What is it that they say? You can't keep a good man down?
After losing twice in the early rounds of 2004's tournament,
some may have believed that Mr. Reiff's reign as the WBC Football
Strategy favorite was at an end. Some may have even speculated
that this titan of the gridiron's glory days were behind him
and that no more would he rule the field. Some probably hoped
that he was finished. But they were wrong.
After the first few hours of Wednesday's heat, the field of
19 had been whittled down to four diehard quarter-finalists.
Among the four were three veterans of the WBC gridiron wars:
Bill Cleary, Bruce Reiff, and Ray Stakenas II; and one new face,
Andy Dolan. While Bill and Ray sat down to a rematch of last
year's struggle, Andy and Bruce faced off for the first time.
Bill and Ray's game got off to a slow start as neither one
could convert during the first quarter. In the second, Ray was
able to find the end zone and Bill had to settle for a field
goal as the teams went into the locker room for the half. After
taking the field again, Ray's team marched down to find pay dirt
once more, while Bill's offense was struggling. At the beginning
of the fourth it was Ray's 14 to Bill's 3. Sensing that perhaps
his offensive coordinator needed a change of vocation, Bill took
charge and rallied his team to two fourth quarter TDs, taking
the lead. With time running out, Ray hit two long passes setting
up Jason Hanson for the tying field goal. In sudden death overtime,
Bill won the all-important coin toss and promptly moved his team
to within field goal range. But fate is not kind, as a gust of
wind swept the 16 yard attempt wide and gave Ray the ball. Ray
wasted no time in charging down the field to set up his own kick
at the 1 yard line. No such favorable winds blew for Bill and
Ray advanced to the semifinals.
Meanwhile, Andy, who may have been a newcomer to this event,
was no newbie to the game after spending countless hours playing
via e-mail. The game started ominously for Bruce when he fumbled
the opening kickoff, setting Andy up for a quick three points.
The former champ, unfazed by the turn of events, held Andy scoreless
for the rest of the half while managing to get 10 points of his
own on the board. After the half, Andy was able to break across
the goal line in the third while denying Bruce the same opportunity.
The fourth opened with the score tied at ten apiece. Bruce's
resolve was apparent as he got an unanswered touchdown and field
goal. Andy was feeling the pressure and with time running out
was able to punch one across, bringing him to within three. On
his next possession, Bruce couldn't convert the first down and
punted it away, giving it to Andy with a little over two minutes
left. Andy tried valiantly, but in the end he couldn't get through
the iron defense of Mr. Reiff and Bruce advanced to meet Ray.
The heat finale opened to a scoreless first quarter, as Ray
and Bruce pounded away on each other hoping to find a hole in
the defense. Then Bruce spotted the opening and hammered Ray
for 24 points in the second quarter. Ray was seen stumbling towards
the locker room at the half as they picked up pieces of his team
from all over the stadium. When he emerged, however, he had patched
his team together and with the help of performance enhancing
drugs was ready to tackle the Football Strategy King.
Ray's offense roared onto the field in the second half and racked
up 12 points on Bruce. His defense battered Bruce's quarterback,
who was unable to convert any scoring opportunities. At the start
of the fourth Bruce was still up 24 to 12, but the momentum had
clearly swung the other way. Ray continued to charge forward
and scored another TD, but the drugs began to wear off and when
the clock ticked off the final few seconds he found himself short.
Bruce advanced to the Final by a score of 24 to 19.
The quarterfinals on Friday pitted Debbie Bell vs Ken Whitesell
in a battle of old league foes and Marvin Birnbaum vs Kevin Keller,
the defending champion. Debbie's team got off to a rocky start
against Ken's tough defense which held her scoreless for the
first half. His offense was hitting its stride as well, notching
three touchdowns to put him up 21 to 0 at the half. Using unorthodox
motivational techniques, Debbie finally jump started her offense
in the third quarter, finding paydirt. Unfortunately for her,
her defense seemed incapable of stopping Ken as he rolled in
for another TD. At the start of the fourth Ken was sitting on
a comfortable lead of 28 to 7. He built on it by adding yet another
seven points to make it 35 to 7. Debbie also found the end zone,
but it was too little too late and Ken advanced with a 35 to
At the other end of the table, Marvin and Kevin were locked
in a seesaw contest that went down to the wire. In each of the
first two quarters they both scored TDs sending both teams to
the locker room with the score at 14 apiece. During the third,
Kevin scored his third touchdown midway through the quarter,
but Marvin came right back with seven points of his own. The
fourth quarter opened with the score still tied. On his second
possession of the quarter Kevin moved the ball down the field
but had to settle for a field goal. Marvin got the ball with
six minutes remaining and proceeded to eat up the clock while
moving himself into scoring position. With one minute to go he
threw the stop-and- go pass for a 35 yard touchdown. Kevin simply
didn't have the time to get another score and Marvin advanced
to meet Ken.
When Marvin and Ken sat down to face one another, they knew
in the back of their minds that the winner would be facing Bruce
in the Final. Marvin jumped out to a quick lead in the first
quarter scoring seven points. Ken was able to match him but couldn't
hold on in the second as Marvin's team put their second TD on
the board. At the half, Marvin was up 14 to 7. When the teams
returned to the field, Marvin again made a quick score and added
a field goal while Ken's offense battered against Marvin's defensive
brick wall. The fourth quarter saw yet another touchdown by both
teams but Ken's offense couldn't score fast enough to overtake
Marvin's offensive juggernaut. When the whistle blew it was Marvin
on top 31 to 21.
Marvin now moved on to face the favorite in a final showdown.
Marvin won the toss and elected to receive the ball. It took
him five minutes but he was able to nose it across the goal line
to go up 7-0. Bruce quickly marched down the field and set up
his own touchdown run to even the score. The second quarter looked
much like the first, with Marvin using the balance of the Pro-Style
offense and Bruce the methodical Ball Control to move their teams
and gain a second touchdown. The half ended tied at 14 all. Then
in a move that may be forever questioned, Marvin decided to forsake
the Pro-Style offense for an Aerial approach. Bruce was ready
and stopped the aerial game cold. Meanwhile, the methodical Ball
Control offense of the five-time champ added yet another TD,
but missed the point after to give Bruce a 20 to 14 lead at the
beginning of the fourth quarter. His aerial game stymied, Marvin
looked to his kicker who put a solid attempt through the uprights
to close the gap. But Bruce added a field goal of his own to
hold his lead of six points going into the final minutes. Marvin
had one last attempt to score a touchdown and win, but the aerial
game which hadn't worked the entire half was again unable to
move through Bruce's solid defense. Bruce held on to the 23 to
17 lead to take yet another WBC Football Strategy title.
What is this now? His sixth? I've lost track, but I do know
one thing. He isn't done. He'll be back next year, ready to take
on all comers who try to knock the king off his hill. And lest
he get too proud, may he take note of the words uttered by one
of this year's contestants. "In 2006, Bruce Reiff, do not
ask for whom the bell tolls: for it tolls for thee!"