steer the ship without the help of his usually reliable right-hand man, Jared Willis. Defensively, I can’t see Jacksonville having many issues. This group should be able to stop Chicago on recent form, and even if they give up 100 yards on the ground to new-look rusher, Robert Johnson, they should give the offense plenty of room, and time, to work.
Atlanta Swarm (3-4) @ Arizona Scorpions (3-4)
The league leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns, Bryant Dynasty, is really making himself known this season as a rookie. Despite his success, Atlanta can’t seem to keep a winning streak alive. They have the 2nd worst turnover differential in the league at -10, which everyone knows, it’s hard to win when you’re turning the ball over and not getting many takeaways yourself. With that being said, they’ll face Arizona this week who is coming off the worst loss of their season to a winless team in London. They’ll be striving to bounce back, so expect a tough game. Keep letting Dynasty control the offense the way he does, but avoid those catastrophic turnovers. The defense will have to step up on third down this week, and pressuring the Arizona QB would be a great way to keep their offense from getting in a groove.
It’s a bounce back week for Arizona after suffering a painful loss last week. The Scorpions have one of the most balanced attacks in the SFL, but just have struggled to score a lot of points this season. Against Atlanta, they will have to turn a complete 180 from last week’s performance. Quarterback, Ashley Jackson, had her worst performance of the season against London. She was sacked 6 times, completed 50% of her passes, and threw 5 interceptions. Those are not winning numbers and can not be replicated if Arizona expects to win. Run the ball early and help keep the Atlanta pass rush at bay. Atlanta has a dangerous passing attack, but also have turned the ball over numerous times this season. Keep eyes on Hollewood catching swing passes out of the backfield, and make sure their play-making receivers don’t get behind the defense. Stepping up the pass rush would help out tremendously this week.
Lone Star Glory (3-4) @ Fort Worth Toros (3-4)
Dare is say that the Key to Victory for Lone Star is to do an onside kick off every time they give the ball back to Fort Worth? Wally Herman seems to have perfected the technique, striking the ball in a way that Lionel Messi would be proud of. All jokes aside, Lone Star mounted a great comeback last weekend and you could argue that they deserved to steal the W away from the Sparrows. Anyway, enough of the past, on to the future. It doesn’t really get any easier for the Glory on offense as they come up against a Toros defence that ships only just over 20 points per game, good for third in the SFL. They are strong across the board, so the improving Ace Fenech will need to continue on his upward trend. The young star seems to have found a great rapport with second-year receiver, Dave Axis, so it will be fun to see Axis work on Ben Stone and company. Expect Lincoln Kingseed Jr. to be important on D for Lone Star, marshalling Stephen Hacker, who is yet to really put his stamp on the season. Give tight end Adam Williams the ball, and match him up against rookie linebacker and #1 overall pick, David Horrell.
You really have to admire Fort Worth’s defence. Over the last few weeks, none have been sturdier against the pass and the run. Most teams with good defenses are excellent in one facet of the game – Fort Worth are elite in both. Nacho Sicario seems to have inspired this young group, especially fellow safety, Ben Stone, who’s play has been down right dangerous recently. The rookie deep zone protector is not only making interceptions, but returning them with skill not seen since Evan Arthur last got a pick 6. On the other side of the ball, things need to improve. The D can’t do everything. I thought the experience of Stephen Hacker, Xander Gold and Jason Williams would give the Toros an offense that could be lethal against most. So far, it has been hit and miss. Lone Star will score more points than St. Louis did (granted, a FG would prove that), so Gold needs to move his men and women down the field.
Baltimore Vultures (5-2) @ Mexico City Aztecs (5-2)
This is a blockbuster game for the Vultures as they continue what could be their most challenging stretch of the season. Last week’s defeat in Louisiana was actually a surprise to most given the Revolution’s recent problems, however it happened, and Baltimore need to look to Mexico City. I’m saying it now. Baltimore WILL score points in this game – at least 25. The Aztecs’ D isn’t great and they are particularly susceptible through the air. Jack Wigmore needs to double down on his performance at Louisiana and spread that ball around. He didd a great job of not just hitting Ivory Ervin and nobody else last week, so continue that tactic. This offense needs to win as a whole – especially with Mexico City’s star CB marshalling Ervin most of the game. Defensively, again, I can see a lot of points being involved. The Vultures will concede yardage, so be aggressive and take that ball away. Matt Willson has been known to throw the odd interception, so get in his face, cloud his vision and pick off the flying ducks. Storng leadership from experienced campaigners Bolt and Loshaw will be crucial to achieve this.
The Aztecs seem to have shocked a few in the community with their winning play this season, although if you look at their history, they are all about success. Whether the draft strategy seemed questionable or not, you can’t argue with the coaching pedigree and the always solid play of their veterans. Phoenix Jones is coming into his new role at halfback, getting better and better each week. He will need to be better than ever and support Matt Willson if the Aztecs are to keep pace with Baltimore’s big guns on offense. One other connection that will be crucial is the telepathic one between Willson and Mike Daggs. Daggs is currently up there as one of the favorites for Offensive Player of the Season, so Aztecs…I’m telling you now…use him, A LOT. On the opposite side of the ball, expect the secondary to be hard pressed trying to martial Baltimore’s receivers. Han Tyumi, Jeffery Daggs and his peers will be tested all game. Don’t play too aggressively, stick to the assignment and make your tackles. Keeping big-bodied Mac Chimah quiet in the red zone will be key.
Tulsa Desperados (3-4) @ Florida Storm (3-4)
Well Tulsa! We are officially sitting up and noticing! Last week’s comprehensive home victory over Queen City came as a surprise, but a surprise that everyone not dressed in black and green will be pleased about. As expected, it was the Gabriel Manning show, the big-contract player living up to it with aplomb. Manning earned every point of that contract last weekend, but he needs to back it up with another huge game at Florida. Behind the prodigy that is Manning, the Desperados are still quite thin on the ground. Deacon Nickens will always be a gun slinging turnover machine, and thatt is unlikely to change against Florida. Tulsa need to get the ball in the hands of Sonzo Robinson more often. Robinson has shown flashes of elite level power running this season, showing an ability to ruck over even the hardest of tacklers. Florida have a young linebacking room, so feed Robinson and take advantage. Defensively, keep being aggressive – it works. Berto DeMoura, Nate Hezlep and Cain Vaquez are an elite trio. They need to stay that way.
Florida head into this game on the back off a poor performance in the desert against Las Vegas, Granted, the Fury are seemingly unbeatable at home so far, but still, the Storm will be unhappy with their display, especially in the second half. This, however, does not mean that the momentum gained from an earlier 3-game winning streak needs to be stopped. Florida will win if they keep hold of the ball. Simple. Ron Cockren needs to play it safe, keep the ball away from Nate Hezlep and stand strong in the pocket. Use J.W Doyle in short yardage situations where he can prove effective, and rely on the experience of Optimus Cline and Jeff Comeau. Deacon Nickens will throw interceptions, so keep every defensive eye on where Gabriel Manning is. It has been proven that when Manning is stifled, Tulsa lose. Don’t try and fix what isn’t broken.
Carolina Skyhawks (3-4) @ London Knights (1-6)
After a promising yet sluggish victory over the Chicago Wildcats, the Skyhawks had the tough ask of gaining victory over the in-form Denver Nightwings, something that they couldn’t manage. A trip to 1-6 London could prove to be the perfect game to springboard Carolina into a .500 record and a chance at reaching the playoffs. Yes, the Knights are coming off their first win this season, but the young coaching duo over there are raw, and consistency will be tricky to muster. Carolina needd to take advantage of this through staunch defensive play. Be aggressive on the defensive line and force Angus MacClaine into mistakes. The Skyhawks have an experienced defense with some star quality to it – use this to gain turnovers and dishearten the young London offense. Offensively, I would run the ball more. The heavy use off Logan Jack in the passing game is a litttle too conservative for my tastes, and I think it would be wise to try him in more of a run-centric role, especially if they find themselves ahead in the game. Jack has talent running the ball – we just need to see it.
Well done London. That victory was fully deserved, a long-time coming and a great moment for young coaches, Dustin Zeck and Tanner Hendrix. Now, the real challenge – maintaining, in a rivalry game no doubt. Carolina and London have played some great games over the years, some closer than others. I will go on record and say that this one could go down to the wire. London’s offense seems erratic, which is expected from a team low on experience. When the offense is on form, it is up there with the most exciting in the league, young receivers Fox Highwind and Vin Calia showing big-play ability. Angus MacClaine needs to get these guys in the game, especially Calia, who is fast becoming one of my favourite receivers in the league. Defensively, I think London could have Carolina well matched. The Skyhawks have been less than sharp offensively, so if stars Jeff Gagne and the unstoppable Jack Russell can continue their vein of form, this could be a great game for them. Sully Richardson likes to pass the ball a lot, so I expect Russell to feature heavily.
Sioux Falls Sparrows (5-2) @ Queen City Corsairs (3-4)
One of seven teams in the SFL with a winning record, Sioux Falls needs to keep winning if they want to be recognized as the top team going into the playoffs. The key ingredient for the Sparrows success so far, the running game. They’re leading the league in rushing yards per game, so don’t look for them to change up any tactics. Keep Colin Hart rolling until someone stops him. Queen City has allowed an average 116 yards rushing against them, and most of those running backs weren’t on the same level as Hart. He’s 2nd in the league in rushing yards behind a man who 84 more rushing attempts than him. Let him carry the Sparrows to victory again this week. On the other side of the ball, you’re facing a team who likes to use the running game to open up they’re passing attack. Keep Jett Zero from gaining 5 or 6 yards a carry and make them rely on strictly passing the ball.They have 17 passing touchdowns compared to rushing touchdowns this season. A one dimensional offense is usually ineffective.
The Corsairs will have their hands full this week against the Sparrows. Colin Hart has been a juggernaut in season 15. If you want to win, you MUST slow him down. Do whatever it takes to keep him under 100 yards. The two losses for Sioux Falls have taken place when Hart has less than 100 yards rushing. Offensively, look for them to be focused on your passing game, which will give your back some opportunities to gain solid yards. Jett Zero will need to break off a few decent runs. When they commit to stopping the run, look deep to your play-makers down the field.
Denver Nightwings (6-1) @ Charleston Predators (3-4)
Denver are just plain impressive are they not? Jeremy Vega knows how to pull out a victory and his players seem to have that same mindset. The 23-10 victory in Carolina showed that. Denver didn’t play to their best, but they ground it out and moved to 6-1. The Nightwings are more than capable of doing the same thing against Charleston, although if there was ever a prototype slip-up game, this is it. The Predators are much better than their record suggests, and a victory for Denver is by no means a foregone conclusion. If Denver want to win, as per, McChesney needs a good game. Near 100 yards and a TD would do it from the workhorse back, as Josh Miller seems to be having alot of success finding his receivers recently, especially lon-time nearly man, Logan Keel. Keel has never really been recognized as an elite receiver, but he is in the conversation this season. Defensively, put Keitth Swearingen on the ground early and force T.D Drew to throw the ball. It is crucial to get pressure, as Drew can dissect defenses with time. IO want to see rookie cornerback Rosca Santigria have a big affect on the game – he may have to occasionally cover a big-bodied tight end, so I want him to play aggressively and get an elusive pick.
I really like how Charleston have played this season. They have faced the toughest schedule in the league and could come out of it with a well-earned playoff berth. Last week’s victory at Chicago was a defensive struggle, but it showed that the Predators don’t need a big offense to win. However, I think a big offensive performance will be needed this week against Denver. T.D Drew has a nice combination of receivers in Ken McCarro and Buchanon Simons, with Simons playing the role of deep threat very well on occasion. The two tight ends will also be crucial in both the running and passing game. Swearingen has been good if not spectacular this season, so a big game from him against a tough Denver front seven will be hard to achieve, but the Predators could easily reap the rewards of it. Speaking of running backs, McChesney needs to be stopped. When he struggles, Denver aren’t QUITE as effective. Expect the Charleston coaches to put pressure on Josh Riese and co. to make those all important first up tackles.