Monthly Archives: July 2007
Manchester, New Hampshire, July 14, 2007
The New York Sharks record against the Manchester Freedom has been perfect up until this game. Five times they have played the team from the Granite State and five times they have not only defeated the Freedom, but also prevented them from even scoring. But those games were played during the regular season when the Freedom had losing records. The Freedom won the Northeast Division and were playing in their first playoff game ever. They were looking to change history.
New York was able to repeat as North Atlantic Division champions for the 6th year in a row but their tough schedule probably cost them home field advantage throughout the playoffs. And being the road team in the playoffs has not been a good position for the Sharks. Their record is 1-2 on the road while att home they are 5-3 in the playoffs.
Things didn’t start off well for the visiting team and that was before the game even started. Their team bus never showed up that morning and the team drove up to New England by car following each other in a long caravan. They made it to the ballpark with 2 hours to spare.
It was a nice evening for playoff football. The skies were clear with a game time temperature in the upper 70’s. There was a good size crowd on hand as the Freedom were the talk of the town. Appearing on the front page of the sports section Union Leader and being talked about on many local radio stations.
The game began with New York kicking off to the Freedom. A nice return by Manchester and they were starting off on their own 43-yard line. It soon became apparent what Manchester’s game plan was and that was to go to the running game and that means going to their all-star running back Katia Pashkevitch. Five times they gave her the ball on their opening drive and she was able to pick up 2 first downs, but the Sharks were able to stop Manchester at the New York 30-yard line. So on fourth down Manchester pooch punted the ball and was able to down it on the New York 10-yard line.
The Sharks were only able to pick up a first down before they were forced to punt from their own 30-yard line. Megan Antonucci was able to get off a good kick and the Freedom had to start their second drive from their own 33-yard line. This time Manchester tried to do something a little different by throwing the ball on one down and giving the ball to Joy Burge on another. It didn’t get them too far and they were quickly forced to punt again.
On this punt, Adrienne Smith was able to return the kick and brought the ball up to the mid-field marker. With much better field position, the Sharks soon capitalized. The first play was an 8-yard run by Teresa Schirrippa. This was followed by a nice power blast by Shauntay Stewart to pick up 7 more yards. Next quarterback Karen Mulligan connected with receiver Brooke McKinney for an 11-yard pick-up. New York continued to march down the field when Schirrippa got the ball again. The Freedom almost had the running back at the line of scrimmage but a quick spin move left the defender on the ground clutching nothing but air. She was almost tackled again at the 15-yard line but the New York receiving corp turned blockers and that allowed Schirrippa to go all the way down to the Manchester 4-yard line. From there, Mulligan took it in herself on a sweep play to the left. The Sharks went for the 2-point conversion and Schirripa ran it in. It was a pretty impressive drive for New York as they took an 8-0 lead as the first quarter ended.
It looked like the Sharks were going to have their way with Manchester again as the Freedom quickly went 3 and out. But the Freedom defense stepped it up a few notches and were able to contain New York for the rest of the half. So when the 2 teams went into the locker room at halftime the score was a very competitive and close 8-0 score.
In the second half, the Sharks defense came up with a big turnover. Mandy Oppel intercepted a Lari Izzy pass and returned the ball to the Manchester 38-yard line. With excellent field position again, New York cashed in. This drive was similar to the previous touchdown drive as Schirrippa and Stewart carried the ball the first two times for a gain of 15 yards. But from there it was the Gabrielle Nazairre show. The rookie used her size to her advantage by being able to slip and duck tackles to bring the Sharks down to the Freedom 5-yard line. At close range New York went to Oppel who was able to blast her way into the endzone to give the Sharks a nice 2 touchdown lead with 9:24 left in the third quarter.
Things were looking very good for New York when linebacker Amber Knighten intercepted another Izzy pass, but it was really the beginning of a dark cloud. After Knighten grabbed the ball she fell down and another player fell on her legs and Knighten was injured. She had to hobble off the field and may be out for the rest of the season.
The Sharks were able to move the ball on this possession down to the Manchester 35-yard line when the Freedom defense started to chase Mulligan in the backfield. Mulligan ran to her right and then threw the ball into the endzone intended for Anabel Rodriquez but Jennifer Pirog leaped up to intercept the ball and returned it to the Freedom 11-yard line.
With time starting to tick away, the Freedom went to their favorite weapon, Pashkevitch. They gave her the ball 4 times and she picked up 39 yards and 3 first downs. Sharks coach Mike Varinos then got hit with a flag for being too far out on the field. He took quite exception to the flag and tried to send the flag back up into the air with his foot. He quickly got hit with another flag for unsportsmanlike conduct and the Freedom were looking at a gift 40-yard gain.
It looked like the Sharks were starting to unravel as Manchester had the ball down to the New York 33-yard line. The Freedom continued to march down the field as they switched gears and were giving the ball to running back Burge. Burge’s style of running is opposite to Pashkevitch whose uses her power and size to blast through would be tacklers. Burge uses her quick speed to turn corners to get postive yards. The change of pace worked as Burge picked up 2 first downs and the Freedom had a first down on the New York 5-yard line.
The Freedom have never scored on the Sharks but it looked like that streak was going to be broken, but more importantly a touchdown by Manchester would put them back in the game. But the New York defense stiffened as they tackled Burge for a 5-yard loss on a direct snap play. They then tackled Pashkevitch for a 1-yard loss. On third down from the 11-yard line, Manchester tried a lateral pass to Pashkevitch but the Sharks sniffed that one out to result in a 4-yard loss. On fourth down from the New York 15-yard line, Manchester went for it and tried to go to the air but the ball sailed high and the Sharks defense prevailed.
It was now the fourth quarter and it was up to the New York offense to eat up the clock for the victory. The Sharks were up to the task as a variety of Shark runners were able to march down the field in 10 plays to put New York on the scoreboad again. The scoring play was a 4-yard run by Schirrippa. New York went for the 2-point conversion and Lisa Doran caught the short pass to make the score 22-0 with only 3:29 left in the game. The score basically put the game out of reach from Manchester but the icing on the cake was the reception by Doran. It was her first bit of action since she broke her leg in pre-season.
The Sharks got one more score when the Freedom fumbled the ball and Manouchka Joseph recovered it for the Sharks at the Manchester 41-yard line. Four running plays and New York got their last points of the eveing. Vivian Alberty ran the ball in from 10-yards out for the final score. The game ended with New York prevailing again 28-0.
It was a pretty close game but the Sharks were able to wear down the Freedom late in the third quarter and get the victory.
The Sharks now advance to the IWFL Eastern Conference Championship game for the sixth season in a row. They will battling a familiar foe in the Atlanta Xplosion. The Xplosion had defeated the D.C. Divas 28-18 down in Atlanta earlier in the day to advance.
The IWFL Eastern Conference Championship game will be played in Atlanta on Saturday, July 28th. If you can’t make it to the Peach State, you can still follow all of the hard hitting playoff football as Pat Brown and Dave Maxwell will describe all of the action live to you on the official flagship station for New York Sharks Football, WFNradio.com – the Women’s Football Network..
|New York Sharks||8||0||6||14||28|
NY – (00:51) Mulligan 4 yard run (Schirrippa run)
NY – (09:24) Oppel 1 yard run (run failed)
NY – (03:29) Schirrippa 4 yard run (Doran reception from Mulligan)
NY – (00:29) Alberty 10 yard run (run failed)