Monthly Archives: May 2014

Final Pre-Season Game – Turku

25 May 2014

We had a two-week practice stretch since our opening pre-season game against the Roosters and we were loading up at 9:30AM Sunday for the long drive to Turku. Turku is a coastal town in Southwest Finland, which is home for the Trojans. The Trojans had been recently promoted up to the Maple League for winning the championship of the division last year. The way the football leagues work here in Finland is that if you win the championship of one division, you get to promote to the next higher league. And, if you bottom out, you get to demote to a lower league. Turku had a great season last year and did a great job of recruiting some top players for their run in the Maple League this year. In fact, they secured two key players we had on the roster from last year – Jocques Crawford and Rodney Brown. Jocques was our stellar running back that set many records rushing last year with the Crocodiles and Rodney played both Quarterback for the first half of the season and excelled as a wideout and return specialist.

The trip was long and had a few breaks in between. We stopped shortly outside of Seinäjoki to pick up a couple junior players that would be playing up with us today. We also stopped around noon to grab more of the remote players that live outside of Seinäjoki. During this second stop we had our lunch, which was a buffet style meal at a combo gas/restaurant/market place. After lunch we rolled into the stadium about two hours prior to the 4PM kickoff time.

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The stadium was nice. It was artificial turf and lined for American football with real goalposts, which I have learned are not always a guarantee. The only drawback to the facility was that it was lined with a very tall cyclone style fence that could have been further away from the playing field in the endzones. Other than that, it was a nice place to play. We had a modest scoreboard behind our bench that worked, also not always a guarantee. The stands were concrete and looked to hold probably twice the crowd that we could seat in the “Swamp” back home.

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As with the last game, we were very thin with the roster again. Many (seven) of our players are on Finland’s national team and they were scheduled to leave at 4AM in the morning for Helsinki. They would have a week’s practice and then embark on some pool play against Germany and Sweden and then hopefully onto a medal game for what are the American Football European Championships. They hold these games here in Europe every few years and this was one of those years. Consequently, three of the four did not play. Two made the trip though and were instrumental on the sideline with coaching. We also were still waiting on some key players to arrive in Finland to help fill out the roster. One new addition to the team for this game was Gerald Gooden. Gerald played ball for Purdue University in the states as a Defensive End. He had arrived here in Seinäjoki just a few days earlier. So we were glad to have him available for the game. All told, we had 25 players suited up. My defense was such that any injury or substitution would cause us to “steal” a body from the offense.

The captains met at mid-field and the Crocs won the coin toss. We elected to defer and the Trojans of course chose to receive. The kick produced a nice surprise with Crocs recovering the ball in Trojan territory on the 40-yard line. We opened with a couple runs that amounted to nothing and then Webster hit Kris Kougia for a 37-yard strike down the right sideline for a score. Villi hit the point-after and we were on the board with seven.

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Our kick was taken deep by Rodney Brown who had a nice return across mid-field to our 48-yard line. Three plays later, the Trojans were in the endzone. The score’s big play was a 38-yard run through our defense. The scoring play was an 11-yard pass. The point-after was blocked making it seven to six with 9:19 left in the first quarter.

We took the kickoff and started at our own 36-yard line. With a third and 10 we attempted a shot down the left side and got a defensive pass interference call for the first down. Unfortunately, we stalled out missing on a fourth and two to end the drive. The Trojans over on their own 38-yard line.

Five rushing plays got the Trojans to our 37-yard line. From a first and 10 situation, the Trojan Finnish Quarterback, Berndtsson, connected with Rodney Brown down the right side for a 37-yard touchdown pass. Brown made a fairly athletic catch and brushed off the attempted tackle to make his way into the endzone. The point-after was again a poor kick that slammed into the backs of the offensive line and was no good. So in fairly short order, the score was Trojans 12 and Crocs seven.

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We hit a couple short bubble passes and a small gain to end up with a fourth and one situation that we lined up to attempt. Unfortunately, we jumped offsides and then brought in the punt team. Spencer Cutlan, an import player from Wales, got off a booming 45 yard punt. The return was long as well for 30 yards. A block in the back did bring it back some to give the Trojan’s the ball on their own 29-yard line.

The Trojans lined up and methodically destroyed our defense. They produced a run of 23 yards, two passes for 14 apiece, and a capping run of 17 to give them their third touchdown. At this point we had provided little to no defensive resistance in the game. The Trojans opted to fake the point-after with Rodney Brown, the holder, finding a Trojan receiver in the back of the endzone for the conversion. Now the score was Trojans 20 and the Crocs 7. All this with 11:53 to go in the second Quarter.

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The Trojans lined up to kick and surprised us with an onside. We easily recovered and had some good field position at our 49-yard line. We attempted a run that netted a single yard. We followed this with a couple passes, which we could not complete. On a fourth and nine, Cutlan boomed out another nice punt for 42 yards that went out of play high at the Trojan 10-yard line.

On the first play of the series, the Trojans coughed up the ball and we recovered. Croc ball on the Trojan 10-yard line. The offense could do nothing with the opportunity. First down resulted in an incomplete pass and then we gave up two sacks in a row. We brought out Villi to attempt a 39-yard field goal that was wide left. We had squandered a golden opportunity here.

The so far unstoppable Trojan offense took over on their 22-yard line with 6:22 remaining in the half. A rush for three yards followed by a completed pass for 14 set them up with a first down on their 39-yard line. They started the next set of downs with a false start penalty to push them back five yards. They completed a 12-yard pass and then broke another big run for 54 yards. However, the play was from an illegal formation and we had an offsetting penalty as well. So the down would not count. It didn’t really matter much as the second and three attempt was a rush for 34 yards that got them down to our own 34-yard line. Still performing like a sieve, we allowed the next four plays to be 12, five, 15, and seven, respectively to give up our fourth score in five series. The point-after failed and the score was now Trojans 26 and the Crocs seven.

With 4:31 still remaining in the half, we took the kick and got an eight yard return to our 33-yard line. We opened this drive with a nice 11-yard run for a first down. This run was followed by an incomplete pass, a run for no gain and a third down incomplete pass. Cutlan took the field again to punt. Cutlan hit a 36-yard punt that was fielded by Brown, who we smothered for a negative one yard return. Trojans take over on their own 19-yard line with 1:27 to go in the first half.

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The Trojans connected again with Brown for 38 yards. They followed this with a rush of 19 yards to our 24-yard line. Berndtsson went for the aerial score in the corner on the next play. Our corner, Jussi Koivumaki had great position and went up high for the ball and came down the interception in the endzone. We took over on the touchback on our 20-yard line with 1:54 to go in the half.

Offense could not get going and we netted two incomplete passes and a run for minus five yards. Cutlan took the field for his fourth punt in the half. The punt only netted 31 yards to our 46-yard line. Rodney Brown was dropped for minus eight yards as he attempted to reverse field and lost ground on the return. Trojan ball on their 46-yard line with 1:10 remaining.

The Trojans were hit with an unsportmanlike conduct penatly that resulted in the ejection of a player and then they followed that with a false start penalty to take them back to their 26-yard line. The ended the half with a short completion for five yards and a couple of short runs (thankfully). Finally, the half from Hell was over. Trojans led 26 to seven. We headed to the locker room.

I had the defense in a small room where we were just to ourselves. We had a little “Come to Jesus” session during which we talked about heart, character, emotion and the like. Several players contributed and everything that needed to be said was said in one form or another at various level of volume and intensity. With a couple minutes to go, we got out to the field to battle out the remaining 24 minutes of this game.

Because we had deferred the opening kickoff we received the ball. We took the kick and ended up on our 33-yard line. With a mix of passes and runs, we ended up with a first and 10 on the Trojan 39-yard line. After a short completion and a run for next to nothing, we dropped a critical pass that would have given us a first down. On the fourth down attempt, Webster ended up scrambling and was forced out of bounds short of the sticks. Trojans took over on their 33-yard line.

At this point, I believe the Trojan coaching staff had pretty much emptied the field of their national players and many of their starters. The Trojans put together a 14-play drive that ate up over seven minutes of the third quarter that ultimately stalled out on our six-yard line. We successfully defended a fourth and one situation from our six that gave us the ball. This was only the second stop we had had against their offense. With just 1:06 left in the third quarter we took over.

From deep in our territory, we ended up drawing a defensive pass interference call on the defender for a route intended for Suurkuukka. That got us a 15-yard advance down to our 21-yard line. A short run for four yards followed by an 11-yard completion to Villi Rajamaki sealed a second first down. That ended the quarter. No score change.

With first and 10 we rushed for nothing. Then, Webster hit Kris Kougia for 57 yards up the middle. He was dragged down at the Trojan 11-yard line. Again, we could not push to the endzone. We threw an incomplete pass. Rushed for zero. And, then followed that with a couple more incomplete passes. There was 9:36 remaining to play.

The Trojans rushed the ball for four, four, and two yards, consecutively to capture a first and 10 from their 21-yard line. The next four plays were brutal as they easily moved the ball to our 20-yard line with some mid-length passing and some decent runs. With a first and 10 from our 20-yard line they went for the corner score. The Trojan receiver clearly pushed our defender off to make the catch. The referee crew nailed the call and they were hit with an offensive pass interference call to nullify the score and set them back an additional 15 yards to give them the ball on our 35-yard line. Faced with a first and 25, the Trojans couldn’t manage much and ended up losing possession on downs. We took over on our 32-yard line with 4:52 remaining in the game. The score still 27 to seven Trojans.

On the first play of the series, the Trojan’s committed a personal foul that gave us a 15-yard gain in penalty yardage. From our 47-yard line, we could not manage another first down. We turned the ball over on downs. Trojans took over first and 10 from their 45-yard line with 2:10 left in the game.

On the first play, the Trojans were caught holding and it resulted in a 10-yard penalty, which took them back to their 35-yard line. They dropped a pass and rushed the ball a couple times and were faced with a fourth and six situation from their 49-yard line. They brought in the punt team for the only time during the entire game. The punt was away and we mistakenly attempted to field it too deep near our endzone and it ended up covered up by us on our two yard line with two seconds remaining in the game. The offense took the field and took a knee. It was thankfully over.

The game was pre-season and the score was completely meaningless. The game, however, as with all games, was not meaningless. We learned some good lessons from the game and will take them into the regular season, which kicks off mid-June in Helsinki against the Wolverines in the Velodrome.

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We got our stuff together and were pulling out of the facility by around 8PM. The drive back was long with a scheduled stop for dinner pretty much right of Turku. We did run into a traffic situation that caused a bit of a delay on the freeway, which could have been worse. We ended up pulling into the field house a bit before one and Charlie, myself, and many of the players were peddling their bikes back to their apartments. Sleep was hard to come by that night for me.

Here are a few related links:

Some pictures

Game statistics

Finnish article by Turku

Dinner with Mika and Leena

24 May 2014

Last year in Seinäjoki we had the pleasure of meeting and working with Mika Somerkallio. Last year Mika was in charge of taking care of the import players and coaches. He was the one that got us into our apartment, arranged for places at which Charlie and I could eat, got us bicycles, and so forth. It was like having our own concierge. We even got to play some golf with Mika at a local club. During the last season, Mika and his girlfriend Leena also had had Charlie and I and my wife Nancy, who was visiting, over for a fantastic dinner of reindeer. It was not long this year before he wanted to have us out for dinner.

After a few attempts at scheduling an evening that would work, we finally hooked up on a Monday night. Monday worked because we did not have a practice. My only inconvenience was a meeting for work that I had to dial in for at 7PM. I decided that I could do that from Mika’s house with my laptop and VOIP phone system. So we were set to enjoy some of his legendary cooking. If there was one thing that Mika knew … that was how to put together a great meal with all the trimmings and matching spirits aligned with each course.

Mika showed up at K34, our apartment, around 6PM and gathered us up and we were soon headed out to his place, which was too far to bike. We actually had to get on a freeway to get there. The weather was really weird during the trip. The day had been incredibly beautiful and warm until about 5PM. That is when a major storm had rolled in. It almost darkened Seinäjoki. The rain had come down in sheets and there were some serious wind gusts that had bent the trees outside the back of our apartment. The storm was still raging during the drive over.

When we arrived, the table was already set and we could smell the food. Mika had prepared a slow-cooked pork dish that looked fantastic. Along with that, he had a nice salad prepared and a choice of tortilla shells and circular pocket bread. Thrown in there was some fresh leafy lettuce as well. And, of course, a nice red wine that had beat out 200 hundred others in a country-wide wine competition.

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Leena had not arrived yet. She is an accomplished horse rider and competes in Finland and across Europe in various riding events. So it was just the three of us for now. We settled in for a great meal after a beer or two.

The pork was fantastic and the wine complemented it perfectly. I think Charlie and I both had three or four sizable servings. I forgot to mention a savoury gravy that we liberally added to each serving. After stuffing ourselves with the main dinner, Mika produced a dark chocolate desert that contained cherry bits all covered in a creamy sweet sauce. The red wine was ditched at this point and replaced with a special desert wine, which was sweet and perfectly complemented the dark chocolate. Even though I really didn’t have the room for this, I didn’t pass on it. It was a great dining experience as I knew it would be.

After dinner, I retired to a separate room to dial in for my meeting. During that time, Leena returned and got some “leftovers.” The only hitch to the entire experience was a power outage caused by the storm about 45 minutes into my meeting. The meeting had pretty much wrapped up anyway so it was not that big of a deal.

We spent the rest of the evening visiting and going over some photos on Mika’s computer of a winter trip he and Leena had taken to Thailand. The pictures reminded me a lot of my three weeks I had spent in India a few years back. Streets were filled with the ubiquitous three-wheeled taxis, traffic flowed like water, and street vendors with local foods were everywhere. All in all it looked like a great trip.

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About 9PM we needed to get back. We were both coming off a couple really late nights over the weekend. One had been out to some local clubs with the president of the Crocs organization and her friend and the other had been out with our good Polish friend Grezgorz (who I call Gregory) and his crazy fun girlfriend Katja along with her sister Maria. Both fun but really late nights. So Leena and Mika packed us up in the car and got us back home. It had been a great night out with good friends and food.

Food Program

17 May 2014

It has been a couple weeks now since we have been here in Seinäjoki. One of the “perks” that comes with the contract here is a food program. The way that program works is the organization tells Charlie and I where we can go locally to eat during the weekdays. We are on our own on the weekends. Last year we had a variety of restaurants that had been designated for us. For example, we had a great Pizza buffet that we could eat at on Wednesday’s only. Each place had a buffet style lunch from which you could totally load up. We became quite skilled at taking advantage of the buffet during lunch to pretty much consume most of the calories we needed for a day.

This year we have been instructed to go to the Ravintola Joupiska, which is a nice place to eat right next to Seinäjoki’s local ski resort/jumping area.

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This place is a quick five minute bike ride from our student housing complex. The last half of the distance has a slight uphill grade that we are glad for when we leave. One thing about where we are living so far is that it is nice and centrally located.

Ravintola Joupiska has a rustic, log-cabin feel and is warm and inviting inside. The guy that runs it is friendly and puts out his little notebook each day for Charlie and I to sign before we start through the buffet. There never seems to be more than two or three other parties in there eating when we are there, which is pretty much around noon. Sometimes, though, there are special groups in a conference-like room that is sectioned off of the main dining area.

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The food is pretty good. The cook mixes it up so that you have some sort of beef or chicken within an appropriate gravy sauce. Rice and potatoes are always available as is green salad and various garnishes. Sometimes you get a pasta dish like mac-an-cheese. You always have some good veggies and lots of bread and butter. And, because it is buffet style, you can eat your fill, which we do.

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I am not sure if our food program will continue with this single selection or if we will change later on. But for now, the Ravintola Joupiska is a good place to eat with warm, filling food.

Pre-Season Opener

11 May 2014

After a short Saturday Camp, three practices, and a walk-thru, we were scheduled to play the Helsinki Roosters in a pre-season contest at “The Swamp.” For those of you new to the blog, “The Swamp” is the home field for the Seinäjoki Crocodiles. Last year, we did not have any pre-season contests. The closest thing we had was a trip to Sweden where we were supposed to have had a live scrimmage against a Swedish team. Despite a fun boat ride there and back, the scrimmage never happened. The opposing team showed up with only eight players. So that trip ended up being more of an expensive practice. Although, the trip did have its bonding qualities.

So last Sunday (it is Tuesday today as I am putting this together) we met on the field in an actual game. Our opponent, the Helsinki Roosters, won the Maple Bowl last year and therefore were already engaged in full-fledged games across Europe. In Finland, the the Maple League team that wins the championship gets to play a few games against other European clubs prior to getting going in the next regular Maple League season. So, while this game would be very important for our development, it was probably not that important to the Roosters. As a coaching staff, we did not expect to see a lot of starters for the Roosters today. And, true to form, we did not. Granted, there were a few, but key players such as Robert Johnson their long-time quarterback never saw the field.

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Kickoff was set for 4PM and the weather was cool, cloudy, and dry. We were fielding a team of 23 players. Message of the day was “Don’t get hurt.” During warm-ups, I made a quick count of the Rooster team and they had around 30 players. They obviously did not bring their entire roster. I had 11 guys to play defense.

After the usual introductory fanfare the captains gathered mid-field and conducted the coin toss. We lost the flip and would be kicking off to start the game.

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The Roosters began the day on their own 28-yard line. The defense held nicely to force a third and nine from which the Roosters dropped to pass. A high pass that caromed off the hands of the leaping receiver found its way into our right corner’s hands for the pick. Jussi Koivumäki made it to the Rooster 21-yard line giving us great position. Three plays later, our quarterback Doug Webster handed the ball off to VP Jaakonsaari our tailback and we were in the endzone. We botched the snap and hold and did not convert on the point after.

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Our second defensive series was successful as well. We held them to “three-and-out” forcing a punt from their own 15-yard line. The key play here was a 6-yard tackle-for-loss by our big tackle Janne Rautiainen. The Roosters chubbed a poor punt that went out of bounds at their own 29-yard line. Again, great field position.

The offense took the field and moved in for the score. Unfortunately, with a second and goal situation, Webster, under duress, threw a pick – Rooster ball at their 5-yard line.

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During their next offensive series, the Rooster offense began to click a bit as they methodically moved the ball out of the hole they were in. They worked their way toward mid-field with a mix of short runs and passes. The drive stalled around mid-field and the Roosters were looking at a fourth and three on our 49-yard line. Matikainen, the Rooster quarterback, took the snap and dropped looking deep. He let it fly down the left side where Jussi was hip-to-hip with the wideout Palikainen. At about the 10-yard line Jussi got up and made a classic play on the ball knocking it away. Crocs held.

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The offense took over from our own 49-yard line and after a short 3-yard rush, hit four straight passes for the score. The touchdown came when Webster hit wideout Kristen Kougia for 26 yards. This time Villi Rajamaki hit the point after and just barely into the second quarter we had a 13 to zero lead.

We kicked off with the lead and the Roosters found a seam down our left side and they were off to the races. Eighty yards later they were in the endzone for the score. Hated giving up a special teams score. They did not convert on the point after so it was Crocs 13 and Roosters 6.

We took the kick and started on our own 27-yard line. The drive opened with a 9-yard rush giving us a second and one. Webster took the snap and found Villi Rajamaki down the middle on a seam route. The pass dropped in and Villi was crossing the goal for a 64-yard touchdown completion. Villi scored all seven points by converting on the point after. Crocs 20 and Roosters six with 9:30 remaining in the half.

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The Rooster kickoff return gave them good position on their 47-yard line. They rushed for 19 and three yards consecutively and then took to the air. They hit three very short completions using “bubble” and hitch routes to set themselves up on our 19-yard line. From there we held and forced a fourth and nine. At the snap, Matikainen dropped and threw the corner route in the back of the endzone. Antti Kurenniemi and Kimmo Pasanen converged with good coverage to prevent the completion. Crocs ball.

We had the ball back at our own 19-yard line with 5:17 to go in the half. We picked up a couple first downs but then an offensive holding call basically killed the drive. From our own 40-yard line we were faced with a fourth and 15 situation. We brought in Kieran Cutlan from Wales to punt. The punt was 40 and it was returned only three yards before being forced out of bounds.

The Roosters would be starting from their own 23-yard line with only 49 seconds to go. Defense held and we went into the break with a 20 to six lead.

We made our way to the hill behind the home side bleachers and gathered up into offensive and defensive units. Not much needed to be said to the defense. We were looking surprisingly good for a first game. I simply stated who would be on the field to start the second half and reminded them that we had a second half to play. There were some directives and instruction in Finnish by various coaches and players and that pretty much took care of halftime. We re-entered the field through a tunnel created by pom-pom waving Crocodile Wildlife Dancers.

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We got the ball to start the third quarter and failed to produce a first down. We missed on a fourth and two from the Rooster 43-yard line. We had started with great field position. The Roosters took over briefly. From a first and 10 from our 46-yard line, Matikainen dropped to pass and was looking for a slanting seam route over the middle. Our left safety took up the deep position and our right safety made a play underneath on the pass and picked the ball. Juhani Koivumäki (the brother of Jussi who had the pick in our first defensive series) got a good return for 21 yards before being forced out of bounds at the Rooster 44-yard line.

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Unfortunately, our offense could not convert and opted to punt from our 40-yard line. Cutlan pinned the ball down on the 10-yard line. Our defense held as well forcing a quick fourth down punt that petered out around mid-field giving us the ball back.

From a second and six situation at the Rooster 44-yard line, Jaakonsaari busted a run for 24 yards to the Rooster 20-yard line. After two incomplete passes, Webster connected with Villi Rajamaki again for a 20-yard strike. The kick was good and the Crocs lead stretched to 27 to six.

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We kicked off and the Roosters advanced the ball to their 30-yard line. They made quick work of our defense on this series. They hit a six-yard completion, busted a 49-yard run where we did a great job of tackling air, and then tossed a completion for 15-yards to Linnainmaa for the score. The only solace for us on this drive was a nice punctuating hit from our veteran corner Tuomas Leinonen on Linnainmaa after the catch in the endzone. Unfortunately, the hit did not erase the six points. The point after was good and our lead was cut to 27 to 13 with 2:18 left to play in the third quarter.

After the kick, the offense took the ball on our 26-yard line. We mounted a decent drive into Rooster territory using seven rushes. We ended up with a fourth and six from the Rooster 30 and Webster could not connect with Kougia. We turned the ball over on downs.

The Roosters took over and hit a 22-yard completion taking the ball to the Croc 49-yard line. From there, Matikainen dropped back and could find nobody. The play dragged on and we gave up the deep. Matikainen let it fly from mid-field. The ball traveled 47 yards in the air and after just missing the outstretched hands of Kimmo Pasanen, it dropped into the waiting arms of Pehu-Lehtonen for the Rooster score. It was a 49-yard Hail Mary completion for six. The Roosters lined up for a 2-point conversion and “Doc” (Tuomas Leinonen) knocked it away with great position in the corner. We still led 27 to 19.

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We took the kick and got it back to our 26-yard line. The offense mounted a nice, long 10-play drive that included a couple timeouts from the Roosters and ate up a lot of the remaining fourth quarter clock. We worked our way down to the Rooster 41-yard line and had a fourth down and a long 19 yards to go. It really was four-down territory but we opted to punt and try and pin them deep. Cutler got the kick off. It wasn’t optimal but good enough. It went out of bounds at the 20-yard line.

The Roosters had 60 seconds to work with and no timeouts. They managed seven plays but our loose, preventive defense did its job. The clock ticked out and we had our first real game under our belts. Overall, we were pleased with where we were given the number of practices we had had. It was a good way to start the season. The team would have a two-week stretch before seeing its next and last pre-season contest away in Turku against the Trojans.

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Here are some related links:

http://www.sajl.fi/@Bin/2389887/PRE1402.HTM#GAME.DEF

Interview with Doug Webster shortly after he arrived in Seinäjoki

Interview with Head Coach Charlie Rifenbark

* Photo credits go to Samppa Toivonen from his Gridiron Darkroom site. Great photography!

Doubling Up

11 May 2014

It has been just over a week now that Charlie and I have been living in Seinäjoki. Time isn’t exactly going fast. I suppose you could contribute that to limited activity. We both pretty much stick to the apartment unless it is practice or a quick trip to the store to get some minimal staples on which we exist. So, we spend a lot of time in our little white-walled apartment. Here is a shot off the front and out the back window.

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After being picked up up at the VR station last Thursday, we were brought to our place — Building K and number 34. I pretty much knew what we were in store for based of last year’s two apartments I experienced. I took some private solace in the fact that our apartment number was the same number that graced the back of who I personally thought was the greatest running back in the history of the NFL – Walter Payton.

This year we would be sharing a place for the first month. After the first month, we would be moving out and I presume would be getting small places of our own. Our number 34 was up on the second floor so we had to navigate a brief flight of metal stairs with our bags in order to reach it. Soon, we were standing inside the functional quarters.

The layout is such that you enter into a common area that has a small dining type table in a sort of nook, a kitchen area opposite that wrapping around a corner, and a bathroom on another side. The remaining side of the common area was occupied by the double doors leading into two separate sleeping areas.

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Each “bedroom” was equipped with a wireless modem, a miniature bed, and a large view window overlooking the Seinäjoki River. The bed is just long and wide enough for you to lie down. Surprisingly, the it is quite comfortable. I noticed someone had taken the time to hang the sheet-curtains over the window, which is a tedious process as it consists of many little clips into which you have to secure what amounts to a “sheet” covering. I had randomly taken the right room and later regretted it since I discovered Charlie had dark colored sheets over his window whereas I had light ones. This would be a disadvantage during the long periods of light in the Finnish summer. I still had a full bottle of Nyquil though so that would help me adjust to the sleeping patterns for now.

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One thing we had that I did not have last year was a freezer compartment below the refrigerator. That would be nice. After just a week here, we had already discovered that this freezer’s primary function was to store the cheap little ice cream treats on a stick that you could pick up at the store. There was no shortage of dairy products (mainly ice cream) in this country. In fact, I was not disappointed when we got to the VR station in Helsinki to catch the train North by the fact that literally the first person I noticed waiting for a train was a man eating a vanilla ice cream cone.

Another difference we noticed was the way the shower worked. The showers in these apartments are not like units in the states. They do not have sliding doors or steps or mini-walls for tubs. They are just the plumbing on the wall. In fairness, they do have a ring around the showering area on the ceiling that you could attach a pull curtain if you wanted some semblance of privacy… we don’t bother with that. In any case, we discovered that the way to turn on the shower is to push a button not unlike one of those faucets at a freeway rest stop. After pushing the button, you get about 30 seconds of nice warm water at good pressure. But then, the flow stops and you have to push the button again. My guess is that this is the answer to what seems to be a universal young person problem concerning turning off water once you are done. I recalled the daily occurrences at the Banks High School boys locker room after football practice when Coach Ball and I would be leaving and the last thing we would do was shut off showers that were left running. I never could understand this phenomenon as I don’t even let the water run as I brush my teeth. Apparently, this apartment complex had solved that issue.

bathroom porthole

Another characteristic I had discovered is windows that don’t open. It looked like these windows have hinges but had been forever locked. Maybe some special tool could get them open but we didn’t have access to that tool. However, we did have a small foot-by-foot square “porthole” near the door that opened. This was our only means of fresh air flow so we leave it open at all times.

Heat flows throughout the apartment by means of radiators attached to the walls. These devices work quite well and keep the place at a very comfortable level.

Lighting is adequate except for in the bathroom. There is something wrong with the light there as it flickers on and off randomly at a fairly quick frequency. That is a little annoying and makes me thankful that I am not an epileptic as I am sure it would trigger an episode.

All in all the place is functional. I wouldn’t say comfortable as the only chairs are block, wooden affairs that can get quite hard. We don’t have the means to create some nice living area that you could imagine with soft lounge chairs, TV’s, pictures hanging on the wall and so forth — which is fine. Time is take up with two things for me work and football.