PATERSON – This time, there were no dejected eyes and sunken shoulders at the goal line.
Afterwards, he walked through crowds of celebrating teammates with a smile, but not quite celebrating the top seeded undefeated Silk City Sharks (11-0), 20-0 win over the third seeded West Philly Marauders (7-4) in the IFL Southern Division Championship game at Baurle Field.
In a quiet moment before the game, quarterback Quatrell Huffin said he that if he had to, he would take the team on his back for a chance to get back to the championship next week in Philadelphia.
And indeed, he was the mythical modern day Atlas, in the middle of just about everything on offense and defense.
His 212 yards passing, three touchdowns, and quick decisions kept the chains,, and the clock, moving, and the powerful offensive line and running attack of the Marauders off the field for long periods of time.
On defense, he chipped in with two assisted sacks, and, along with linebacker Reinaldo Algarin (two sacks), and defensive end Akinde McQueen, harassed the West Philly signal caller out of the pocket and into hurried throws downfield.
The Marauders were a physical team, and throughout the night both squads exchanged cleat flying blocks and crunching tackles.
Even the sidelines were not safe for ball carriers, with a total of seven personal fouls called between the two teams.
The key, according to head coach, Charles “Cowboy” Mills, and his Sharks staff, was to get off to a fast start and force the West Philly team into passing situations.
The Sharks took the opening kick off and drove 63 yards in 11 plays.
Running back Xavier Harris was stopped short of a first down at the Sharks 45, but the Sharks went for it.
The offensive line stayed disciplined, and Huffin drew the defense into an offsides penalty, putting the ball at midfield for a first down.
Seven plays later, and charged with a false start, putting the ball at the Marauders 33, Huffin scrambled long enough to draw in the secondary, and found receiver Dekyri Mimms, lingering in the back of the end zone for a 6-0 score.
The Sharks were excellent on kick coverage, pinning the Marauders back to their own 12.
Their quarterback scrambled for nine on third down, but they decided to punt.
The snap sailed over the head of the punter, who chased it and finally kicked it out of the back of the end zone himself for a safety and a quick 8-0 Silk City lead.
In the second quarter, after stopping the Marauders at the Sharks 37, the offense drove down to the Marauders 19.
On a fourth down attempt, Xavier Harris was stripped and the fumble returned to the Sharks 40, where the Marauder ball carrier was also stripped and recovered by the Sharks at the Marauders 40.
With a fresh set of downs, it took them five plays to score, highlighted by a 29 yard inside hand off to Deon Davis, putting the ball on the Marauder 11.
Marquese Marrerro got down to the Marauder 4, and on the next play, with Huffin scrambling, found tight end John Burton in the left corner of the end zone for a 14-0 lead.
The Marauders took the second half kickoff and their offensive line finally began to impose their will on the smaller, but quicker, Sharks defense.
After a personal foul gave West Philly a first and goal at the 2, instead of pounding it in, the West Philly offense opted to execute a run or pass option.
Chased again out of the pocket by Algarin and Huffin, the errant pass found the hands of Davis in the end zone, and he dodged around tacklers all the way to the Marauders 47.
Three plays later from the 40, Huffin connected with Prince Block on a short pass, and he zipped through tackles and down the far side lines for a 20-0 lead.
Forced to pass, the Marauders crossed twice more into Sharks territory, but were turned away on downs.
The Sharks have three shutouts to their credit this year, and only one team scored in the double digits against them.
Huffin was voted offensive MVP, and McQueen, who led the defense with eight tackles, and was found countless times in the Marauder backfield causing disruption, was named the defensive MVP.
Paterson’s team will face the winner of Sunday’s Northern Division Championship between the fourth seeded Philadelphia Venom and the second seeded Philly-U Cardinals in next week’s IFL championship match up next week, another chance to take the crown that eluded them last season at the goal line on the last play.
Huffin and his teammates will be ready for the challenge, and unlike the mythical Atlas, hope to hold aloft the trophy together.
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