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Introduction

Hello!

I am long-time technical writer who also happens to be an American Football coach.
I have written technical documentation in the computer industry for over 30 years
and have coached American Football at the high school level for 15 years and in
the Finnish Maple League last year – all on the defensive side of the ball.

During 2013 and 2014, I joined my son, Charlie, coaching American Football in Seinajoki
Finland. Seinajoki has a professional American Football team that has played since
The team is named the Seinajoki Crocodiles. The highest level of play in Finland is called the Maple League. This league contains 8 teams. Four of the teams make the playoffs at the end of the season in a bracketed playoff structure that consists of two semi-final games and then concludes with the Maple Bowl for the championship of Finland. Besides the Crocodiles, Seinajoki has levels of American Football that include many youth levels and even a professional women’s team. Finland’s Maple league is in its 35th year this year.

For the upcoming 2015 season we have signed on with the Warsaw Sharks in Poland. I will be updating the blog to cover that new adventure in Poland. Currently, the blog documents and shares my experiences during the last two years Finland, which ran from 1 May into September of 2014. Check out the categories to the right to see various groupings by topic. I hope you enjoy reading about what it is like for an American to live, work, and coach in Seinajoki Finland. I hope you will stay tuned for the posts from Poland.

Best,
Scott

Crocs 7 – Trojans 28

10 September 2014

Last Sunday the Seinäjoki Crocodile Maple League American Football season came to an abrubt end. We faced off in Turku against the Trojans in the semi-final game featuring the number two and three seeds. This was the third time we had played the Trojans and in short, as with the previous two meetings, we were unable to contain them or to move the ball on them. As noted in the title… the final was 28 to seven.

Charlie Scott

For as long as I have coached, I have never gotten used to how a season ends when a team that has reached the playoffs loses. In any league, once the playoffs are reached, only one team ends with a victory. The rest have the door slammed on them when the final gun sounds. That feeling is abrupt and has the sting of finality. I suppose it is because you invest so much energy and emotion into the long months of preparing, analyzing, scheming, practicing and playing. And then, in a blink, the lights are turned out. For me, it takes several days to digest it and wrap my head around the end of it and move on. This season was no different.

Pisto Aki

Every entry in this blog regarding a game has been written to follow the contest from the opening kickoff to the final whistle. I am breaking form with this entry and will simply summarize the contest. I don’t seem to have the energy or the patience to work through each play and relive the loss in its entirety. It will be painful enough to have to relive the quarters. Thus, I will try to capture the flow in four segments.

Before jumping into the game, however, I need to say that the Crocodile players throughout the season displayed tremendous heart and desire. Winning this game was not for lack of passion. The team left everything on the field…they gave every ounce of their being to win this game. I have been with the organization for two seasons now and they truly are a family whose members have each other’s backs and have a common goal and drive. I won’t be back next year but wish everyone who does return the best of luck and success in 2015.

cheerleaders Epee

For those of you that really want the details, you can go here and scroll down and read the play-by-play results for every snap of the ball.

We won the coin toss and elected to receive. During the quarter, we had two offensive possessions and the Trojans were on their second as the quarter ended. Our first series produced nothing but Spencer taking the field to punt. The Trojans, responded with a short drive to within field goal range. The defense blocked the attempt. We took over and produced our only scoring drive. We took the ball from our own 34-yard line into the endzone with a 29-yard touchdown pass from Webster to Cutlan. The quarter ended with The Trojans on our 15-yard line and still in possession – Crocs seven and Trojans zero.

hp Juhani

To start the second quarter, the Trojans completed their second series in our endzone on a 15-yard scoring pass over the middle. They also scored again on their third possession with a 36-yard touchdown pass. Their final possession of the quarter ended in a second blocked field goal attempt. Offensively, we failed to move the ball given three separate series. Each ended without a single first down – Crocs seven and Trojans 15 due to a blocked extra point attempt that was ruled a fumble was snatched up by the Trojans and taken in for a two-point conversion.

At halftime, we were still in the game. The defense had played gutsy. The scores had been because of a few breakdowns in assignments. The offense, outside of that first scoring series, simply could not move the ball.

Jari Yarno

We kicked off to start the second half and shut down the Trojan offense with a forced punt. The offense committed its first turnover on a third down with a Webster interception to give the ball back to the Trojans. We returned the favor by getting our own interception to shut them off during their second series. The offense took the field and was forced to punt on fourth down. The next series for the Trojans was all Jocques Crawford. They rode him during the entire drive to get their third score. This drive turned out to be the only drive that relied on the running game. We took the kickoff and again were punting after three short downs. The Trojan offense took over and drove from their 45-yard line to our 18-yard line when the quarter ended. The critical play was a 30-yard completion on a third and 16-yard situation. We dropped coverage in man and they found a receiver all by himself down the sideline – Crocs seven and Trojans 21.

Riku Jussi

The Trojans started the final period with a completed scoring drive and then converting on the extra point. That score pushed it to Trojans 28 and Crocs seven, which ended up being the final. On our next offensive series, we did manage a couple first downs before missing on a fourth and 9-yard pass attempt. The defense pulled off another take-away by forcing and recovering a fumble on the next series from the Trojans. We turned right around, though, and threw a second interception. The pick gave the Trojans possession on our own 28-yard line. The defense held though and got the ball back on downs when the Trojans could not convert on a fourth down play. Webster and the offense gave the ball up a third time with another interception with 4:42 remaining. The defense again held and forced the Trojans to punt. We had a nice return of 44 yards. In just two plays, Webster threw his fourth interception. The final drive of the Trojans consisted of their reserve players and started from their own one-yard line. They managed to get to their 19-yard line where they fumbled the ball. We had our third take-away. With just a minute and 19 seconds remaining, we had time for a short completed pass and the fifth interception. The Trojans kneeled the ball out to end the game – Crocs seven and Trojans 28.

Paavo Timo

We had had a great week of practice going into this game and had admittedly hung our hopes offensively on the pass. The fact of the matter was we had no running game. We had lost both our running backs mid-season to broken bones. So, we had pinned our ability to score on the pass. There is no doubt in my mind that the Trojans spent the entire week working on defending the pass just as we had spent the entire week on defending the Trojan running game. And in the end, the Trojans actually beat us with the pass as they picked up all but one score by using either a pass directly or indirectly to set up the score.

In order to win a championship you need to be able to run, pass and defend and get some breaks somewhere down the line. We were never able to put it all together.

Here are some links:

Mid-week pre-game interview with me.

Mid-week pre-game interview with Charlie.

Pre-game article from Croc site.

Pre-game article from Trojan site.

Post-game article from Croc site.

Photos from our great team photographer and media correspondent O-M Matihalti.

Crocs 40 – Indians 13

3 September 2014

Last Sunday we travelled to Kuovalo to play the Indians in our final regular season game. The game’s outcome was meaningless for both us and the Indians. This particular game happened to be the very last game of the Maple League as the other eight teams had wrapped up their regular seasons on Friday and Saturday. Consequently, the fat lady had sung and the magical conditions that we needed to get that number two playoff seed had not materialized.

As I mentioned last week, the Turku Trojans needed to defeat the Helsinki Roosters in their final game and we would need to beat the Indians in order to get the number two seed. We did our part but the Roosters managed a win over Turku. Thus, Turku and the Crocs ended up with identical records of eight wins and two losses with Turku winning the head-to-head tie breaker over the Crocs. So, the seedings for the short playoff bracket ended up as Roosters at nine and one, Turku at eight and two, Crocs at eight and two, and the Poorvo Butchers at five and five. We really missed out on an opportunity by losing to the Butchers. Had we picked up that home game win we would have finished in the number one seed for the playoffs because we would have won the head-to-head tie breaker against the Roosters.

JP poster standings2

Back on the Fourth of July, we had our opening home game against the Indians and beat them 42 to 10. During that game, the Indians featured a talented, quick Quarterback Jeremy Dixon. However, Dixon evidently became too frustrated with the team and its lack of success and for reasons only he would know left the organization mid-season. The Indians were able to replace him with Phillip Garcia who is out of Tabor College in Kansas and possessed good passing skills along with a bigger frame. He did not have the scrambling ability of a Dixon but would be hard to bring down at 225 pounds.

Another Indian import player from the USA was Joe Benedetti out of Salisbury College in Maryland. Joe was a strong runner that provided the bulk of the ground game for the Indians.

Rounding out the American imports for the Indians was Kristof Schroeder from Puget Sound College in the state of Washington. Kristof stood at six three and weighed in at 225 pounds. Kristof’s home town was West Linn Oregon and he played both wide receiver and defensive end for the Indians.

Because the outcome of this game would not alter our playoff seeding, we decided to rest some key players. Roman Runner, our Safety and wide receiver, would be taking the afternoon off. Also, Juhani Koivumäki, who is another safety and had been getting some carries at tailback, would also rest. Initially, we were going to rest Gerald Gooden our defensive end, but he insisted that he wanted to play so we let him.

Shortly before 4PM and after the introductions, the captains met at mid-field and the coin toss was made. We won the flip but decided to defer. Predictably, the Indians chose to receive. The offense had not looked good during pre-game so Charlie told me he wanted the defense to take the field first in hopes that they would get some energy going. As it turned out, the defense was flat for the entire first half.

Croc Captains Indian Captains

Spencer Cutlan lined up to kick the ball off and it was taken around the 10-yard line. The return was down the right sideline to the 35-yard line where he was forced out of bounds.

The Indian offense opened with a quick bubble pass to the right. Doc, our corner, came up hard and stopped it immediately for a loss. The Indians followed this with a short Quarterback option for a yard and then an incomplete slant pass. With a fourth down and 11-yard situation, their punt unit took the field. A bit of confusion for the Indians resulted in a five-yard illegal participation penalty due to 12 men on the field. The punt got away the next play. Tachu took the punt in the air and managed a short return to set up the Croc offense on their own 44-yard line.

With a first down the Indians still were confused and had 12-men on the field for defense. This penalty set us up with a first down and five-yard situation. We picked up a new first down on the back of Teemu Ivalo our fullback. He managed a four-yard run and then picked up a 10-yard rush on a third and short. Doug Webster hit Cutlan on a swing pass for a gain of seven. On the next play, the Indians flushed Doug from the pocket and he scrambled down the left side and got inside the 20-yard line before being knocked out of bounds. The offense had another new set of downs.

From the 19-yard line, Webster found Cutlan again on the swing pass and he was forced out on the 11-yard line. Teemu picked up a short gain and Doug followed that with a corner pass to Cutlan in the back of the endzone. Cutlan made a brilliant catch for the touchdown. Vili Rajamäki lined up for the point after and made the score Crocs seven and Indians zero.

Crocs tackle 1 Cutlan TD

The kickoff unit took the field and Cutlan’s kick was out of bounds. The Indians opted to take the ball on their own 35-yard line. Benedetti took the handoff and hit the right side for a pick-up of nine yards. After an incomplete pass, Benedetti took the ball again to the left side. We had an outside blitz called that somehow did not get communicated to our blitzing linebacker. This resulted in our Defensive End, Gooden, slanting hard to the inside with no linebacker on the outside. As it happened, the play was right at that point so the lane was open. Benedetti had a clear lane to our 43-yard line giving the Indians a new set of downs. Three incomplete passes later the Indians were punting again. They got off a good punt that rolled to our three-yard line where it was downed.

Deep in our own territory, Doug handed the ball off to Tachu, who was getting some time at tailback. He picked up a nice gain of eight yards. On second down, Doug threw a quick slant over the right side to Kris Kougia, who dropped the pass. The next play was not executed well. There was confusion on the handoff and Doug and Tachu collided in the backfield, which resulted in a six-yard loss. Cutlan took the field to punt from within our own endzone. Spencer managed a 41-yard punt that went out of bounds denying the return.

Benedetti Run Cutlan Punt

The Indians took over on our own 46-yard line with 3:46 remaining in the first quarter. After two short gains Garcia hit Heinisalo on a nice 19-yard seam pass down to the Croc 34-yard line. On second down and 10, Garcia dropped to pass and threw to Moore down the right sideline on a comeback route. The refs swallowed the flag on an obvious push-off by Moore against Doc our corner. The Indians picked up a first down on the play. From the 24-yard line on second down, Garcia once again found Moore. This time it was down the left seam. We had no safety in the area and Moore reeled in a nice one-handed catch for a 22-yard touchdown pass. The Indians converted on the point after to tied the score with sevens.

Our kick return unit took the field and fielded the kick in the air on the 10-yard line. Simo Suurkuukka took the ball and broke a tackle to get to the sideline. He got a nice 42-yard return before being forced out at the Indian 48-yard line.

The Croc offense found the endzone in three plays. From third down and six yards to go, Doug dropped and rolled out of the pocket to the right. He found a streaking Kougia down the right side for the 45-yard fade. Vili hit the extra point to give the Crocs a 14 to seven lead barely into the second quarter.

Garcia Throw Kris TD

Cutlan kicked off to the Indian 15-yard line. The ball was returned 22 yards out to the 37-yard line. On first down, Benedetti took the handoff and headed left. We missed in space from the safety position and he picked up an 18-yard gain to the Croc 45-yard line. Garcia followed this up with a short six-yard completion and then a run for five yards getting down to the 34-yard line. On second down and nine to go from the 33-yard line, Benedetti lined up to take the snap. He took off around the left side and we played horribly. Our backer lost the edge, our play-side safety overran the play, and our back-side safety didn’t even begin running until it was too late. Benedetti scored on the rush – a 33-yard play. The point after was wide right making the score Crocs 14 and Indians 13. At this point, the defense was uninspiring at best.

Benedetti TD run Indian extra point

The Indians came out and attempted an onside kick. The kick itself was perfect and they recovered the ball. However, they were offsides, which forced them to re-kick. They booted it deep this time to the Croc 22-yard line where it went out of bounds. The net result gave us the ball on our own 40-yard line.

We were immediately hit with a false-start penalty for five yards giving us a first and 15 from our 35-yard line. On second down and 13 to go, Doug threw to Simo down the left side. The Indian cornerback played nice coverage and the ball was overthrown. For some reason, the ref deemed it defensive pass interference. In my opinion, the call was a gift as on film you could see no infraction. Crocs had the ball first and 10 on the Indian 48-yard line.

With a new set of downs, Doug dropped to pass and was flushed from the pocket to the right. He scrambled 10 yards for a first down. On the next play, he found Cutlan on the seam route to the left. Spencer made the catch and caused the safety to miss in space. The play resulted in a 37-yard touchdown completion. We lined up for the point after. The snap appeared good but the hold was botched. Vili missed the kick to give the Crocs a 20 to 13 advantage with 6:45 remaining in the half.

Cutlan TD cut Cutlan TD celebrat

Spencer kicked deep and the return was short giving the Indians the ball on their own 20-yard line. The Indians strung together a 12-play drive that got down to our 18-yard line. During the drive, Garcia hit Heinisalo in the middle for a 19-yard completion. Garcia also connected with Benedetti for 11-yards during which we missed three tackles. Another highlight play was a 33-yard catch by Moore over Doc and Tachu. That play was a good pass and a good catch. It was that play that set the Indians up on our 13-yard line. From there, the Indians stalled out in the air. Crocs took over with a minute and 26 seconds on their own 18-yard line due in part to an Indian penalty on that last set of downs.

With little time, the offense managed to move the ball out to the Croc 34-yard line with a pass to Rajamäki and a nice rush by Ivalo. Time expired in the half with the Crocs on top 20 to 13.

Moore fade over doc Teemu run

We decided to go back to the locker room, which was close, for halftime. We cleared up some confusion for covering the Indian quad receiver set and then got settled down from a pretty poor defensive performance. I was confident that we would play much better during the second half and assured the unit that we would win this game. We just had to settle down and play defense as we were capable.

The second half started with a short kickoff into a “hole” around the 30-yard line. We fell on the ball and downed it giving us a first down on our 31-yard line.

The offense took the field and was three and out. Two short gains by Ivalo and an incomplete pass that was low forced a punt. Cutlan got off a 36-yarder to the Indian 28-yard line where Doc downed the ball.

The Indians managed to get a third down and 2-yard situation but then missed on a bubble pass to the right that sailed high. Despite being on their own 36-yard line, they lined up to go for the first down. Garcia dropped to pass but found no open receiver. He tried to scramble vertical out the front of the pocket but was dropped short of the first down. Crocs took over on the Indian 28-yard line.

croc tackle Garcia dropped

The next offensive series saw the Crocs commit the first turnover of the game. We got hit with Doug throwing the ball after he had crossed the line of scrimmage on first down. Then, from first and 15-yards to go, Doug hit Suurkuukka on a nice screen to the left. Simo picked up 19 on the run to get the first down. Ivalo took the ball up the middle on the next play and it was popped free. The Indians recovered on their own five yard line.

The defense took the field for the second series of the half. Again, we stepped up and forced a punt in three plays. The punt was 45 yards to the Indian 46-yard line and out of bounds.

Teemu Fumble croc pressure

During the next offensive series, Ivalo churned out consecutive rushes that totaled 15 yards. The Indians were tagged with a defensive holding penalty on the next play that was a pass to Simo Suurkuukka that took the ball down to the Indian 21-yard line. Ivalo hit the ground again this time for 11 yards giving the offense a first and goal from the 10-yard line. Webster missed on the first and goal and then we were hit with a false-start penalty giving us a second and goal from the 15-yard line. Webster dropped again and tried to find Simo in the left corner. The ball was low and uncatchable. From third and goal, Webster found Kris Kougia in the right corner where he made a nice leaping catch over the corner for the score. Vili hit the point after to give the Crocs a 17 to 13 lead.

Cutlan lined up to kick and put it out of bounds again. His kicking was off today due to some foot issues we found out later after the game. The Indians took over on their own 35-yard line. The defense took the field and shut the Indians down again in three plays. We were looking like a much better defensive unit this second half. The ensuing punt was blocked by Gerald Goodena and the ball fell into the arms of Ashley Dewing who advanced it 11 yards. The offense took over on the Indian 31-yard line with 2:20 remaining in the third quarter.

Kris TD 2 Blocked punt

The offense turned up only six yards in three plays and were looking at a fourth down and four from the Indian 25-yard line. Doug dropped back and found a wide open Vili to the right on an out route. He made the catch putting the Crocs on the Indian 10-yard line with a first down. Ivalo took the ball on first down and picked up five as the quarter ended. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Doug rolled right and found Cutlan in the front corner of the endzone for the score on a 5-yard completion. We set up for the point after. With our regular snapper out with a hamstring, the snap came in high. Vili missed on the point after and the score was Crocs 33 and Indians 13.

We turned the kickoff duties over to Vili due to Spencer’s foot issue. Vili kicked to the Indian twenty and Benedetti returned it 14 yards to the Indian 34-yard line. On first down, Garcia dropped to pass and we got some great pressure from both Thomas Malagodi and Ashley Dewing. Thomas dropped Garcia for a nine-yard loss. Garcia missed on the second down but then connected deep to Moore for 35-yards over the middle. The ball was badly underthrown and Moore was the only one that came back on the ball. During the next series, Garcia took the ball up the middle twice to set up a third down and short situation. On third down, he found Benedetti in the flat for a completion that got them the first down on the Croc 29-yard line. With a set of new downs, Garcia dropped to pass once again. He scrambled and under extreme pressure ended up throwing the ball away to the right. On the next and final play of the drive, he looked deep to the endzone and badly underthrew the pass. Our corner, Jussi Koivumäki, came up on the pass and got the pick giving the offense the ball on the Croc seven-yard line.

Cutlan celebrate 1 Jussi

The offense took over and could not get a first down in three plays. Looking at a fourth and one from the 16-yard line, Charlie decided to take a shot at converting. He later told me he saw the weak point that would get us the first. Doug took the snap after a hard count of three and split the A gap for a sneak. The play popped for 63 yards with Doug being drug down from behind. Crocs had the ball with a new set of downs on the Indian 21-yard line.

With fresh downs, Ivalo took the ball for five yards and then Doug on a third down play found Cutlan once again for the score. Spencer had run a post that flattened out around the 10-yard line and then got the ball into the endzone. The extra point unit put together a good snap, hold, and kick to push the score to Crocs 40 and Indians 13 with 4:54 remaining in the game.

Doug sneak Teemu run 2

Vili kicked to the Indian 13-yard line and Moore returned it 13 out to the 26. The defense shut down the Indians in three again for what turned out to be their last offensive series. They punted the ball 44 yards and it seemed that the ball would be downed. I recall seeing this from the sideline and it was odd at best. After being kicked, Tachu came up on the ball but could not field it so passed it by as the ball continued to roll. The Indians got lazy and did not keep track of Tachu or immediately down the ball. Tachu basically sneaked up from behind and scooped the ball off the grass and took off. Everyone had given up on the play assuming the ball had been downed. By the time it was over, Tachu had netted himself a 43-yard return to the Indian 30-yard line.

The Croc offense got off three more plays before taking the knee to run the game out on the Indian 17-yard line. Final score was Crocs 40 and Indians 13.

charlie and vili Scott on sideline

We had started this game out with no inspiration. The situation was that the result of the game had been meaningless. Winning or losing did not change our playoff situation and the Indians had not won a single game all year. This was probably the biggest factor in our lacklustre start. Regardless, the final game of the year was complete and in the books. We had ended with an eight and two record at the number three seed for the playoffs. We would be travelling to Turku to attempt the Trojans for the third time this year not having had any success yet with that team.

Here are some links for the game:

Game Statistics.

Pictures from touchdown.fi. Credit to photographers from that site for many of the images used here.

Post-game article from Croc site.

Pictures from O-M Matihalti’s Facebook picture collection. Credit to O-M for many of the images in this article.

Crocs 13 – 69ers 6

27 August 2014

Last Saturday the Crocs concluded the last game of a three-game home stretch by playing the Helsinki 69ers. This was the second time we faced off against that team having beat them 31 to zero on July 20th in the Velodrome. That game for the 69ers I believe was a low-point for their season as they really struggled. Their net offense against us was minus 19 yards. Since that game, however, the organization made some changes and had done a great job of turning things more to the positive side. The biggest change they made was adding Charles McCrea. I usually put up a link to top players that just sort of cover their bio but Charles is a special running back. He actually played for the Crocodiles in 2009. Here is a link to an interview with him that talks about his first European American football experience. Anyway, from the skills standpoint, Charles is fast and versatile. He can run the football and he can pass the football. Adding him alone made the 69ers a much better football team. Consequently, Head Coach Charlie was pretty clear about this 69er team being a totally different team now than the one we dominated back in July.

The game turned out to be a defensive battle and a struggle for us. It was not decided until the last 69er series in the fourth quarter. We did get the win though and that was the critical part for our push towards getting into the Maple Bowl on September 13th. As I wrote last week, the loss to the Butchers a couple games ago took control away from us regarding our shot at a number one seed in the playoffs. We now needed to win out and have some help from the Turku Trojans who face off against the Helsinki Roosters as their final home game. If the Trojans can defend their home field and beat the Roosters, then we will secure a number two seed and have a home semi-final playoff game. If the Roosters win or we somehow lose our final game next week against the Kouvola Indians we will be seeded third and have to play a semi-final game on the road. Below are the Maple League standings with all teams playing nine of the 10 regular season games.

poster standings1

The state of our roster was, as usual, shaken up a bit. This game we would be missing our big nose tackle Thomas Malagodi who was back in the UK to complete some school testing that he was not able to do remotely. In addition to that, we lost JP Hyvönen (another defensive linemen) to a rolled ankle. Finally, top that off with our Swedish defensive end Oskar Karlsson would be playing but was also nursing a rolled ankle from the week’s prior game against the Wolverines. The good news was we were seeing the return of Tobias Mäki one of our linebackers we lost early in the season to a broken bone in his hand. Tobi had been out for around six or seven weeks. Of course, we still did not have our two running backs that started the season with us. Both Mika Nissinen and VP Jaakonsaari were out due to a broken fibula and collar bone, respectively.

Kickoff was set for 4PM as usual and the weather was cloudy and a bit rainy. It had been raining quite a bit over the past couple of weeks with many days having lightning storms. We had even seen some good hail storms. The summer days were definitely gone and the temperatures and weather had moved firmly into what I guess would be called Fall here. I am not sure if they look at the year having four seasons. They could just have two seasons — cold and not-so-cold.

The introductions took place about 20 minutes before the coin toss. As usual, both teams line up facing the home stands. Because it is a home game, our players come through the giant inflatable crocodile in the corner of the playing field. Today, Juhani Koivumäki gave the photographers and team a little extra showmanship as he flipped through the teeth of the beast. We won the coin toss and elected to receive.

Juhani flip entrance captains

We lined up and the kick was away to our 18-yard line. Tachu Orue couldn’t field it and the ball rebounded off his leg and went out of bounds at the 20-yard line. Not the best special teams play. The offense managed nothing and were punting after three plays as the result of two incomplete passes and a short six-yard rush by Spencer Cutlan.

The defense took the field for the first time at the 69er 39-yard line. Jason Thomas, player coach at 43 years old, lined up in the shotgun to start the drive. The 69ers orchestrated a long 13-play drive down to our 39-yard line where they were faced with a third down and 14-yard situation due in part to a holding penalty. Their drive consisted of solid plays of which none were remarkable – simple, methodical plays that kept the ball moving forward. From third down, Johnson took the snap and dropped to pass. He couldn’t find any open receivers and was flushed out of the pocket to the left. We had some good pressure on him as he scrambled. The play ended with a that came from the backside from a hustling Karlsson who had been cut on the rush but had gotten up and chased down Thomas from the backside. Karlsson got a swipe on the ball and knocked it loose. Mika Mäkelä, our middle linebacker, recovered the fumble.

Tachu KO return Oskar fumble force

Webster and the offense took over on the Croc 36-yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, Doug dropped to pass and the 69er defensive secondary had our receivers well covered. Doug pushed a pass over the middle and a sitting middle linebacker picked the ball. The 69ers had the ball back at the 50-yard line and the defense had to immediately take the field with just a short break.

The second drive for the 69er offense was eight plays. On the first set of downs, Thomas converted on a quarterback sneak play to move the chains to the Croc 40-yard line. After a short one-yard rush by McCrea, we got hit with back-to-back penalties that gave the 69ers a first and goal from our six-yard line. The first penalty was on Tachu who the referee deemed a bit late on a big hit on a crossing receiver. The hit was clean and hard but perhaps a bit late. That cost us 15 yards. On the very next play Doc, our left corner, was flagged for a pass interference on a fade route down the right side of the field.

With a fresh set of downs the 69ers went to work. Thomas missed on first and second downs and lined up for the third down. The snap was bad and Thomas had to retreat to gather it in. That bad snap disrupted the entire play and caused Thomas to have to scramble to the right. He ended up throwing the ball away and was flagged for intentional grounding. The 69ers lined up to attempt a 41-yard field goal. The kick was well short and the defense bent but did not break for the second long series in a row. Croc ball on their 30-yard line.

69er pick Joni tacking

The offense again was three-and-out. The play that killed the drive was a second down and 10-yard situation where Doug was sacked for 10 yards. That put us in a hole from which we could not recover. With a fourth down and 16 yard situation, Spencer took the field to punt again. Spencer got off a good high punt and our gunners did a great job at dropping the return man immediately after the catch on the 69er 30-yard line.

Thomas and the 69ers went to McCrea on first down but he managed only a two-yard gain. Thomas then completed a couple passes but the net yardage was zero. They lined up to punt. It was nice to see the defense have a shorter time on the field during this series as they were on the field most of the first quarter.

Bell was set deep to punt and got the ball off. The kick actually slammed into the back of one of the 69er protectors in front of him. To us, it looked like we had blocked the punt but they had actually kicked it off of one of their own players. The ball bounced out of bounds at the 69er 26-yard line.

Doug sacked 69er getting tackled

With excellent field position, we still could not get going offensively. This play was punctuated by a fumble from Spencer Cutlan that resulted from a bad exchange between him and Doug in the backfield. This play set up a fourth and 10-yard situation from the original 26-yard line. After calling a timeout, we brought out the field goal unit to attempt the 43-yard kick. Spencer had the leg but the timing for the snap was off and the net result was a kick that sailed wide.

The defense took over and shut down the 69er offense again in three plays. Bell lined up to punt again. This time he got the punt off. Roman Runner fielded the kick in the air and picked up a nice 15-yard return to the Croc 49-yard line.

Croc FG Crocs tackling

The offense took the field and popped out two nice rushing plays. Cutlan took the first around the left side and made a nice mid-run cut to the sideline followed up by a good stiff arm to knock out 27 yards. Teemu Ivalo, our fullback, then pounded out an eight-yard gain up the middle. This set up the final play of the drive, which was a great play-action pass from Webster to Runner in the left corner of the endzone. Cutlan hit the extra point and we were finally on the board with 7:45 remaining in the half.

We kicked short and nearly recovered our own kick in the hole. Doc could not quite manage it though as he attempted to bat the ball back into play. The ball went out of bounds giving the 69er offense position on their own 39-yard line. McCrea rushed for seven yards but that was nearly erased with a false-start penalty on the next play. The 69ers rushed for a three-yard gain and then missed on a third-down passing play. Bell lined up to punt again. The punt was a good one down to the Croc 16-yard line. Roman did a great job of retreating and fielding the ball in the air to save some field position. Crocs had the ball on their own 16-yard line.

Runner TD catch Croc gang tackline

The offense struggled from here. The first play stuck them five yards deeper as a result of false-start penalty. Three successive rushing plays pushed us even further back to our own six-yard line. We lined up to punt from our own endzone. Cutlan got the punt away and it was fielded at mid-field. McCrea returned it 15 yards to the Croc 35-yard line. Two minutes and 40 seconds remained in the half.

The 69er offense did themselves no favors by getting hit with two holding penalties during their drive. They ended up having to punt the ball away. Bell kicked away and Roman fielded the punt and got 13 yards out of the return to place the ball at the Croc 33-yard line.

On the first play of the drive, Webster hit Vili Rajamäki on a quick slant route to the left. Unfortunately, Vili bobbled the catch and took a shot in the process. The ball popped up and forward. McCrea, from the safety position seemed to gather it in before it hit the ground. Confusion reined afterwards as our sideline judge clearly indicated that the pass was incomplete. However, in the end it was ruled an interception.

69er penalties vili hit on catch

With 54 seconds remaining in the first half, the 69ers took over on the Croc 47-yard line. Thomas opened up by hitting RJ Long for a nine-yard completion. Unfortunately, we were hit with a face-masking penalty on the tackle. That catch and the added penalty yardage put the 69er offense on our own 17 yard line. Thomas took the ball himself and picked up three yards on the carry. After a 69er timeout, we were hit with an encroachment penalty. There was nothing obvious about the infraction so we must have lined up in the neutral zone. With five seconds on the clock and the 69ers pushing at us from our own nine-yard line, Thomas took the snap and dropped to pass. They had lined up with three wide receivers (trips) to the right and a lone receiver to their left where Tachu was tasked with man coverage. The receiver ran a quick slant to the inside and Tachu managed to get some part of the ball to cause it to hit the ground in the process of being caught. The referees ruled it incomplete and the call was heavily argued by the 69ers. The half ended with the Crocs leading seven to zero.

halftime Scott sideline

During half we gathered the defense and encouraged them to keep doing what they were doing. We had played a good solid half of defensive football. We showed a lot of patience and composure to hang in there for several long drives while not allowing a score. It was the “bend-but-don’t-break” mentality and that is how we played that half.

We took the field after half and lined up to kick the ball to the 69ers. Cutlan kicked another “hole” kick and a big defensive lineman signalled a fair catch and gathered it in. The 69er offense took over on their own 38-yard line.

The drive was nine plays long and got the 69ers to about mid-field. The highlight of the drive for us was a 12-yard sack by our defensive end Gerald Gooden. Gooden just out-played the offensive tackle resulting in great penetration. His quickness overwhelmed Thomas and Gooden dropped him at the 69er 48-yard line. This put the punt team on the field. Runner fielded the punt and found some space on the sideline to run. He took a really hard shot from Bell to knock him out of bounds at the Croc 49-yard line.

The offense immediately went South with a holding call followed by a false-start penalty. We were looking at first down and 24-yards from our own 35-yard line. By fourth down we were within seven. We brought in Cutlan to punt the ball away. Cutlan got off a great punt that rolled down to the 69er two-yard line where we downed the ball.

Gooden sack punt downed

The 69er offense went to work from deep in their own territory. Despite putting pressure on them, they managed to move the chains and get a first down to give themselves some breathing room. On second down, Thomas connected with Winston for 12 more yards. On the next set of downs from shotgun and split backs, Thomas handed the ball off to Bell for an ISO play off our right side. Unfortunately, we had a Mike Backer blitz called and our play-side backer was cut well by the leading blocking back. This popped Bell into our second-tier of the defense. Roman finally brought him down after Bell had picked up 18 yards. A short pass later was followed by McCrea popping off an 11-yard carry to the Croc 41-yard line. The 69ers had a decent drive going not seen since the first quarter. Two rushing plays later put the 69er offense at third and seven yards to go from our own 37-yard line. Thomas dropped to pass and threw quick to the seam route. Roman Runner read the pass and jumped it for the interception. He quickly split the few remaining 69er offensive players and was headed untouched for the endzone.

During the return, Ashley Dewing one of our interior lineman, cut back and literally “nudged” a big offensive lineman that was about five yards behind Roman. The man went down and decided not to get up. All eyes had been on Roman and the return so for all practical purposes it appeared that Ashley had blocked back and “cheap-shotted” a 69er during the return. That was what was being screamed out after the play had ended. Drama was added to the chaos as the lineman laid there on the ground unable to rise up for a long while. The referees conferred and decided that it was an illegal block worthy of tossing Ashley out of the game. He was told to immediately leave the game and sideline. The touchdown return was cancelled giving us the ball on our 40-yard line. We all had “advise” for Ashley (me included) for making a bad block that wasn’t needed. Later, however, after examining the play on film, we determined exactly what had happened. The “block” was really basically a small collision, which was in fact entirely legal as it was in the face of the lineman. Additionally, the play was well within “concerned” distance of the runner Roman being only about five yards ahead of the play. I suspect that nobody really saw the play and judgements were made on reactions from the 69er bench and on-field players. We sent the play on to the league moguls and learned later that Ashley would not be prohibited from playing in our next upcoming game.

The offense took the field and put together a great drive that spanned 10 plays culminating in a Webster to Rajamäki 17-yard scoring pass over the middle. Doug dropped in a nice pass over the defender who was caught too far up when Vili had run a delayed hitch route before getting into the endzone.

During the first half, we had lost Juhani to a pulled hamstring. Juhani is our snapper for both field goals and punts. Compounding that was the fact that Ashley, who had been ejected, was our back-up snapper. Because of this, we opted to go for the 2-pt. conversion after the touchdown. During the attempt, Doug had been quickly flushed out of the pocket to the right and ended up having to throw the ball out of bounds. Crocs 13 and 69ers zero with 8:19 to go in the game.

Roman after pick six Vili TD

Cutlan and the kickoff team lined up to kickoff. Spencer kicked a squib that was downed on the 69er 45-yard line giving them good field position. They had removed Thomas from the quarterback position and McCrea was now taking the snaps. From the shotgun, McCrea took the snap and hesitated slightly before taking off on a quarterback draw. This is where he is the most dangerous. He slipped the line and caused our Mike Backer to miss in space. He was finally brought down after picking up 14 yards. The next set of downs was hampered by two 69er false-start penalties that put them back to mid-field with a third down and 18-yard situation. McCrea took the snap and dropped to pass. Gooden got ridden out deep on the right side and that opened up a running lane through which McCrea decided to scramble. He took off hard for the left sideline. We miscalculated some inside pursuit angles and then had a couple of guys out of position from the deep backside as the play developed. All this combined for a Charles McCrea 49-yard touchdown scramble. This type of play had been my primary concern during the week while practicing for this team.

During the week prior to the game, previous game film on them revealed a “gate” 2-pt. conversion set. The “gate” is play used where you offset the bulk of your offensive line well toward a sideline. Behind that line you place a single runner/receiver. On the other side of the offense, you isolate the center, who is eligible to receive a pass in this case, the quarterback, a tailback, and a wideout receiver. The idea is to see how the defense aligns to the play and then the offense either runs one of many options from the “gate” formation or they quickly pull together into a traditional extra point formation and kick the point after. Although we were correctly aligned against the “gate” formation, the 69ers opted to direct-snap the ball to the back just inside the wall of blockers to the left. They attempted to run the left side but our edge players, Kimmo Pasanen in particular, immediately shut down the play. Crocs 13 and 69ers 6 with 6:03 remaining in the game.

We lined up to take the kick expecting an onside. The 69ers executed a perfectly kicked onside ball that banged hard and high off the surface. We did a poor job of protecting and gathering the ball and the 69ers came up with it. Unfortunately, for them, their number two edge player was literally three yards offsides at the time of the kick. They lined up for a second try and abandoned the idea with a kick deep. Antti Kurenniemi fielded it deep and took a knee to down it. Crocs ball on their own 18-yard line.

Webster and offense struck quick with a couple nice plays. Cutlan took an inside handoff and made two nice cuts to the edge to pick up 15 yards on the ground. The very next play saw Ivalo, our fullback, pick up a 28-yard gain on a dive play. Ivalo literally gained 15 yards after contact and drug five 69ers during the final eight yards of the run. The drive stalled out at that point and Cutlan was brought in to punt from the 69er 41-yard line. The kick was placed to go out of bounds and it gave the 69ers the ball on their own 21-yard line with 2:53 remaining in the game.

McCrea getting the edge Spencer in open field

McCrea move back into shotgun to start the drive. He took the snap and connected on a short three-yard completion to Thomas on first down. From second down, McCrea dropped again and targeted Long down the right sideline deep. Both Doc and Roman had him blanketed in a classic “over-under” position and Roman elevated for the ball. The interception sealed the win.

The Croc offense took the field for the final two minutes and 18 seconds. Four rushes later and the burning of the final 69er timeout, the offense kneeled the ball down to end the game.

Roman pick 2 game over

We knew going into the game that it was going to be vastly different than our first meeting with the 69ers. The 69ers proved to be a greatly improved team that fought hard and were in the game to the very end. From our point of view we got the win, which was the critical component at this point in our schedule. We now were faced with a final road game with the Indians next Sunday to hopefully do our part in the combination of events needed to get that home semi-final game.

Here are some links for the game:

Statistics.

Pre-game article from 69er website.

Pre-game article from Croc website.

Post-game article from Croc website.

Photos by Marko Tuominiemi.

Post-game interview with Head Coach Charlie.

Pictures from O-M Matihalti.

Crocs 63 – Wolverines 0

20 August 2014

Last Saturday we played in “The Swamp” for the second week in a row. The Helsinki Wolverines came to town. The Wolverines have struggled this year due to the literal dismantling of their 2013 team, which defeated us in a semi-final game by eight points ending our season. This year, however, many of their top players left the team for other teams in the Maple League. To date, the Wolverines have managed only a single win. When we faced them for our regular season opener, we defeated them 79 to 14 on their home field.

This time around was not much different. The Crocs won the game 63 to zero in a controlled fashion. The win put us at six wins and two losses and ranked third. The previous week’s losses to Turku and Poorvo had taken away our shot at the top seed in the Maple League and left our bid for a home semi-final game in a much poorer position.

league standings

Despite the exodus experienced by the Wolverines, they still had their elusive Cedric Johnson manning the Quarterback position. He is quick and dangerous in the open field. Their top receiver is Finnish player Sebastian Sagne. Sebastian is Johnson’s “go-to” guy and has consistently performed for them.

Kickoff was scheduled for 4:00PM. The weather was perfect for football. There was no rain, thunder, or lightning. The temperature was much cooler than some of the games we had had so far this season.

We got through warm-ups with a bustling crowd of 20. That number is literal. I actually counted the number of people in the stands. The official count for the game was around 350. Crowds are not big for Maple League games by US football standards even when compared to High School games. I think our top crowd so far this year was over 800 and that was during the away game against top-rated Turku.

The captains met at mid-field and we won the toss and elected to take the kick to start the game. It took a couple tries to get the kick away. Sagne kicked the first one out of bounds and we decided to have them re-kick. This time, Simo Suurkuukka took the kick and managed 19 yards on the return putting the offense on the field on the Wolverine 46-yard line.

After a short opening three-yard rush, we hit three first downs in a row on two passes and a rush. The rushing first down was from Spencer Cutlan who was debuting as our running back due to both VP and Nissinen both being out from broken bones. Cutlan is from Wales and has consistently performed both during games and in practice. He has definitely been a highlight this season and a model import player. And, yes Eddie Cheadle, Spencer did much more than kick the ball during this game.

So the offense had a new set of downs on the Wolverine 12-yard line. We managed another first down through another back debuting – Juhanie Koivumäki. Juhani is a standout defensive player for us and was called upon to help our depleted backfield out. The final play of the drive was Cutlan punching it into the endzone. Spencer then converted on the point after and the Crocs were on the board – Crocs 7 Wolverines 0.

Croc offense Cutlan TD 1

Cutlan kicked off and after the return the Wolverines set up on their 29-yard line. They moved the ball well over the course of 11 plays to get to our 25-yard line and were faced with a third down and 10-yard situation. Johnson threw a beautiful pass over the middle to Sagne who was running a fast seam route. Lucky for us, he dropped the pass. This play was a sure score had Sagne made the catch. Faced with the fourth down, Johnson and the Wolverines could not convert and gave the ball up on downs.

The offense took the field again and quickly picked up a first down out to our 34-yard line. Unfortunately, during the next set of downs we were slapped with a holding penalty that stuck us in a hole. Looking at a second down and 20 Webster went under center. He took the snap and hit the edge on an option. Keeping the ball, Webster had a brilliant rush for 60 yards down to the Wolverine 11-yard line. On the next play from scrimmage, Webster connected up with Kris Kougia for the score with a wide open slant route. Cutlan converted and it was Crocs 14 and Wolverines 0.

Croc tackle Kris TD

Spencer kicked off with 2:37 remaining in the quarter. Sagne got a short return and the Wolverines started on their own 33-yard line. The offense got to the 50-yard line but then suffered a false start penalty that pushed them back into their side of the field. They could not recover and were forced to punt. Wolverine punting was less than stellar that day. This first one netted four yards from the line of scrimmage. We took over on our own 44-yard line.

This next series was rare in that we lost the ball on downs. Cutlan started it nicely with a 10-yard rush for a first down. The next play, however, saw a bad exchange between Webster and Juhanie… the ball was on the ground in the backfield. Juhanie managed to recover it though. A completed short pass to back to Juhani followed by a dropped ball by Cutlan left us with a fourth down and eight from the Wolverine 44-yard line. Cutlan dropped to punt. Spencer got off a beautiful 38-yarder to the Wolverine six-yard line where the ball went out of bounds.

Croc tackle 2 WOV tackle

The Wolverine offense managed a single first down and then found themselves lined up to punt once again. I could not have imagined a punt worse than the previous one but this one netted zero yards from the line of scrimmage. I couldn’t really see a reason for it by looking at the film clip. It may have actually hit one of the protectors in the backfield. If not, it was simply the worse shank I have ever seen. Regardless, Tachu scooped up the errant kick and picked up 10 yards before being forced out of bounds. We took over with a first and goal from the Wolverine 10-yard line.

Albeit it took us four plays but we did get the ball in. The capping play was when Webster rolled to the left and found Cutlan just inside the endzone on an out route. The catch was Spencer’s second touchdown. He converted on the extra point and it was Crocs 21 and Wolverines 0.

Wov punt Cutlan openfield

After the kickoff and another Sagne return, the Wolverines took the field on their own 31-yard line. On their first play they picked up a nice first down on a 14-yard slant route from Johnson to Rantanen. That play was the extent of the drive and they lined up to punt again with a fourth down and nine from their own 46-yard line. They finally got off a normal punt for around 30. Juhanie took it in the air and picked up a good 20-yards on the return.

Two passes and a rush later, we had the ball on the Wolverine 24-yard line with a new set of downs. Webster dropped into the pocket to throw. Cutlan was lined up in the slot and ran a nice hitch-and-go post route. The throw was there and Spencer made the catch for his third score of the day. Again, he it the extra point and it was Crocs 28 and Wolverines zero.

Makala defense Cutlan TD 2

The kickoff from Cutlan was deep and we had good coverage stopping Sagne after only a two-yard return. The Wolverines had the ball on their own 12-yard line with just over a minute remaining in the half. We loosened up our coverage and they banged out a couple pass completions to get the ball to our 34-yard line. We committed the sin of getting beat over the top on one pass that was for 38-yards. The drive turned bad at this point for the Wolverines. Oskar Karlsson flushed Johnson to the left forcing him to scramble. Juhanie closed fast from the near safety position and they combined for a six-yard sack.

The final play of the half was interesting. Johnson dropped to pass deep and Mika Luoma forced him outside the pocket and stripped Johnson of the ball. The ball actually went airborne and landed into the arms of Thomas Malagodi our big nose tackle. Thomas slowly rumbled toward the goal but sadly lacked the speed to get there. He did manage about 10 yards before being dragged down to end the half.

WOV catch Thomas fumble run

We exited the field with a 28 to zero advantage and found our regular spot behind the bleachers. We spent our 20 minute half resting. I did have some instruction for for defending slant routes and the seam routes, which were the only things that had hurt us during the first half. Other than that it was “good job”.

We lined up and kicked deep and stuck them inside the 20-yard line at the 19 to begin the third quarter of play. In a third down and eight situation, Johnson connected on a seam route that was not dropped this time to Karjala. After the catch, Karjala broke free and we had to chase him down from behind. It was a 40-yard pickup that got them into our side of the field. We followed that up with a defensive pass interference that took them down to our 39-yard line. Unfortunately, for the Wolverines, they were immediately tagged with an offensive pass interference call on the very next play. That play pretty much killed their drive. It was final when Ashley Dewing sacked Johnson for 10 yards on a fourth and 21-yard attempt. Croc offense took over on their own 45-yard line.

johnson to throw WOV drop

Webster and the offense took the field for the first time in the second half. On the first play from scrimmage, Webster handed the ball to Cutlan and their defensive end made a good play down the line to strip him of the ball. The ball bounced loose in the endzone and the Wolverines game up with it giving the offense a fresh start on our 48-yard line.

Johnson missed on a couple of passes and then faced a third and 10-yard situation. He went deep down the right sideline against our corner Doc who unfortunately was hit with a defensive pass interference call. The penalty gave the Wolverines the first down. With a fresh set of downs from our 33-yard line, the Wolverines stalled out and gave up the ball in downs. We took over on our own 29-yard line.

Wov recover fumble Doc PI

On first down, Webster hit Cutlan for a nice 11-yard completion. The Wolverines followed this with a holding penalty to set the ball at the 50-yard line. From first and 10, Webster dropped to pass and found Cutlan in the seam for a completion. Cutlan cut it up to the middle area of the field and broke free. He was in for his fourth touchdown of the day. Spencer hit the extra point to give the Crocs the lead at 35 to zero.

The following kickoff was both accidental and fortunate. Spencer lined up to kick and did not get much “meat” of the ball. Consequently, the kick was high and short to our right. It landed in a hole bouncing awkwardly near the sideline. Tachu Oreu, who has some speed, was down in a hurry and made a great between-the-legs deflection to keep the ball in bounds. Jussi Koivumäki, who was trailing Tachu a bit dove and covered up the ball. Croc ball on the Wolverine 36-yard line.

Our next drive featured a long-time Maple League player Teemu Ivalo. From the fullback position, Teemu got a nice seven-yard carry and a middle screen completion for 10 yards. Paydirt came from the 19-yard line from Webster to Cutlan again. Cutlan danced into the endzone with his fifth score of the day. He converted on the extra point to make it Crocs 42 and Wolverines zero.

Cutlan TD 3 rushing td

Cutlan kicked off and the return brought the ball out to the Wolverine 24-yard line. The Wolverine offense was non-existent. They managed three incomplete passes and an offsides penalty to add to their issues. They lined up to punt backed up near their own endzone. The snap was mis-handled and the punter found himself scrambling to find the ball. He did manage to fall on it to recover but the damage had already been done. The Croc offense would take over on the Wolverine two-yard line.

Two plays into the series, Webster found Simo Suurkuukka in the endzone for the touchdown completion. Spencer hit the extra point and the Crocs lead stretched to 49 with the Wolverines still at zero.

WOV punt 2 simo td

The Wolverines took the kick and got the ball out to their 34-yard line. For the second series in a row the Wolverines could manage nothing at all. After three incomplete passes they again lined up to punt. This time we got a little pressure on the kicker who had to side-step to his right and rugby-style the kick. The kick was bad coming poorly off his foot to the right and netted eight yards from the line of scrimmage before it sailed out of bounds. Crocs offense took over on the Wolverine 42-yard line.

During this series, which turned out to be the longest offensive series of the day at 12 plays, the offense chunked away at the field to eventually got the ball down to the Wolverine 10-yard line where they were looking at a fourth down and goal situation. We decided to bring Cutlan out and attempt the 27-yard field goal. The snap and hold were good but from the right hash, Spencer pulled it left and the ball missed its mark. Wolverines took over from their 10-yard line. During the drive, the clock had expired on the third quarter and we were now just into the final quarter.

Croc tackle 3 cutlan fg

Again, the Wolverine offense was nowhere to be found. After three plays they were lining up to punt again. And, once again, a terrible punt that netted 10 yards. We took the ball over on their 30-yard line.

The drive consisted of rushes by Cutlan, Webster, and Ivalo to get the ball into the endzone. Spencer hit the extra point and the Crocs led 56 to zero.

The ensuing kickoff went out of bounds and the Wolverines elected to take the ball on their 35-yard line. After rushing for no gain, the Wolverines and Johnson dropped to pass. Sagne ran a short hitch to the left and caught the ball. Kimmo Pasanen closed and stripped him of the ball. Our defensive end JP Hyvönen made the play to get the recovery. Croc ball on the Wolverine 33-yard line.

The offense took the field and cranked out three successive runs. Webster, Cutlan, and Cutlan. The capper was Spencer for an eight-yard touchdown giving him his sixth and final score of the day. He hit the extra point to be a perfect nine for nine and push the score to what was the final – Crocs 63 and Wolverines zero.

webster throw Cutlan running

We kicked off and the relatively short kick combined with a Wolverine 30-yard return gave their offense one last shot at avoiding the shutout. They started on their own 49-yard line. Johnson hit a nice opening pass to Sagne for an eight-yard gain. Then, on second down he dropped again. This time Toni Makela, our rookie middle tackle, found Johnson in the backfield and dropped him for sack. It was a great way to kill the drive and a good highlight for Toni. The remainder of the drive saw Johnson miss on two consecutive passes to give the ball over on downs.

The offense took the field for the final time with 1:48 remaining in the game. Planning to just run the ball out, Spencer took the ball up the middle and found daylight for a 43-yard gain to the Wolverine nine-yard line. The final play was a kneel-down to end it. Crocs 63 and Wolverines zero as the final.

ref game over cutlan player of game

The win was good because it both snapped our two-game losing streak and it gave us back some needed swagger. We executed well and could use this as a springboard to make the final push through our remaining two regular season games and into at least a semi-final game of the playoffs.

Here are some links for the game.

Game statistics.

Croc pre-game article.

croc post-game article.

Mid-week interview with Head Coach Charlie after the win.

Mid-week interview with Spencer Cutlan after the game.

Article from the SAJL website announcing Spencer Cutlan’s performance and declaration of the Maple League’s Player of the Week award.

Great pictures from the lh.pic.fi website. Photo credits to the great photographer that covered the game.

Crocs 18 – Butchers 26

14 August 2014

Last Saturday we started a 3-game home stand and sadly dropped the game. We played the Butchers out of Poorvo. They beat us last year as well in the season opener so this is a team we have never beat while in Finland. The unfortunate thing about losing this game is that it takes us out of the driver’s seat for a home semi-final game. Mathematically, it is still possible if certain things happen but us being able to control it definitely evaporated.

poster standings

The Butchers featured a very strong running game between the tackles and dangerous running when in space. In a sense, they were very much like the Trojans who we lost to last week. We knew this going into the game and would be focusing on trying to stop the powerful inside running game. They really had three threats on the ground: a very good running quarterback Jabari Harris, a strong fullback with Sebastian Lindell, and the top ground gainer RJ Jackson out of LSU as a tailback. The Butcher passing game has been virtually non-existent. It was bad timing (again) to be very low on linebackers. We would have two of the three playing out of position due to injuries and planned absences.

Kickoff was set for 4PM and the weather was turbulent. As we were in the locker room getting ready about an hour before game time outside the thunder and lightning was raging. Sheets of rain were pouring down like streams off the neighboring sports dome across the alley. We were not sure if the game would be delayed or not. The storm did break though and it turned to a slight drizzle by the time we took the field for warm-ups.

butcher captains Croc captains

The captains met at mid-field and we won the toss and deferred the choice. So our defense would get the first test. Spencer had a nice kick to about the five yard line and Pineda, one of the Butchers big linebackers took the return all the way out to their 45-yard line. Not a good start. The defense held though and after a single first down forced a punt from mid-field. We would start on our 25-yard line.

In three plays the offense was down inside their 10-yard line. Key plays were a 14-yard run by VP and a 55-yard strike from Webster to Roman Runner. We lined up with a first and goal from the six. The offense could not convert on the touchdown and we had to settle for a short field goal from Spencer to get on the board. Crocs 3 and Butchers 0.

butcher run field goal

We kicked off and the Butchers committed a penalty on the return and would start on their own 20-yard line. After an incomplete pass and an 11-yard run, Jackson the tailback busted the line and popped a 69-yard run to the endzone. The play quickly got into the second level and we had some bad angles that never allowed us to get a handle on Jackson. They missed the extra point. Crocs 3 and Butchers 6.

We took the ensuing kickoff and began our drive on the Butcher 40-yard line after a nice 50-yard return by Runner. We got down to the Butcher 12-yard line but then on a second down Webster’s pass was picked in the endzone for a touchback. The pass was a slant into the middle of the endzone and the defender made a good play to deflect the ball. He came up with it as he was falling down. It was a good interception.

jackson TD Doug pick

The defense forced the Butchers to punt out of their territory after allowing a single first down. We had a big sack from Gooden that stuck them in a hole from which they could not recover. The punt ended the first quarter.

The punt was not returned and rolled down inside our 10-yard line where it was downed. We would be starting in a deep hole. We only managed a single first down and that was by penalty. Spencer took the field to punt and got off a 39-yard kick that was downed on the Butcher 39-yard line.

This next drive for the Butchers defined them. They took the ball into the endzone in nine plays of which only one was through the air. Harris and Lindell combined up for the rushing yardage that methodically pounded forward. The extra point was converted and it was Crocs 3 and Butchers 13. The drive was three and a half minutes long.

butcher los Harris running

We took the kick and Roman got off another good return this time for 37 yards. We took the field at the mid-point. Despite a gift of five yards from the Butchers on a penalty, the offense went nowhere. We threw an incomplete pass and two running plays netted a single yard. We turned the ball over on downs at the Butcher 45-yard line.

The defense took the field and forced a punt. The Butchers shot themselves in the foot with a holding call that put them in a situation from which they could not recover. The punt was only 28 yards and sailed out of bounds giving the offense the ball on our own 35-yard line.

Barely into the drive we lined up for a second down and five yard situation from our 40-yard line. Webster dropped to pass and the receiver down the left could not get off the defender. The pass went long and was cleanly intercepted. Second turnover of the night. Butchers took over on their 42-yard line.

The Butcher offense picked up a couple first downs and with about a minute left in the half lined up in a third and three situation from our 29-yard line. Harris dropped on a rare pass and looked over the middle for a dragging wideout on a cross with an inside number two receiver. Our backers were in good position and Joni got a piece of the pass deflecting it into the air. Makela, our Mike Backer was able to gather it in before it fell to the ground. Croc ball with about half a minute remaining before the break.

Burning all three timeouts, the offense managed to get from our 18-yard line out to the Butcher 43-yard line before time expired. At the break it remained Crocs 3 and Butchers 13.

ref half time hat off halftime

Halftime was spent talking about gap control, the D-line needing to control the line of scrimmage, and the brutal reality that this team was just going to continue to try to pound the ball down our throats. No real secrets were coming out of the Butcher offense. It had been a tough, physical first 24 minutes and the next 24 were guaranteed to be another.

We took the kickoff to start the second half. Again, Runner had a nice return and set the offense up on our 40-yard line. Webster and the team took the field. Spencer, our kicker and wideout, took the handoff and picked up a nice 11-yard gain. During the first half, we lost VP our last running back to a broken collar bone. So, the offense had to steal from the receiving corp to fill the void. With a new set of downs, we converted on a third and 13-yard situation with nice pass to Runner to get us to the Butcher 38-yard line. Another converted third down but this time on a Butcher personal foul got us yet a new set of downs to the Butcher 23-yard line. The Butchers added to their issues on the very next play by committing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty giving us the ball on their 11-yard line. Two plays later Webster found Spencer on swing pass to the right where he gathered it in and walked untouched into the endzone. Spencer hit the extra point and it was now Crocs 10 and Butchers 13.

spencer td spencer celb

Spencer banged another deep kick around the Butcher goal line but Pineda rolled out a 62-yard return to our 36-yard line. The defense took care of the series though and forced a fourth and 13-yard attempt that failed resulting in the offense taking over from our own 49-yard line. The final play was a Butcher fake punt that our safety Orue sniffed out and stopped for a 10-yard loss.

Webster and the offense took over and moved the ball into Butcher territory. At the 31-yard line we committed a hold and that stuck us in a first and 20-yard situation. We threw an incomplete pass and then from the second down situation, a short pass over the middle designed to drop in over the dropping backer didn’t make the mark. The Butchers gathered in their third interception of the game. Butcher ball on their 31-yard line.

The remainder of the third quarter was all Butcher running game. They ate up five and a half minutes on the ground to get the ball down to our two yard line as the clocked ticked off. They threw the ball twice but ran for nine plays. Two runs were significant at 14 and 23 yards, respectively. We had a brief moment of excitement when they botched the center quarterback exchange and the ball was loose on the last play of the quarter. The Butchers came up with it though as we flipped sides to start the fourth quarter. On the first play of the quarter, Harris, the quarterback, booted around the right side and we missed a shot at him in the backfield. He was in for the score on a fourth down attempt. The extra point failed and it was Crocs 10 and Butchers 19.

butcher fumble harris boot td

The kickoff was a travesty. The kick was low and bouncing and was actually briefly touched. We chased the ball down into the endzone and then tried to run it out. The result was bad giving us the ball on our own 7-yard line. The offense was three and out and we were punting deep from our own 13-yard line. The punt gave the Butchers great field position on our 45-yard line. Nine pounding rushing plays later they are in the endzone again. In retrospect, this series of events is what broke our back and took the life out of us. The Butchers finally converted on an extra point to make it Crocs 10 and Butchers 26. Four minutes and 37 seconds remained in the game.

The kick was deep and in the endzone and we took the ball on our own 20-yard line. Sitting on a 16-point lead, the Butcher defense laid back and gave us the short game. We took advantage and with our “hurry-up” offense moved the ball methodically down the field to score within two minutes. We converted on the two-point try and were within eight points with 2:42 remaining. Crocs 18 and Butchers 26.

spencer run spencer td 2

The onside kick failed and the Butchers downed in on our 47-yard line. We would have one more shot.

The defense forced a three and out and burned a single timeout leaving us with two. The punt took the ball to our 13-yard line where it was downed. The offense would have two timeouts and a minute and 48 seconds of clock to work with. With a fourth and three-yard situation from our 20-yard line, Webster converted to Kris Kougia for the first down. Webster found Spencer on the next play for a short 10-yard completion. With a first and 10 from our 45-yard line, Webster dropped once again to pass. The Butchers brought heat up the middle and we did not pick up the blitz. Throwing down the left sideline as he took the full force blitz in his face, the ball fell short and into the hands of Toni Haukkamaa, an ex-Crocodile, for the fourth interception of the game. That sealed the win for the Butchers who kneed it out during the next series.

butcher kneel slap line

Again, it was a tough loss that could have been avoided. But, you learn from every game and we would have some good lessons from this one. We would need to try an put this loss behind us and finish out strong in the remaining three games of the regular season. The playoffs are a whole new season where anything can happen.

Here are some links for the game:

Game statistics.

Mid-week interview with Charlie after the game and after Tuesday’s practice.

Post-game article from the Croc website.

Post-game article from the SAJL website.

Pictures from the game from http://www.lh.pic.fi site. Credit to the great photographers there.