For those of you not familiar with this game, the Football Strategy tournament has an easy format and the game is simple to learn to play. While the game is simple to learn (we’ve had many players come to our demo and 1 hour later they are playing competitively in the tournament), it can be a difficult game to master well enough to pull off the multiple wins needed to win the event. We play two heats which are separate single-elimination events. The winners of the two heats then play one another for the overall championship in the tournament and the other person earns second place. The gamers that lost to the participants in the heat finals get 3rd and 4th place respectively and so on to determine all of the final places.
The 27th incarnation of this legacy event at the WBC kicked off on the first Sunday of this year’s convention with 14 participants showing up to play. The match-ups in the first heat saw Marvin Birnbaum defeat George Bott for the second year in a row in the first round; this time by a score of 28-6. Marvin dropped out of the tournament after his quick win. 3-time champion Joe Powell took care of business with a tidy 27-10 win over Sean McCulloch. GM Bert Schoose squeaked by Jeff Mullet by a 21-20 final score. David Rynkowski cruised to a 33-19 win over Bob Jamelli and Ken Whitesell came back in the second half to defeat Lorson Poirier by a 21-17 score. Jeremy Billones took down Patrick Shea by a touchdown with his 24-17 victory.
The match-ups for each heat are randomly determined. As a result, we sometimes get a first round match-up such as this year’s Kevin Keller (2-time and defending champion) versus Bruce Reiff (12-time champion in FBS!). These two had faced off in the 2018 finals. Bruce was out to get his revenge for the prior year’s final and he ran out to a huge first half lead of 31-7. A bit shell-shocked, Kevin decided to just keep playing to ‘see what might happen’. His approach allowed him to come all the way back and tie the game by the end of regulation at 38-all. Kevin completed his amazing come-back with an overtime TD and a 44-38 win! Two consecutive wins versus Bruce in this tournament had Kevin flying high.
The second round had only three games. Joe Powell rolled over Ken Whitesell by a 36-8 score. Bert won versus David Rynkowski 24-10 in a game that seemed much closer than the final score. Kevin road the high from his first round win to defeat a tough Jeremy Billones 23-16. This win earned Kevin a bye as there were 3 players left in the heat for the third round. The other two, Joe and Bert, played a fairly quick game that was mostly dominated by defense. Joe took advantage of a fumbled kick-off by Bert to go up two scores after his initial TD. He played superb defense the rest of the way, holding Bert to only three field goals and to finish him off with a 19-9 win.
This set up a heat finals between close friends, Joe and Kevin. Unfortunately for Kevin, his momentum ran out in this game. Joe took advantage of three 2nd half turnovers by Kevin and cruised to a two touchdown victory 34-20. As they headed into heat #2, Joe had a choice to sit it out and await the winner of the second heat or he could play in it himself and try to duplicate his feat from 2014 when he won both heats. He chose to play and wanted to see if he could be the champion without needing to play a championship match once again.
Initially, only 13 players showed up for the second heat and since defending champ Kevin had a bye in the first heat, 2017 champion Bruce Reiff was offered the first bye in the second heat. He accepted it with the condition that if someone showed up to play within 5 minutes of our start time, he’d be able to play that person. David Long showed up and Bruce figured he’d have an ‘easier’ match since David is not one that has played very often in the WBC Football Strategy tournament. Au contraire! David played Bruce very tough with surprisingly stingy defense. For the second consecutive heat, Bruce was forced to an overtime game in the first round as they were tied at the end of regulation at 22-all. After stopping Bruce, David went down and kicked a chip shot field goal for the 25-22 win. Bruce now had a 3-game losing streak in Football Strategy at the WBC; a game he has dominated for most of the past 23 years. David decided that one win was enough for him and so he dropped out of the heat.
The other games in this heat, which had 6 players that were not in the first heat join in on the fun, saw Kevin Keller get back on the winning track with a win over Ray Stakenas, Sr. 31-17. Jeremy Billones was not able to repeat his first round win of the first heat as he fell to Doug Galullo by a 21-10 final score. Ken Whitesell got back in the winner’s circle with a 28-7 victory over Kevin Youells. Lorson Poirier continued his winning ways from prior years in this event with a convincing 42-0 whitewash over newcomer Damian Mastrangelo. Despite this outcome, Damian indicated that he still had fun. We hope to see him earn some revenge in future years!
Joe Powell showed that he still had ‘it’ with a 23-14 win over Stuart Tucker and Bert Schoose was able to pull off a squeaker over David Rynkowski by a 24-23 score in a rematch of their second round game from the first heat. Bert had 1 point wins in the first round of both heats. With six first round winners continuing, we once again had three 2nd round games in heat #2.
Lorson went from winning by 42 points in his first game to losing by 49 points in his second game! Bert switched his offense to Pro Style from Ball Control and had EVERYTHING go his way in this 56-7 rout. The other two games were much tougher as Joe and Kevin had a rematch of their first heat final. Once again Joe outlasted Kevin, this time by a tight 23-19 score. Doug was giving Ken all that he could handle but in the end, Ken was able to pull out the 28-24 victory in their game.
Down to three left, Joe took the bye that he had earned and Bert and Ken played. Bert’s switch to the Pro Style offense continued to play dividends and despite a late comeback by Ken, Bert made a final stop against Ken to hold on to a 35-28 win. Bert, who lost to Joe in the first heat, now had to play Joe for the second heat championship. Again, a win by Joe would end the tournament but a win by Bert would lead to a second game between these two for the FBS championship. Bert felt he was facing a fairly daunting task to have to defeat Joe twice in a row to win this event.
Surprisingly, Bert was able to pull out a somewhat convincing 27-6 victory in the heat final. He continued to produce points out of his Pro Style offense and his defensive calls always seemed to get the job done in stopping Joe as he held him without a touchdown in the game. This result set up a so called rubber-match between these two for the tournament championship as they had both beaten one another in the separate heats.
The final started out with Bert continuing to stymie Joe’s offense, shutting him out in the first half and managing three scores for a 13-0 lead with a touchdown and two field goals. Bert scored early in the second half, taking advantage of an interception of Joe on the opening possession to extend his lead to 20-0. On his next possession after Bert’s score, Joe finally got rolling and scored a TD to cut the lead to 20-7. Bert answered on the ensuing drive with a potentially back-breaking touchdown of his own to build his lead back up to twenty points, 27-7. Undaunted, Joe took the next possession and drove down the field for his second consecutive touchdown, making it 27-14 after the extra point. He quickly stopped Bert once more and after forcing a punt, put together another long drive and scored his third touchdown on his last three possessions. This outburst came after Joe had managed only 6 points versus Bert through the first three halves of these back-to-back games.
With the lead cut to 27-21 and less than 4 minutes to go in the game, Joe just had to stop Bert one more time and then take the ball down the field once more for a winning score. He had seemingly figured out Bert’s defensive pattern and had the momentum! As the clock ticked under 3 minutes to go, Joe made a big stop on 3rd down to leave Bert with fourth down and four yards to go. He dropped back into punt formation. Instead of punting, he called a fake! Fate rewarded Bert with an 18E result and a huge 15 yard gain and a new set of downs. Joe hung on and forced Bert to punt after a three and out but the successful fake punt had cost Joe his timeouts and valuable field position before he got the ball back. Bert finished off his win with a 15-yard sack on a 19E.
Bert, the event GM, had won this event back in 2009. His win marked the third time in four years that a former winner had won the tournament for the second time after a long gap between their wins. Kevin Keller won in 2004 before his win in 2018 while Ken Whitesell won in 2016 after previously winning in 2006. Afterward, Bert quipped, “I guess I’ll continue to GM the event as long as they let me win it at least once every decade”. Joe played great once again as winning one heat and making it to the second heat final attests to. Overall, the competition in this event remains fierce but to a person, it sure seems like all who participate seem to have a fun time. That’s the way it should be.
Once again, I want to give a huge “Thank you” to all of the tournament participants. Throughout my time in being the GM for this event, I’ve seen great sportsmanship from everyone. The players continue to make this an easy tournament for me to lead. I look forward to seeing all of you next year along with some others who will hopefully try out this fun game. You all need to now knock off the defending champ before he starts thinking he can catch Reiff!
|Perrennial contenders Ken Whitesell and Joe Powell
face off in match.
|Reiff on his way to another loss in Football Strategy.