July 29, 2006

Manchester Wolves Update: They're Playoff Bound!

NOW COMES the hard part.

On Friday night, your humble correspondent watched cheerfully as the Manchester Wolves rolled on over the Quad City Steamwheelers in a 79-48 blowout. Yes, you read that right: 79 points for the home team. In utterly crushing Quad City, the Wolves pulled off the four-game winning streak they needed to earn a playoff berth. Just like another championship-winning football team.

We’ll know on Sunday how the playoff scenarios have worked out, and consequently whether my favorite minor-league arena football team has earned home-field advantage for their first playoff game. I hope so. The atmosphere at the arena was really quite something. When 8,000 people get together, and the management hands out those inflatable soundsticks, and everyone cheers on the home team, it’s just fun. I have to admit, though, I was a bit worried at the beginning.

Going into the game, I did my best not to underestimate Quad City. That took a lot of dedication on my part. After all, the team’s from the Quad Cities. According to no less a source than the Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Quad Cities area includes “Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa and Moline/East Moline and Rock Island in Illinois, and surrounding communities.” Oops, hold on, we have a question from a reader. Go ahead, reader!

READER: Um, you’ve listed five cities.
KEPPLE: Yes, that’s right.
READER: So shouldn’t it be the Quint Cities, and as a result, the Quint City Steamwheelers?

Say, that’s a very reasonable question! So reasonable, in fact, that one also wonders what would happen if the “surrounding communities,” like some place called “Riverdale,” were included. However, the Duodecimal Cities doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?

Besides, it’s Iowa. Quite frankly, you’ve got to expect things like this from those yokels. I mean, they named their minor-league arena football team after a paddleboat, for God’s sake. Also, they have that damned political caucus of theirs, with its byzantine nominating process and its unfortunate affiliation with the Seventies. Oh, and we can’t forget the lameness of their state quarter, which has a one-room schoolhouse on the reverse, and the motto: “IOWA: Foundation through Education.” Oooooooooooh. Boy, that makes me want to visit Iowa something fierce!

But I digress. My point was, Quad City wasn’t about to roll over. I kept reminding myself they had not won seven of the season’s 15 games due to dumb luck. This strategy of having an overly-pessimistic outlook paid off in the beginning of the game, when Quad City scored almost immediately after getting the ball.

It also paid off when Quad City managed a decent comeback near the end of the first half. The Wolves’ comfortable 28-13 lead evaporated to 28-27 after two quick Quad City touchdowns, one resulting from a disasterous blocked field goal try which gave Quad City the ball on Manchester’s one-yard-line. But the Steamwheelers weren’t able to keep the momentum going and they fell apart soon after the third quarter started.

As for Manchester, its offense was on fire. Soon after Quad City scored a quick touchdown in the first quarter, QB Steve Bellisari threw a long pass to WR Wendell Williams, who was wide open and easily scored a touchdown. The next time around, QB Steve Bellisari threw a long pass to WR Wendell Williams, who was wide open and easily scored a touchdown. Notice the pattern.

Williams alone scored four touchdowns in the game: three on pass plays and one rushing touchdown. On the third passing touchdown, Williams broke four (!) attempted tackles and ran something like 40 yards to score. As for Bellisari, he threw – God, I don’t know, a whole bunch of touchdowns. He was just on fire. In addition, the running game was excellent, and the kicker did his job too. Perhaps the most amazing play during the game was a 56-yard kickoff return from new WR Tony Stallings. It was in the last minute of the game, and it didn’t have any effect on the game, but it was icing on the cake.

Let’s hope the Wolves will soon get to enjoy some rum cake down in San Juan.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at July 29, 2006 01:19 AM | TrackBack
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