Monthly Archives: July 2003
Miami, Florida, June 7, 2003
This was the big game. Not only did this game help determine home field advantage in the playoffs, it matched 2 undefeated teams in the league against each other. The New York Sharks and Miamia Fury had identical 6-0 records and both had already clinched their respective division’s title. Both teams had not lost a game in 2 years, so this had the potential to be a real barn-burner. The game didn’t disappoint.
Even though the game started at 6pm it was a very hot and muggy at Curtis Park in Miami as the visiting New York Sharks (7-0) took on the Miami Fury (6-1). Things started off on the wrong foot for the Sharks as they lost the opening coin toss and Miami elected to receive. The Fury started off in good field position as they were able to return the ball up to the Miami 45-yard line. The Sharks were introduced of things to come on the first play from scimmage. Linebacker Missy Marmorale quickly broke through the line and was bearing down on Miami’s quarterback Anonoka Dixon. Usually this leads to a quarterback sack or a fumble, but Dixon used her quickness and speed to evade Marmorale and ran to her right for a 3 yard gain. The yardage gained was short, but Dixon’s quickness and speed was evident.
On the next play, Dixon ran with the ball to her left and went out of bounds after picking up 2 yards. But a late hit penalty on the Sharks moved the ball down to the New York 35-yard line. The penalty was the first of many to come throughout the game, against both teams. Continuing on the ground, Miami was able to pick up gains of 10 and 8 yards. The Fury then threw a screen pass left and the ball was now on New York’s 10-yard line. Up until this point this season, no one has even been this close to the Sharks’ goal line. Miami went back to the ground and picked up 2 more yards to make it second down and 5 on the Shark’s 8-yard line. Another screen pass for 3 yards and Miami was in a fourth down situation with 2 yards to go for a first down and 5 yards to go for a touchdown. New York caught a break when the Fury tight end moved for a penalty that backed them up 5 yards. Miami then went to the shotgun formation which gave Dixon a little bit more time to see the field. She needed it as Marmorale again bursted through the line, but before the linebacker could take the quarterback down, Dixon threw a pass to the left corner of the endzone. Receiver Regina Simmons had one Shark defender in front of her and one behind her, but the pass just missed the out stretched hands of the New York defenders and Simmons made a great catch for a touchdown.
This was definitely a shocker. New York had not given up a point all season and Miami had marched down the field on their first possession to take an early 6-0 lead. It looked like the Sharks were able to get their linebackers into the backfield of Miami, but the quickness of Dixon allowed her to avoid losses and turn them into gains.
It was now the Sharks turn to get the ball and after a short kick off by Miami, New York had the ball on their own 45-yard line. There seemed to be some confusion on the defense before New York snapped the ball and the Fury was hit with a penalty for too many players on the field. The ball was now on the Miami 40-yard line. Quarterback Val Halesworth then showed why she is the number rated passer in the IWFL. She looked right and hit receiver Valerie Monaco for a short 5 yard gain. Halesworth went to Monaco again, this time on the left side of the field for a 7 yard gain, but Miami was hit with a face mask penalty for another 5 more yards and a first down. Switching to the ground, Virginia Leon ran up the middle for a 5 yard pickup to move the ball down to the Fury’s 17-yard line. A handoff to Marmorale resulted in her running all the way to the endzone, but it was called back on a Shark’s holding call. This moved the ball back to the Miami 22-yard line. It was a tough call to take, having the tying touchdown called back, but the Sharks got it back on the next play. Halesworth dropped back into the pocket and was able to hit receiver Liz Presto streaking down the right side of the field for a touchdown. The Sharks failed on the 2-point conversion, but they were able to tie the score.
It looked like the game was going to be a high scoring affairs but for the rest of the first half, the defenses of both teams were able to stop the offense from scoring. For the most part, the Sharks were able to stop Miami from executing their plays, but when the plays broke down, Dixon was sometimes able to make something out of nothing to get her team out of trouble. She was not able to do it often enough and so Miami did not get on the scoreboard again in the first half. As for the Sharks’ offense, they were able to move the ball but hurt themselves quite often with penalty calls. Plus the Fury were able to make big stops when they had to. So when all was said and done after 30 minutes of football, New York and Miami were tied at 6 apiece.
Not only has New York been scored upon this season, they had never been behind or even tied at halftime. The team was struggling against the heat and humidity and also the speed of some of the Miami players. New York coach Nick Giannatasio spoke to his team at halftime and went over some adjustments. The Sharks needed to win the game or they would most likely have to travel back down to Miami for the playoffs. The prospect of playing in this heat later in the month was not an option.
New York hoped to turn things around and getting the ball to begin the second half was a good start. Another short kick off by Miami and the Sharks began the second half from their own 45-yard line. After an incomplete pass to start the half, New York went to the ground game. Halesworth handed off to Marmorale who busted through for a 9 yard gain. Another handoff to Marmorale resulted in a 2 yard gain and a first down. The next play was another handoff, this time to Courtney Eaton who picked up 3 more yards. Staying on the ground and going back to Marmorale, the Sharks got another 3 yards. They were slowly grinding out the yards on this possession. Linesman Anna “Tonka” Tate was creating holes for the running backs to go through. Trying to mix the action up, Halesworth went to the air with no success as she was sacked for a 6 yard loss. This made it a fourth down situation with 10 yards to go on the Miami 44-yard line. The Sharks decided to go for the first down by throwing. Halesworth rolled to her right but was chased back to the middle of the field. She was able to spot wide receiver Jen Blum open on the left side of the field and while on the run, threw a strike which Blum caught and ran into the endzone. On the 2-point conversion, Marmorale got the ball and ran it in to put the Sharks in front for the first time in the game, 14-6 with 11:27 left in the third quarter.
The Sharks seemed to be getting back to their old selves as they stopped Miami on their next possession. The Fury punted after running only 3 plays and gaining only 3 yards. Starting on their own 35-yard line, the Sharks continued to grind it out offensively by going to their running attack. A run by Leon gained 6 yards and a run by Eaton gained another 11 yards. But the Sharks were hit for a 10-yard penalty for an illegal block. Marmorale got the ball the next two times in a row but was unable to move the ball forward. This made it a fourth down situation on the Shark’s own 42-yard line. New York needed 4 yards for a first down and so they gambled and went for it. Halesworth took a step back and threw a swing pass to her left to Monaco who then ran down the sidelines for a first down and then some. Monaco was stopped at the Miami 25-yard line after the Fury was able to push her out of bounds. On the next play the Sharks got hit again with a holding penalty to move the ball back to the 30-yard line. Leon got the ball on the next play and rushed for a 6 yard gain. Halesworth then hit Presto for a short 2 yard pickup. A run by Marmorale for 2 yards put the ball on the Miami 20-yard line for 4th down and inches to go situation. Having gambled before in this series, the Sharks gambled again. Like the gamble before, New York went to the air and Halesworth was able to hit Monaco running down the right side of the field for a Shark’s touchdown. The 2-point conversion failed, but New York had added to their lead to make it a 20-6 score with 3:16 left in the third quarter.
The two touchdown lead became bigger and bigger as the New York defense was able to contain Dixon and the Miami offense. On the other hand the Sharks’ offense was able to move the ball down the field, but Miami was able to come up big to deny the Sharks from scoring. Still it came at a cost as New York chewed up valuable minutes off of the clock.
In the closing minutes of the game, Miami put together one last drive to at least make the score closer. The Fury got within the Red Zone, but Toni Salvatore intercepted a Dixon pass to ice the game for good.
This was by far the toughest game the Sharks have played this season. Not only did they play a really tough team with speed, the heat and high humidity took a toll on the players. Game balls were given out to Val Halesworth and Missy Marmorale. This was the second game ball of the season for Halesworth and the third for Marmorale.
The Sharks have now earned the home field advantage in the first round of the IWFL Eastern Conference playoffs. The Sharks will now travel to the west coast of Florida to take on the Tampa Bay Terminators for their final regular season game. Another win on Monday night will give New York a first round bye and the home field advantage in the second round of the playoffs. All Shark home games for the IWFL Eastern Conference playoffs will be held at August Martin High School.
|New York Sharks||6||0||14||0||20|
MIA – (09:08) Simmons 10 yard pass from Dixon (pass failed)
NY – (07:09) Presto 22 yard pass from Halesworthb(run failed)
NY – (11:27) Blum 44 yard pass from Halesworth (Marmorale run)
NY – (01:44) Monaco 19 yard pass from Halesworth (run failed)