25 May 2013
We arrived at the field at about 2PM for a 4PM kickoff. The surface was grass and was in great shape. The first two things that struck me right away were that the distances between the lined 5-yard marks looked short. I paced them off and I actually think there was only about 9 yards between each 10-yard line on the field. I checked this multiple times and each time it was short. Even the chain gang and our sideline judge when they were stretching out the chain in preparation for the kickoff had to tape the chain short to get the yard sticks to match the actual distance. Secondly, the cross-bars for the field goal posts were rigged using the top bar of a soccer net. This meant they were only 8 feet off the ground. So the field goal posts were a couple feet lower than standard. “Wow” is all I could think on that.
They made a big deal about player introductions for both teams and then they all lined up facing the stands, which had probably 400 or so people. After a minute of respectful silence for a recently lost member of the Butchers, the captains approached the center of the field for the coin toss. We lost the coin toss but the Butchers deferred and we would be receiving the ball. We were fired up and all anxious to see how we would perform. First games are always fertile ground for cluster fucks.
The first quarter was a nightmare for our offense. We could get nothing going. Runs were stuffed and passing got us nothing. We seemed to be scrambling a lot. Defensively, we did not do too badly. We were holding and forcing punts from the Butchers. The first big play of the game was a fourth down punt situation where we were on punt return. The Butchers faked the punt and ran to the left and caught us by surprise. It ended up as a large gain and gave them great field position. They were in the endzone a few plays later and it was 7 to zero.
Again, no offense. The second quarter saw a couple key defensive penalties that erased a stop and resulted in an ejection of one of our top linemen for allegedly throwing a punch. This came right on the heels of the same lineman being penalized for “hands-to-the-face” on the quarterback during the previous pass. The net result was about 30 yards of penalties giving the Butchers the ball inside the red zone and the loss of one of our key players. Butchers strike again and it is 13 to zero.
The remainder of the first half saw a legitimate drive from the Butchers where they completed two key third down passes to set up a third score late in the quarter. The Butcher QB threw a good ball and got it into the window on both plays. That set up a scamper by their quick tailback that left us sitting at 19 to zero at the half.
At this point, the offense had a couple first downs only. And, the defense had done okay considering the circumstances of the first two scores. There are always five key plays you can point to in a game that really define it. And, our two defensive penalties and that botched punt defense were clearly three of them.
We kicked off to begin the second half and the Butchers were in the endzone in three quick plays. They pretty much threaded our secondary with passing and suddenly we are down 25 to zero. I was beginning to get worried at this point.
The defense makes a stop though and we force a punt. The punt is short and we are screaming “Peter, Peter, Peter” to signal our team to get away from the weak kick to avoid anyone from accidentally making contact with the ball. Our returner sort of delayed picking it up though and found a seam down the right sideline for six. So we finally are on the board. We didn’t convert on a 2-point try and it is now 25 to 6. That injected some life into the team.
The rest of the third quarter though was all Butchers. We still could not get any offense going and we managed to give up two more scores without conversions. The game was getting out of hand quickly with the score Butchers 37 and the Crocs 6 going into the fourth quarter. Our players were getting a bit gassed and little injuries were taking their tolls. Some cramping was going on and some stingers. Both of the remaining scores in the third quarter were legitimate scores because of good Butcher play or poor and broken assignments on our part.
During the fourth quarter we finally started to move the ball and see some offense. Our tailback and QB finally got into some rhythm and we were moving. We clawed back during the quarter to get within a reasonable striking range. One key play that allowed the Butchers to dig themselves out of a third and long hole was a halfback pass. They had pitched to their fast tailback who swept to the right and was very close to getting over the line of scrimmage for what looked to be a toss right play. Our safety on that side got sucked up in coverage and they completed a long pass over the top of us. That set up a score that put them up by two scores again at Butchers 43 and Crocs 27. This was all with about half the final quarter to play.
We got a great stop and had the ball again. We ended up scoring again and got the 2-point conversion to pull within 8 at Butchers 43 and Crocs 35. There was about four minutes remaining and they had the ball. We are holding and then the unthinkable happens. They pop the seam between the tackles and some big fullback races down the field 52 yards for a score. I think fatigue had finally won out against us. They converted a 2-point conversion to get the final 51 to 35 score. Any hope of winning the game was done by that point.
One thing nice about the Maple League is the burden of defensive statistics is not left to me. Here, they have professionals taking care of all the game statistics live. Here are the stats for the game for any that care to delve into the details. My description of the flow in this post probably differs a bit from the actual flow you could find at the link.
In 10 years of being a defensive coordinator was the most points a team had ever put up on me. That second half defensively was a nightmare. We were all of course disappointed but took solace in the fact that this was the first game we had played and we did see some good things. So it would be time to go to work with film and practice to make the improvements we needed to bounce back. The good news is nobody suffered any major injuries outside of our punter who got a knee twisted. And, that could prove to be okay.
We licked our wounds and got out of there probably by 8 or 8:30. The bus ride was long and we arrived back at the field house about 2AM. It was still somewhat light out as I peddled my bike back to the apartment with teeth chattering for the first half of the ride in the cool air.