THE FOLLOWING WILL SERVE as an apt summary of the game between the Manchester Wolves and the Tennessee Valley Vipers this evening in Huntsville, Ala.:
As you may have guessed, Manchester wasn't driving the General Lee.
When the first half was over, the score was 28-14 -- not bad, considering we were down 21-0 at the end of the first quarter. Manchester turned over the ball twice during the half, and couldn't capitalize on a late Bradly Chavez interception in the closing minute. Our opening drive in the third quarter looked promising until our quarterback, Brian Jones, threw an absolute lulu of an interception. Tennessee Valley then marched down the field and we were again down three scores. Somehow, though, Manchester stopped the Vipers twice on offense, and we capitalized. Halfway through the fourth quarter, we were only down 35-28. Then, when Al Phillips made a great interception, it looked like we could tie it up -- until Jones fumbled on the very next play. The Vipers recovered. Ugh.
With some smart play calling into the mix, the Vipers were able to run down the clock and kick a field goal. With 52 seconds remaining, the Vipers were up 38-28. But on the enusing kickoff, the ball bounced off the crossbar and the Vipers recovered, punching it in for a touchdown on the next play. Ugh.
Final score: Tennessee Valley 45, Manchester 35.
There's always next year.
That's something I hope the team can take away from what really was a magical turnaround and a heck of a run for the Arena Cup. To go from a 1-6 record in the first seven weeks to an overall record of 9-7, and then to knock off not only the South Georgia Wildcats and the Green Bay Blizzard in the playoffs, was a hell of an accomplishment. It's one that should be celebrated and recognized. Although tonight's game didn't go the way we had hoped, the season can only be considered a success, and something to build on for next year.
Although I am certainly disappointed -- the team was so close, and yet so far -- the Wolves are not a team in which I can be disappointed. Not when their players are playing for love of the game, $250 per week and a shot at the Arena Football League or even the NFL (a Wolves linebacker in 2007, Maurice Fountain, went to the AFL in 2008 and just signed with the Miami Dolphins). Although I would love for the team to someday win the Arena Cup, I'm happy to have some good football during the off-season. So here's to next year, the quest and plenty of good football yet to come.
(What's that? Hazzard County was in Georgia? Eh. It's close enough).