The Zurich Intruders played the prince and paupers of the NFFL standings, and finished with a hard fought 1-1 result last Saturday in Zurich. The tournament opener saw the visiting Neuchâtel Knights lose an at times spirited affair to the hometown Intruders at beautiful, generous ASVZ field. QB Hoza came out of retirement for the sojourning starting QB, and picked up where he left off eons ago, leading three quick TD drives to old targets and new. Arvind Srinivasan caught a pair of bombs, bookended by a vintage Hoza to Guay TD strike. Veteran WR Haidari and Adan Martinez, making his first appearance of the year, capped off later drives with extra points, as Zurich raced out to a 21-0 lead.
The Knights QB by committee was stymied by the ever resurgent orange crush defense, as Sanchez, Haidari and Pfiffner held Neuchâtel to nul points in the first half. With a blazing sun hanging above and a championship bout looming later, Coach Lewis made a business decision to rest his starters and drew on his team’s deep bench. Srinivasan made an inauspicious debut at QB in his first drive, a four-and-out circus act during which his only completion was errant heave to a blue tent pitched on the opposing sideline. Luckily, the defense held serve, Srinivasan settled down, and Boroski hauled in two passes in quick succession, the last of which extended the lead to 28-0 going into halftime.
Undaunted by the score, the heat and the fact their offense had only scored twice the entire season, the Knights spread the ball around before their fiery haired WR committed ginger on ginger violence, evading reserve CB Sorboen and scampering down the sidelines to draw the visitors closer at 41-6. Starting FS Guay, resting on the sidelines donned his jersey once again over his new Intruders crop top (swag available soon on the Intruders online shop) and marshaled calm over the second team defense. The remainder of the second half unfolded in the Intruders favor, capped by an over the shoulder, toe tapping Sorboen TD in the back of the endzone. Asked after the game about the key to his team’s victory, Coach Lewis simply answered, “Hydration,” and ran off the field in the direction of the first aid tent.
Prior to their matinee against 2015 champion Winterthur Red Lions, the Intruders bench dwindled unexpectedly due to heat stroke and adult responsibilities. Still, the remaining warriors took the field quietly confident of a playoff clinching victory. On their first offensive series, Hoza picked up where he left off against the Knights, hitting all of his receivers on the way to an endzone breaching score by WR Srinivasan. The vaunted Red Lions offense answered the challenge, capping a penalty-ridden drive to score their first points of the ball game.
The first half fireworks continued as Red Lions QB Hug and veteran Hoza dueled, as Guay caught a hat trick of touchdowns for the grey and orange. While Pfiffner, Haidari, Guay, and Martinez wrought an apocalyptic, white flag strewn wasteland in the middle of the field through most of the drives, they couldn’t quite close the door on Winterthur. Penalties, both correct calls and controversial decisions in questionably equal measure, against Zurich, continually sabotaged their chances of stopping the opposing drives. Steely reserve and championship swagger kept the Red Lions ahead, as the teams traded the lead throughout most of the game. Unfortunately, special teams failed the Intruders, as missed extra points would make the difference by the end of the day.
As the first half gave way to the second, Hug and Hoza continued the aerial assault, with Srinivasan and Guay catching earth shattering bombs on either side. Unfortunately, the Red Lions receivers, though dinged up by the Intruders bump and run defense, equaled their rivals, sparking a track meet between the opposing secondaries. A Hoza to Boroski lob straight out of 2012 brought the Intruders neck and neck with the champions. Only Martinez’s second half ladder climb through traffic tacked on what would be a vital (and only) two-point conversion for Zurich.
After the pass, an unnamed sideline source exclaimed, “Papa, you are the greatest!” as Hoza hydrated and watched his defense battle to hold the lead. They could not manage to halt the title holding juggernaut, as the Red Lions scored once again, capping the drive with yet another crucial extra point. Zurich ably soldiered down the field once again, but went to the red-zone out-pattern well once too many, as Wintherthur CB 48 raced down the sidelines on a comeback crushing pick six that sealed the victory. The Intruders sideline source could not be reached for comments after this watershed moment, but Hoza’s inspiring return evoked memories of 2009 Brett Favre and kept the Intruders in the game til the final whistle
Although Zurich could not pull off the upset on this day, the orange and grey take the experience and grit of a down to the wire, backyard brawl with the champs into the final week of the 2016 season. Win two of three next week and the Intruders quench their playoff thirst for only the second time in team history. Otherwise, the Intruders will need a win and some help from unfriendly foes also seeking those post-season berths. Still, this team feels special, perhaps the best to ever don their grey and orange, shifty eyed kits, and deserves one more fall Saturday to realize their championship potential.