TAFT 20 – 23 Wolverines
I believe that what we experienced yesterday was known for a short while in the British sports pages as ‘squeaky bum time’. A three point victory is still a victory but as we failed to score in the second half, we heaped plenty of pressure on our defence to hold out and win the game for us. They did exactly that.
Firstly, congratulations to TAFT. They played very well indeed and almost took the victory. I think that they are going to give the Crocodiles, the Butchers and the Roosters a real run for their money and we’ll see them in the playoffs.
Those of you who read last week’s piece will know the injury problems that we’ve faced thus far this season. Despite missing a large portion of our starting line up yesterday our defence played phenomenally. In damp conditions we forced five turnovers and gave up just over 200 total yards. We got off the field on third and fourth down very effectively (they converted 4/11) and conceded only two touchdowns – both of which were on drives starting in our own half.
In particular, Sami Toivonen had a fantastic game at middle linebacker. The coaches challenged him to carry out a task and he did it exceptionally all game long. Since joining us from Turku over the summer, Sami has been brilliant. He puts in a lot of hard work every time he’s on a football field. On top of that, he travels all the way down from Turku for every practice. He does, however, still wear a helmet that looks as though he’s taken it from the University of Michigan’s football museum. Yesterday he was our leading tackler and he recovered a fumble as well as blocking an extra point.
Another often unsung hero is our kicker Janne Kalpio. He had a tough start when a punt snap went sailing over his head and into the endzone. TAFT recovered it to take a 13-0 lead. As easy as it may have been to retreat at this point, Janne went on to outdo himself. Not only did he kick the winning 33 yard field goal late in the second quarter, but he also put boot to ball on a fantastic, high, spiralling punt that was fumbled by the returner for us to recover. Add to that a collection of great kick offs from which we recovered yet another fumble and I’d say he had a pretty good day.
Overall, we produced a very good team performance yesterday despite a number of challenges. The offence did what was necessary and the defence rose to the challenge to keep the score down. I was very proud of everyone.
On a personal note I have to admit that it was extremely tough to stand on the sidelines and watch. It sounds dramatic to say that I felt physically sick at times but I was retching at half time. What made it more manageable was the confidence that I had in the players on the field, given the performance that they were putting in. When it came down to TAFT’s final drive to win the game, there was little doubt in my mind that our defence would hold fast. I’m sad, but also extremely proud.
All photos courtesy of Sami Ranta.