Bruce who??? ...
The rays of the morning sun cut through the thin mist that
hung over the WBC field. It had been far too long since the green
turf had felt the bite of cleats and tasted the salty sweat of
competition; too long since the roar of victory and cries of
despair had echoed along its sidelines. But the field knew that
now it was time. Time for the champions of yesteryear and the
rookies of today to meet on its hallowed ground and determine
the victor of tomorrow. Time for Football Strategy.
Wednesday's heat got off to a rousing start as two past champions
went at it with Paul O'Neil getting the best of his nemesis,
Bruce Reiff, and forcing the master of the grid iron to rearrange
his schedule for the suddenly needed second heat if he was to
defend his title.
Another prominent Wednesday match-up pit Ray Stakenas II and
Bill Cleary. In a big upset, Ray came out on top, besting the
two-time champ by 22 points. During the second quarter Bill learned
that scoring a touchdown only infuriated Ray's offense which
responded by scoring back-to-back touchdowns. As Bill said, "It's
hard to win when you give up 43 points."
Ray continued his drive towards wood by meeting Dave Rynkowski
in a brutal game that saw four interceptions and a fumble. Unfortunately
for Dave, Ray recovered four of those turnovers, one leading
to a touchdown and another to a field goal. "It was tough,"
Ray commented, "my goal line offense needs work." This
was to prove telling later on. Nonetheless, Ray had managed to
advance to the final four where he would meet the Cinderella
story of the year.
From humble beginnings, Jason Levine was a long shot. Admittedly
having only played five times hence, he persevered through two
games, one against a former champion, to find himself facing
Art Davis. Art took an early lead with a field goal, but Jason
stormed back in the second quarter to go up by seven points.
The third quarter saw Art score a touchdown, and although Jason
couldn't find the end zone for the second half, his kicker came
through for nine additional points. It was the telling factor
and Jason moved on.
In his next round Jason found himself opposite Ken Whitesell,
the man whose vocabulary does not contain the word 'punt'. Once
again, Jason's kicker scored nine points in the first half and
his defense held Ken scoreless. Ken decided at the half to switch
to an aerial offense which caused Jason some discomfort since
he had to readjust his game plan. Ken came on strong in the fourth
to score ten, but a fumbled kickoff late in the fourth gave Jason
a scoring opportunity and the game.
Now Jason faced Ray and the victor would advance to the final.
It was a close game with both scoring first quarter touchdowns.
In the second quarter Jason's offense found pay dirt while Ray
had to settle for a field goal. In the third quarter a spectacular
punt return by Ray put his offense on Jason's one yard line.
His goal line offense, however, was unable to convert in four
downs against Jason's defensive line. In the fourth quarter Ray
finally managed to punch in a touch down but Jason's offense
marched down the field to make the winning score. "It was
a tight game," Jason acknowledged, "we had three ties
in this game." When Ray was pressed he echoed the sentiments
of both Art and Ken. "One thing holds true," he said
shaking his head, "s- happens."
On Friday morning the second heat commenced with a few new
faces joining the familiar returnees from Wednesday still pursuing
glory. Ray II, seeking vengeance against Jason, once again broke
into the elite eight. A leak from within his organization revealed
that the hiring of a professional psychic had enabled him to
defeat his previous opponents this day. But now he was facing
Kevin Keller, who had taken the precaution of encasing his head
with tinfoil to thwart the machinations of Ray's clairvoyant.
Without the aid of his soothsayer, Ray was only able to connect
twice, once in the first and then late in the fourth. Kevin,
meanwhile, managed to score three touchdowns -- two off of interceptions,
and two field goals -- one resulting from a blocked punt.
Kevin advanced to the final four where he met Stuart Tucker,
a fellow AH football league alumni, who earlier that morning
had upset five-time champion Bruce Reiff for the second time
in a close match that went down to the final minutes. Apparently,
Stuart had spent all his offensive energy on defeating the top
dog: a field goal late in the first was to be his only score
the entire game. From the second quarter on, Kevin took command
of the field, scoring five unanswered touchdowns. At the end
of the game Stuart seemed unfazed. "It's been a good playoff
season," he said smiling. "Don't let this defeat diminish
my team's accomplishments. We're happy to have gotten this far
over Reiff's dead body!" And Kevin? "I'm just happy
to be playing for wood," he said leaning back in his chair.
And so the stage was set for the final showdown between Jason
and Kevin, to determine the crown. A touchdown midway through
the first quarter put Kevin up, but only momentarily as Jason
quickly answered with a score of his own. Early in the second
Kevin kicked one through the uprights for three. Then, in the
following drive, a costly mistake by Jason's offense gave Kevin
an interception that led to a quick touchdown. It was to be Kevin's
last touchdown of the game. Jason's next drive ate up nearly
eight minutes off the clock, but only netted a field goal. Kevin
responded with a field goal of his own to end the half.
The third quarter found Jason unable to make any headway against
Kevin's stout defense which forced two interceptions, both of
which led to field goals, and ended up being the only scores
during the third quarter. Within the first three minutes of the
fourth quarter Jason found the end zone and connected on the
two point conversion. A little over three minutes later, after
stopping Kevin's offense, he was once again in possession of
the football, and had a chance to tie the game. His drive was
cut short, however, when he fumbled the ball and Kevin recovered.
A few plays later, Kevin's kicker split the uprights for the
fifth time and put him up by 11 points. With three and a half
minutes left in the game Jason's situation was desperate and
he needed two scores to pull out a win. However, Kevin's iron
defense had other ideas and ground out the clock forcing Jason
to take a shot at a field goal, which went wide - thus ending
any hope of a miracle comeback. It was Kevin's third wood and
his first in five years. It was also the first time that he was
the last man standing in a Football Strategy event - having competed
in the Baltimore league for 13 years and the WBC tournament since.
It was a stunning year. A year of Cinderella stories, upsets,
and grim determination. A year that saw amazing drives and stubborn
goal line stands. A year where special teams both flopped and
performed impossible feats. In short, it was a year worthy of
WBC Football Strategy.