In a game that featured four overtime drives, 107 total points and numerous red zone penalties, an orange 13 proved the unluckiest number for last year’s champs. JB turned back the clock while the Intruders turned in a performance for the ages with Cipullo finally throwing to Boroski, who accounted for 5 of the team’s last 7 scoring plays to lead the Intruders to a 54-53 quadruple overtime playoff win.
Prior to the game, Teubert told the huddle, “This is the best Intruders team we’ve ever had in all the years I’ve played. We can do this.” Sporting new plays (that they’d uncharacteristically practiced days before) and multi-dimensional formations, the Intruders marched meticulously down field, capping the opening drive with a Guay TD as they had so many times in 2017.
Last week’s slugfest between these same teams ended in a 48-46 win for the Intruders. True to form, the Renegades responded in kind with QB Attila connecting with his stud WRs throughout the game. Although the Intruders usually held for three downs, the fourth always proved the cruelest, as their patchwork secondary couldn’t quite stem the scoring tide. Juan Sanchez, last week's unexpected hero, could not manage a sack to prove last week was not a fluke.
Guay and Haidari matched their wide out foes #86 and future flag football Hall of Famer Dave Kocher stride for stride, as the respective superstar duos locked horns (figuratively, not literally because that would inevitably result in a penalty against the Intruders) on both sides of the ball. A quieter, slower chess match developed on the inside, as the Renegades center #99 won the early rounds, snagging drive moving grabs and several key extra points that would prove crucial as the day wore on.
Despite an early Cipullo interception, the Intruders pressed the issue and tied the game courtesy of a Srinivasan scoring scamper knotting up the score before half’s end. Arvind, whose early season charity robbed him of precious reps, gave his all despite a torn bicep and limited availability. When Pfiffner went down on the last drive of the game, Srinivasan stepped up in a big spot, covering Swiss National star #24 as the battle waged on.
As the two minute warning approached, the Intruders had the ball with time, perhaps too much time, and momentum on their side. Cipullo, who recovered admirably from first half folly, slyly dinked and dunked down the field. On their last drive he danced around the pocket and once again found JB, filling in for the injured Teubert, on fourth down of the game’s penultimate drive with seconds bleeding from the dying regulation.
With the ball on the Renegades three, our heroes lined up for the game tying score. Cipullo rolled out and spotted an open Boroski in the end zone. He hesitated, waiting perhaps for Archie to break free in the back corner, Guay to find space near front pylon, or even Champe Fitzhugh to come out of retirement. As none of those happened and the clock ran out, the aged QB tossed the ball in the direction of Boroski, whose sure handed grab and victorious battle cry echoed throughout Switzerland’s sixth largest city.
Unfortunately, the Intruders left their cagey foes with ample time to answer. The flag happy referee crew tossed the yellow kerchiefs as readily as the Renegades QB completed passes, including a last second penalty in the end zone. Worse than the first down, half the distance from the goal line penalty was the loss of shutdown corner Matthias for the day. The Renegades punched in the tying TD, but could not convert the crucial extra-point, sending the contest to overtime.
Starting at mid-field, the oft maligned QB drove the Intruders down the field in the allotted 4 plays from scrimmage, opening overtime as he had regulation with TD strike to Guay and converting a crucial extra point. Like a late round heavyweight bout, the Renegades kept counter punching, matching the Intruders blow for blow.
By the second drive of OT, the referees themselves were unsure as to the order of play. After consulting officials around the stadium, the four plays from midfield, highest score wins became the rule of the day. Cipullo again found Boroski for a double dip TD-extra point, and the Renegades narrowly held serve with tying scores of their own.
Controversy once again reared its ugly head, as Haidari’s crucial TD catch on fourth down was challenged after the sure handed receiver caught the ball on the goal line before being pushed out. After booth review, the officials rightly determined that the ball crossed the plane and the Intruders assumed the lead. JB snatched a key extra point from the outstretched hand of Renegades MLB Squeaky to put the Intruders up by seven.
As overtime wore on, what was once a proud match descended into a gutter war of desperate attrition. Extra points, normally the red headed step child of scoring tries, transformed into nail biting affairs, almost more so than the forgone conclusion of touchdowns. On their final drive, the Renegades found the end zone easily, relying on a steady dose of fleeting crossing routes that had proved so effective throughout the contest.
Tension saturated the Winterthur autumn air as the Renegades lined up to tie the contest. Weary legged defenders blanketed their opposition tightly as the Renegades QB looked to his right at #99 breaking underneath the streaking receivers. The ball fluttered towards outstretched arms, just past the pylon. The Renegade’s center, who had previously hauled in two clutch extra points dove one last time toward the ball and another tie score.
Boroski dove almost as far in a desperate attempt to tip the ball away, summoning every last ounce of strength from tired legs and arms weighed down from playing both ways. Both clattered to the ground. A whistle, not a final bell, signaled the end of the bout. The embattled Intruders defense rose their arms and voices in victory. Players stormed the field, fans cheered and hugged, and the Intruders huddled one last time into celebrate a hard fought, well earned victory.
In the semi-final, only the Luzern Pikes, whom they’d tied earlier in the season, stood between the Intruders and a chance at ultimate flag football glory. Unfortunately the marathon overtime took everything Zurich had. Thankfully the Intruders bench answered the call, as Coach Lewis even suited up for the semi-final as injuries mounted. Whatever remained was quickly taken by the infraction obsessed referee crew, as flags flew for each and every infraction against the Intruders.
To their credit, if the referees tried to hand the game to the Pikes in the first half, the whiny upstarts from Luzern took it and ran in the second, leaving the Intruders grasping at their flags. Sadly, the 36-15 score and testy play served as an unfitting end to a spectacular season for Zurich, but the Balboan effort of the opening game left the veteran team too depleted to muster another comeback.
Perhaps the 2017 Zurich Intruders will best be remembered for defeating the 2016 champion Renegades twice (by an aggregate score of 102-99), silencing the regular season champion Red Lions and even knocking off the Swiss National Team in a scrimmage.
Amidst controversy and adversity, the Intruders won a playoff game for the ages against their heavily favored cross-town foes in as gutty a triumph as has ever graced an NFFL field. What a team, what a way to end a season.