Written by Baylee O’Shaughnessy, Ray Bentley, Josh Farnzy and Matthew Slinn
Images by Tyler Falk and Axel Raven
TEAM: Albuquerque Atoms, 4-0 MOVEMENT: -0
The unbeaten Albuquerque Atoms gave the Birmingham Fuel a lesson in converting possession into points as they left the Fuel’s home stadium with a 24-7 victory. A 17-0 half time lead set the Atoms up perfectly, solid defense and a bruising rushing performance by Douglas Brown the catalysts. Brown really stepped up in a big way, making 200 all-purpose yards on 30 touches, culminating in 2 touchdowns. His effort was needed as Trellis Blanton didn’t have his best game, taking less than 20 attempts whilst going 1:1 on TDs to INTs. The usual connection with Nate Ritters wasn’t there, Birmingham’s secondary doing a good job of keeping him grounded. As we’ve said, it didn’t really matter. Both the front 7 and secondary held down Birmingham’s struggling offense, the star players making 4 TFLs and 5 PDs in total. Frank Stackhouse was a disruptive figure from defensive end and Yakov Zolotov was a presence in both rushing and passing D. The linebacker is looking like a real leader out there and will be sure to have caught the eye of SFL scouts looking for a solid tackler in the middle. Week 5 sees the Atoms get a much earned rest as they head into their BYE week undefeated and in perfect position to defend their SFLm crown.
TEAM: Salt Lake City Rustlers, 3-1 MOVEMENT: ↑1
Last week, we called out Salt Lake to make a statement. Last week, we said that a tough game on the road against Lexington was the perfect opportunity to silence any doubters. Last week, the Rustlers clearly listened. The stout Salt Lake City defense held Dave Burr and his team to 6 points – this, a team that still averages nearly 26 points per game even after Week 4. To go into the Miners’ home stadium and hold them down so effectively is testament to the quality of the Rustlers’ D, led by Jahrad Brodie, Frankie Kuster and Bogey Barr. All three contributed to turnovers, Brodie and Kuster forcing fumbles from star Miners RB, Baylee O’Shaughnessy, and Barr recovering a fumble to cap off a very solid game from LB. On the other side of the ball, you have to applaud the work of Tommy Utah. Utah, whom many believe will be drafted early this off-season, had a stellar game, hitting on 32 of his 39 passes for 274 yards and a touchdown. Add this to the fact that Brooke Beissel suffered an injury after only two carries and it really shows the job Utah and his receivers (especially Kelsey Brown) did. It would have been nice for Terrell Southerland to get more touches from FB as he is hard to stop when he gets up a head of steam. Salt Lake City have a good chance to solidify their position near the top of the Power Rankings in Week 5 as they host the Tacoma Grizzlies. They will be favourites, but the players must not let complacency set in.
TEAM: San Jose Flight, 2-1 MOVEMENT: ↑1
Despite having a BYE week, the 2-1 San Jose Flight have risen a spot in our rankings, product of the faith we have in the Power Rankings team that they have the ability to keep this winning run going. Week 5 sees the Flight travel north to face the Ottawa Cavalry, a road game that, this season, they will be confident to win, however, Ottawa aren’t known as one of the historically better franchises in the SFLm for nothing. This will be a hard game. San Jose are yet to get a victory over the Cavalry, 0-2 in the series so far, yet to score more than 13 points against them. Scoring hasn’t been as much of an issue this season behind QB Joseph Green, so like I said, confidence should be high. A victory will go a long way to setting up San Jose for a great run at the playoffs. This game is bigger than many might think.
TEAM: Madison Lynx, 2-1MOVEMENT: ↑1
Okay, Eric Price…we see you. The Madison Lynx QB is likely on the SFL radar now: 18 of 19 for 203 yards, 2 TDs, 0 Sacks and 0 INTs. Price currently leads the SFLm in QBR (103.3) and Completion Percentage (74.31). You don’t get much better than that! To go with this off-the-charts performance was star RB Troy Fenech, taking 31 carries for 156 and a TD. You would think with days like that the score wouldn’t have been close…BUT…there are gaps on this defense. Don’t get me wrong, this is a team to be reckoned with, and no one wants to take them on at this point. Besides the gaffe at San Jose, this team has proven it can move the ball efficiently. Where they need the work is on the defensive side of the ball. Allowing the opposition to be in every game is becoming a dangerous trend, as they could easily be 0-3 right now. We are reaching the midway point of the season – it’s time for the Lynx defense to step up!
TEAM: Tacoma Grizzlies, 2-2MOVEMENT: ↑2
After Week 1’s demolition at the hands of the Memphis River Runners, who could have predicted that 3 weeks later, the Grizzlies would be above them in the power rankings, riding .500 with a 2-2 record. We certainly didn’t. But, after Week 4’s very tight 17-20 OT victory over the Ottawa Cavalry, here we sit. In what was probably the most clutch moment of the Grizzlies’ season so far, star kicker Paw T Pawtai proved his worth, slotting the game winner to joyous celebrations from the Tacoma side line. This victory was bigger than many will know for Tacoma. This is the first time in their short history that they have had a .500 record, with a chance next week to go above evens next week. Solid games from wide receivers Mike Savage (over 100 yards) and Shane Kaufman (caught a TD) helped the Grizzlies on there way, but in reality it was all about the efforts of running back, Brad Jones. Jones cut through the Cavalry’s defense for over 150 yards, a long of 65 and a big TD. The defense also played their part, limiting Ottawa to just 17 points thanks to big performances from cornerback Cody Griffin and linebacker, Earl Fields IV. To have Pawtai put the icing on the cake with a clutch kick seemed right looking at the story of the same. Week 5 sees the Grizzlies, whom are yet to have a BYE week, travel to the rolling Salt Lake City Rustlers. The tests just keep getting bigger for Tacoma.
TEAM: Lexington Miners, 2-2MOVEMENT: ↓4
We can’t help feeling that the Lexington coaching staff will be as disappointed with that performance as we are, Week 4’s tough effort meaning the Miners fall 4 spots and to a 2-2 record. Yes, Salt Lake City are playing excellent football, especially defensively, but to go down 22-6 against a team that lost their star RB after 2 carries is the perfect example of not taking advantage of a preferable situation. Lexington’s offense just really couldn’t get it going. Based on the first 4 weeks, scoring more than 22 points should have been a formality – it just seemed like an off day. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was the lack of production from Baylee O’Shaughnessy, who, despite getting nearly 6 yards per carry, was limited to just 10 carries as Salt Lake City jumped out to an early lead. Relying on Dave Burr’s arm clearly wasn’t enough to get it done against the Rustlers’ talented secondary. On defense it was all about hard work with little reward, Dereck Williams the pick of the bunch from his linebacker position. Williams has the potential to follow in the footsteps of a player like Devin King – he looks that good. The Miners are still well within a shout of making the post-season. This roster is talented. Getting back above .500 will be #1 priority.
TEAM: Memphis River Runners, 1-2MOVEMENT: ↓1
After a stellar first outing, the River Runners have turned in two Ls and now sit in a precarious position for their 2nd SFLm season. Since that 41-3 shellacking of Tacoma, opponents have outscored Memphis 57-42. They can move the ball (22 1st Downs this week) and they can score (2 of 3 games they scored 41 and 29), but they can’t seem to stop others from doing the same. Even with a balanced attack this week that saw QB O.J. Bruin go 28 of 42 for 301 and 2 TDs and RB G.P. Wells carry the ball 25 times for 178, the River Runners could not keep up, resting on a monster comeback attempt in the 4th where they scored 17, coming up 2 points shy of a tie to send it to OT. The offense needs to find its stride early, though you have to like the fight in this team! There are questions on the defensive side of the ball for sure, but could this team be better than the record suggests? They get a good chance to right the ship against the Miners on Friday. Something tells me it will be the game to watch this weekend…
TEAM: Ottawa Cavalry, 0-3 MOVEMENT:-0
The Ottawa Cavalry have been in a lot of close games this season – unfortunately for them, they have lost all three. Week 4’s defeat at the hands of the Tacoma Grizzlies was the tightest yet, the Cavalry going down 17-20 on the road after an overtime field goal by the Grizzlies’ star kicker, Paw T Pawtai. Great name aside, this dagger slipped through Ottawa’s armour and proved to be the lethal blow. Up to that point, Ottawa kept pace with Tacoma, even going in up 14-10 at the half behind a great passing performance by Scar Patterson. Yes, Patterson threw a couple of picks on the day, but he looks dangerous – he looks like he isn’t afraid of airing it out. It was needed as well, running back Adrien Ellis struggling on the ground, trudging his way to just under 50 yards. Patterson spread the ball well, tossing a TD each to WR Josh Styles and TE Rupert Westcleod respectively. His best connection however, was with wide receiver Ryan Roseveldt, who caught 10 balls for a buck 48. It seems like Ottawa should have scored more points with Patterson’s offensive output, but much like Birmingham one spot below, they just couldn’t fully convert drives into TDs consistently enough. The biggest play on defense came from free safety Justin Reside, who plucked the ball out of the sky for an INT and returned it for 42 yards. I’m sure he will be wishing he could have returned it for 6, giving Ottawa the victory, but in sport, small margins cause the biggest ruptures. After the heart-breaking sight of that ball being kicked through the posts, Ottawa head into next week against San Jose with something to prove. The season is on the line.
TEAM: Birmingham Fuel, 0-4MOVEMENT: -0
It was a case of ‘same old, same old’ for the Birmingham Fuel, although you could forgive them for dropping this one against the surging Albuquerque Atoms. A 24-7 scoreline is what greeted Birmingham and their fans at the end of the game, scant reward for what was a stout defensive performance, at least in the passing game. The best performances came from the LB group, Garrett Hudson showing his mettle with 12 tackles including a couple for a loss, his running mate Tazzy Blackwell chipping in with an interception of QB Trellis Blanton. It was a shame the offense couldn’t quite follow suit, the young group struggling to get the ball in the endzone despite decent success between the red zones. Randy Squarebush had a tough running day, gaining nearly 80 yards at 3.3 YPC. He had slightly more success receiving the ball, but still didn’t manage to cross the line for 6. There were no real stand outs on offense, with no receivers gaining over 50 yards and the lone TD coming from a Blanton pass to a non-contract player. We know it’s a very new offense, but these players need to step up and put more pressure on opposing defences. If they don’t, Birmingham could have the unenviable future of going an entire season without a win. A trip to the free-scoring Madison Lynx next week ensures things won’t get any easier.
And there we have it ladies and gentlemen! The fourth edition of the SFLm Season 3 Power Rankings. Good luck to all teams this Friday and check back with us next week!