Monthly Archives: August 2004
Chicago, Illinois, May 8, 2004
Before the start of the season, both teams circled May 8th on their calendars. Even before a game was played everyone knew that this was going to be one of the games of the year. Both teams are powerhouses that went undefeated in the regular season last year and as gameday approached both teams were still undefeated this year. After today, something was going to change.
The Sharks flew out on Friday night but due to bad weather in Chicago, their plane did not land until 11pm (CDT) and they didn’t get into their hotel rooms until after midnight. A kind of ticklish situation, since curfew was set for the witching hour.
The forecast for Saturday was for scattered thundershowers but as kick-off time closed in, the skies were sunny with a few clouds. It was warm, around the mid-70’s and very humid. A deciding weather element was the wind which was blowing quite briskly in the Windy City.
The Sharks were wearing their blue uniformas for the road game. The last time they had worn these colors was in 2001. New York won the coin toss and elected to receive. Chicago picked to kick-off with the wind at their back.
Even though they had the wind at their back, the Force kicked it short and Chrissy Hilla grabbed the ball and advanced it to midfield. Despite having the ball in good field position, the Sharks could not move the ball and were forced to punt very quickly. Punter Nikki Gwinnett kicked the ball into the wind and it did not go very far. When the ball hit the ground it bounced back towards the Sharks’ territory. The Force got the ball at their own 48-yard line.
The Sharks were getting their first chance to see the vaunted Chicago offense. Chicago has been averaging close to 50 points per game, led by a lethal running attack. But the Sharks are no slouch on defense and they won the battle in the first series of plays and forced the Force to punt after 3 plays. Both teams could not move the ball against the other until late in the first quarter.
After a Force punt, the Sharks were starting from their own 29-yard line. Staying strictly with the running game to avoid the havoc with the wind, the Sharks were able to grind out yards and first downs. Sharks’ quarterback Val Halesworth kept putting the ball into the hands of Missy Marmorale and Monica Marsh. Marmorale took most of the handoffs for the day and finished with 71 yards on 23 carries. After 10 straight running plays, the Sharks had moved the ball all the way down to the Force’s 24-yard line. At this point, New York switched gears and despite the wind, threw to wide receiver Jen Blum. Blum caught the ball and ran it in for a 24-yard touchdown pass. The Sharks went for the 2-point conversion but the throw to Beth Nugent went over her head and bounced to the ground. So with 1:32 left in the first quarter, New York drew first blood and led 6-0.
The Chicago Force is noted for a very strong running attack, but stopping the run is the strong suit for the New York Sharks. Many a 1,000-yard running back has entered the game with the Sharks only to leave the game gaining less than 30 yards. To counter this, the Force went to the air a lot more times today than they had all season. Quarterback Cyndi Kemp attempted 34 passes while completing 15 of them for 117 yards. She was quite effective in marching the Force up and down the field by mixing the air attack with their usual ground game. Starting from their own 44-yard line, the Force took an 11-yard drive down to the Sharks’ 27-yard line before stalling. Just before the end of the half, the Force had a 10-play drive that was stopped at the New York 17-yard line as time had expired.
In the second half, both defenses continued to slug it out. The Sharks could do absolutely nothing against the Force and picked up only one first down the whole half. Chicago on the other hand was a bit more successful in the first down department.
Near the end of the third quarter, the Chicago Force was given a gift as running back Marsh fumbled the football at the New York 39-yard line. Marsh who was starting her first game in the backfield due to an injury to Lakisha Grant but was having a good day, rushing for 51 yards on 11 carries. Chicago could not cash it in as they only got as far as the 25-yard line before Veronica “Vicious” Simmons sacked the quarterback to snuff out any scoring chance.
Sometimes a good defense is your best offense and the Force tried to prove that true. Chicago was forced to punt and were able to pin New York back to their own 11-yard line. Three plays later and the Sharks had to punt from their own 7-yard line as the third quarter ended. After the New York punt, the Force had the ball in excellent field position at the Sharks’ 27-yard line.
Chicago was knocking loudly on the Sharks doorstep as two nice runs by Latania Logan moved the ball down to the New York 12-yard line and a first down. On the next play Donna Spilotras broke through the line and with one arm sacked the quarterback for a 3 yard loss. This didn’t stop the determination of the Force as they rushed the ball down to the 10-yard line and then went to the air two times to try and score, but both went incomplete and that ended Chicago’s threat.
The Sharks had escaped a tough situation but New York now had the ball at their own 10-yard line. Chicago’s defense came up big again as they stopped Marmorale for a loss of 2 yards that pushed New York back to the 8-yard line. The Sharks tried to pass their way out of the endzone but twice could not hit a receiver. On the last incomplete pass, Halesworth had to scramble around in the endzone to get her pass off. The pass fell harmlessly to the ground and New York was now facing a punting situation from their own 8-yard line. But there was yellow flag on the ground. Chicago was called for a roughing the passer penalty, and that gave New York a first down and the ball at the 19-yard line.
Unfortunately for New York, the offense could do nothing with the ball and was forced to punt. Chicago got the ball back on the Sharks’ 38-yard line and was again starting to knock loudly on New York’s door. One had to wonder how much longer could New York’s defense deny Chicago. Going to the air with short passes, Chicago moved the ball all the way down to the New York 8-yard line and a first down.
On the first down, the Force gave the ball to Stacy Paller who gained 2 yards. On second down, the Sharks got their biggest break of the game. Wide receiver Luella Gesky was open for a moment and Kemp was able to get rid of the ball. The throw was a little low but Gesky got her hands on it but could not pull the ball in to make the catch and the ball bounced harmlessly to the ground. Still the Sharks were not out of the woods as Kemp ran the ball on the next play but was stopped at the 5-yard line. With only 5 yards away from tying the game up, Spilotras came up big again. This time she busted through and used two arms to sack Kemp for an 8-yard loss with only 2:51 left to go in the game.
All New York had to do was gain a first down and the game would be over. Still they were backed up deep in their own territory with the ball resting on the 13-yard line. Maybe they were trying to trick the defense, as New York threw on first down. The Chicago defense was not fooled and they sacked Halesworth for a 4-yard loss. The Sharks went to the ground on the next play but got hit with a penalty and rather quickly the Sharks were finding themselves swimming backwards. The ball was now on the 6-yard line of New York when Marmorale was given the ball and got a hard fought 5-yard gain. There was only 2:10 left in the game but the Sharks were looking at fourth down and a very long 12 yards for a first down.
New York lined up with Halesworth behind the center to take the snap on the fourth down play. It looked like the Sharks might be going for it from their own 11-yard line, but as the ball was snapped, Halesworth ran out of the endzone for a safety. Coach Sanchez did not want to take a chance with a blocked punt, bad snap, or a big Force punt return and decided to take the safety and go with a free kick.
The drama was now set as there remained only 1:57 left in the game with the Sharks kicking off to Chicago from the 20-yard line. Andra Douglas kicked the ball to the left side of the field and it bounced over the kick returner’s head. But luck was on Chicago’s side as the ball continued to bounce and went out of bounds. The Force had the Sharks kick the ball over again, this time from New York’s 15-yard line. This kick stayed in bounds, but Chicago got a good return and was going to start the final drive of the game from the New York 38-yard line.
Was New York going to the well one more time too many? Time was favoring the Sharks but the defense was getting tired and they could not afford a lapse. Chicago which had been moderately succesful in the air now was forced to do so in the final 80 seconds of the game. But like against Atlanta, the Sharks were able to take care of business in 4 downs and New York walked away with a hard-fought, nail biting 6-2 win and sole possession of first place.
The game featured two heavyweight contending teams at the top of the conference slugging it out for 60 minutes. It was one of those rare games that matched the pre-game hype. The Sharks showed to everyone that their defense is still the toughest in the league. They had to continually play tough as Chicago had numerous chances to score in the second half but kept them out of the endzone. It was truly a team effort on the defense as a number of players rose to the occassion when they had to. Chicago was able to move the ball, but when it came to hitting paydirt, the Sharks defense just clamped down to deny any score.
The Sharks offense continues to be a mystery. Their points scored keeps decreasing with each game played. They were successful on one series of plays in which they scored their lone touchdown but thereafter stalled time and time again. The offense seemed almost predictable and Chicago was able to stop running play after running play. The offense will have to play better in the re-match in 2 weeks for the Sharks to remain in first place.
Game balls were given to Blum for her touchdown catch and the defensive game ball went to Spilotras. It was tough to select a defensive standout but Spilotras got it with her two clutch sacks. Still, many others could have gotten one for defense.
The Sharks go back home for their next game against their old foe the Bay State Warriors. The Sharks have played the Warriors the most times than any other team in the league and are a perfect 4-0 against them. The Sharks met Bay State last year in the IWFL Eastern Conference championship and they are looking for some revenge. Come join us at August Martin High School at 3pm this Saturday, May 15th. If you can’t make it, you can listen to us live on our radio flagship station kedu.us
|New York Sharks||6||0||0||0||0|
NY – (01:32) Blum 24 yard pass from Halesworth (pass failed)
CH – (01:57) Safety