Written by Josh Farnzy

Images by Tyler Falk

Walkoff FG helps Denver capture Season 16 title

Somewhere between Denver kicker Kramer Jackman’s strong foot and the field goal posts 38 yards away, the fortune of two franchises split into two. In a championship match worthy of the name, where Florida and Denver traded leads all afternoon long, the Nightwings managed to splice together a final gutsy drive to get Jackman in range for a Season 16 title-winning 38-yard field goal as time expired to win, 31-30. Jackman, who announced several weeks prior that Season 16 would be his last, delivered a no-doubt, walkoff-career-into-the-sunset win for the ages. Running back Jarrod McChesney capped a likely-MVP season with a title game MVP trophy for his mantle – running by and often

Jarrod McChesney had a typically violent rushing performance

through many Storm defenders – for 152 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown on the ground and 85 yards on 14 catches and two more TDs as a receiver. Broken tackles are not recorded as stats, but fair to say McChesney was sublime in his ability to turn short gains into positive plays. The win gives Denver their second SFL championship and some redemption after falling short last year despite the best overall regular season record. The trophy returns to the Mile High City in what many are calling the best SFL title game of all time.

The drive The Nightwings’ championship drive started poorly. Starting at their own 12-yard-line with about two minutes left to play, Denver had a short 1-yard gain and then faced a 3rd and 12 after safety Ramel Hernandez blitzed and sacked Josh Miller. Miller, who was solid aside from two interceptions, went to work getting Denver out of the hole connecting with Bryce Battle on a near-do-or-die 4th and 4 conversion. Miller was sacked again on the next play, but would string together short gains. On 3rd and 9, he would find tight end Jeremy Mosley over the middle for a clutch first down. And then came the hurry-up with under 90 seconds. Miller would connect with his tight end and receivers on a series of slants to chew up the distance needed to get Kramer into range, including a couple to rookie wideout Riley Quintero, who had eight catches and a team-high 87 yards receiving to atone for a costly fumble in the first half. Florida, perhaps looking for Denver to make an impatient mistake, let the clock run, so Denver kept taking the 8-yard slant routes to finally get to the 21-yard-line of Florida. Jackman took the field when Denver used their final timeout with three seconds left. The kick was never in doubt.

Jackman staring in wonder as his last kick, the game-winner, bisects the posts

Storm surge was intense

Only a few days old, this championship game is only being revered as an instant classic because of the spectacular play by the Florida Storm. Ron Cockren was solid and stoic leading Florida time after time to retake the leads several times. He finished with 21 of 30 passing and threw for 275 yards, 2 TDs and one interception – connecting with receiver Steven Bush, who was brilliant in defeat (5 catches, 156 yards, 2 TDs), including a 61-yard jump ball that he proceeded to take to the house for six. The Season 16 rookies showed up and showed out in a big way. Running back Charlie Biletsky made himself a household name with 12 carries for 114 yards, including a 71-yard power touchdown run to give the Storm a temporary lead. Storm linebacker Maverick Hughes may have been the best player on the field Sunday. Hughes registered 12 tackles (many times downfield after McChesney broke another tackle or two), two passes defended and a highlight reel one-handed interception deep in their own end to help keep Denver off the scoreboard for at least one drive. Alex Dominguez added to his legend with two sacks in the ballgame and constant pressure, per his usual presence. Florida kept responding with go-ahead scores and held a 27-21 advantage heading into the fourth quarter. While they were able to sustain a few drives, they just couldn’t find one last touchdown to help put the game away for good. If they return most of their players in Season 17, expect Florida to be one of the favorites to be back in position for a championship.