Good afternoon, SupaNation. The cold wind and rain are blowing across the region and most every team has already called it quits for 2008. Some have taken home trophies and are content to enjoy them- some have taken home trophies and seek a greater prize. But most are already looking forward to 2009. All the more reason, then, to pay close attention to the few games on the docket for this week. I'm looking forward to news of the post-season tournaments and of the coming holidays- but we've got some business to take care of first! So let's get to it!
Indiana Generals @ Adams County Patriots
This game speaks volumes about the kind of team that the Generals are. 2008 was not the season they had hoped for, as they had hoped to finally get over the hump and make some noise in the playoffs. They are very close to doing some special things on offense and have a defense that has risen to the top in some big games. They know that they could easily have been in the top tier of the league. Many teams and players would lean safely on that knowledge and sit behind arguments of the IFL's superiority. Not the Generals. They're playing one of the best teams in the region, and going into their house to do it. These guys love the game and are taking advantage of an opportunity to play the game. League and team standing aside, they match up well with the Patriots. Both teams have big play ability, but opt most often for the high percentage plays. Both teams have a vocal leadership and have responded well to that leadership. The Pats defense has had more big plays, but the Generals' defense has been more consistently frustrating as they have been many times underestimated. While on paper, the Pats are a superior team, the Generals will take a small lead into the 4th quarter. The Pats will respond well to the challenge and eek out a close one. Great game from the first whistle to the last.
Indianapolis Tornados @ St. Paul Pioneers
After a much less heralded regular season that featured a couple of losses to perennial powerhouse Kane County, the Tornados find themselves poised to be among the last 4 teams standing in the NAFL. The Tornados are playing their best football in the playoffs and doing it on the road- the trip up to Ontario was an offensive show that few outside of the Tornados offense might have expected. It will likely be the same kind of outing this weekend up in the chilly (gametime temp forecast: 45 degrees) reaches of the Twin Cities this weekend. The Pioneers are a team not much different from the Tornados, they've had similar success this season and play a similar brand of football. The home field advantage is not to be ignored, but my money is on the visitors once again this weekend. The boys from the Nap are playing with a special confidence and they have the big play ability to back it up. Look for yet another shootout, but the Tornados to end up on top and advance to the NAFL semifinals.
Indiana Cutters @ Koskiusco County Mustangs
Excepting the collapse of the Blazers and the late season flatness of the Warriors, this is the matchup- indeed the rematch- that many of us were expecting and looking forward to for the Bushman Trophy contest. Both teams have looked unbeatable toward the end of the season and both teams feature an offense- both hawgs and skilled players- that are the envy of teams across the region. In a competitive IFL in 2008, these teams were, by the end of the season at least, head and shoulders above the rest. This matchup is a paradox of both similarities and differences. Both teams feature a very high powered offense, but one is ground based and the other gets it done through the air. Both teams have stifling defenses, but one tough nosed and consistent while the other is finesse and big play oriented. Both teams have solid leadership and proven leaders, but one team is fairly new while the other has been in the title game twice before. Both teams have an advantage in the trenches, but one is a group of overpowering maulers, while the other group uses speed, stunts, and superior communication to dominate. Both teams have found ways to completely overwhelm their opponents, but one team does it with a stable full of big names while the other gets it done with a nearly star-less roster full of lunchbox guys. Both teams are solid and relatively mistake free in the kicking game, but neither team is near where they should be compared with the other phases of the game. This will be a GREAT game- just like was the one last week in the MFL title tilt. The key question- since the teams are so evenly matched- is which team can take the other out of its offense. For me, that team is the Cutters. While they are certain to be chasing receivers running great patterns and making great catches much of the evening, their pressure on the passer will make the difference. On the other side of the ball, it is hard for me to imagine the Mustang defense- as admittedly good as it is- stopping the Cutter running game at full strength. This game will feature a number of big plays and few of them will go the way of the hosts. While these two teams are very evenly matched, the score will not reflect it. The Mustangs will be frustrated in their third trip to the title game and will come away empty again.
Union City Indians @ Northeastern Knights
What is a successful first season, one wonders? A sectional title? A conference title? A winning record? A better record than the previous season? There are a lot of ways to measure success, and the most important, I would argue, is the change in the football culture- a rise in expectations. By that measure, Beef has had a very successful first year in Union City. Things have not gone the way - on the scoreboard at least- that he or anyone would have hoped. The team remained far too inconsistent on offense and seemed to have a declining acumen on defense as the season went along. The young men, however, have bought into the Beef system- even in spite of the relative struggles of the season. The Indians face a team on the road that beat them soundly last week at home. The Knights were able to run the ball well and score more or less at will. It's clear that JJ and the rest of the offense will have something to say in putting a couple of scores on the board, the team is simply not talented or consistent enough to win on the road. All is not lost, though. Beef has laid the groundwork of positive things to come. The young men in his charge have a long offseason to come together and to grow. And afterall, championships are won in the offseason. A disappointing end to this season will signal an exciting beginning to 2009.
Okeee Dokeee, gang. That's it. Short and sweet, here it is: play your hearts out and make your mommas proud. See you kids at the game.
Once again, I wanna wish my boys the best in Saturday nights game. Leave it all out there. To the Cutters I wish safe travels to and from. Hemi, in Utah wishin I was there!!! I miss it like Andy loves cake