PHILADELPHIA, PA – In a championship game with so much at stake, where big plays either way could make the difference between holding the trophy and gazing at it from afar, it was one small one that led to the final outcome in Sunday’s 2019 IFL title game.
In a driving rainstorm, a partially deflected punt, which rolled out of bounds for a safety was all that was needed for the Philadelphia Venom (7-4-1) to edge the Silk City Sharks (11-1) for a 2-0 win and their first IFL championship.
Aided by the weather, which held the potent Sharks offense to just 86 total yards, quarterback Quatrell Huffin’s passes, normally searing darts towards his receivers, were sinking stones, falling short of their marks.
The Venom defense also did not allow him to beat them with his quick feet, bringing pressure from the corners, forcing him inside into the teeth of the defense.
Both defenses were spectacular, with the Sharks defense only allowing a measly 77 yards in total offense.
The game would be about field position, and the punters took center stage.
After recovering a Sharks fumble on a blind side hit to Huffin at their own 35, the Venom could muster only five yards in three plays.
Their punter caught a low snap, slid to the left side of his blocking, and lofted a high kick, landing into the arms of his gunner at the Sharks 8-yard line.
Xavier Harris lost seven yards on the first play, and Huffin was bottled up for no gain on the next.
Although speedy receiver, Dekyri Mimms had beaten his defender up the near sidelines, the wind took Huffin’s pass over his head and out of play.
Forced to punt, and ten defenders on the line, Deon Davis’ attempt was partially blocked, the ball knocked out of the end zone for a safety, and a Venom lead.
The second half was littered with quarterback sacks, runners losing yards in the backfield, and more punts on both sides.
The Sharks last try came after a Venom punt was downed at their own 38.
Huffin managed to connect with Prince Block, who jumped high in the air to catch the floater at the Venom 45.
Marquese Marrerro caught a short pass on the nearside for five yards to the 40, and Huffin found tight end John Burton in the middle of the field to the Venom 21.
With no more time outs, the time ran out on the Sharks season.
Twenty-one wins in the past two seasons, and appearances in two consecutive championships is quite an accomplishment for an organization that was only an idea tossed around at a kitchen table between friends only three years ago.
Winning their first eleven games this season, including the IFL Southern division crown at Baurle Field last week, are positive steps for a team that is growing in noticeably.
They have taken care of all the things they could handle on the field, but mother nature had the last say yesterday.
Already, General Manager, Mark Fischer, and his staff are preparing for next season.
A total revamping is not necessary, but more plans to be deeper, more determined, and more committed to bringing to the City of Paterson the championship seemingly taken away yesterday by something out of their power – a driving rainstorm.
The Sharks will take yesterday’s disappointment and use it for fuel for next season, gladly trading in a division trophy for the big one.
February’s off season workouts can’t come soon enough.
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