Written by Baylee O’Shaughnessy, Ray Bentley, Josh Farnzy and Matthew Slinn
Images by Tyler Falk and Axel Raven
For those who have been living under a rock, the SFLm Season 3 kicked off last Friday, testing new faces against some that have stuck around for another crack at the SFLm Championship. What makes the SFLm season even more intriguing is the knowledge that every rookie is out there trying to impress scouts and General Managers from the SFL, many of whom will be watching with interest. Over here at the Beat Writers’ Office, we have also been watching with eyes peeled: watching to inform ourselves about wo deserves to climb and who is destined to fall in our SFLm Power Rankings. I expect many of you will have your own opinions on where your team has been placed, so please, feel free to react accordingly. We welcome the sharing and discussing of opinion. Let’s see who cracked the Top spot in Week 1’s rankings.
There’s starting the season hot and then there is what the Memphis River Runners did to the Tacoma Grizzlies in a triumphant Week 1. Both of these franchises made their debut’s in Season 2, but this result shows a clear divide in class between the two as I right this. Behind 2nd season QB, OJ Bruin, the River Runners mustered 560 yards of offense and 41 points, surrendering a measly 3 points to the Grizzlies all game. Both Bruin and running back GP Wells had great days at the office, and Myles Gibson was able to make an impression on the defensive side of the ball, picking off the opposing QB from his spot at linebacker. It’s rare that you see and SFLm LB pull that off, but then again, it’s rare to see such a dominant performance across the board. This is a start to remember for Memphis. They look dangerous this season.
Miner team. Major statement. In what was their inaugural game in the minor leagues, Lexington suffocated the Birmingham offense – allowing only 53 total yards of offense on their way to a 25-0 blanking of the Fuel. Second year running back Baylee O’Shaughnessy ran tough for 135 yards and a score on 31 carries and added 90 yards on eight catches. The defense just kept coming against the Birmingham offensive line. Linebacker Derek Williams had nine tackles and had one of three interceptions on the evening. Free safety Josh Rowe also tallied a pick in his debut. Lexington still has some areas of improvement despite pitching a shutout. The passing game showed sparks at times under quarterback Dave Burr, who efficiently completed 76 percent of his passes. The two turnovers and several drives that ended in field goals may come back to haunt them in future contests if that trend continues. That aside, welcome to the SFLm Lexington. It was a Miner step. With a win this week against the defending champs, Albuquerque it would be a major step towards a playoff berth.
In what was probably the most entertaining game of Week 1, Season 1 SFLm Champions, the Madison Lynx, defeated last season’s playoff contenders – Salt Lake City – by a score of 27-30. In all reality, the game shouldn’t have been so close. The Lynx nearly doubled the offensive yardage that was put out by the Rustlers, had 11 more first downs and had hold of the ball for a whopping 29 minutes compared to Salt Lake’s 13. It’s almost worrying for the Lynx how close this game was, however a win is a win and they have to be happy. Eric Price was fairly efficient, tossing a couple of TD’s at a clip of 74%, his favourite receiver being Essex Denabola who hit Salt Lake deep all day. The aptly named Chance Wall got a sack for his efforts at defensive tackle and free safety Michael Lister chipped in with an interception, one of 3 made by Madison during the game. The Lynx will have more close games this season. I just hope that they can still pull out the victory with less on-field dominance.
The Atoms come into this season the reigning Champions. With the amount of turnover from season to season this should usually end up meaning practically nothing. But, they are coached well, and appear poised to make things difficult again for opponents. The returning members of the offense, WR Nate Ritters and RB Douglas Brown, provide a good safety net for the offense. But, the rest of the team is raw and untested. Nonetheless, they turned in a solid performance in Week 1 where, miscues aside, they showed that they are going to wear the Atom name well! QB Trellis Blanton had a solid day, going 19 of 27 for 191, 2 TDs, but had 3 interceptions. They will need to fix those mistakes before his weekend. Veteran RB Douglas Brown had 27 carries for 97 yards, and was a hot read all day out of the backfield with 8 receptions for 31 yards. TE Pauly Truth and WR Nate Ritters emerged as early favorite targets as well, proving that the young QB can spread it around and that opposing defenses will not be able to focus on just one or two players. The Albuquerque defense forced the issue all game, holding the veteran San Jose QB to 25 of 50 for only 243 yards and 1 TD. Run defense is only a slight concern, with Flight veteran RB Jimmy Hazzard averaging 4.9 yards per carry on his way to 18 carries for 89 yards. Overall, if they can keep up this level of play and build on top of it, this team is ready for another good season.
It was a case of nearly pulling off a mission impossible for the Salt Lake City Rustlers last Friday as, despite being dominated in nearly every statistic, they managed to score 27 points on the road to give the Madison Lynx a major fright. We have to hand it to the will and determination of the Salt Lake defense, on the field for nearly 30 minutes of game time whilst only conceding 30 points. They showed dogged defense and that will go a long way in impressing scouts from SFL teams. The offense struggled a lot more readily, especially in the running game, Brooke Beissell only gaining 8 yards from scrimmage the entire game. Hot prospect Tommy Utah had a troubled afternoon also, succumbing to 3 interceptions to only 1 TD, albeit a beautiful deep ball to wide receiver, Kelsey Brown. Brown herself had a great game, giving life and a dangerous weapon to an offense that should come good this season. Despite this loss, things are still looking promising for the Rustlers. There is every chance they could return to the SFLm semis.
The Ottawa Cavalry stick in6th position after an opening week bye. This coming Friday, the hard work starts for Ottawa, who won’t get a break now until the end of the season. Proceedings don’t start easily for the Cavalry, who travel to Salt Lake to face the Rustlers in Week 2, a team who will be looking to get back to .500 after a narrow loss to Madison. Scouts from Ottawa will have seen the ability of the Rustlers to keep the game close against the odds, and that should prick up the ears of coaches. The Cavs will be keen to return to the playoffs after missing out last season. A victory in Salt Lake will make that dream seem much more attainable.
With 3 returning players and coming off their big win to close Season 2 at Memphis, we should expect a stronger showing than the 1-7 from the last go around. Taking on the defending Champion Albuquerque Atoms, the Flight struggled to stay in the air, and ended up rolling better with the ground game. Veteran San Jose QB Joseph Green went 25 of 50 for only 243 yards and 1 TD with 1 Interception. Flight veteran RB Jimmy Hazzard had a better day, averaging 4.9 yards per carry on his way to 18 carries for 89 yards. The defensive side of the ball had a solid day, getting 3 Interceptions and holding Atoms veteran RB Douglas Brown to 3.6 yards per carry. It was a solid performance all around, yet San Jose did not come away with the win. Will this season be better than the last? It appears that they could make days difficult for opponents. But only time will tell if it will get the Flight into the postseason.
The road back to the championship was bound to be fraught with challenges. Following a 25-0 loss to Lexington on Opening Night, the road appeared bumpy. The Fuel could only muster 53 yards of total offense on the night. Newcomer Bryce Hardaway had a rough night – completing only 34 percent of his passes and throwing 3 INTs. Birmingham only converted two first downs on the entire game. The defense gave the Fuel a silver lining in defeat. Their bend-but-don’t-break approach forced the Miners to settle for six field goals – keeping hope for a comeback afloat for a while. Linebacker Garrett Hudson registered 13 total tackles and 4 tackles for loss in an impressive debut. Tazzy Blackwell had the team’s first sack of the season. Take heart though, Fuel fans. In the standings, it only counts as one loss. A showdown with Tacoma this week gives Birmingham an opportunity to turn things around right away and get back on that road to the championship.
Heading into Week 1, nerves are jangling, butterflies are having a party in the stomach and every team is anticipating a successful season. Then, you have a Week 1 like the Tacoma Grizzlies suffered and your ego comes crashing back down to earth with a deafening thud. Everything that possibly could have gone wrong, went wrong in this match-up. On offense, Brad Jones tried his best, gaining over 100 hard yards and Bill Henry looks like a fine prospect at the tight end position, but turnovers by 2nd-season QB, Johnny Reno, proved costly, especially with the torrid time the Grizzlies defence was having. Cody Griffin was a bright spot, snagging a pick, but this D gave up over 500 yards. That’s pure domination by Memphis. One thing going for the Grizzlies right now is the youth they possess. These players are going to get better, and, as they get better, so should the performances. Linebackers like Everette Willis and Axel Raven are too promising to fall to another defeat like this. Tacoma props up our Power Rankings this week. Let’s hope for their sake this doesn’t become a vocation.
And there we have it ladies and gentlemen! The first edition of the SFLm Season 3 Power Rankings. Good luck to all teams this Friday and check back with us next week!