14 August 2014
Last Saturday we started a 3-game home stand and sadly dropped the game. We played the Butchers out of Poorvo. They beat us last year as well in the season opener so this is a team we have never beat while in Finland. The unfortunate thing about losing this game is that it takes us out of the driver’s seat for a home semi-final game. Mathematically, it is still possible if certain things happen but us being able to control it definitely evaporated.
The Butchers featured a very strong running game between the tackles and dangerous running when in space. In a sense, they were very much like the Trojans who we lost to last week. We knew this going into the game and would be focusing on trying to stop the powerful inside running game. They really had three threats on the ground: a very good running quarterback Jabari Harris, a strong fullback with Sebastian Lindell, and the top ground gainer RJ Jackson out of LSU as a tailback. The Butcher passing game has been virtually non-existent. It was bad timing (again) to be very low on linebackers. We would have two of the three playing out of position due to injuries and planned absences.
Kickoff was set for 4PM and the weather was turbulent. As we were in the locker room getting ready about an hour before game time outside the thunder and lightning was raging. Sheets of rain were pouring down like streams off the neighboring sports dome across the alley. We were not sure if the game would be delayed or not. The storm did break though and it turned to a slight drizzle by the time we took the field for warm-ups.
The captains met at mid-field and we won the toss and deferred the choice. So our defense would get the first test. Spencer had a nice kick to about the five yard line and Pineda, one of the Butchers big linebackers took the return all the way out to their 45-yard line. Not a good start. The defense held though and after a single first down forced a punt from mid-field. We would start on our 25-yard line.
In three plays the offense was down inside their 10-yard line. Key plays were a 14-yard run by VP and a 55-yard strike from Webster to Roman Runner. We lined up with a first and goal from the six. The offense could not convert on the touchdown and we had to settle for a short field goal from Spencer to get on the board. Crocs 3 and Butchers 0.
We kicked off and the Butchers committed a penalty on the return and would start on their own 20-yard line. After an incomplete pass and an 11-yard run, Jackson the tailback busted the line and popped a 69-yard run to the endzone. The play quickly got into the second level and we had some bad angles that never allowed us to get a handle on Jackson. They missed the extra point. Crocs 3 and Butchers 6.
We took the ensuing kickoff and began our drive on the Butcher 40-yard line after a nice 50-yard return by Runner. We got down to the Butcher 12-yard line but then on a second down Webster’s pass was picked in the endzone for a touchback. The pass was a slant into the middle of the endzone and the defender made a good play to deflect the ball. He came up with it as he was falling down. It was a good interception.
The defense forced the Butchers to punt out of their territory after allowing a single first down. We had a big sack from Gooden that stuck them in a hole from which they could not recover. The punt ended the first quarter.
The punt was not returned and rolled down inside our 10-yard line where it was downed. We would be starting in a deep hole. We only managed a single first down and that was by penalty. Spencer took the field to punt and got off a 39-yard kick that was downed on the Butcher 39-yard line.
This next drive for the Butchers defined them. They took the ball into the endzone in nine plays of which only one was through the air. Harris and Lindell combined up for the rushing yardage that methodically pounded forward. The extra point was converted and it was Crocs 3 and Butchers 13. The drive was three and a half minutes long.
We took the kick and Roman got off another good return this time for 37 yards. We took the field at the mid-point. Despite a gift of five yards from the Butchers on a penalty, the offense went nowhere. We threw an incomplete pass and two running plays netted a single yard. We turned the ball over on downs at the Butcher 45-yard line.
The defense took the field and forced a punt. The Butchers shot themselves in the foot with a holding call that put them in a situation from which they could not recover. The punt was only 28 yards and sailed out of bounds giving the offense the ball on our own 35-yard line.
Barely into the drive we lined up for a second down and five yard situation from our 40-yard line. Webster dropped to pass and the receiver down the left could not get off the defender. The pass went long and was cleanly intercepted. Second turnover of the night. Butchers took over on their 42-yard line.
The Butcher offense picked up a couple first downs and with about a minute left in the half lined up in a third and three situation from our 29-yard line. Harris dropped on a rare pass and looked over the middle for a dragging wideout on a cross with an inside number two receiver. Our backers were in good position and Joni got a piece of the pass deflecting it into the air. Makela, our Mike Backer was able to gather it in before it fell to the ground. Croc ball with about half a minute remaining before the break.
Burning all three timeouts, the offense managed to get from our 18-yard line out to the Butcher 43-yard line before time expired. At the break it remained Crocs 3 and Butchers 13.
Halftime was spent talking about gap control, the D-line needing to control the line of scrimmage, and the brutal reality that this team was just going to continue to try to pound the ball down our throats. No real secrets were coming out of the Butcher offense. It had been a tough, physical first 24 minutes and the next 24 were guaranteed to be another.
We took the kickoff to start the second half. Again, Runner had a nice return and set the offense up on our 40-yard line. Webster and the team took the field. Spencer, our kicker and wideout, took the handoff and picked up a nice 11-yard gain. During the first half, we lost VP our last running back to a broken collar bone. So, the offense had to steal from the receiving corp to fill the void. With a new set of downs, we converted on a third and 13-yard situation with nice pass to Runner to get us to the Butcher 38-yard line. Another converted third down but this time on a Butcher personal foul got us yet a new set of downs to the Butcher 23-yard line. The Butchers added to their issues on the very next play by committing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty giving us the ball on their 11-yard line. Two plays later Webster found Spencer on swing pass to the right where he gathered it in and walked untouched into the endzone. Spencer hit the extra point and it was now Crocs 10 and Butchers 13.
Spencer banged another deep kick around the Butcher goal line but Pineda rolled out a 62-yard return to our 36-yard line. The defense took care of the series though and forced a fourth and 13-yard attempt that failed resulting in the offense taking over from our own 49-yard line. The final play was a Butcher fake punt that our safety Orue sniffed out and stopped for a 10-yard loss.
Webster and the offense took over and moved the ball into Butcher territory. At the 31-yard line we committed a hold and that stuck us in a first and 20-yard situation. We threw an incomplete pass and then from the second down situation, a short pass over the middle designed to drop in over the dropping backer didn’t make the mark. The Butchers gathered in their third interception of the game. Butcher ball on their 31-yard line.
The remainder of the third quarter was all Butcher running game. They ate up five and a half minutes on the ground to get the ball down to our two yard line as the clocked ticked off. They threw the ball twice but ran for nine plays. Two runs were significant at 14 and 23 yards, respectively. We had a brief moment of excitement when they botched the center quarterback exchange and the ball was loose on the last play of the quarter. The Butchers came up with it though as we flipped sides to start the fourth quarter. On the first play of the quarter, Harris, the quarterback, booted around the right side and we missed a shot at him in the backfield. He was in for the score on a fourth down attempt. The extra point failed and it was Crocs 10 and Butchers 19.
The kickoff was a travesty. The kick was low and bouncing and was actually briefly touched. We chased the ball down into the endzone and then tried to run it out. The result was bad giving us the ball on our own 7-yard line. The offense was three and out and we were punting deep from our own 13-yard line. The punt gave the Butchers great field position on our 45-yard line. Nine pounding rushing plays later they are in the endzone again. In retrospect, this series of events is what broke our back and took the life out of us. The Butchers finally converted on an extra point to make it Crocs 10 and Butchers 26. Four minutes and 37 seconds remained in the game.
The kick was deep and in the endzone and we took the ball on our own 20-yard line. Sitting on a 16-point lead, the Butcher defense laid back and gave us the short game. We took advantage and with our “hurry-up” offense moved the ball methodically down the field to score within two minutes. We converted on the two-point try and were within eight points with 2:42 remaining. Crocs 18 and Butchers 26.
The onside kick failed and the Butchers downed in on our 47-yard line. We would have one more shot.
The defense forced a three and out and burned a single timeout leaving us with two. The punt took the ball to our 13-yard line where it was downed. The offense would have two timeouts and a minute and 48 seconds of clock to work with. With a fourth and three-yard situation from our 20-yard line, Webster converted to Kris Kougia for the first down. Webster found Spencer on the next play for a short 10-yard completion. With a first and 10 from our 45-yard line, Webster dropped once again to pass. The Butchers brought heat up the middle and we did not pick up the blitz. Throwing down the left sideline as he took the full force blitz in his face, the ball fell short and into the hands of Toni Haukkamaa, an ex-Crocodile, for the fourth interception of the game. That sealed the win for the Butchers who kneed it out during the next series.
Again, it was a tough loss that could have been avoided. But, you learn from every game and we would have some good lessons from this one. We would need to try an put this loss behind us and finish out strong in the remaining three games of the regular season. The playoffs are a whole new season where anything can happen.
Here are some links for the game:
Mid-week interview with Charlie after the game and after Tuesday’s practice.
Post-game article from the Croc website.
Post-game article from the SAJL website.
Pictures from the game from http://www.lh.pic.fi site. Credit to the great photographers there.