A Tale of Two Halves
While the Intruders failed to come away with a victory, the team can be proud of the character exhibited in a 48-35 loss to the the first place ASVZ Blackbirds and a tense 19-19 tie with the second place Luzern Pikes. Here's what we learned from Saturday's sojourn in Luzern:
1. Following a first half panic storm that sent the Intruders to the sidelines down 3 scores, tempers and lower leg injuries threatened to tear the team from asunder. Two first half drives stalled due to Boroski drops, Sullivan retiring after 2 plays due to injury after surrendering a long touchdown, and the newly formed offensive juggernaut of the Blackbirds marching down for four scores to the Intruders lone tally. Before dehydration and finger pointing could overcome the disjointed Orange and Gray (rocking their away whites), Coach Lewis's passionate speech circled the wagons and sparked the Intruders' second half resurgence.
2. Although ultimately falling short by 2 scores, the Intruders exhibited steely reserve and undaunted effort to win the second half. Guay and Haidari fought the league leading Blackbirds tooth and nail on both sides of the ball, and Cipullo and Teubert both threw for scores. Boroski atoned for a lackluster first half, tallying two TDs before the final whistle blew. Considering that ASVZ Blackbirds (5-0) have thus far eviscerated the rest of the NFFL, the short-handed Intruders kept it close in the end and proved they could play with the league's elite.
3. In latter half of Saturday's double bill, Zurich faced hosts Luzern in that rarest of rare flag football gems, a defensive stalemate. Never before have the Intruders (or perhaps any team in the storied history of the NFFL) battled to a scoreless first half tie. The Orange and Gray dominated the first half on both sides of the pigskin, only to see two first half drives stall inside the red zone. Bad snaps, scattershot passes and ill timed drops robbed the Intruders of well earned scores. Guay marshalled their unflappable defense, which struggled earlier in the day, to render the high powered Pikes offense dead in the water, with CB Pfiffner picking off a Balsinger pass and Haidari leaving no flag left unpulled.
4. Compared to the first twenty minutes, the second half was a mid-summer fireworks showcase of offensive precision and end zone chicanery. Zurich jumped out to an early lead, as Cipullo found Haidari in the end zone to go ahead 6-0. Eventually one of the Balsinger trilogy (probably) lead Luzern to their first score, thanks to a lucky deflection and solid effort by one of their non-Balsinger receivers. Bridenbaker once again pressured the Pikes QB on fourth down in their own end, deflecting a pass that miraculously found the fins of a Luzern receiver. The Pikes capitalized on their good fortune, finishing the drive and pulling even with their Zurich counterparts once again.
5. Unfortunately, both sides struggled on special teams, leading to that most unsatisfying of results. With the Intruders leading 14-6, Luzern hit on their first deep pass of the day and tied the game. An undaunted Cipullo lead Zurich back down the field on a steady diet of completions to Guay and Haidari. With a minute left on the clock, Teubert broke free and scored on a long pass. The grizzled QB's desperation extra-point heave floated just over of outstretched arms of Boroski, leaving the game tied and giving the ball back to Luzern with ample time left. Missed extra points would prove the difference, as the Pikes answered to tie the game with :16 left to play. Though the embattled Intruders' last second drive ultimately fell short, they left the field with heads held high once again. The hosts, who bickered and complained throughout the contest, continued their futile protests long after the final whistle.
6. While an acceptable end in European football, many a pundit of the American game has compared a tie to kissing one's sister. Though the Intruders (3-2-1) deserved better, the team left Luzern proud of an even score at the end of regulation against a Pikes squad (3-0-1) who thus far have bested last year's championship participants Renegades and Red Lions.
This week Zurich travel to Solothurn to face competing wildcard contenders in the Winterthur Warriors and expansion Yverdon Ducs. Two wins would set the table for a relaxed mid-season respite and another step towards a second straight play-off berth (not to mention a strong post game BBQ). Come out to cheer your Orange and Gray in Solothurn, where the concession stand wine is cheap and the Intruders play particularly feisty.