Pulling The Flag

The Quick Slant: OFL GW2

And that’s the game!

The OFL regular season is over after Sunday’s antics and boy was it a good day of football! With the exception of Reading Lions who didn’t show (Angry Kanye sends his regards) – everyone else showed up for hours and hours of fun. Here are some of the best bits!

Raptor Tendai Chieza making tackles! Photo by Rob Connor

Raptor Tendai Chieza making tackles! Photo by Rob Connor

Scratch teams are STILL AWESOME

The Raptors and Coyotes provided several opportunities once again to players who didn’t have a full side to play for and there were a series of standout moments:

Without a doubt one of the most entertaining games was the Manchester Crows – Rainford Brook Raptors game. The Crows had come off the back of a tight win against the West Essex Showboats, and controlled the first half of the game quite easily. But complacency creeped into their play, and with little time remaining, the Raptors had pulled the score back to 27-19 and regained possession. Driving up to just before the halfway line, they had the ball with 3 seconds to go and entered their final huddle for the game. Deciding to call upon the Tibbles on Tibbles connection, Matthew Tibbles took the snap, and sent youngest brother Sam Tibbles on a fade route along the right sideline, hitting him deep for a huge completion. The sideline erupted as Sam sprinted for the endzone before Crows safety Rob Connor made an incredible last ditch tackle to prevent one of the best finishes to a game I’ve ever seen since the Birmingham Lions scored a 2XP to level against the Phantoms in the final play of the game. Such was the drama of it all that Rob’s flag pull actually sent him running into the endzone, and the dropped flag over the plane left Raptors fans clinging on to dear hope before the referees finally ruled the play short. A truly mesmerising finish! Unfortunately there are no photos of this game as our super photographer was on the pitch making game saving tackles…

If you look REALLY hard.. you can see a bunch of Coyotes in the background! Photo by Rob Connor

If you look REALLY hard.. you can see a bunch of Coyotes in the background! Photo by Rob Connor

The Coyotes on the other hand decided not to leave such games to chance. Turning up with 6 Sheffield Vipers, and an Aylesbury Vale Spartan, the Coyotes went 2-1 on the day, allowing them to snatch a playoff spot from under the noses of the Coventry Cougars. With Keith Woodley and Ash Thackery, formerly of the Crows deemed surplus to requirements after their 3-0 start in GW1, (Ash was actually banned from the Crows for hoarding stats) their OFL experience led to some huge scores, including a 59-15 win over Titans Oceanus that involved Spartan Dan Benning nabbing a monster 6 TDs and an extra point. A loss to Chichester Sharks spoiled their day but a 2-1 record and a playoff spot secured, and the Coyotes can be very satisfied with their performance.

 

Conference Champions

Continuing from their great start in GW1, the Baker Street Buttonhookers’ high powered offence made mincemeat of most of their opponents, scoring 57, 44 and 39 points in their games. Lindsey Johnson led the defence from the blitzer position picking up several sacks on the day to break down offensive drives and was a menace. Vince Machi returned to play QB after being absent in GW1 and will be more than happy to see his team complete a 6-0 regular season to win the Bandit Flag Conference. QB’s Machi and Cougars’ James Ashmore competed for the best hips with some sickening moves to repel defensive players but the Hookers did enough to keep Ashmore’s agility at bay. The Chichester Sharks pushed them closest in their 39-32 win, but with a top seeding for the playoffs, Machi will surely be pleased with the day’s results.

Lindsay Johnson continuing to apply blitz pressure! Photo by Rob Connor

Lindsey Johnson continuing to apply blitz pressure! Photo by Rob Connor

Over in the Exile Flag Conference the Northants Titans Atlas took on a grueling 4 game schedule with a very limited team and ended with 4 wins, meaning they joined the Buttonhookers with a perfect 6-0 regular season. The Atlas continued their good form from GW1 by ending up with the distinction of being the highest scoring team in the OFL along with having the stingiest defence. QB Adam Grindrod capped the regular season with a huge 35 TDs to continue showing how much he has transformed the Atlas offence. The defence came up trumps in particular in the game against the Mansfield Honey Badgers, with 5 pick 6’s being scored to contribute to a 70-12 win. Atlas defensive player Ben Roberts contributed 3 of those to add even more stats to one of the best defensive rookie seasons no doubt seen in flag football. The big game to watch was the Manchester Crows – Atlas game, the final game of the day, with both teams on a 5-0 record up to that point.

Atlas QB Adam Grindrod lines up to fire! Photo by Rob Connor

Atlas QB Adam Grindrod lines up to fire! Photo by Rob Connor

The game was back and forth, and a hamstring injury to offensive star Connor Melay left Atlas with just 6 men playing their 4th game of the day. But with the game tight at 21-20, Dan Archibald eased pressure by grabbing a score in the final minutes, and the Atlas held out to win the conference.

 

3XP

With tensions high, and playoff spots to win, the 3XP was being utilised more and more, and this time, teams were successfully making it! Buttonhookers made one, while Neil Wymer will have added to his highlight reel with a big one for the Raptors, finding Bruno Bergamaschi. Titans Oceanus’ Luke Gambrill managed to find Josh Mould in the endzone to bring them some success as well and grab 3 points.

Luke Gambrill wants 3! Photo by Rob Connor

Luke Gambrill wants 3! Photo by Rob Connor

However, sometimes it doesn’t go to plan. Charlie Paterson hit Tom Wallis perfectly in normal play for a Honey Badgers score against the Northants Titans Atlas and elected to go for 3. A deep pass to Barbara Pellegrino was picked off by yours truly and I managed to relive pre-OFL days by returning it for my second career Pick 3. Right now that’s my standalone stat, I’m clinging to it for dear life!! The Coventry Cougars also failed to make a 3XP, but without such repercussions.

Pick 3! Photo by Rob Connor

Pick 3! Photo by Rob Connor

 

 

What down is it? 16th down! [Edited for clarity!]

The Manchester Crows took shot after shot during their winning drive against the West Essex Showboats as a number of penalties saw the Crows make use of a reported 16 downs to get the game winning score. At least they made it, right?

 

Emerging teams

The Coventry Panthers were fairly under the radar after an unspectacular 1-2 start in GW1 but they showed a much improved performance this week, recovering from an early 55-6 loss to the Titans Atlas to shut out the Raptors and even securing a huge win against the Mansfield Honey Badgers to end the day on a high. With Connor Baron dodging blitzers all day and the deceptive speed of Thomas Wale the Panthers have secured the highest wildcard seed from the Exile Flag Conference and will be hoping they can move on to steal a spot in the playoffs.

The Coventry Panthers celebrate their win over the Badgers. Photo by Rob Connor

The Coventry Panthers celebrate their win over the Badgers. Photo by Rob Connor

The Northants Titans Oceanus showed some promise too. They battled hard in an incredibly fiery Northants derby against the Aztecs, keeping the score to 14-13 in favour of the Aztecs at half time. But despite their age in years, the experience of the Aztecs won out when they kept their cool to keep firing until Oceanus ran out of steam. Lots of positives to take from the game though.

Northants Aztecs face Oceanus. Photo by Rob Connor

Northants Aztecs face Oceanus. Photo by Rob Connor

The Staffordshire Surge Academy continued to get more and more comfortable too, scoring 26 points in their final game of the day despite going 0-3. Carl Martin grabbed 4 TDs on the day and there were some excellent catches from many of the young players at times. I have no doubt that with consistency, they will be giving a few teams some very close games in the near future. Hopefully the wildcard weekend!

 

So where does this leave us?

With the regular season over, the top 3 teams in both conferences have secured spots in the playoffs. The remaining 4 teams in each conference will now go through to the wildcard weekend. Here are the fixtures:

 

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Coventry Panthers v Northants Titans Oceanus

Coventry Cougars v Staffordshire Surge Academy

Northants Aztecs v Rainford Brook Raptors

Mansfield Honey Badgers v Reading Lions

 

Honey Badgers big centre Tom Wallis goes up to grab the score against Atlas! Photo by Rob Connor

Honey Badgers’ big centre Tom Wallis goes up to grab the score against Atlas! Photo by Rob Connor

 

No doubt it’ll be a great weekend of football. Make your way down on Sunday 16th of October for all the wildcard action!

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