10 September 2014
Last Sunday the Seinäjoki Crocodile Maple League American Football season came to an abrubt end. We faced off in Turku against the Trojans in the semi-final game featuring the number two and three seeds. This was the third time we had played the Trojans and in short, as with the previous two meetings, we were unable to contain them or to move the ball on them. As noted in the title… the final was 28 to seven.
For as long as I have coached, I have never gotten used to how a season ends when a team that has reached the playoffs loses. In any league, once the playoffs are reached, only one team ends with a victory. The rest have the door slammed on them when the final gun sounds. That feeling is abrupt and has the sting of finality. I suppose it is because you invest so much energy and emotion into the long months of preparing, analyzing, scheming, practicing and playing. And then, in a blink, the lights are turned out. For me, it takes several days to digest it and wrap my head around the end of it and move on. This season was no different.
Every entry in this blog regarding a game has been written to follow the contest from the opening kickoff to the final whistle. I am breaking form with this entry and will simply summarize the contest. I don’t seem to have the energy or the patience to work through each play and relive the loss in its entirety. It will be painful enough to have to relive the quarters. Thus, I will try to capture the flow in four segments.
Before jumping into the game, however, I need to say that the Crocodile players throughout the season displayed tremendous heart and desire. Winning this game was not for lack of passion. The team left everything on the field…they gave every ounce of their being to win this game. I have been with the organization for two seasons now and they truly are a family whose members have each other’s backs and have a common goal and drive. I won’t be back next year but wish everyone who does return the best of luck and success in 2015.
For those of you that really want the details, you can go here and scroll down and read the play-by-play results for every snap of the ball.
We won the coin toss and elected to receive. During the quarter, we had two offensive possessions and the Trojans were on their second as the quarter ended. Our first series produced nothing but Spencer taking the field to punt. The Trojans, responded with a short drive to within field goal range. The defense blocked the attempt. We took over and produced our only scoring drive. We took the ball from our own 34-yard line into the endzone with a 29-yard touchdown pass from Webster to Cutlan. The quarter ended with The Trojans on our 15-yard line and still in possession – Crocs seven and Trojans zero.
To start the second quarter, the Trojans completed their second series in our endzone on a 15-yard scoring pass over the middle. They also scored again on their third possession with a 36-yard touchdown pass. Their final possession of the quarter ended in a second blocked field goal attempt. Offensively, we failed to move the ball given three separate series. Each ended without a single first down – Crocs seven and Trojans 15 due to a blocked extra point attempt that was ruled a fumble was snatched up by the Trojans and taken in for a two-point conversion.
At halftime, we were still in the game. The defense had played gutsy. The scores had been because of a few breakdowns in assignments. The offense, outside of that first scoring series, simply could not move the ball.
We kicked off to start the second half and shut down the Trojan offense with a forced punt. The offense committed its first turnover on a third down with a Webster interception to give the ball back to the Trojans. We returned the favor by getting our own interception to shut them off during their second series. The offense took the field and was forced to punt on fourth down. The next series for the Trojans was all Jocques Crawford. They rode him during the entire drive to get their third score. This drive turned out to be the only drive that relied on the running game. We took the kickoff and again were punting after three short downs. The Trojan offense took over and drove from their 45-yard line to our 18-yard line when the quarter ended. The critical play was a 30-yard completion on a third and 16-yard situation. We dropped coverage in man and they found a receiver all by himself down the sideline – Crocs seven and Trojans 21.
The Trojans started the final period with a completed scoring drive and then converting on the extra point. That score pushed it to Trojans 28 and Crocs seven, which ended up being the final. On our next offensive series, we did manage a couple first downs before missing on a fourth and 9-yard pass attempt. The defense pulled off another take-away by forcing and recovering a fumble on the next series from the Trojans. We turned right around, though, and threw a second interception. The pick gave the Trojans possession on our own 28-yard line. The defense held though and got the ball back on downs when the Trojans could not convert on a fourth down play. Webster and the offense gave the ball up a third time with another interception with 4:42 remaining. The defense again held and forced the Trojans to punt. We had a nice return of 44 yards. In just two plays, Webster threw his fourth interception. The final drive of the Trojans consisted of their reserve players and started from their own one-yard line. They managed to get to their 19-yard line where they fumbled the ball. We had our third take-away. With just a minute and 19 seconds remaining, we had time for a short completed pass and the fifth interception. The Trojans kneeled the ball out to end the game – Crocs seven and Trojans 28.
We had had a great week of practice going into this game and had admittedly hung our hopes offensively on the pass. The fact of the matter was we had no running game. We had lost both our running backs mid-season to broken bones. So, we had pinned our ability to score on the pass. There is no doubt in my mind that the Trojans spent the entire week working on defending the pass just as we had spent the entire week on defending the Trojan running game. And in the end, the Trojans actually beat us with the pass as they picked up all but one score by using either a pass directly or indirectly to set up the score.
In order to win a championship you need to be able to run, pass and defend and get some breaks somewhere down the line. We were never able to put it all together.
Here are some links:
Mid-week pre-game interview with me.
Mid-week pre-game interview with Charlie.
Pre-game article from Croc site.
Pre-game article from Trojan site.
Post-game article from Croc site.
Photos from our great team photographer and media correspondent O-M Matihalti.