Playoffs! Interceptions, fumbles, sacks, diving for the pylon, flying tackles. . . these are a few of my favorite things! In Seinäjoki this weekend, I saw my favorite things and much more as the Crocodiles got the win in a hard fought defensive battle. The Crocodiles are now headed to the Maple Bowl to face either the Helsinki Roosters or Turku Trojans. Despite there not being many points scored in this game, it was one of the most exciting contests in the Maple League this year, as a playoff game should be.
Chris Young was flying everywhere as usual. He led all tacklers with 7.5 total. The excitement for this game was evident in Young’s demeanor as you could see him be a lot more emotional in between plays and participating in some verbal jabs with the Crocodiles players. In the first quarter of the game, the Royals held the Crocodiles off the scoreboard with a goal line stand, and were fortunate enough to have the Crocodiles miss a 35 yard field goal. The Royals secondary did an exceptional job keeping the passing attack of the Crocodiles in check for most of the game and not giving up any big plays. Rufail Khalifa and R.J. Long both had interceptions in this game. The Royals even scored their first points of the game from defense in the form of a safety. The Wasa Royals can definitely take this loss without feeling like they could have done more or something different, If these teams played again in a week I wouldn’t bet on the same outcome. But in the Maple League it’s “Any Given Saturday or Sunday” and the Crocodiles were just the better team on this Saturday afternoon.
The Royals played exceptional defense, the Crocodiles played AMAZING defense! Niko–The Man, The Legend–Lester proved once again why he is the most important player on the field at ALL times. I don’t say this lightly as he shared the field with some great Royals players in R.J. Long and Chris Young. But no one does it better than Niko. Lester played Wide Receiver on offense with no breaks, then went and shadowed R.J. Long all game on defense. The Royals defense did a good job of keeping Lester in check offensively, but he was one of four lethal options for the Crocodiles. R.J. Long is THE receiver for the Royals, but was held to 2 catches for 20 yards by Lester. Lester also had 2 pass breakups against Llong, including one that resulted in an interception for teammate Pierre Courageux. Jaska Värinen led the Crocodiles in tackles, but it was really a team effort as everyone contributed to their success against the Royals. Greg Robinson, Robin Mouton, and Filip Zacok all helped pressure the Royals offense, each accredited with a sack. Toni Haukkamaa helped in the run game racking up 7 tackles, while Matthieu Fayard was actively involved in everything defensively . Tuomas Leinonen and Pierre Courageux each had an interception. That’s solid contribution from all starters on defense, doesn’t get anymore complete than that!
There was Offense too!
Yea, only 23 total points were scored in this game, but the Crocodiles accumulated 340 yards of offense despite not capitalizing with scores more often. Spencer Cutlan was the go to receiver of the day with 6 receptions for 90 yards. As good as that stat line is, it doesn’t compare to what Steven Strother did for the Crocodiles offense. Strother carried the offense as far as one man can go. The passing game was not as effective as normal, which amounted to 23 carries for Strother for 116 yards and one touchdown. This is in addition to a 58 yard touchdown reception to bring his receiving total to 64 yards. Steven Strother accounted for 52% of the Crocodiles offense in this game and deserves every bit of credit for what he accomplished. Watching this game, he used his speed to outrun defenders, his strength to break tackles and use a very aggressive stiff arm, and he also showed great vision finding holes when it looked like there were none. This running back with a better performance from the passing game would make me think about picking the Crocodiles to with the Maple Bowl. . . but let’s wait to see who they play before I make that type of statement. Congratulations to the Seinäjoki Crocodiles on advancing to Maple Bowl XXXVII