May 11, 2007

Manchester Wolves Update: It Took a Miracle, But We Won!

I'M STILL TRYING to figure out how exactly the Manchester Wolves, my city's minor-league arena football team, managed to win against the Albany Conquest, our contempt-worthy East Division rival. But we did -- and in spectacular fashion. Our 53-48 victory this evening was achieved with a touchdown pass with just 14.8 seconds left in the game, and secured with a safety on Albany's first play thereafter. All in all, it made for the best arena football game I've seen since I started attending the games last year. I mean, goddamn.

Our touchdown was secured after one of the strangest drives I've ever seen in my life. Here's a tip for any football players out there, and especially players in the arenafootball2 league. If your team -- say, Albany -- is up by four points, and you have your opponent pinned down at their own five-yard line, it's not a good idea to commit a blatant personal foul and give your opponents new life. It's also not a good idea to compound the matter by then throwing the football into the stands, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that puts your opponent at mid-field. Furthermore, it's really not a good idea to screw things up even more by incurring not one but two pass interference calls on successive plays, putting your opponent within spitting distance of the endzone.

I'm just saying. Albany pretty much had this game and they managed to rip defeat from the clenched, angry jaws of victory. Indeed, for a Wolves fan, the first half of the game -- in which Albany built up a 27-17 lead -- was like getting hit repeatedly over the head with a hammer. It may well have been even worse if Albany -- the perennial doormat of the division -- hadn't done its own screwing-up in the first place, such as that field goal attempt in which the snap flew through the hands of the ballholder. Even at the end of the third quarter, Albany still had a lead of 34-30, and the game was by no means going Manchester's way at that point.

But the fourth quarter -- my God. With the lead changes and the enthusiasm of the fans -- it's pretty impressive when 5,200 people are screaming for the defense. Yes, the defense -- that's a component that may initially not seem all that important for arenaball, but it truly is. This game would have been a lot different if, earlier in the night, Manchester's defense hadn't stopped Albany at our one-yard-line.

The end result is that Manchester is now 3-3 and is ranked third in the division, while Albany drops to 2-4 and is ranked last. So all is well with the world. Of course, our three wins have all come at home and we have a two-game road stand coming up at Bossier-Shreveport and Youngstown. Plus, our next home opponent is Tulsa, which is en fuego like nobody's business and may well put an end to our six-game home winning streak. But we'll see. Anyway, here's the recap:

MOST UHF-LIKE MOMENT: Several school principals from area schools were given the opportunity to throw footballs through holes in a flimsily-constructed target board with the goal of qualifying to win $10,000. Whether the money was for their schools or for the folks themselves wasn't really clear. We did learn from the exercise, however, that there's a reason the educators are educators and not football players.

NEXT MOST UHF-LIKE MOMENT: If you, as a fan, manage to successfully catch a game ball during the action, you shouldn't then slam the ball against the wall board, causing you to lose your grip and send the ball back onto the field.

MOST INEPT PLAY OF THE GAME: Well, there was Albany's blown field goal try ... and Albany's myriad stupid penalties ... and Albany's first attempted onside kick that would have been genius, if only it had worked, but it didn't and it really put Manchester back in the game. Hell, take your pick.

COOLEST PLAY OF THE GAME: I guess I'm going to have to award Coach Ben "Volcano" Bennett this one, due to his ... uh, "discussion" with the officials regarding a key illegal defense penalty call that went against the Wolves. I haven't seen shouting like that in years. Holy mackerel -- he was furious! Rightfully so, I think, because it did seem like a lousy call, but of course I am biased.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at May 11, 2007 10:47 PM | TrackBack
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