The (Red) Lion Kings
With less than a minute left, both sidelines were tense. Though the Intruders had played 3 quarters of impeccable defense, a few stalled offensive drives meant that the ever-dangerous Red Lions had a chance to pull off a late game comeback. Coach Peter Lewis, he of the famed Canadian temper, was visibly frustrated at his team's inability to close out the game. Assistant Head Coach Juan Sanchez, probably trying to remember his son's birthday party schedule, was stoic, staring at the field like Jim Caldwell. Ex-players Jim Sorboen (seen bantering off the sideline ref) and Patrick Hoza (seen criticizing QB technique and/or eating a sausage) had come to witness history, but it could yet slip away.
Third and long -- the Red Lions needed a big play. QB Hug took the snap. Nickel corner Archie Haidari blitzed, while regular pass rusher Arvind Srinivasan dropped into coverage. Disoriented, Hug threw deep towards star receiver Bachmann, now covered by Srinivasan. Both jumped for the ball. Silence, and then an eruption -- Intruders CB Matthias Pfiffner had the ball, and the Intruders had pulled off the unlikely victory, final score 32-20. In a play that will surely soon be a fixture on ESPN's Top 10 show, Pfiffner, who had started the play in man coverage on the right hand side, read the flight of the ball, and came across to win a 4 person jump ball in front of the middle of the end zone. A spectacular play from a player who has been mocked in these very pages for, as an anonymous fan says, "hands more slippery than an eel coated in butter that has been taking lessons from Roger Goodell on how to answer questions about concussions." Pfiffner, who is also a national team starter at CB, has promised to give us a tour of his new apartment in pick city.
And yet, despite the 4th quarter heroics, the game was won much earlier. The orange and gray usually employ the swiss defense, insofar as their secondary is more porous than a block of emmentaler cheese against top opposition. However, with their five first choice defensive players on the field, they operated with swiss precision. After a shaky first play, where the intruders let a red lion behind the secondary, General Guay reorganized and from there on they were lights out. A pair of interceptions from Srinivasan and CB Jeff Sullivan, along with a few fourth down stops, enabled by the Haidari one-man flag-grabbing wrecking crew, meant that the Intruders were holding the usually explosive Red Lions offense at bay. On offense, though lacking the big-play ability from absent starting QB Dave Cipullo, the Intruders were moving the ball mistake-free, notably through wheel routes from the elusive Haidari and seam routes from big center / TE Todd Teubert. And before the half, a remarkable (and lucky) offensive drive involving a tip drill to Haidari and a jump ball to Guay in the back of the end zone gave the Intruders both a cushion and an important mental advantage. This victory will put potential playoff opponents on alert -- having not yet played a game with a full roster, the Intruders are in good shape going into September.
Riding the high of their first victory, the Intruders went into game 2 against the Knights high in confidence. Teubert took over at QB and the Intruders showed the depth of their squad, with WR Michelle Bridenbaker exploding onto the scene with a number of touchdowns, and MLB Adan Martinez locking down the middle of the field on defense despite a few hands related penalties ranging from holding to illegal contact. Even after a few silly interceptions, the Intruders would win 58-14.
- After missing all of the offseason program while holding out for a new contract, player/coach Juan Sanchez stepped into the Red Lions game for exactly one play, committing a blitz block penalty that killed the Intruders' drive. In the first play of the next game, Sanchez lined up at center for a trick play, and snapped the ball towards the sideline. Sanchez will need to cut out distractions like ref duty or bribe his teammates with beers and favorable fantasy football trades if he wants to make it back into the starting lineup.
- After a reasonable debut game at pass rusher, Srinivasan had a game to forget against the Knights. He injured his shoulder on early game sack of the Neuchatel QB, then lowered the shoulder for an illegal hit in another pass rush, causing Coach Lewis to pull him from the game. One wonders whether these violent tendencies are related to the mysterious suspension that caused Srinivasan to miss the first half of the season. Srinivasan came back in late in the game at CB to concede a TD in man coverage and was seen drinking away his sorrows while refereeing the final game of the day.