Written by Stefaun Forge
Welcome to Random Thoughts the Championship edition. This column is simply some of my thoughts and opinions as relates to the SFLm. It is in no way designed or intended to offend or disparage any player or team. The content will change every week based on how the season progresses. Please enjoy it.
It’s Championship Weekend so I will be previewing SFLm Championship Game. (After my awful Week 9 thoughts carried over into the Semi Final Round, I have determined that “The Curse of Stefaun” is real, just like Sports Illustrated and Madden Covers. Yes, I had Albuquerque and Tacoma winning. Somewhat ironically, I mentioned in chat that Albuquerque and Tacoma were my picks and then almost as if it was premonition I said “but based on how my Week 9 article turned out it will probably be Salt Lake and San Jose.” Unrealized prescience in that statement. Therefore, in the interest of allowing the SFLm Championship to play out without the influence of “The Curse” , I will NOT be picking a winner. Instead, I will just be analysing the two championship contenders.)
After a stirring mid-week Semi Final round, which saw two sizeable upsets, the SFLm season has come down to one game. One game, one moment in time, one opportunity, one shot at ultimate glory. Sunday June 20 at 7pm Live from Los Angeles a champion will rise and a contender will fall. A moment to Carpe Diem is at hand for both organizations.
Salt Lake City vs San jose
Salt Lake City Rustlers (6-3)
Wednesday night in Albuquerque, the Rustlers did what many thought was impossible – they beat the undefeated and seemingly invincible Atoms, 33-20. They didn’t just beat them, they dominated them for long stretches of the game and came up clutch in all the biggest moments. One example was the performance of kicker, Sunny Jay, who provided the difference-making points with 4 FG. The Rustler game plan and execution were masterful. Short ball control passing, mixed with occasional big plays, complemented by mixing in enough runs to keep the Atoms off balance. The Rustler defense rose up after a 30-7 drubbing the week before, to answer the challenge and control the powerful Atoms offense in the rematch.
San Jose Flight (6-3)
Wednesday night in Tacoma, The Flight took wing and routed the Grizzlies in stunning fashion on both sides of the ball, 35-19. Remember those dffensive struggles the Flight had for 8 games this season? They don’t. Quick question – raise your hand if you saw the recent offensive outburst coming from the Flight? If you raised your hand… you are either a stone cold liar, or a red hot Psychic. A team that finished the season with the 3rd worst scoring offense, averaging 19.63 ppg and had been in a scoring slump for the 4 previous weeks to boot, has suddenly erupted for 80 pts over its last two games (40 ppg). Sure there was room for doubt when they put 45 on Lexington, as Lexington was in a full on collapse. Wednesday night’s 35 point onslaught against what was a White Hot Tacoma team erased that doubt.
The matchup between the Salt Lake Offense and the San Jose Defense will likely come down to QB Tommy Utah and the passing game. San Jose has a strong defense against the run, ranking 2nd allowing only 96.4 ypg and the Salt Lake run game ranked 8th averaging only 71.5 ypg. Brooke Beissel is always a threat to break a big run but the run game could get ugly for the Rustlers in this one. The 3rd ranked Salt Lake passing attack has a much more favourable matchup against a Flight defense that ranked 8th against the pass. The Rustlers averaged 259.4 ypg passing. The Flight defense gave up an average of 254.1. The friendly skies appear to be open for Kelsey Brown, Ace Sharpe and semi-final surprise star, TE Yaron Hammer.
On the other side of the ball, the matchup between the San Jose offense and Salt Lake defense yields similar but less pronounced matchup difficulties. In this case, HB Jimmy Hazzard and the run game likely hold the key for San Jose. The Flight have the 3rd ranked run game averaging 129.8 ypg. The Rustler D ranks 6th against the run allowing 114 ypg, that combination could prove ‘Hazzardous’ for Salt Lake’s D. Salt Lake has a slight advantage in the passing game where their 3rd ranked pass defense will face San Jose’s 6th ranked pass offense. Salt Lake allows only 219.3 ypg through the air while San Jose averages 219.3 ypg. While the ypg averages are the same, they mean vastly different things. Salt Lake’s number indicates a strength while San Jose’s number indicates somewhat of a weakness. That being said, with QB Joseph Green, WR Doug Spelling and WR Logan Strange, San Jose has weapons in the pass game.
On Special Teams Salt Lake has the advantage in the kicking game with Sunny Jay, while San Jose has a generic kicker. Sunny Jay came up huge against the Atoms with 4 FGs. #Kickers Matter is a thing! Could it come down to this matchup???
Best of Luck to both teams! Looking forward to the Championship Recap next week.