Author Archives: Scott Rifenbark

Crocs 19 – Trojans 37

05 August 2014

Last Saturday the Crocodile 2014 winning streak came to a grinding halt. We faced off against the Turku Trojans in Turku and came up on the short side of the scoreboard. The loss created a three-way tie for best records in the Maple League with four remaining games. As it stands now, the Roosters, Trojans, and the Crocodiles all have 5 and 1 win-loss records. It is a circular deal with the Crocs beating the Roosters, the Roosters beating the Trojans, and the Trojans beating the Crocs.

standings charlie poster

We knew coming into the game this would be by far our toughest contest to-date. The Trojans feature a big strong running back named Jocques Crawford and a talented wide receiver named Rodney Brown Jr. Both these players were part of the Crocodile roster during the 2013 season. Rodney was initially signed as a quarterback but was then moved to receiver after the organization signed Steve Adams midway through the season. Jocques ran the ball for the Crocs and set all kinds of records.

The Trojans are new to the Maple League having been promoted from the division below by winning that championship. Their organization is strong and they did a good job of gathering up a lot of talent from across Finland to field a large roster.

This game was a road game for us, which of course meant an early departure and the 5-hour bus ride to the coastal port town of Turku. We got there about two hours before the game and got ourselves ready. It was hot on the field at +32 Celsius. The surface was nice…top-quality field turf. The only drawbacks to the stadium were some relatively short spaces between the back lines of both endzones and a tall chain-link fence, which surrounded the field, and the scoreboard, which was directly behind the visitors sideline where you can’t easily see it.

Gooden workman

We had to play very short-handed this game on defense. We were missing our American Defensive End Gerald Gooden from Purdue due to an ejection during the Roosters game last week. The rules here in the Maple League are if you get tossed in the second half of a game, you automatically are suspended for the next game. An unfortunate reality here is that many players are targeted and goaded into altercations. To me, it is much like the “red-card” strategy employed in World Cup soccer.

Another issue was our linebacker core. We were still down many players from that group. However, as I mentioned in my last week’s blog about the Rooster game, you put your best 11 players on the field and do the best that you can.

The game began with the coin toss, which we won and then chose to defer. So the defense would be taking the field first.

coinflip kickoff

Cutlan lined up to kick and sent the ball sailing into the arms of Brown who returned it 16 yards to the Trojan 27-yard line. Using an efficient 11-play drive, the Trojans methodically moved the ball down the field and punched it in for the touchdown. The highlight play for them was a 28-yard rush by Crawford. This rush turned out to be his longest run of the day. The defense was anxious and we had some bad angles and overrun issues that allowed the long run. They hit the extra point and we were down early 7 to 0.

Webster and the offense took the field on the Croc 27-yard line. Three incomplete passes later, Cutlan was punting the ball. Spencer had a nice kick that was well place out of bounds denying Brown a chance to return it. The Trojan offense took over on their own 42-yard line.

Crawford TD run VP getting tackled

After a quick first down on a completed pass, the Trojans were hit with a holding penalty that put them into a hole. On third down and 18-yards to go, the defensive line jumped offsides and West, the Quarterback, had a free play to work with. He took a shot down the field but Tuomas (Doc) picked the ball. All this was, of course, for nothing as we had the offsides. With a third and 13-yard situation, West threw to Rodney, who missed. The Trojans had to punt the ball away.

The offense took the field deep in our territory on the 14-yard line. They strung together an 18-play drive that consumed nearly 10 minutes of play clock that spanned the first and second quarters. During the drive, Webster connected on passes with Cutlan, Runner, and Rajamaki. All these were nice gains to keep moving the ball down field. The final strike was to Suurkuukka for the score. Vili added the extra point and we were tied at seven each.

West Scramble Cutlan catch

We kicked off and the Trojan offense started on their own 35-yard line. The offense put together a solid 10-play drive to log their second touchdown. The key plays for this drive came from a third down and 4-yard play that was a swing pass to Rodney and then a personal foul penalty we committed while defending in the red zone. Unfortunately, we missed on a tackle when they ran the swing pass and the resulting yards-after-catch went from zero to 19. The penalty placed the Trojans inside our 10-yard line. Crawford, who is hard to stop, scored from seven yards out. They converted on the extra point to make it Trojans 14 and Crocs 7.

Doc misses Rodney Trojan Extra Point

We took the kick and started our next offensive series from our own 19-yard line. A Trojan face-masking penalty got them somewhat out of the hole and gave them a new set of downs on our own 39-yard line. After the next three plays, we were faced with a fourth and 3-yard situation from our own 46-yard line. We opted to go for the first down. Webster found a wide open Roman Runner who made it to the endzone untouched for the 56-yard score. Vili missed the extra point and the score was Trojans 14 Crocs 13 with 3:50 remaining in the half.

Webster to Pass Runner TD

Cutlan kicked off and the Trojans ate a 15-yard clipping penalty on the return giving them the ball on their own 23-yard line. They managed a first down after three short gains and then Crawford broke out another good gain for 24 yards down to our 43-yard line. Two more completed passes and another personal foul put the Trojans on our 10-yard line with a new set of downs. Time was running down and the Trojans called for a timeout with 24 seconds remaining. With a second and goal from the 5-yard line, they completed a pass to Crawford for no gain. Things were moving fast and the Trojans rushed to the line with West going under center. Apparently, more time had ticked off the clock than I had realized. I was certain we had about 15 seconds or so left and desperately wanted to set up something for the defense. I made the mistake of not checking the time on the scoreboard behind me and called a timeout. Turns out, three things happened at once: the clock ticked down to one second, West successfully spiked the ball, and the ref called the timeout. It was a sideline coaching gaffe to say the least and I felt pretty bad about it. But… shit happens and that would qualify as shit. I took full responsibility for it. The Trojans ended the half by lining up and hitting the short field goal to make the halftime score 17 to 13. The understatement of the moment was that I was little frosted at myself.

West Scramble 2 Field Goal Block

Halftime was spent in the dressing room. Considering the short-handedness of the defense, I thought we had done fairly well. We had limited Jocques to just a couple larger runs that were by no means game-breaking plays. I emphasized angles and breaking down in space to make open-field tackles, apologized for my timeout and then left the room.

We started the second half by taking the kick. Both our first series on offense and the Trojan’s first series resulted in punts. Our series began with a brilliant 67-yard kickoff return by Roman Runner that gave us the ball on Trojan 23-yard line. Then, a pass interference call against the Trojans put down to the 8-yard line with a first and goal. Unfortunately, we missed on three consecutive pass attempts and were going to settle for the field goal. The snap and hold were good but the kick hit the left upright and rebounded back. Flags were on the ground though. Turns out the call was a “running into the kicker” penalty. This particular penalty is slightly different than a “roughing the kicker” penalty, which results in an automatic first down. A “running into the kicker” penalty is less severe and took the ball halfway to the goal line setting up a new fourth down with four yards to go. We decided to go for it. Webster rolled to the right and had to throw across the grain and we missed.

Turku’s offensive series started deep from the 4-yard line. They called and executed a nice screen for 19 yards to get them some breathing room. The defense held though and eventually forced the punt. After the punt, we had the ball back on our own 21-yard line.

We screwed ourselves with multiple penalties on this drive and were forced to punt again. Cutlan punted from our 20-yard line and got off a nice 43-yarder that went out of bounds. Trojans took over on their own 37-yard line.

This next series was a disaster for our defense. Turku immediately hit two nice plays for 16 and 19 yards, respectively. They then worked their way down to our 21-yard line and were faced with a third-down and three yard situation. They lined up in trips to the left with Rodney Brown isolated to the right. Our best cover corner Doc was on him in man coverage. Rodney ran a delayed release fade down the right sideline. Doc had good deep coverage on him and West overthrew the ball… or so it seemed. Rodney managed a brilliant, one-handed catch using his right hand. However, as I clearly saw from the sideline, his left hand helped distance himself from Doc by providing a push. Doc hit the deck as Rodney came down with the catch. The sideline judge made the call and the yellow flag came out. All this was for nought, though, as West lined up with a fourth down and 18-yard situation that we should have completely managed. The Trojans went for it and sent Saloranta down the left side. Our corner lost the deep and was behind by a step and the pass dropped in for the catch and score. The extra point was good to make it Trojans 24 and Crocs 13.

Rodney one handed grab Rodney push off

We took the kick and Roman got us out to the Croc 27-yard line. On a third down and 10-yard play, Webster hit VP our running back on a middle screen but he was stripped of the ball. More salt in our wounds as the Trojans scooped the ball and went in for a defensive score. The extra point failed but it was now Trojans 30 and Crocs 13 with 4:01 remaining in the third quarter.

We started our next series from our own 27-yard line. We picked up a first down on an offsides penalty committed by the Trojan defensive line. Then, on a first and ten from our 41-yard line, Webster hit Suurkuukka for nice 11-yard pass. Disaster struck again on the yards-after-catch run. Once again, we lost track of the ball and it was on the ground. The Trojans recovered.

VP running VP fumble

The Trojans took over on their own 44-yard line and put together a 14-play scoring drive. The defense was not able to stop the steady stream of short to medium gains on the ground. The score was completed with one-yard rush from Crawford. The extra point was good and it was now early in the fourth quarter with the Trojans 37 and the Crocs 13.

On the next series, the offense went nowhere and were eventually faced with a fourth and 30 from our own ten. This all happened with a combination of sacks and bullets to the foot (penalties). Cutlan stood in the endzone to make the kick. He got off a 36-yard punt to give the Trojans the ball on our 36-yard line.

During the next defensive series for us we were looking at a manageable third down and 11-yard situation when West dropped to pass. He was flushed from the pocket and ran nine yards before one of our linebackers Juhanie stripped him of the ball and Tuomas Leinonen scooped it from the ground and took it down to the Trojan 40-yard line.

Crawford taking handoff Trojan Fumble

Webster and the offense took the field again and strung together a series of completions to get us in the endzone again. The score dictated that we go for the two-point conversion. Unfortunately, we failed to convert and the score remained Trojans 37 Crocs 19 with 5:23 remaining in the game.

We lined up and attempted an onside kick. The kick bounded long and Crawford covered it up. Trojans would start on what would be the final drive of the game from their own 43-yard line. Turku moved the ball well enough to keep the chains moving and eat up the remaining time in the game. From our 10-yard line they mercifully took a knee to end the game.

The game was not without drama and issues. In the second quarter, there was a double ejection. Apparently, our 3-tech tackle Ashley Dewing and one of the Trojan guards had enough activity to get themselves both ejected. This put further pressure on our already short-handed defensive line. The first half was also laced with plenty of emotion from both teams due in part I am sure to the familiarity that both teams had with each others roster. In the second half we saw a great hit by Roman Runner that was flagged as unnecessary. Along with that, we had a close catch in the endzone that was released early due to an impending collision with the chainlink fence and was thus ruled incomplete. And finally, we lost a valuable running back in Mika Nissinen who suffered a broken fibula during the game.

Ejected 2 Roman flag for hit
fence catch fence

It is always tough to lose but you can gain valuable lessons from every game win or lose. This game would provide us with the opportunity to get better in several areas. We would survive and continue on with our four games and our season’s run at the Maple Bowl game. Next week would be the tough Poorvo Butchers at home.

Here are some links for the game:

Game statistics.

Pre-game article.

Post game article from Trojan site.

Post game article from the Croc site.

Pictures from All photos in this blog credited to photographers.

Post Game mid-week interview with Charlie.

Crocs 45 – Roosters 0

29 July 2014

By far, the game we played against the Helsinki Roosters on 26 July was the biggest game of the schedule. The Roosters are the premiere team in the Maple League. The Roosters have a rich history in the league. They won consecutive championships from 1995 through 2000. Add to that 2002 and 2004 followed by 2012 and 2013. So, they are the current Maple League champions two years running. One other feather in their cap this last year is that they were victorious in IFAF Champions League Tournament that is played with a set of teams across Europe. The winners of the Maple League participate in these games across-Europe games in addition to their regular Maple League schedule. The Roosters defeated the Vukovi Belgrade from Serbia to take home the gold this year.

Last year when we played the Roosters at home in “The Swamp”, it was a disaster. On the opening play of the game, we botched a pitch to our running back and coughed up the ball inside the red zone. Things went downhill and badly from there. We dropped that game in epic fashion 13 to 48.

Coming into this game, the Crocs and the Roosters were the only undefeated teams remaining in the Maple League. The week prior, the Roosters squared off against a tough and then undefeated Turku Trojan team with that game going down to the wire as the Roosters eked out a come-from-behind 48 to 41 win on their home field. However, the game was costly for the Roosters. We learned early in the week that they had lost their long-time premier Quarterback Robert Johnson to a knee injury for the remainder of the season. Even later in the week, we learned that several other Rooster players would be listed on the “will-not-play” list, one of which included Jaycen Taylor (Spears). Spears is a very fast, talented running back that played at Purdue. These and some other injuries changed things dramatically for the Roosters. They would be starting their back-up Finnish Quarterback Eino Matikainen. They would start Jere Jussila at tailback.

Our injury list was significant for us as well. We learned this week that we lost our National Team Defensive End Janne Rautiainen for the rest of the season. Additionally, we were down three inside linebackers for this game. Our defense had taken some serious hits to personnel.

Regardless of all this analysis, a football game comes down to each team placing their best 11 players on the field to match up against each other. And those 22 players on any given play giving it their all. With that in mind… we launched into the game.


The weather for Saturday’s game was hot. You might not think that it would get hot in Finland but during the week we had experienced two practice days that tipped the thermometer at +35 Celsius. For you Fahrenheit people that is 95 degrees. Saturday’s game probably started out around 90 degrees. Kickoff was set for 4PM.

Part of my game flow is to physically record each defensive call on a small notepad during the game. This makes grading the film afterwards much easier for me. This season I have been able to have Jie Li, one of our linebackers, record these calls for me when he is at the game and on the sideline. His efforts have been very helpful. Here is a nice shot of Li before the game.

Jet Li Juhani Flag

Playing in “The Swamp” comes with some fan-fare. Player introductions come through the giant, inflatable crocodile in the corner of the endzone. Manufactured fog adds to the effect. Above is a great shot of Juhani Koivumäki (one of three brothers on the team) blasting onto the field with the Croc flag. This is an epic photo. I seriously am considering sending the image out to have a poster made and then hauling it to Belize to hang in our bar.

After the intros, the respective sets of captains met at mid-field for the coin flip. The Roosters won the toss and elected to recieve.

croc captains rooster captains

Spencer Cutlan lined up and boomed the ball to the 10-yard line with good hang time. Ville Roitto took the kick and got a good return down the left sideline to the Rooster 40-yard line. This would be the first of many good returns for the Roosters.

Our defense took to the field and a slashing Juhani pierced the offensive line and disrupted the isolation play to the left. The ball popped loose and was on the ground. Thomas Malagodi, our big One-Tech Tackle, recovered the fumble logging take-away number one for the Crocs. The offense took over on the Rooster 43-yard line.

cutlan opening kick Fumble recovery 1

On second down, Doug Webster hit a short completion to Simo Suurkuukka for seven yards. Doug followed that up with a Quarterback sweep to the right to get the first down. Progress stalled during the next few downs due to a sack and an incomplete pass. The offense was looking at a fourth and 12-yard situation from the Rooster 31-yard line. We would not be punting from this field position.

Doug dropped into the pocket and found a streaking Cutlan deep in the left corner of the endzone. He had beat the corner and the pass dropped in perfectly for the first score. Vili hit the extra point and the Crocs made good on the turnover – Crocs 7 Roosters 0.

Doug td throw Cutlan TD catch

Cutlan banged out another kick to the Rooster 10-yard line again into the waiting arms of Roitto who streaked upfield this time for 29 yards setting up their offense on their own 35-yard line. Matikainen took to the air and found a receiver on a fade route down the left side for 27 yards taking the ball into Croc territory. The next two plays saw a holding penalty against the Roosters and a 3-yard sack by Gerald Gooden. The Roosters had dug themselves a hole that they could not get out of with the 8-yard completion they hit on third down. They lined up to punt the ball away from the Croc 43-yard line.

The snap was good. Unfortunately for the Roosters, Juhani, who was pressuring the punt, found a seam and got the block. Crocs recovered giving us the ball in great position on the Rooster 36-yard line.

Juhani blocked punt

The offense, unfortunately, could not muster a first down. They had a short 5-yard rush but missed on three passing attempts. We lost the ball on downs. Roosters took over on their 31-yard line.

The Roosters strung together three nice plays in a row to move the ball to our 38-yard line. After missing on a first down pass, Matikainen dropped to pass again. The receiver ran a quick out route and one of our safeties, Touchu Orue, was waiting in the “weeds”. He made a great read on the Quarterback and slipped into the passing lane for the flat-pass pick. Touchu was off to the races and 65 yards later was untouched in the endzone. As Tom Parker (my long-time friend and Strat-O-Matic football opponent during the early work years) could tell you, the flat-pass interception has a good probability of ending up in the endzone. Vili hit the extra point making it Crocs 14 Roosters 0.

Cutlan banged out another great kick to the 10-yard line and again to Roitto. This time he went 35-yards down the left sideline. We caught a break with a Rooster penalty on the return, which placed the ball on their 24-yard line.

Ashley Sack

The Roosters went to work but after a rush for negative yards and a sack by Ashley Dewing our Three-Tech tackle, they were forced to punt. Roman took the punt dead center between the hash marks and picked up a few yards giving the Crocs the ball on our own 38-yard line.

Two strong rushing plays to VP Jaakonsaari netted consecutive first downs that moved the ball into Rooster territory. On second down, Webster hit Jaakonsaari for a 9-yard screen. Then, from the Rooster 25-yard line, Webster found Suurkuukka deep in the left corner near the goal line. Simo made a great catch for the score. Vili hit the extra point to make it Crocs 21 Roosters 0. The score came a couple plays into the second quarter.

Simo TD catch Simo celebrate

Cutlan boomed it to the 5-yard line this time. Roitto took the kick and picked up a 24-yard return to the Rooster 32-yard line.

The defense took the field and on first down Matikainen dropped to pass. Under pressure from a blitzing Kimmo Pasanen, Matikainen’s throw was off. Our corner, Jussi Koivumäki, actually stumbled and fell during his back pedal but had the wherewithal to quickly recover and come up with an interception. This will be a play I will remember. The pick was the third take-away of the game. Crocs took over on the Rooster 38-yard line.

From the shotgun position, Webster short-stopped the snap that bounced twice to him and found Roman Runner open down the right side of the field. The touchdown catch and extra point by Vili put the Crocs squarely in control at 28 to 0.

Runner TD catch Vili Extra point

Cultlan placed the football in the tee and this time boomed it out of the endzone. This turned out to be our best kickoff coverage play of the game.

The defense took the field and stopped a couple of rushing plays setting up a third down situation. The Roosters found a quick fade down the left side on the third down. We had great pressure on the play but Matikainen managed to get the pass on while falling backwards. The catch gave them a first down on the 50-yard line. From the 50, Matikainen dropped to pass again. This time, the front four flushed him out of the pocked and he ended up on a long, slow scramble to the right. Mistakenly, Matikainen decided to throw back across the flow, which is difficult at best. The ball was easily jumped by Jussi for the pick. This was Jussi’s second pick in two defensive series. Take-away number four for the Crocs and pick number three. Croc ball on their own 47-yard line.

The next offensive series contained some issues. Webster picked up a decent eight yard gain on first down. On second down, Mika Nissinen took the handoff and was tackled very close to the first down. So close, that the referee crew called for a measurement. We were short and lined up for what we believed to be a third down play. Unfortunately, through circumstances brought on by a combination of the chain crew, the interrupting measurement, and the referee crew, the situation had magically moved forward to fourth down and short. Charlie was unaware of this and the subsequent “third down” play came up short. Roosters took over after three downs. These types of things happen occasionally. During a playoff game against the Gladstone Gladiators I was coaching in when I was with the Banks Braves, we had a similar snafu. In this case, we were on defense and somehow after stopping the offense on a fourth and short (with measurement), the Gladiators lined up and got a way with a “fifth” down. I had recognized it on the field and was yelling but everyone else seemed to be oblivious. The gaffe did not cost us as they did not score on the drive. However, the actions of everyone made me doubt that I was assessing things correctly at the time. It was not until I was deep into the film review that I confirmed that indeed, the refs had awarded them an extra down.

Roosters took over on their own 42-yard line and managed nothing. They went for it on fourth and two yards and came up short on an incomplete Matikainen pass. Croc ball on our 48-yard line.

defense 1 defense 2

Now it was our turn to go three-and-out on offense. We could not get anything going and Cutlan took to the field to punt the ball. The punt was nice for the short field and downed on the Rooster 13-yard line.

The Roosters suffered the wrath of Juhani once again with a rushing play loss of a couple yards. Next, Dewing swatted a Matikainen pass to the ground. A missed third down pass forced another Rooster punt this time from their own 11-yard line. The punt was shanked to the right and sailed out on the Rooster 36-yard line. Crocs took over with some good field position.

Webster immediately hit Spencer Cutlan for a nice 20-yard completion. After that, however, we stalled out putting us in a fourth and 12-yard situation on the Rooster 18-yard line. It was time to bring in the Field Goal Unit. They lined up and all three components were good – snap, hold, and kick. Crocs 31 Roosters 0.

Cutlan dropped the kick to the 5-yard line this time to Clements. Clements hit the left sideline for a 55-yard return. The Rooster offense would start on our 40-yard line.

With some good runs, the Rooster offense moved the ball down to our 20-yard line. However, an offensive holding penalty erased 10 of those yards. This put the Roosters in a second and 11-yard situation on our 30-yard line. Time was starting to tick away in the half and each team burned a timeout. With time remaining for just a couple strikes at the endzone, Matikainen looked deep to the middle of the field. We had great coverage and the ball missed the mark. With time for a single play, Matikainen dropped once again for a last attempt. The route this time was a post-corner to the left side of the endzone. Roman Runner had great deep position and watched the ball all the way into his hands for the fourth Croc interception of the game. He kneed the ball down in the endzone to end the half – Crocs 31 Roosters 0.

halftime crowd

We headed over to our usual spot behind the building on the hill on the home sideline. There was a nice area of shade that pretty much accommodated the team for halftime. I had no adjustments to make. We had played a brilliant first half of defensive football. We had five take-aways and were limiting the Roosters both on the ground and in the air. The players had 20 minutes to get some shade and cool down some before going out and trying to wipe from memory a dominating first half so that they could start fresh for the remaining 24 minutes.

The second half began with the Roosters kicking off for their only time during the game. Touchu took the ball on the 15-yard line and pushed it up the sideline to our 30. Doug and the offense took the field.

The offense managed a short 1-yard rush followed by two incomplete passes for a three-and-out. Cutlan punted the ball for a second time. The punt was a beauty carrying 64-yards from the line of scrimmage in the air. Clements fielded the ball in the air at the five and took it 77 yards on the return down to our 18-yard line. This ruined a great punt. Our special teams coverage had been atrocious all day and this capped it off. Roman Runner came flying up from behind and made the touchdown-saving tackle.

On the first play from scrimmage, Matikainen was flushed from the pocket and rolled right. He launched the pass to the right-side corner of the endzone and badly underthrew the ball. Tuomas Leinonen had good position and picked the ball off giving the defense its fifth interception and sixth take-away. The offense would again take the field this time from their own 2-yard line.

Doc pick

Seven plays later after a couple first downs, Cutlan took the field for his third punt in a fourth and seven situation from the Croc 29-yard line. The kick was fielded by Clements on the Rooster 32-yard line and he squirmed his way out to the Rooster 48-yard line for an 18-yard return. Roosters took over mid-field.

From first down, Matikainen handed the ball off to Jussila for a run to the left. Thomas Malagodi beat his defender on the line and was in the backfield. He stripped the ball free from Jussila and it was bouncing on the carpet. Ashley Dewing came up with the ball giving us our seventh take-away. Croc ball on the Rooster 40-yard line.

Fumble recovery 2

The offense managed a single first down and then stalled out leaving them with a fourth down and 13 yard situation on the Rooster 20-yard line. The Field Goal unit took the field for the second time. This time, however, the snap was high and it forced the holder Cutlan to pull up out of his position. “Fire” was yelled and the play quickly converted to a pass. Cutlan had to scramble to the right and launch a desperate pass to the endzone. The ball was intercepted by Kokkonen at the Rooster 9-yard line where the offense would take over. The bright side to all this was that we had turned around the field position problem that long punt return had given us.

The defense held with the help of a Gooden sack and a couple Rooster penalties to force them to punt from their own 24-yard line. The kick again was shanked to the right and sailed out of bounds after 17 yards. Croc ball on the Rooster 41-yard line.

On first down, Webster dropped to pass and could find no receivers open. He stepped up into a disintegrating rush pocket and managed a 15-yard scramble sliding out before taking contact. On the next play, Webster handed the ball off to Jaakonsaari and he found a seam and logged a 26-yard touchdown rush. Vili hit the extra point and it was now Crocs 38 Roosters 0.

VP Run

With only 59 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Cutlan boomed another kick this time to the five. Again, Clements took the ball and wasn’t pulled down until he had reached the Rooster 30-yard line.

The Rooster offense busted a nice run for 10 yards and the first down. They followed this up with two short rushes each for three yards. On third and four from the Croc 43-yard line, the Roosters ran a zone read play up the middle. Gerald Gooden and the stand-out offensive Rooster tackle Kaasalainen evidently got into some sort of altercation that resulted in both of them being ejected from the ball game. From the sideline, we could not tell what had occurred and would have to wait for film. Even now, we can’t really see anything from the film other than aggressive blocking and attempts from Gooden to get off the block. In any case, we had lost our end for the remainder of the game.

ejection ejection 2

After the dust had settled and various penalties marched off, the Roosters were looking at a third and four situation from their own 46-yard line. Matikainen dropped to toss a quick fade down the right side but Tuomas Leinonen, who had great hip-to-hip position on the receiver turned and picked the ball off. The interception was his second and the sixth for the Crocs. Crocs took over on their own 30-yard line with 11:55 remaining in the game.

Doc pick 2

The offense went three-and-out with Cutlan punting from our own 34-yard line. This time the punt was thankfully downed on the Rooster 31-yard line. Seven rushing plays later, the Roosters had a fourth down and 11-yard situation from the Croc 38-yard line. They hit a short 9-yard completion that came up short. Crocs took over on downs with 4:58 remaining.

On first down, VP (Jaakonsaari) found another running seam and this time it hit for a 62-yard rushing touchdown. Vili converted on the point-after and it was Crocs 45 Roosters 0.

VP run 2

Cutlan teed it up and kicked relatively short to the Rooster 20 into the waiting arms of Roitto who returned it 38 yards to the 50-yard line. Thankfully, that was the last of the kick coverage for the day.

Highlighted by a 25-yard run by Jussila, the Roosters had moved into good position to the Croc 28-yard line setting up a new set of downs. After a couple short burst runs, the Roosters busted one around our left edge and found the endzone. Yellow flags had flown though and they negated the score. This time it was a personal foul on the Roosters. The end-result was a third and 10 situation from the Croc 28-yard line. The next play was a screen that was for good yardage but another penalty brought that one back. This time is was a blatant block in the back. Faced with a fourth down and 11 from the 23-yard line, Matikainen set up to make a last effort throw to the corner. Once again, Crocs were in place and Roman Runner came up with the seventh interception of the game and the ninth take-away. We learned later that the interception set a new Maple League record for the number of interceptions in a single game.

At this point, the clock was such that we could kneel out the remaining time and the game was over with a final score of Crocs 45 and Roosters 0. The score was far different from what we had anticipated back at the beginning of the week.


The win went a long way in securing a home game in the semi-finals in September. As it stood after the win, the Crocodiles remained as the only undefeated team in the Maple League and had yielded a stingy 44 points in five games. Next week’s contest on the road with the Turku Trojans would be a huge game for both clubs. Turku probably still smarting from the close loss to a fully-loaded Rooster squad and the added incentive of playing against the team from which two of their star players came from – Jocques Crawford and Rodney Brown.

Here are some links to various interviews, stats, and articles:

Game statistics

A rare pre-game interview that gave me.

The pre-game interview with the Head Coach Charlie.

Post-game article from Croc site

Pre-game article from Croc site

Post-game article focusing on Roosters interceptions from

Great pictures from I am not sure who the photographer is here but the pictures are great!

More pictures from Gridiron Darkroom taken by Samppa Toivonen. This site requires you to decipher a bit of Finnish and register with a login and password to access the pictures.

Crocs 31 – 69ers 0

22 July 2014

While the 12 July game against the tough TAFT team was emotionally draining, it now remains firmly in the past. Last Sunday saw our fourth regular season game of 10 for the Seinäjoki Crocodiles against the Helsinki 69ers.


The 69ers were owners of a 2 and 1 record before falling to the Crocs in the Velodrome. The field of teams in this years Maple league has rolled into two fairly separate groups. Four teams are fairly established as playoff bound – Crocodiles, Roosters, Trojans, and TAFT. Here is a graphic of the current standings. Although TAFT appears low in the standings, of the four games they have played, three have been against top-tier opponents (Crocs, Roosters, and Trojans). On the other hand, the Crocs have yet to face either the Roosters or the Trojans. So I suspect that further definition will emerge over the course of the next couple of weeks.

Maple standings

So last Sunday found us on the road again very early (7AM departure) for Helsinki and the Velodrome. We arrived around 12:30 with a couple hours to prepare for the 2:30 kick. The was a bit iffy as about a mile off there were some serious lightning strikes. I stood outside the locker room and tried to count the seconds between the strikes and the thunder and eventually determined the storm was moving away. So I didn’t think we were going to have any delays due to lightning.

We had a really good week of practice that included spirited and energetic sessions. We had everyone on board and some players from the Junior teams as well. We felt confident going into the match. Above all, though, we did not want to overlook an opponent.

The 69ers are led by Quarterback Marques Ivory who played at Jacksonville State in the US. Ivory is a big quarterback at six feet one inch and 235 pounds in college. At linebacker, the 69ers featured American Robert Bell who played at the University of Toledo in Ohio. Bell was a standout player at all levels at six feet and 225 pounds. The final American for the 69ers was R. J. Long playing wideout and in the defensive backfield. Long played at McMurry University out of Texas. We considered Long to be their most dangerous receiving threat.

At 2:30 after the introductions, the flag waving, and the pomp, the captains met at mid-field and the coin decided who would start on offense and on defense. We won the toss and elected to defer the kick to the second half. The defense would get first crack after the kick.

Croc flag captains

Spencer Cutlan boomed the kick and our coverage was good setting the 69ers on their own 17-yard line. The opening play set the tone as Ashley Dewing slammed through the offensive line and logged a nine-yard sack on Ivory. On a third down and 14 to go, our American Defensive End Gerald Gooden got to Ivory for a five-yard sack. That play set up the first of many 69er punts to come.

Cutler kickoff Ashley Sack

The punt was from the back of the endzone with Roman Runner fielding it and logging a 45-yard return down to the 69er three-yard line. A pass for no yardage followed by a Nissinen burst into the endzone had the Crocs on the board quickly. Unfortunately, Vili ended his streak of successive extra points and the score was Crocs 6 and 69ers 0.

First score First score celebrate

The kickoff went to R. J. Long and he had a nice return to the 69er 47-yard line. The drive ended without a first down after three running plays and a 69er false start penalty. The punt was taken again by Runner this time at the 11-yard line. He managed a 32-yard return but a clipping penalty wiped out much of that. Crocs would take over on their own 30-yard line.

The offense put together an 11-play scoring drive that did not rely on any big plays. The longest play of the drive was a 17-yard completion from Webster to Runner. Webster scored the TD on a short one-yard run. Vili hit the extra point this time giving the Crocs a 13 to 0 early advantage. Just 1:17 remained in the first quarter.

Doug score PAT

The 69ers began from their 22-yard line and again were three-and-out. They took the line of scrimmage with a fourth and three situation on their own 29-yard line. We had a bit of confusion here as the 69ers did not line up in a traditional punting formation. It appeared as though they were going to go for it. However, the snap was taken by Ivory who dropped a few steps and booted the ball away. With the benefit of no return man in place, the ball took a good 69er bounce and crossed out of bounds on our 35-yard line.

The offense was back on the field. They put together a virtually identical, efficient drive down to the 69 11-yard line where they stalled out with a fourth and 11-yard situation after Nissinen was dropped for loss of seven on a running play. We brought in Vili to attempt the field goal. The kick had the distance but was wide left. 69ers took over on their 11-yard line.

Despite spotting them five yards on an offsides penalty, the 69ers were three and out again. They had a short run and missed on two pass attempts. Again, they line up as if to run a play. And, again, Ivory took the snap and booted the punt. It was weak and short and was downed on the 69er 40-yard line giving the offense a very short field with which to work.

defense tackling defense tackling2

After a seven-yard completion to Cutlan and then a missed pass, Nissinen took the ball off the right sight for routine isolation play and was stripped of the ball. The 69ers came up with it and had the first take-away. 69 ball on their 28-yard line.

The 69ers gained little yardage using a couple running plays. With a third down, we committed another offsides penalty and gave them their first first down of the night. From that point on for this drive things fell apart for them. They turned right around and committed their own false start to put them in a first and 15-yard situation. On the next snap, Gooden made a good outside move to free himself of the protecting Offensive Tackle and logged another sack on Ivory. This time he dropped him for six yards. Faced with a third and 21-yard play, Ivory dropped again to pass. This time is was Oskar Karlsson, from Sweden, who had great penetration and stripped the ball loose from Ivory’s grasp. The 69ers managed to recover the ball and they were now looking at fourth and 31 yards from their 19-yard line. With no tricks from the offense, the punt team lined up to kick away. The ball sailed out of bounds giving the offense a first and 10 from the 69er 48-yard line. Forty three seconds remained in the half.

gooden sack Oskar Strip

The offense moved the ball to the 19-yard line and had a first down when Webster dropped and stepped up in the pocket to throw the seam. The 69er safety, Bell, played it perfectly and got the interception. He returned the ball to their 40-yard line. However, flags were everywhere. I counted three on the field. It turned out that there were clipping and holding penalties all against the 69er. The hold evidently was before the interception so we retained the ball. With a first and goal from the 10-yard line we had time for one shot at the endzone. We missed on the pass and the clock expired with Crocs at 13 and 69ers 0.

For halftime we decided to go back into the locker room. We had our own defensive area where I went in and sat with the players for a while. We didn’t have everyone in there so I chose not to say anything for a while. I think they got uncomfortable after a while and finally asked me directly if there were any adjustments we needed to make. Of course I had none. We had played a nearly flawless first half of defensive football allowing a single first down due to a penalty. There was not much to be said. So, after encouraging everyone to put the first half away and focus on a new 24 minutes I got out of there.

charlie and scott Scott and Luoma end of half

The second half started with Roman taking the kick and returning it 32 yards out to the fifty. Eight plays later we were in the endzone with our third score. Again, the drive was not punctuated with any great long gains. The offense had put together a consistent series of runs and passes to get the score on a 9-yard run by Velipekka Jaakonsaari, who we call “VP” for obvious reasons. Vili hit the extra point to make it Crocs 20 and 69ers 0.

VP touchdown VP celebrate

Spencer kicked off and Long returned the ball to the 69er 22-yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, Ivory threw a swing pass to the right flaring back. The pass was reacted on instantly by our cover corner Tuomas who put the hit on the receiver. The ball was actually never caught and Gooden from the Defensive End spot recognized it as a backwards pass and scooped it up off the cement and trotted into the endzone for a defensive score. We decided to try and make up the missed extra point from earlier and handed the ball off to Nissinen for the two-point conversion. It was good. Crocs 28 and 69ers 0.

Tuomus hit Gooden TD

Spencer lined up to kick again and sailed it deep. The return took it to the 69er 31-yard line. After a couple short runs, Oskar got to Ivory again for a sack. Unfortunately, we were flagged as lining up offsides out on the corner. So, with a third and 3-yard situation Ivory dropped to pass and missed. Rather than punt once again, the 69ers decided to try the fourth down. Ivory took the shotgun snap and looked to throw. The pocket was soon collapsing on him and his scramble resulted in a 3-yard sack from both Gooden and Malagodi. Malagodi is our one-tech guy (nose tackle) from the UK and has been playing great.

We took over in great position on the 69er 35-yard line. The drive was disastrous, though, as we got hit for two penalties and then a sack that forced the ball out with the 69ers recovering.

The defense took to the field. The 69ers executed a zone read play and our Middle Linebacker read and filled with speed. He broke the entire thing up and forced Ivory out to the left with the ball where he ran into Gooden protecting the end. Gooden stripped the ball and Joni Virtanen, an outside linebacker, scooped it up for the turnover. Croc ball again.

gooden strip

The offense took over on our own 44-yard line. We managed a lengthy drive that was highlighted by a third-down conversion for 16 yards. We were faced with a third and 14 situation and Webster connected to VP down to the 69er 11-yard line. Unfortunately, we could not cash in on a touchdown and had to settle for a 26-yard field goal by Vili. Crocs 31 and 69ers 0.

Vili FG Cutler kickoff2

Cutlan kicked off and the defense took the field and shut the 69ers down in three plays. The 69ers helped out with a bad snap over Ivory’s head that resulted in a 21-yard sack by Gooden. Faced with a fourth down and 32 yards, the 69ers surprisingly attempted the fourth down play from their own 40-yard line. They missed on the completion. Croc ball at their 28-yard line.

After completing a pass for 12-yards to Cutlan, the Crocs coughed up the ball a second time on a fumble. This time it was Runner who lost the handle. The 69ers took over on their own 20-yard line with 11:11 left in the game.

Cutlan Running

This drive was the most productive for the 69ers. They managed two first downs over the course of 11 plays. The final play of the drive came on a fourth and two situation where Oskar got to Ivory for another sack. This time it was for minus six yards.

The offense took over barely in 69er territory on the 49-yard line. They were unable to convert on a fourth and six situation from the 33-yard line. The 69ers would have one final shot at accumulating some yardage.
Unfortunately for the 69ers, a penalty and a third down sack by Malagodi stuck them in a fourth and 23-yard situation where they decided to simply punt the ball away. Runner fielded the kick and returned it 29 yards to the Croc 45-yard line. A minute and 59 seconds remained.

Ashley Sack defense stuffs2

At this point, the offense ran a few running plays and then kneeled out to end the game. Final score remained Crocs 31 and 69ers 0.

For me personally, it was nice to get a shutout. I have been coaching a long time and there have not been many shutouts. The thing about this particular game that made it quite defensively notable was that the total offensive production for the 69ers was a minus 19 yards. Not only had we not allowed a point, but we had not allowed a yard of total offense. I was looking forward to breaking down the game film on Monday.

Scott end of game

The trip home seemed long to me given the win. We did eventually reach the clubhouse around 11:30PM, which was relatively early for a road game. As usual, we peddled home in the light.

Here are some links for the game:


Pictures from Credit to Jari Turunen and this great site for his photography.

More pictures from this Facebook site. Again, credit to the photographer O-M Matihalti for great shots. O-M is our sideline reporter/photographer for all the Crocodile games.

Crocs 23 – TAFT 20

17 July 2014

Game three of the regular season was against TAFT. I dug up the exact meaning for TAFT in one of last year’s posts but I will repeat it here again. TAFT is from the town of Vantaa and stands for Tikkurila American Football Team with Tikkurila being the Vaanta District. They have no associated mascot name like the Crocs or Indians… it is just TAFT.

Going into this game, we knew that it would be our toughest challenge of the season thus far. TAFT has a solid organization, they are well coached, and have plenty of talent spread around, unlike last week’s opponent the Kuovula Indians.


TAFT features an American quarterback named John Kelly who played at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. They have a talented running back (#36) named Roope Metsä who is Finnish who is very dangerous in the flats. On the defensive side of the ball, they round out their allocated three American imports with Garret Griffith, who hails from Colorado but played ball in the states in Nebraska at Hastings College, and with Max Shubert who played for Salve Regina University in Rhode Island. Shubert and Griffith are both big defensive backs.

The game was slated to kickoff at 4PM in Tikkurila. Tikkurila is very close to the airport in Helsinki and we ended up seeing a lot of big jumbo jets tracking directly over the stadium during the game. Because of the afternoon kick time we had to board the bus and leave around 8AM.

We arrived on schedule around 2PM. The ISS Stadium is a very nice facility. It is interesting to see the football venues in Finland since American Football is not a main sport. For example, ISS Stadium is really set up for soccer. The surface, which is top-notch field turf, is beautiful. However, the lining is all soccer. Because they wanted to use it for American football, they used slightly lighter green colored lines for the American Football markings whereas the soccer linings were bright white. Also, they opted to not bother with hash marks or numbers, which are common landmarks for all football team’s defensive and offensive schemes. Finally, as with most fields in Finland, the goal posts were fabricated by erecting some posts to the sides of some soccer goals, which of course gives you a cross-bar that is about two feet short of regulation. Despite all this, we were excited to play on the nice surface.

The week’s practice prior to the game was not particularly good. We had thin numbers and seemingly skewed priorities. We managed to get through the week and both Charlie and I were not happy about it. We could not afford to go lose this game.

The coin toss was held with the captains at mid-field and we came up with the toss. We elected to receive and to go with the slight wind that was running through the the stadium.

entrance coin flip

We fielded the kick and began on our 35-yard line. The offense did a great job of burning up clock on a long 13-play drive that eventually stalled just short of the goal line at the three. That set up a second and goal but we had to settle for the field goal. Vili came in and nailed it to put us on the board. Crocs 3 and TAFT 0.

fg snap and hold fg vili

After the kickoff, TAFT took over on their 34-yard line. Their offense put together a 12-play drive that stalled out on downs around our 25-yard line. The series ended on four incomplete passes. The final play was a corner shot at the endzone that sailed long.

gooden on the hunt missed fade

We took over on our 27-yard line. We chipped away and moved the ball over the course of 11 plays to get to the TAFT 36-yard line. From a third and seven situation, Webster dropped to pass and was flushed from the pocket. He spotted our receiver just breaking up on a comeback route down the right sideline. However, the pass was off and was caught by TAFT defensive back Wiren. That ended that drive. TAFT took over on their 14-yard line.

doug throwing interception taft

The defense took the field and pretty much shut them down. TAFT managed a single first down before they had to punt from their 27-yard line. The punt return was an interesting play and probably qualifies as one of the “5 plays” that define a game. The TAFT punter really had a leg and he boomed this one off 47 yards as measured from the line of scrimmage. Roman Runner, our return specialist, took the kick off the ground while retreating. He was hit by three TAFT players but managed to keep his feet despite being facemasked, which was ignored. Roman hit the sideline and returned the ball all the way to the endzone. Unfortunately, what was deemed as a “hold” was not ignored during the return and the play was called back. The net result was that we took over on our own 43-yard line.

croc defense runner punt return

From there, a slew of penalties and frustrations landed us with a fourth and 27 from from our own 26-yard line. Spencer took the field and booted the ball away.

TAFT only managed two plays. On the second one, we had a great fill and hit on the ball by our Middle Linebacker Mika. His hit popped the ball loose and we recovered. Croc ball first and 10 on their 37-yard line.

We were out in four downs not able to collect a single first down and failing on a fourth and two with an incomplete pass. With a minute and 12 seconds remaining in the half, TAFT took over on their 29-yard line. The defense limited them to a single first down which got them to mid-field as the half expired.

fumble crushing taft tackle

Surprisingly, the first half results were much different than we expected. I was very happy with the defense as you can’t really get better than a shutout for the half. We gathered near the endzone and got some rest and discussed adjustments that TAFT would likely make during the second half. We had made just a few defensive mistakes. We had some great individual plays and efforts on the field that first half.

The second half started with TAFT on their 42-yard line. The defense stopped them on downs forcing the punt. The punt was a beauty and rolled into the endzone for the touchback. Webster and the offense took the field and on second down he connected with Runner for a 31-yard pass completion. However, on the next second down opportunity a freakish interception occurred. We had a comeback route down the right sideline and on the throw, the receiver went down and missed the ball. Unfortunately, the ball somehow never touched the ground and ended up resting on the back of the down receiver. Shubert scooped it up off the back logging the second interception. Despite the initial “incomplete” call from the referee, the call was overturned after a short conference on the field. TAFT would start on their own 16-yard line.

pick off the back arguing the pick

Once again, the defense rose to the occasion and forced a punt after three downs. The highlight play here was a 14-yard sack by Gerald Gooden our defensive end from Purdue. The punt was short and sailed out of bounds on the TAFT 46-yard line.

gooden sack

The offense on a short running play got hit with a holding call to push the ball back to the Croc 47-yard line giving them a first down and 17 yard situation. Webster dropped to pass and with decent protection launched a deep pass down the left sideline to Spencer Cutlan. Cutlan made a fantastic catch where he had to content with the defensive back fighting for the ball. Cutlan was in the endzone and we had our second score. With 4:45 remaining in the third quarter, Vili hit the extra point and it was Crocs 10 and TAFT 0.

Cutler TD catch 2 Cutler after TD 1

We kicked off and the kick was very short. Combined with the return, TAFT would start on our 36-yard line. They had a very short field to work with here. They had a nice 13-yard completion followed by some running plays and they were first and goal on our six yard line. Kelly dropped to pass and hit Luiro breaking to the flats. We had a blown coverage and he was in the endzone. Wiren, the kicker who is probably the best kicker in the league, converted on the point after and it was Crocs 10 and TAFT 7.

Wiren boomed the kickoff out of the endzone and we would start on our 20-yard line. All the offense could produce was a short 3-yard gain on a rush and then a couple incomplete passes. Cutlan, again, took the field to punt the ball away. The punt was only 26 yards from the line of scrimmage giving TAFT another short field from our 49-yard line.

Touchdown TAFT defense taft

TAFT muffed the exchange in the backfield on first down and the ball was on the turf. They recovered but after a loss of eight yards. However, offsetting penalties nullified the play and they again lined up from the 49-yard line with a fresh first down. Kelly hit Griffith for a 14-yard completion on the hitch route to the left logging a first down. Two plays later, TAFT was faced with a third and eight situation from our 28-yard line. Kelly dropped to pass and was flushed to the right out of the pocket. He scrambled nearly out of bounds giving receivers about 8 seconds to turn designed routes into grade-school patterns. Kelly launched it deep into the right back corner of the endzone and our corner, Doc, was up a bit and could not recover. TAFT had struck again. Wiren lined up to attempt the point after and Runner split the inside seam to disrupt the kick. With the third quarter ending, TAFT had taken the lead 13 to 10.

Wiren boomed the kick to the goal line and Runner managed a 30-yard return. All the offense could get was a single first down. Faced with a fourth and 20 after a bad penalty, Cutlan had a nice punt that was intentionally kicked out of bounds giving TAFT the ball on their 20-yard line.

doc giving up six defense taft 2

With 8:15 remaining in the game TAFT took to the field. A three-yard run and two incomplete passes later brought the TAFT punt team out onto the field. The big play for us on this stop was the third down pass. We had a great man coverage breakup by Doc our left corner on the slant route.

Starting at our own 43-yard line, Webster connected three times in a row with the third shot to Roman Runner resulting in a 30-yard touchdown completion. The pass was a short route but TAFT missed the open-field tackle and Runner found himself spun back and free. Vili came on and hit the extra point to give the Crocs the lead 17 to 10 with 6:35 remaining in the game.

Simo catch vili catch

Cutlan boomed the kick out for a touchback and TAFT would start on their 20-yard line. With a second and four from their own 26-yard line, Kelly found Luiro in the flats to the right. His speed was too much and he got to the edge for a 34-yard completion. Two more rushing plays with a short pass netted them two more first downs to give them the ball on our 13-yard line. TAFT got hit with a false-start penalty and then we came up with a sack. We had them on their heels with a third down and 20 from our 23-yard line. Kelly took the snap and from the pocket launched it deep to the endzone to Griffith. Griffith made a great catch over Arue our right-side corner for the score. It was good coverage… just a great catch. Wiren hit the point after and TAFT was back on top 20 to 17 with 1:41 remaining in the game.

final td taft Scott sideline

Webster and the offense took the field with little time on our 27-yard line. After a couple incomplete passes, Webster found Runner on the right on a comeback route for 16 yards and the first down. The next play was a quick flat route that netted three yards. With second down and seven to go from our 46-yard line, Webster found Suurkuukka on the swing pass to the right. He had room to run and with a key block from Runner who was downfield, the pass went for 16 yards down to the TAFT 38-yard line. 39 ticks remained in the game. Webster lined up and Cutlan ran the fade down the left sideline. He beat the coverage and the ball dropped into his hands for the go-ahead score. Vili kicked the extra point and a TAFT defender somehow managed a block with a perfectly timed leap from behind the line of scrimmage. Crocs 23 and TAFT 20 with 34 seconds remaining.

cutlan final td final td celbrate

Cutlan kicked off and TAFT managed a return out to their 34-yard line. Kelly missed on the first down pass attempt but hit the comeback route on second down for 16 yards and the first down. With a first and 10 from the 50, Kelly went deep for the homerun ball down the right sideline. We had great deep coverage and the ball fell incomplete. With 16 seconds remaining, Kelly dropped again and could find no receivers. He split the rush pocket barely escaping the shoe-string sack and hit open field. We missed a key tackle in space and Kelly ended up with a 27-yard scramble taking the ball down to our 23-yard line with 6 seconds in the game. We traded a timeout with TAFT and they opted to attempt the tying field goal with the sure-footed Wiren. This kick was well within his range and abilities. They kicked from the left hash with a bit of wind pushing to the right. The snap and hold were good and the kick was away. It was wide right by about five feet. The game was over.

final kick missed fg

For me, the wash of relief was immediate. We had come down and gotten the win despite not playing the best as a team. We still had a ways to go. But, a win is a win. The bus ride home would be good. Next Sunday we would travel again to face the Helsinki 69ers.


Here are some game links:

Sajl article

Croc article

Pictures from Credit to the great photography from this site.

Crocs 42 – Indians 10

4 July 2014

This game against the Kouvula Indians had been hyped for a while. The last time we took the field was three weeks ago in the Velodrome against the Wolverines where we had trouble keeping the score down. The Indians would be a much better team I felt even though they had just logged a loss to the Wolverines. The dangerous man on the field for the Indians was Jeremy Dixon who attended Averett University in the United States. Dixon was fast, could make you miss, and was hard to contain. He would be our main threat today.

promo poster

Kickoff was set at 6:30PM in “The Swamp” and the weather was great. It was about 70 degrees Fahrenheit, which is about 20 Centigrade. No rain to be seen. This was a far cry from our opening home game in 2013 during which we had a thunderstorm complete with lightning strikes about 50 yards off the corner of the field and then enough of a hailstorm to blanket the field completely in white. We had a bit of a delay during that one.

The organization has this giant, inflatable crocodile through which the teams are introduced. This inflatable is in addition to another giant inflatable crocodile that functions as a kiddie slide and lives in a different corner of the field, which, I might add, my lovely wife in Belize would truly enjoy.

With smoke, music, and public address boomings, both teams were announced through the “tunnel with teeth”. We had secured a team flag, which was proudly carried through to the field. Speaking of flags, both Charlie and I were surprised see the American flag flying alongside the Finnish flag on the opposite sideline. I asked about it and found out that Jari had specially ordered one to fly on this game as it was the Fourth of July holiday in the states. I thought that was pretty cool and wished I had brought my camera along to get a photo of it.

flag through croc croc slide

With introductions over, the required captain’s meeting was held mid-field. This was another televised game for us so the cameraman could be seen in the midst of it all as the coin was tossed and the call made. The Indians won the toss and elected to receive.

coin flip Tobias kicking

Tobias lined up and booted the opening kick. Dixon took it on the bounce and got it out to around the 35-yard line. The defense took the field.

The scout tapes we had on the Indians had shown Dixon playing receiver for much of each game. In those films we had seen him only at the Quarterback position during the last quarter or so of each contest. However, for this game, after the starting lineups had been published, we learned Dixon would be starting at the Quarterback position.

As the Defensive Coordinator, my main concern was to contain Dixon’s scrambling and running ability. This would be the biggest threat to our defense. The Indians ran a spread style offense that centered around Dixon’s ability to run and scramble. Their “bread-and-butter” running play we had determined from the scout tapes was a “zone read.” When you run a zone read, the Quarterback receives the ball in the “shotgun” position. He then sticks the ball in the belly of the running back and “rides” him towards the line in one direction. While “riding” the running back, the Quarterback then makes a “read” and decides whether to let the running back keep the ball or whether to pull the ball out and run it himself in the opposite direction.

The Indians opened with a zone read that netted them nothing. The next couple plays found the Indians with a fourth and one from their own 44-yard line. They decided to go for it. They went with the zone read again but Dixon kept the ball heading left. He was hit early but managed to worm his way over the line of scrimmage for three yards and the first down.

dixon tacked 2 coralling dixon

With a fresh set of downs, Dixon opted to keep the ball again picking up four yards. They followed this with an incomplete swing pass and then the big play for us, which was a sack. It came on a third and six situation from the Indian 39-yard line. Both our defensive tackles (we were in a 3-man front look) had great penetration and got Dixon scrambling. Both Gooden and Janne were in on the sack. The loss forced the punt, which was kicked away and downed on our 41-yard line.

gooden sack Indian punt

Doug Webster, one of our Americans, was calling the signals. During the series, two big pass completions to Roman Runner, another American, got the ball to the Indian five yard line with first down. The first pass was an amazing athletic catch down the right sideline over good man coverage. The second one was a nice out route to the right. The first score came on a little speed option to the left where Webster made a nice read and pitch out to Nissinen who danced into the endzone. Vili hit the extra point, continuing his perfect percentage for the season. Crocs 7 and Indians 0.

Roman leaping catch Doug before option

After the kickoff, the Indians took over on their 35-yard line again. This series is where we got a taste of the basic flow of the Indian offense, which would be solely centered around Jeremy Dixon. Dixon interlaced several runs with the zone read where he kept the ball. Throw in there some standard passes that, more often than not, ended up being a Dixon scramble. During this series, they managed a couple first downs to get them into a third and 10 situation on our 38-yard line. On this play, our right side “dog” (Juhani Koivumaki) was on a blitz that was executed perfectly between him and Janne our defensive tackle. The outside lane opened up and Juhani ran a scrambling Dixon down for an 11-yard sack. This forced another punt, which was downed on our 24-yard line.

dixon going down dixon tackled

The offense couldn’t get things going and were lined up to punt in a fourth and three situation. We were bailed out with a roughing the kicker penalty against the Indians to give us the first down. On the next play, Webster was flushed from the pocket but found Suurkuukka in the left sideline for a completion. Suurkuukka took a hard shot to the helmet on the catch but no flag was thrown. After a short screen pass, Webster again found Runner down the right sideline. This pass was literally completed by inches. The Indian safety closed fast with an outstretched arm and barely missed disrupting the ball’s flight. Roman gathered it in on the full sprint and found the endzone. Vili hit the extra point making it Crocs 14 and Indians 0.

roman pre snap roman scoring

The kickoff was out of bounds giving the Indians the ball for the third time on their own 35-yard line. Dixon dropped to pass and was flushed from the pocket. During the scramble, which was long, the ball came loose and the Crocs recovered. First turnover of the game.

From first and 10 on the Indian 45-yard line, Webster hit Suurkuukka again but this time for 44 yards. Doug had scrambled left from the pocket and found Suurkuukka waiting in the seam. It was a near score as the ball was ruled down on the one yard line. A quick hitting off tackle play to the left to Nissinen got us into the endzone for the third time. Vili hit the extra point to make it Crocs 21 and Indians 0 with 36 seconds left to play in the first quarter.

Meeko after the handoff

The kick and return put the Indians on their 39-yard line to start the series. Again, Dixon either threw, scrambled, or kept the ball himself. Over the course of several plays, the Indians managed two first downs to get the ball out to our 43-yard line – this despite a false start and intentional grounding penalties against them. Faced with a long third and 27 situation, Dixon lined up to take the snap. Unfortunately for them, the snap sailed a few feet over the head of Dixon and it was a race for the ball. Gooden disrupted Dixon’s attempt to recover the fumble, which allowed Rautiainen to make the recovery. Great field position at the Indian 28-yard line to start our fourth offensive series.

We found the endzone from a fourth and seven situation. Again, it was Webster to Runner. This time it was a 20-yard corner route to the back of the endzone. Vili nailed the extra point and Crocs had a 28 to 0 lead early in the second quarter.

doug throw TD celebration leap

Tobias kicked and the Dixon return got the ball started on the Indian 28-yard line. After a first down through a Croc penalty, Dixon connected big with Benedetti, their running back down the right sideline for a 29-yard completion. Many of the Indian completions were late throws from a Scrambling Dixon where coverage tends to break down over time. A couple rushing plays and another pass completion for 12 yards got the Indians to their deepest point thus far on our side of the field at the 10-yard line giving them a first and goal. Dixon kept the ball on a zone read and was tacked for a loss by Runner flying up the alley from the safety position. The Indians had no luck throwing the ball the next two downs. They lined up for a 27-yard field goal. They hit the field goal and were on the board – Crocs 28 and Indians 3.

dixon throwing in clutches of gooden Indians FG

We took the kick and started the series from our own 20. On the ensuing play-action pass, the Indian left end beat our tackle and dropped Webster for a 12-yard sack. From this hole we couldn’t recover. Spencer took the field to punt. The punt sailed to mid-field and the return got the Indians with pretty good field position on our 35-yard line.

Their offense sputtered and were faced with a fourth down and 10 situation from our 35-yard line. Dixon set up to pass and scrambled left out of the pocket. He threw the seam route but Roman Runner read the throw and picked the ball off around the five yard line. He ran the ball back out to our 27-yard line. Croc ball.

With 1:55 left in the half the offense took the field. Two quick completions for 10 and 14 yard to Suurkuukka and Saarinen, respectively got us in Indian territory to the 49-yard line. After that success, two incomplete passes and an 11-yard sack crushed the hope for a late score. Spencer was again called on to punt the ball away. He shanked the kick to the right for only 15 yards before it sailed out of bounds.

The Indians wrapped up the half with a couple incomplete passes and a short run by Dixon. We headed to our little area on the bank behind the home bleachers.

Defensively, we did not need to make any adjustments for the second half. We simply needed to remind ourselves that the only threat here was Dixon on the run. So I emphasized good, patient positioning and solid open-field tackling. All we really needed to do was limit Dixon’s runs and scrambles to small to medium gains – simply stop the big plays.

We took the field after the 20-minute break and readied ourselves for the second half kickoff, which we would receive. The kick was short and Suurkuukka returned it out just past our 40-yard line. After six plays from the line of scrimmage, we were deep into Indian territory on their 12-yard line. A defensive pass interference call helped to get us there. Then, on a first and 10 from the 12, Nissinen coughed up the ball on a zone read play. The Indians recovered.

refs 2 meeka handoff

The Indians would be starting from their 7-yard line. The drive they put together from here was a 93-yard scoring drive. The adjustment they made at half was to go with an empty formation (mainly), which would allow Dixon to use his feet to either scramble for yardage or find an eventually open receiver after pass coverages had broken down. That strategy held true for the drive and with the extra point made, the score was Crocs 28 and Indians 10.

dixon juking juhani ref TD

We took the kick and returned it to our own 38-yard line. From first down, Webster hit big to Spencer Cutlan for 34 yards. After that, we stalled out leaving us with a fourth and 10 situation from the Indian 28-yard line. We elected to go for it but failed on the pass. The Indians took over.

Only 1:55 remained in the third. The long drive by the Indians had eaten up a lot of clock. They took the field and resumed the same strategy that netted them their only touchdown. After six plays, they were into our territory on the 41-yard line. I didn’t really care if they “chunked” away at us. What we did not want to happen was a series of big plays that could quickly turn a game around. So, “patience” was the word for the moment.

From a fourth and five yard situation on our 36-yard line, patience paid off. Dixon took the snap and made a rare throw while still in the pocket over the middle. Roman Runner, the safety, had it marked and picked up his second interception of the game. He had a nice weaving return for 34 yards giving us the ball on our 44-yard line.

roman pick 2 roman pick return

The clock had ticked over into the fourth quarter now as Doug and the offense took to the field. A quick hitting seam pass down the left side to Vili Rajamaki resulted in the 56-yard touchdown completion. Vili hit the extra point and the score was now Crocs 35 and the Indians 10.

Tobias kicked the ball and Dixon scooped it from the ground for the return. Unfortunately for the Indians, the ball was fumbled and the Crocs picked it up. Great field position for us on the Indian 18-yard line. After an incomplete pass, Webster broke from the pocket on a pass play and was able to rush for the score. Vili hit the extra point making it Crocs 42 and Indians 10.

dixon fumbling doug td

We kicked off and the Indians would start with their “empty” formation from their own 33-yard line. For those that don’t know, in an “empty” formation you only have the Quarterback in the backfield. The remaining five eligible receivers are spread out across the formation, which allows for a lot of pass routes.

The Indians picked up a couple quick first downs to get into our territory on the 41-yard line. We helped them out on with by committing a face-masking penalty. However, from there, they jumped offsides and were unable to recover. They had to punt the ball away and it sailed into the endzone for a touchback.

We took over on the 20-yard line and with a second and 12 yard situation from the 18, due to a holding penalty, committed our second turnover of the game. Webster hit Cutlan for a nice 27-yard completion but the run after catch was stripped. We lost the ball and the Indians would have it on our 47-yard line with 7:24 remaining in the game.

Despite getting hit with a holding penalty, the Indians managed a first down to our 37-yard line. From there, they stalled out and were looking at a fourth and three yard situation from our 30-yard line. Dixon took the snap and dropped to pass. The right-side receiver from the trips side took a fade route somewhat inside the sideline. Tuomas Leinonen, our veteran corner, played the underthrown pass and picked the ball. He returned it 27 yards out to our 32-yard line.

Doc pic run

The offense took to the field and Nissinen was tackled for a loss of two yards. We could not recover and since we were in no danger of losing the game would not take any risks. Spencer Cutlan took the field to punt the ball away. He punted the ball 32 yard, which Dixon returned for 19 giving the Indians the ball on our 49-yard line. 2:40 remained on the game clock.

The big play of the drive for the Indians was a 22-yard completion to Kauhanen, which gave them a first down on our 27-yard line. However, on the very next play, Gooden beat the right offensive tackle on the edge and sacked Dixon for 11 yards. The Indians could not recover and ended up attempting a 29-yard field goal. The kick was nearly good as it caromed off the crossbar and was smartly caught in the air by Orue, who is an import player from Spain. That kick pretty much ended the game. Our offense did take the field and kneeled out as the clock ticked off to zero. Final score was Crocs 42 and Indians 10.

gooden running down dixon Indian fg 2

We had survived Dixon and had successfully defended our home field “The Swamp” in the league opener. Next week we would travel to Vantaa to play TAFT in the ISS Stadium on 12 July at 3PM.

Juhani and Scott final score

Here are some links for the game:


Great pictures by Lassi Heikkilä, from which I displayed many.

Article from the Croc website (in Suomi). Feel free to translate using Google Translate and then read the comical results. You will appreciate the difficulty of the Finnish language.

Article from the Gridiron site.