Written by Baylee O’Shaughnessy, Ray Bentley, Josh Farnzy and Matthew Slinn
Images by Tyler Falk and Axel Raven
They were challenged. They were close to losing. But they never panicked. Such are the traits of a championship-quality squad, who had their hands full with a feisty Grizzlies team, but overcame a slow start to win, 27-20. Douglas Brown (19 carries, 135 yards and a touchdown) was sharp early and the passing game made huge plays in the second half to take a late lead. Trailing 17-13 with under nine minutes to play, and facing a third down and 12, Trellis Blanton bought some time in the pocket and launched an 81-yard strike to Nate Ritters to take the lead. After Tacoma tied the game with 3:42 remaining, Albuquerque marched downfield and looked to be facing a third and goal from the 1-yard-line after a Brown reception, but a booth review overturned the original call that he was out of bounds and the Atoms had a touchdown – and lead instead. The Atom defense then forced a three-and-out from Tacoma to preserve the victory. The Atoms remain in the SFLm driver’s seat at 3-0. They look to complete an undefeated first half of the season this Friday in a Season 2 title game rematch against the Birmingham Fuel. Whatever happens, expect no panic in this bright green team.
These new boys are good aren’t they! Behind Baylee O’Shaughnessy’s 196 yards and 3 TDs, the Miners thrust themselves into the spotlight once again, a 38-33 victory on the road at Ottawa the reward for a great performance. Obviously, the previously mentioned O’Shaughnessy was the x-factor, but we can’t ignore that fact that Dave Burr also had a decent game from QB. Whilst he did throw a couple of tosses to the other team, Burr did find his receivers in the end zone on two occasions, throwing scoring passes to Zachary Patten and Eric Katchem, the tight end catching one ball for 73 yards, giving him an unthinkable YPC statistic. Josh Rowe had another good game on defense and Derek Williams was a monster from the LB position, making 16 tackles during the game and almost single-handedly keeping the second level safe from attack. Lexington look like a squad that can score points and challenge any team in this league. The Miners should be confident of keeping this run going.
In a week where the Rustlers should have been able to kick their spurs and get the offense to a gallop (sorry… couldn’t resist), they seemed to lack urgency, and sauntered through the game against a struggling Birmingham team. QB Tommy Utah played adequately enough, not making any big mistakes on his way to 18 of 27 for 136. But the lone touchdown of the day belonged to FB Terrell Southerland. RB Brooke Beissel managed to move the ball well with a 4.1 ypc, but the team consistently stalled out on 3rd down, completing only 4 of 14 (28%) on the day. Salt Lake City will need to do more if they want to compete this weekend against the offense of the Lexington Miners, who are averaging 32 points per game over the first 3 weeks. The defense has done an admirable job to this point, but has not yet faced teams that typically score tons of points. We will find out soon enough if the 2-1 record is more indicative of a team on the rise, or the teams that they have played thus far.
Efficiency. Why take quantity when you could take quality? That question was answered by the San Jose Flight this weekend, defending their home turf against the Madison Lynx in a surprisingly gritty 12-15 battle. While they had less total yardage, they were hitting where it counts with a higher third-down conversion percentage and two Joe Green to Doug Spelling touchdowns to help close out each half. The Flight are now 2-1 and have a well-deserved bye weekend coming up for them. Oh yes – did I nearly forget? That final pass of the game from Joseph Green to Doug Spelling? What a play! Every now and again, Hail Mary’s work out in the SFL, and this was one of those occasions. Things feel new for the Flight this season – a winning season is on the horizon. They’ll be back in Week 5 to take on the Ottawa Cavalry.
You would think that almost 70 more yards of total offense would have been enough to put the Madison Lynx over the top in San Jose this past weekend, but you’d also think a 12-15 final score consisted of nothing but field goals – and you’re wrong on both accounts! Unfortunately for the Lynx, almost everything broke towards their opponent, save for Madison recovering their own fumble. Missed an extra point attempt and was on the receiving end of a 2-point conversion. Ahh, any given Saturday. Oh yes, and they lost on a crazy Hail Mary play after being on the verge of victory. Week 3 just wasn’t gonna be a good one for the Lynx. The Lynx stay on the road to take on the Memphis River Runners after Mother’s Day in an attempt to turn their luck around.
The Memphis River Runners drop a place in our rankings after the San Jose Flight moved up, largely due to that ridiculous ‘Hail Mary’ play that got them the win over the Madison Lynx. The River Runners sit at 1-1, so despite being a fair way down our Power Rankings, things aren’t actually that bleak. This writer can definitely see Memphis featuring in the post-season, and a win against Madison in Week 4 will certainly help the cause. Things won’t be easy though. The Lynx have looked strong in their two games so far this season, dispatching Salt Lake City at home and being the unfortunate victims of that last-second Hail Mary play against San Jose. Whoever wins that contest will head into the Top 4. I can guarantee that.
Sometimes the most impressive performances come with losses attached. Such is the case for the Grizzlies, who stood toe-to-toe with the defending champion Atoms – only to fall just short in the end, 27-20. The game was knotted at 20-20 with under four minutes in the fourth quarter, until the Atoms made a handful of plays down the stretch to get the go-ahead score. The Grizzlies had one final push to make with 1:30 left to play, but the Atom defense made the plays they needed to hand Tacoma the “L.” Tacoma lead by four heading into the fourth quarter, but an 81-yard touchdown pass allowed gave the lead away. Besides that bomb, Tacoma’s defense was stellar. Defensive end Jon Swift was a terror to the Albuquerque offensive line, notching four sacks and generally showing a disruptive quality all night long. Daniel Wright also had two interceptions to keep giving the Grizzlies opportunities. Offensively, Brad Jones continues to impress – going for 145 yards and a score on the ground. Mike Savage has also emerged as a WR1 option – grabbing seven balls for 101 yards in defeat. The Grizzlies fall to 1-2, but host Ottawa this Friday as a team looking more dangerous and impressive each week – win or lose.
The Ottawa Cavalry are one of the most decorated franchises in the SFLm, although the last two games, whilst being close, have gone some way to dent the reputation of excellence. This Week 3 home game again the Miners was the perfect opportunity to get the season going – to get things one track. So, what happened? After an even first half where no team wanted to give an inch, the Cavalry let the Miners get off to a slight lead and let them hold it until the end of the game. Scar Patterson had an excellent day at QB, throwing 4 TDs to just 1 INT and seemingly turning the heads of many GMs who need a QB, potentially in the draft. He spread the ball perfectly which was wise because the running game struggled all day against Lexington’s front 7. The defense actually play pretty well. Harry Huskey proved this with an INT returned for 28 yards. There are a lot of good teams in this league now. Ottawa, if they’re not careful, will get left behind.
The season is still young, but I think it is safe to say that the Fuel have some issues. Blanked in 2 out of 3 games, they have shown little ability to find the end zone, or keep other teams out of it. This week showed a glimmer of hope on the latter front. Our #3 ranked Rustlers only made one trip to pay dirt, on a FB dive halfway through the 4th. SO… the defense may be starting to come around. The Birmingham defense managed 4 TFL and 5 passes defensed, 24 tackles and 14 assists (so they are starting to swarm the ball, as the previous outings have not been on this level. The offense, however, is a completely different story: RB Squarebush has struggled, averaging only 2.3 YPC this season, and QB Hardaway is managing only 4.4 yards per attempt, and has only 1 passing TD. If the past is any indication, the Fuel will get the car back on the road. But, it needs to happen fast or there will be little left to salvage in a quick SFLm season.
And there we have it ladies and gentlemen! The third edition of the SFLm Season 3 Power Rankings. Good luck to all teams next Monday and check back with us next week!