Written by Stefaun Forge
Thoughts From the Forge – Recapping the SFLm Championship
Welcome to Random Thoughts the Championship Review 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 the week after the Championship so I will be reviewing SFLm Championship Game. It appears that the “Curse of Stefaun” was averted in this game. (San Jose’s Offense might have a different view but I didn’t pick anything in the game. I just offered stats and facts. They were red-hot by the numbers coming in.)
After all the hype, all the drama, all the lead up, all the analysis, the SFLm Season 3 Championship Game was everything it could be and more. It gave us an unexpected treat – two games for the price of one.
The 1st half was one game. It was played on San Jose’s terms. Tough, hard-nosed, physical, and dominated by defense. The Flight checked the Rustlers offense at every turn and in every critical situation. Shutting them out for the entire half. The Rustler D answered the call as well, while maybe not as hyped a unit as San Jose, they matched the Flight haymaker for haymaker, allowing only a FG. Leaving the game 3-0 in the Flight’s favour at the half.
The second half was a whole new game. It was played more on Salt Lake’s terms as the Rustler passing game came to life. They began to find the cracks and crevices in a Flight D that had shown vulnerabilities to the pass. They began to move the ball with consistency and force. The Rustler offense, via the passing game, finally broke through with a TD in the 3rd quarter to take a 7-3 lead. San Jose’s offense did their best to answer but was not quite as fortunate as they struggled to put points on the board all night long. With the game still in the balance at 7-6 in the 4th quarter, the Rustlers took over and pulled out to a 17-6 lead. San Jose’s offense finally came to life and put a TD on the board with a little under 2 minutes to go. The 2 point try was no good, leaving the score at 17-12. The subsequent onside kick was recovered by the Rustlers who, in a plot twist, ground out the clock despite the Flight having all 3 of their timeouts and a stout run D. The Rustlers tacked on a late FG to make the final 20-12 and give Salt Lake its first SFLm Championship!
Interestingly, much of what was discussed in last week’s column came to pass in this matchup. The matchup between the Salt Lake Offense and the San Jose Defense did come down to QB Tommy Utah (23-34 260 1 TD and 1 Int) and the passing game, most notably Ace Sharpe. Sharpe had a monster day with 7-176-1. He was the point of the sword for the Rustler passing game. With Kelsey Brown the focus of the Flight pass D and held to 6-43 Sharpe stepped up and took advantage of more favorable coverage gouging out chunk after chunk including a 55 yd TD to give Salt Lake a lead they never lost. Brooke Beissel did break a big run. Her 34 yard gallop on a 2nd and 10 from the San Jose 43 was the key play that put Salt Lake in position for a FG to stretch the lead to 8, just in case craziness ensued, and run out all but a final few seconds. For much of the game she was contained and limited to bits and pieces gains (21-53 before the final run). She finished the day 22-87 on the ground and added 7 catches for 20 yards. FB Terrell Southerland added a surprise TD on a silky smooth 7 yard run. Surprise because FBs generally don’t see many carries and it definitely caught San Jose off guard.
On the other side of the ball in the matchup between the San Jose Offense and Salt Lake Defense HB Jimmy Hazzard was the key for the Flight. Hazzard, who is the most complete all around RB in the SFLm, got after the Rustler D both on the ground and through the air. Finishing 121 yards from scrimmage and the lone Flight TD. While he did finish with 87 yards rushing like Beissel, he added 13 catches for 34 yards and a TD. On a few plays he was one step away and was always dynamic and Hazzardous despite being a focus of the Salt Lake D. The San Jose passing game came out strong early but couldn’t sustain it. QB Joseph Green had a solid game (30-42 191-1 TD and 1 Int) but his longest pass was only 16 yards and almost half his completions (13) were check downs to Jimmy Hazzard. While getting the ball in Hazzard’s hands is never a bad idea given his ability, the explosive down the field plays were noticeably absent from the Flight passing game. WR Doug Spelling was Green’s other favorite target and he spelled success as he usually does with 11-104. The problem was after Hazzard and Spelling, no other Flight receiver had more than 2 catches. Logan Strange was strangely silent (2-14) and had a couple tough drops. In the end the equal 219.3 per game averages between San Jose’s O and Salt Lake’s D in the passing game played out exactly to their vastly different meanings unfortunately for the Flight.
On Special Teams Salt Lake had the advantage in the kicking game with player K Sunny Jay over San Jose and a generic kicker. Sunny Jay appeared to be a victim of the Curse of Stefaun early on as he missed his first FG attempt after last week’s stellar performance. He rebounded though to kick 2 very important FGs and 2 XPs in a game where points were at a premium. San Jose K had the only score of the game in the first half with a FG and added a 2nd FG to pull the Flight within a point in during the 2nd half. Both kickers had solid performances but if it had come down to it, I would say most would probably have preferred to have Sunny in the clutch.
It was a great game! Congratulations to Salt Lake on the Championship win and hats off the San Jose for a valiant, never say die effort. As a narrator on NFL Films once said about a close Super Bowl. “They were no losers in this game. Only the Victors and the Vanquished.”
Best of luck to all my fellow SFLmers in the upcoming Draft. It’s our time! Carpe Diem is here! Are you ready?