Monthly Archives: September 2007
Brooklyn, New York, June 9, 2007
The sound of a steady beating of drums could be heard in Sharks Field at the Aviator Sports Complex on Saturday. It was coming from just outside the park at the 13th annual “Gateway to Nations”, a Native American festival. But it could have also been an ominous tone from the Miami Fury (1-4). The last time the New York Sharks (4-1) played the Fury was in Miami earlier this year. It was a hard fought game in which the Sharks came out on top but got banged up pretty badly. But it was not as bad as it was for Miami. In that game, the Fury lost their starting quarterback Anonka Dixon who was a thorn in the sides of the Sharks until she had to leave the game in the fourth quarter. Dixon has missed a big part of the Fury season and it has taken its toll on the team’s record.
Playing in her second game back from injury was Dixon and the Sharks had to be prepared for her. But on a favorable note for New York was Miami came to play with only 17 players. Unfortunately one of those was Ronkia Toombs.
It was a sunny day in Brooklyn but a bit humid as early morning rain showers made it feel more like Miami weather than New York. The Sharks won the coin toss and continued to defer to the opposing team. The Fury elected to receive that ball and on the ensuing kick-off Keondra Greer returned the ball straight up the middle and gave Miami excellent field position at the Sharks 28-yard line. On the very next play, Dixon gave the ball to Toombs who powered her way all the way in to the endzone and in just 39 seconds since the beginning of the game, Miami was ahead 6-0. The extra point attempt was no good, but Miami had struck first and fast.
The Sharks responded to the Miami score with a score of their own. Quarterback Karen Mulligan engineered a nice methodical drive by continually handing the ball of to her running backs. Last week’s star Gabrielle Nazaire continued to run the ball well but on this drive she was assisted with returning running back Teresa Schirrippa. Last time we had seen Schirrippa on the playing field was 2 years ago but had “retired” from the sport to attend college. When she first started playing for New York, she was still attending high school, just like Nazaire. After 7 straight running plays, the ball was on the Miami 16-yard line when Mulligan went to the air and connected with wide receiver Jen Blum. It was a nifty catch as Blum used her body to shield the pass from her defender to make the catch. Megan Antonucci‘s extra point attempt hit the goalpost and bounced away. The game was now tied with 9:19 left in the first quarter.
On their next drive, Miami started on the own 20-yard line but was able to march down the field to the Sharks 31-yard line. It was fourth down with a yard to go and the Fury went for it. It wasn’t a bad gamble but they came up about a foot short to give the Sharks the ball on a turnover of downs.
Well, it didn’t seem like a bad gamble at the time. Nazaire touched the ball the next 2 times and picked up 12 yards to the New York 44-yard line. Mulligan then went back to pass but was quickly pursued by the Fury linemen. Mulligan rolled to her right and then on the run fired the ball downfield. She hit Brooke McKinney for a 56-yard touchdown to give New York the lead. The Sharks went for the 2-point conversion and on a pitch out, Mandy Oppel blasted her way through the line to give the Sharks a 12-6 lead at the start of the second quarter.
New York quickly extended the lead less than a minute later. On the kick-off, Toombs returned the ball to the Miami 28-yard line but they got pushed back after being hit with a hands to the face penalty. They were now backed up to the 19-yard line. Toombs got the ball again but she saw a wall of Sharks before she could get to the line of scrimmage. She quickly whirled around and started going backwards looking for a gap to hit with her speed. Unfortunately the wall of Sharks closed in on her and she was tackled around the 2-yard line which caused her to fumble the ball. In the mad scurry for the ball, Sharks Donna Spilotras got to it first and New York had another touchdown. Antonucci split the uprights this time on the extra point and the Sharks had a 21-6 edge with 13:54 left in the second quarter.
Miami could not do anything with the ball on their next possession as they went 3 and out. It looked like this game was going to be an easy win for the New Yorkers. But New York could not do much with the ball on their next possession. One bright note was the return of running back Yumi Wanrer. She had missed the past 2 games with a leg injury and it was nice to see her back in action. She did appear to be a bit tentative at times but did get a nice 10-yard gain.
After the Sharks punted the ball, Miami was starting on their own 47-yard line. The Fury got back in the game on an option play to Toombs. Toombs was quickly hit as she got the ball but she bulldozed her way and remained upright as New York could not bring her down. And like a weeble,she would not go down and ran down the right sideline for a 53-yard touchdown run. The Sharks were again getting burned by the big play. In Miami, the Sharks were burned 4 times by touchdowns that were longer than 50-yards. The team’s sloppy tackling had resulted in another long score for the Fury. The extra point attempt was no good, as Amber Knighten was able to block the kick. So with 7:37 left in the half, Miami had closed the gap to 21-12.
The Fury tried to close the gap even further as they kicked the ball short on the kick-off. Oppel could not corrale the bounce and Miami recovered the ball on teh New York 46-yard line. Using the legs of Toombs and Kalondra McKenzie, the Fury were able to pick up 2 first downs and get to the Sharks 24-yard line. But the drive stalled and New York got the ball on a turnover of downs. With less than 2 minutes the Sharks quickly tried to move the ball up the field. Mulligan hit McKinney on a quick sideline pass for 10 yards. Mulligan then ran the ball herself for another 10-yards. The Sharks were at their own 44-yard line with a little over a minute left in the half. Mulligan dropped back and quickly turned to the sideline. It looked like they were running the exact same play as before to McKinney, but this time she faked the pass and then looked downfield. Mulligan found a wide open Blum and the Sharks scored a touchdown on a 56-yard pass reception with one minute left to go in the half. Antonucci kicked the extra point and the two teams went into the locker room as halftime with the Sharks ahead 28-12.
The Sharks got the ball to start the second half. Starting from their own 40-yard line, New York was able to march the ball downfield using the familiar running formula of Nazaire and Schirrippa. With a few nice runs by Mulligan sprinkled in too, the Sharks were at the 4-yard line threatening to blow the game wide open. Mulligan pitched out to Schirrippa and she ran it in for the score. Antonucci kicked her third straight extra point for the day to make the score 35-12 with 7:29 left in the fourth quarter.
On the Sharks next drive, they were went 3 and out twice, on the same drive. The first time the Sharks had to punt the ball but the left side of Miami jumped off-sides giving the Sharks new life. They didn’t fare to well this time and again were forced to punt. But on this punt, Miami got hit with a roughing the kicker penalty and New York got new life. With the ball on the Miami 47-yard line, it was third time was the charm. Staying mostly on the ground, the Sharks were able to score in 9 plays. The capper was Mulligan running in from the 6-yard line. Antonucci’s kick went wide but the score was now 41-12 with less than 7 minutes left to play in the game.
Miami gave it one more last gasp as they again exposed a glaring Sharks weakness for giving up the big play. On the ensuing kick-off, Toombscaught the ball on the Miami 34-yard line and shot though the Sharks like it was made of swiss-chesse for an electrifying 66-yard touchdown return. Their 2-point conversion failed and basically that was the end of the game, with the Sharks prevailing 41-18.
It was a good win and was the first time since opening day that most of the team was in uniform and on the field, but it was one that should have been a lot easier for New York. The Miami Fury showed they never quit and exposed weaknesses in the special teams play of the Sharks. You can depend that Coach Vance will be having the team going through numerous drills before their next game.
With this win and a loss by the New England Intensity to the Montreal Blitz, the Sharks magic number to clinch the division title went down to 1. Another New York Sharks win or a New England Intensity loss will clinch the division for the Sharks.
The Sharks head south on I-95 this time as they will take on the D.C. Divas in Landover, Maryland. New York will be looking for revenge as they blew a 2 touchdown lead at halftime to lose 20-14. Game time is 7pm (EDT), but if you can not make down to the Beltway, you can still follow all the hard hitting action 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. The broadcast will start at 6:45pm.
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MI – (14:21) Toombs 28 yard run (kick failed)
NY – (09:19) Blum 16 yard pass from Mulligan (kick failed)
NY – (14:41) McKinney 56 yard pass from Mulligan (Oppel run)
NY – (13:54) Spilotras endzone fumble recovery (Antonucci kick)
MI – (07:37) Toombs 53 yard run (kick failed)
NY – (01:00) Blum 57 yard pass from Mulligan (Antonucci kick)
NY – (07:19) Schirippa 4 yard run (Antonucci good)
NY – (06:59) Mulligan 6 yard run (kick failed)
NY – (10:03) Oppel 36 yard run (kick failed)