What is happening in Virginia Beach? After an 0-5 start and an obituary on these pages, the incredible Virginia Beach Panthers are making a playoff run. True, the run the is wind-aided. And it will fall short, even though there are so many bad teams in the National Conference. Don't believe it? There is *one* (1) team in the *Conference* with a winning record. One.
The Panthers looked strong this week as they crushed the dormant Bengals underfoot. Apparently the Bengals have given up on this season. At the end of APFL 1, pundits shook their heads and agreed that Baton Rouge had the talent to go far, they simply needed better plays. After some doomed trades, they now need a couple players and better plays.
Virginia Beach has built its comeback on the back of FriedRice. As soon as he entered the game plans, the Panthers began to show how fearsome their offense could be with a balanced attack. They already had a great defense. It's clear that things will only get better as Coach Mike develops his playbook.
Tyrone Haselrig was the only bright spot for Baton Rouge, he had four tackles for a total loss of 3 yards, including two stuffs. Tyrone was sadly crippled by his improved Discipline before the season, but Coach Chris has found a way to beat the good sense out of him.
For Virginia Beach, Edward Larsen had the game of his life. Twelve tackles for only 20 yards. Larsen was in the right place all day. Definitely the Defensive Player of the Week, he matched Matt Calhune's season in one game.
Jed Wooden Update
Texas looks stronger each week as the playoffs approach, and the 34-21 victory over the Moose on Saturday continued their conference domination. While the Outlaws haven't been so strong against other divisions, they seem poised to smash into the playoffs. Don Jackson was a miracle for Texas, and the fourth-rounder's amazing improvements will carry the team far against teams with weaker linebacking.
Duluth, Duluth, Duluth. What can you say about the Moose? Even with two games against also-ran Owasso, they simply couldn't climb out of the brutal National Conference. To Szatch's credit, he hasn't given up, continuing to work his personnel with an eye on next season. Szatch has stated many times that he feels his roster is basically in place, but look for him to pick up 3 starters in the upcoming draft. With better play-calling and less team meetings with press agent Herb, Duluth can be a powerhouse for years to come.
Anthony Gibson went absolutely crazy in this game, posting an 8.75 yard average on 20 carries. Antwann Newburry also had a great average, but needed more carries to keep the Texas offense off the field. Ricky Cramer hauled in four touchdowns in what has become a typical strategy for Coach _dude. He wears out one receiver per week, resting them the following game with his amazing rotation of talent at wideout.
Peter Russell had a great game for Texas on defense, with 7 tackles for only 17 yards.
The Seoul Choson continue to impress, even in defeat. Competing against what is possibly the league's best roster in Haddonfield, Seoul was only a toudown and a kickoff-return away from a tie game. That might sound weak, but when you consider Seoul's roster is populated by starters that wouldn't make most teams, you have to tip your hat to Coach Z. Working in the APFL's Central Division of Winners, he has kept pace, losing a few close ones along the way. Coach Z is Coach of the Year.
Kenny Proctor posted a great 5.33 yard average, but didn't get enough carries to control the ball for Haddonfield. Phil Underwood went crazy, with 46 carries for 224 yards, giving the Choson a 9-minute advantage in time of possession. If Coach Z can put a roof on the Seoul defense and stop strong passing attacks, he can shut out teams for years to come.
The loss of Jeremy Flagler to injury didn't slow down the Pumpkins, who threw to Josh Treem repeatedly. Expect more passing when against Arkham this week, as Elliot Ross sits out with a strained groin after spending the week in a Baton Rouge brothel.
The playoffs became slightly more clear after this game. Haddonfield and Texas are locked in, and Arkham and Seoul will compete for the final playoff spot. Seoul will be the favorite over Duluth this week, while Arkham is the underdog against Haddonfield. It could easily come down to a week 10 slugfest, with an obscure tiebreaker deciding the American Conference wild card. Or Seoul could simply win the next two games, making the playoffs in their expansion season against tough opposition.
The schizophrenic All-Stars missed their flight to New Deal and were forced to hitchike, listening to "Babylon by Bus" as they trekked across the American Southwest. When they arrived, they found a defense they couldn't penetrate, and New Deal demonstrated its dominance once more.
Scott Hennig has rested on the field last two weeks. Matt Thomas and Darnell Austin each had monster games, totalling 60 carries and a 7 yard average between them. This ball-control approach was the perfect remedy against the Long Beach quick strikes, giving New Deal a 7:30 advantage in time of possession. Gilbert Ford returned to Earth after his amazing game last week, going 0-2 on field goals and prompting Mike Penn to state, "I could have been stronger."
A win here would have been fantastic for Long Beach playoff hopes, but they should still make the big dance easily, laughing all the while at the ineptness of their cousins in the West division. Can anyone stop New Deal? Only Haddonfield so far, and the Pumpkins must get past Texas to stage a repeat performance. Look for real, red blood to be shed in the grudge match between Texas and Haddonfield in week 10.
The ever-weaker Grave Robbers barely slipped past Owasso in a game that featured Arkham's ground attack. Coach Guye was heard whining and complaining that the margin should have been much larger. His statements are probably stress-reactions to his situation. He needs two wins against two strong teams in the last two games to ensure a playoff appearance.
Owasso will finish with a great draft position and a strong base for next season. Expect the Rams to look for players in the defensive front seven, and a speedy wideout to make John Ballard more effective. Miguel Evans and Levi Chung have overachieved this season, a credit to an offense that has had trouble moving the ball on the ground.
Jay Shines, the All-World Arkham receiver, was 1 yard short of 100 yards *rushing* in this game, and scored the only touchdown, on the ground. After a good showing in the Long Beach blowout, halfback Kerry Terrell was nowhere to be seen. John Calloway got 19 carries for the Rams but was totally ineffective. Grave Robbers' kicker Trent Henley had another fantastic day punting. Why can't anyone return a punt against this team?
Safeties Elliot Ross and Zip Robertson each had great days for Arkham combining for 11 tackles with only a 4.25 yard average. Defensive end Renaldo Johnson went crazy, registering 4 sacks and 3 stuffs for a total loss of 89 yards. Linebacker Royce Lombard had monster day for Owasso, completely shutting down Jamal Smith with seven tackles and a 4.3 yard average. Overachieving linebacker Daryll Taylor also looked strong for the Rams.
Pullman has left the building. They barely moved as the hard-charging Scorpions scored enough points to win at home. Albuquerque controlled the game with a 6 minute advantage in time of possession, and the Chris Barnes Express rolled again with 28 carries for the Superman.
Pullman looked toward next season with Ed Ward taking a suprising second start at quarterback. After Sam Atkins spent a week in the weight room, the Mouth expected him to come out throwing. Instead, he has ridden the bench. Pullman needs a strong passing attack from the scrambling Atkins to make Kwame Cook more effective. Against Albuquerque, the Cougars' running game was too weak.
Tight End Ben Davis had a huge day for the Scorpions, with 154 yards receiving and a touchdown. Kicker Pete Valentine also had a great game, with a perfect 3 field goals.
The front seven of the Scorpions was invulnerable, registering an incredible 25 tackles with a miniscule average. The strong team showing against the run can take Albuquerque far in the playoffs. It will be the key in a possible matchup against New Deal.
For Pullman, lineman Marcus Terrell went crazy, getting 10 tackles, three stuffs, and only allowing 18 yards. Without his effort, Chris Barnes might still be running. Lee Walsh was also huge, getting five stuffs in six tackles. The front four in Pullman is a base for building a dominant defense. Look for coach Dave to take a linebacker with one his two first-round picks.
With Pullman fighting for a good draft pick, the playoff picture has reversed itself. Albuquerque is the favorite to win the West, with the surprising Panthers having an outside shot. Long Beach will fall backward into a wild card slot. It's all a formality, however, as the American Conference selects its representative to battle New Deal for the championship.
The playoff picture has changed, and looks much clearer. These are predictions, not guarantees, but expect them to be accurate with only two games remaining.
Out of It
On the Bubble
Seoul and Arkham may well come down to tiebreaks after Week 10.
Unsung Game Balls to:
Check out Scott Hennig. He might be the best passer in the league, but after the last two games, does he need to be?
Marco Cheah has been sighted on Long Beach, kicking a football into the surf repeatedly and muttering to himself.