Monthly Archives: February 2007
Brooklyn, New York, June 2, 2007
It was a beautiful day in Brooklyn. The skies were clear, the temperature was in the 70’s and there was a Sharks football game to be played. The New York Sharks (3-1) were home again after earning a win in Boston two weeks ago. New York was looking for their first victory in their new home at Sharks Field at the Aviator Sports Complex as they were facing their division rival New England Intensity (2-2).
This was a game to look foward to as three former Shark stars were returning to New York but this time playing for the opposing team. Val Halesworth, Missy Marmorale, and Valerie Monaco were all members of the original Sharks team in 1999 and also were members of the championship team in 2002. This game also had lots of playoff implications too as this was the only meeting between these two teams this year so a loss would almost knock the other team out of playoff contention.
Things started off well for New England as they won the coin toss and elected to receive. Starting on their own 34-yard line, Halesworth quickly took to the air connecting with Lauren Manfred for an 8-yard gain. Halesworth found Manfred again for a 12-yard gain and New England was on the move. Sticking to the air attack, Halesworth faked a handoff to Charlene Casey and rolled to her right. She just had enough time to unleash a bomb that was heading straight for wide receiver Tricia Donovan. Donovan caught the ball at the Sharks 12-yard line, but before she could pull the ball towards her body, defensive back Brooke McKinney gave her a shove which caused Donovan to drop the ball. New York had dodged a bullet.
But New England still came out firing and on the next play on fourth down, they went for it and Halesworth hit Stephenie Samuelson on a swing pass for a first down at the New York 39-yard line. The Intensity tried to mix things up a bit and went to the ground but were stopped for little gain on the next three plays. With the ball on the New York 34-yard line, New England went for it on fourth down and Halesworth came up big as she connected with Kate Slack for a big 26-yard gain and a New England first down on the Sharks 8-yard line.
The Intensity were knocking on the Sharks door and the knocking became even louder as Donovan took a handoff and brought the ball all the way down to the 1-yard line. But it was here that New England shot themselves in the foot. In a quick attempt to get the ball into the endzone, the Intensity got called for an off-sides penalty and that moved them back to the 6-yard line. Casey tried to run into the endzone but stopped cold at the line of scrimmage for no gain and New England was looking at a third down and goal to go situation.
On the third down, the Intensity went into their bag of tricks as Halesworth handed the ball of to Manfred who ran to her left but slowed down and threw a pass into the endzone. Her receiver had her hands open to catch the ball but at the last second, McKinney came rushing in and was able to slap the ball down with her right hand.
With the ball still on the Sharks 6-yard line after 3 downs, New England decided to go for the field goal. Even if they came away from their opening drive with 3 points instead of 6, they would have made a major statement to New York. It was a short field goal try with the holder kneeling at the New York 16-yard line making it a 26 yard field goal attempt. But the snap was bad and forced kicker Michelle Hicks to hesitate before swinging her leg. This caused the kick to be low and the field goal attempt was no good.
So after eating up over 10 minutes on a 14 play drive, the Intensity came up empty handed. Still they showed New York that they meant business and the Sharks started things off on the wrong foot by getting hit with a false start penalty and forcing the Sharks back to their own 11-yard line.
New York has been hit a lot with injuries and one of them is to their star running back Yumi Warner. Warner is still on the sidelines and in her place has been rookie Gabrielle Nazaire. Nazaire is only 4′ 10″ and is a senior in high school. She wears her age on her back, 19 and was starting in only her second game of her very young career.
Sharks quarterback Karen Mulligan gave Nazaire the ball on New York’s first offensive play of the game and she busted out for a nice 19-yard gain and a Sharks first down. The ball was resting on the 30-yard line of New York when Nazaire got the ball again and this time she picked up 12 yards. If it worked twice maybe a third time would work as well and boy did it ever. Nazaire went up the middle and then cut to her left to gain 26 more yards. There was a 5 yard face mask penalty on the play by New England and the Sharks very quickly had the ball on the Intensity 27-yard line.
After 3 straight plays to Nazaire it looked like the Sharks were going to go to her again as Mulligan handed the ball towards the diminutive running back, but at the last second the quarterback pulled the ball back and ran down the left side line. Before New England could notice that Nazaire didn’t have the ball, Mulligan had picked up 8 yards to put the Sharks in the red zone.
Nazaire got the next hand off but this time New England was ready and held her to only a 1-yard gain. It was now third down with 1 yard to go. Shauntay Stewart came into the game as the fullback. Mulligan faked a handoff to Stewart and rolled around to her left and bulldozed her way in to the endzone to give the Sharks the lead as time expired in the first quarter. Megan Antonucci split the uprights on the extra point attempt and the Sharks drew first blood to take the lead 7-0.
Curiously on New England second drive they tried to run the ball to little effect and quickly were forced to punt the ball. New York also seemed to try something different as they tried thowing the ball and having someone else besides Nazaire to run with the football. The Sharks were a bit more successful as Mulligan connected with Anabel Rodriguez for a nice 27 yard gain but the New York drive ended with a punt after only 5 plays.
Again New England tried running the ball with little effect. They did get a nice 7-yard pickup from Manfred who ran down the left sideline. She might have gotten more but Jay Dantzler came up with a big open field hit. It really wasn’t a tackle as Manfred tried to run over Dantzler but instead got knocked off her feet by the Sharks defensive back.
The Intensity got the ball to the midfield on fourth down and then tried to pull another little trick out of the hat. This was more of an elaborate ploy as they only need 1 yard for the first down. It began with New England trying to get the Sharks off-sides and then calling a time out. As Halesworth ran off the field for the punting unit, she was pleading to her coach to go for it. And in a way they did. New England faked the punt but the Sharks weren’t biting and they tackled Slack to give New York the ball on the Intensity 46-yard line.
Time was starting to run out for the half as the Sharks went back to giving the ball to Nazaire. This time she wasn’t able to get any double-digit runs but was effective enough to move the Sharks closer to the goal line. Also a nice 23-yard pass play from Mulligan to McKinney helped too. With the ball resting on the New England 5-yard line, Nazaire got her second career touchdown with a run up the middle. The extra point attempt went wide but New York had a 13-0 lead going into the locker room at halftime.
It was Women’s Sports Foundation Day at the ballpark and at halftime, the Sharks awarded the foundation’s director Yolanda Jackson with a plaque. The foundation was started by former tennis legend Billie Jean King with the goal to advance the lives of girls and women through sport and physical activity.
The Sharks started the second half receiving the kick-off. Starting from their own 35-yard line they twice gave the ball to Nazaire who was able to get New York a first down at midfield but on the next play, Mulligan fumbled the ball as New England blitzed and was able to sack the quarterback just as she was getting the ball from the center. The Intensity had a great opportunity to get back into the game with the ball on the New York 39-yard line. But that optimism was shortly held as Shark defenders forced Halesworth to scramble and she tried to force the ball by throwing the ball up into a crowd. Linebacker Mandy Oppel out leaped everyone to get the interception and New York had the ball back.
That turned out to be a costly mistake and probably spelled the end of any New England comeback. Sticking to the ground game and continually giving the ball to Nazaire, the Sharks marched down to the Intensity 36-yard line. Giving their little running back a breather, Oppel came in a electrified the crowd with a 36-yard touchdown run to give New York a 19-0 lead with 10:03 left in the third quarter. Antonucci’s extra point attempt hit the crossbar and bounced away no good. Still the Sharks had a commanding lead and never let New England back into the game.
For the remainder of the contest, New York seemed comfortable enough to sit on the lead by continually running the ball on offense to eat the clock up. On defense, the Sharks knew that New England was going to have to throw and they kept the pressure up on Halesworth who was able to make some nice plays for big gains but she could not do it enough times to put up a score on the scoreboard. Donna Spilotras, Faith Mitchell, Nikki Joseph, and Amber Knighten were continuously harrassing Halesworth forcing her to pass before she had a receiver open or to take a sack. And when they weren’t around Courtney Ray made sure her presence was felt with her first career sack and an interception.
This was a big win for New York. With this victory, the Sharks magic number in clinching the division title is now 3 with 4 games left in the regular season schedule. Any combination of Shark wins and Intensity losses adding up to 3 will clinch the division crown for the New Yorkers.
The Sharks host the Miami Fury next week at Sharks Field at the Aviator Sports Complex. The Fury will be looking to get even with the Sharks for handing Miami their first loss of the season at the beginning of the year. In their first matchup the Sharks had to hold off an explosive offense led by quarterback Anonka Dixon. Kick off is at 4pm and it will be Girl Scout Day.
|New England Intensity||0||0||0||0||0|
|New York Sharks||7||6||6||0||19|
NY – (00:00) Mulligan 18 yard run (Antonucci kick)
NY – (00:17) Nazaire 5 yard run (kick failed)
NY – (10:03) Oppel 36 yard run (kick failed)