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Jul 10 2018, 08:48 PM
NSFL Season 9 Draft Review
Now that the NSFL's Season 9 Draft is in the books, let's look back at how it went down. This won't be about grading the picks but rather about looking at how they will fit on their teams and about why their teams picked them. (This is just for the first round)
|| Xavier Flash - WR - 196 TPE
With the first overall selection in the draft, the Sabercats decide that Xavier Flash is their guy. This pick makes sense for the direction that the Sabercats franchise is taking. After selecting Brad Pennington last season to be their quarterback of the future, they are looking to build around him. They need to add young weapons so that Pennington can grow to reach his full potential, so taking the top receiver in the draft makes sense as they can pair Flash and Pennington together long term to create a dynamic duo in their passing attack. This pick makes even more sense considering that the Sabercats lost their top receiver, Mayran Jackson, in free agency, so Flash will be able to fill an immediate need and make an impact right away. Flash is a promising prospect and is a logical fit for the Sabercats' needs both short term and long term.
|| Bucky Barnes - S - 256 TPE
With the second pick, the Outlaws are able to bring in a player who many viewed as the top prospect in this class. Bucky Barnes is a player who had a standout season in the DSFL and is one of the fastest growers in this draft class. His build provides some versatility as he is well suited to play safety but also has the size to be a potential fit at linebacker as well. Safeties are even more valuable right now with recent buffs making safeties around the league have all around higher potential. The Outlaws are looking to start rebuilding as most of their top players are aging now and they haven't had a lot of picks to add younger talent in the last couple talents. So for them, it makes a lot of sense to add a promising player like Barnes who looks like a future defensive cornerstone. Pairing Barnes with Darren Morris will give the Outlaws one of the best safety duos in the league a few seasons from now and will give them an identity to focus on as they rebuild their defense. The best course of action for the Outlaws right now is to focus on adding young talent, and with Barnes they were able to bring in a future stud.
|| Marquise Brown - RB - 214 TPE
The Libery had a big choice to make with the third pick as they look for the first piece of their rebuild. They traded away most of their roster midway through the season to gain some draft capital to kickstart a rebuild as they look to build a younger team. With this pick, they would be looking to bring in a foundational piece to help them start their rebuild. They decided that running back Marquise Brown was the best player to bring in with this pick. At first it may seem surprising to see the Liberty bring in a running back as Carter Bush was one of the only bright spots for them after their midseason trades, but this move makes a lot of sense with Bush's draft day announcement that he will be switching to wide receiver full time. By picking Brown, the Liberty add another young playmaker that will help them build up a strong running game, which will be helpful as they will eventually look to transition in their quarterback of the future. Brown has looked good so far during his time in the DSFL and could be a future star at the NSFL level if he continues to develop well. Marquise Brown gives the Liberty another young offensive playmaker to build around as one of the future cornerstones of their offense.
|| Kolby Deringer - LB - 249 TPE
With their second pick in the top four, the Sabercats opt to bring in linebacker Kolby Deringer. After using their first pick on an offensive player, they decide to boost their defense with their second first round pick. Derringer was one of the later prospects to join this class, but he quickly made a name for himself with his fast progression. This pick is an easy fit for a Sabercats team that is thin at linebacker. This is the second year in a row that the Sabercats have taken a linebacker in the first round of the draft after bringing in Ben Horne last year. The Sabercats now have two young pieces to build around in the front seven as they look to rebuild their defense going forward. Kolby Deringer will be able to make an instant impact on the Sabercats' defense and grow into one of its future leaders.
|| Declan Harp - TE - 262 TPE
The Hawks surprised some people with the fifth pick of the draft by deciding to select tight end Declan Harp. It's not a surprise to see Harp picked in the first round considering that he is the second highest TPE player in this class, so his talent is undeniable. However, it is interesting to see the Hawks use another high pick on a tight end after using a high pick on Verso L'Alto two seasons ago. This could be an indication that one of those players is planning to switch positions or could be insurance in case L'Alto decides to leave in free agency. The other possibility is that the Hawks plan to use both players together. Two tight end sets have been becoming more popular around the league lately and it could make sense for the Hawks to use as these two tight ends have differing play styles that could complement each other. L'Alto's Balanced archetype makes him a more traditional tight end with better blocking skills, while Harp's Possession archetype makes him more skilled as a receiver. These two could form a nice tandem if they see the field together and both play to the strengths of their play style. While another tight end might not seem to fill a big need for the Hawks, they decided to take the best player available and find a way to make him fit in their scheme. Whatever role Declan Harp ends up playing on the Hawks, he is a very promising prospect and looks like a future star in the making.
Receive: #8 Pick, Marcus Kane
Receive: #6 Pick
The Otters decide to drop back later in the first round rather than pick at #6 as they either think they can still get their guy at #8 or they don't feel like there's much of a drop off between the next three players on the board. Either way, they are able to add a new piece to their defense in Marcus Kane. Kane is aging but is a versatile player who can play both safety and linebacker, so he should be able to make some good contributions on the Otters' defense this year. The Otters downgrade a bit on the younger player they will add for a player that will help them immediately as this year may be their last chance to make a run with Mike Boss. The Wraiths lose Kane from their defense but have the talent at safety and linebacker to withstand this loss and are able to give up an aging player in exchange for moving up a few spots so that they can select a higher rated young prospect (Or to get a better return when trading this pick to another team looking to add a young player at #6).
Receive: $15M in Season 9 Cap Space,
Season 10 3rd Round Pick,
Season 11 2nd Round Pick,
Season 11 3rd Round Pick
Receive: #6 Pick
The Wraiths don't hold on to the #6 Pick for long as they trade it away immediately after obtaining it in the previous trade. Rather than look to add a young player with the pick, the Wraiths opt to focus on the present by bringing in a large chunk of cap space for next season. This allows them to capitalize while their current core is still intact after winning the championship last season as they look to repeat as champions this year. The additional cap space will give them room to bring in some more players or to purchase a stronger offensive line for Season 9 and should help their chances of contending again this year. They also pick up a haul of future later round picks, that should help them to rebuild as their current core continues to age and could be pretty valuable as a wave of recreates could cause those drafts to be deeper. For the Yeti, they look to keep building their young core by making this move. They believe they are on the brink of being a contender and look to add one more piece that will help solidify their future. With the amount of cap space they gave up, they will have trouble making a push to the playoffs this year, but they are willing to make that sacrifice in order to solidify their future. They give up a package of future picks, but they would prefer to add one premium player now rather to fill one of their few remaining holes rather than taking multiple later round players in the future.
|| Oskar Ludvig - CB - 184 TPE
After trading for the sixth pick in the draft, the Yeti used it to select corner back Oskar Ludvig. This was an easy pick for the Yeti as their secondary is the most glaring weakness on their current roster. They have one of the best cornerbacks in the league in Andre Bly Jr. but nobody to play across from him on the other side. The trade allows the Yeti to secure the only active cornerback in the draft. Ludvig should be able to make an immediate impact in the Yeti's secondary and will give them a dominant cornerback duo to build around long term by pairing him with Bly. Ludvig has a lot of potential and could develop into a future shut down cornerback for the Yeti.
|| Alexandre Thibault - S - 143 TPE
With the seventh pick in the first round, the Yeti addressed their secondary again with their second consecutive pick by selecting safety Alexandre Thibault. The Yeti went all in on building up their secondary in this draft as they used both first round picks on defensive backs. The Yeti had a big need for a second safety to play next to Michael Tillman, so Thibault was an obvious pick as the only active safety remaining on the board. Thibault will be a great piece for the Yeti's defense going forward as their secondary now looks like it could be a strength for them in a few years as they now have four active players for them. Thibault will be a nice playmaker in the defensive backfield for the Yeti if he continues to develop.
|| Ricky Adams - RB - 177 TPE
After trading back, the Otters made their first selection of the draft with the eighth pick by selecting running back Ricky Adams. After focusing more on defense in the last few drafts, the Otters add a young play maker on the offensive side of the ball this year. Running back is not an immediate need for them, but with Jordan Yates starting regression this year and Erlich Burnsman entering regression next season, they are going to need a new running back within a couple years so they are able to address that need early by bringing in a young running back now. The Otters have been using speed based running backs in the last few years, so it will be interesting to see how they build around Ricky Adams who is a power oriented runner. The Otters have always been innovative with running backs, using a committee in their early days and later being one of the first teams to play a running back at receiver with Jordan Yates, so they'll find a way to use Ricky Adams' talents well and he'll be a good fit on their offense going forward.
Overall it looks like it was a pretty good draft as a lot of talented players were selected and they all seem to be good fits for their teams.
Jul 2 2018, 02:08 AM
Wraiths Win First Championship
After 8 seasons of trying, the Wraiths are finally NSFL Champions. The Wraiths have been consistent contenders in the NSFL, making the playoffs in 7 of the league's 8 seasons, however they were not able to get over the hump until this season. They have been in win now mode these last two seasons, giving up future picks to bring in established players like Boss Tweed, Arbin Asipi Jr., and Micah Hendrix. The moves worked well for them as they finished with the best record in the league two years in a row and were able to get over the top with a championship win.
The Wraiths' recent championship push started with some adjustments over the off season between Season 6 and Season 7. After making it to the Ultimus game in the previous two seasons, the Wraiths took a step back in Season 6 as they went 7-6-1 and lost in the first round of the playoffs. They looked to make some adjustments over the off season to get back to the Ultimus game in Season 7. They made move to improve their defense by trading some draft picks for running back Boss Tweed who switched to the linebacker position. Wraiths' running back Eric Kennedy also announced a position switch as he would be moving full time to the wide receiver position after having some experience playing as a receiver earlier in his career. To fill the hole at running back, the Wraiths also called up running back Robby Rainey from the DSFL to be their new starter. After these moves, the Wraiths were hoping to make it back to the top of the NSFC in Season 7.
The Wraiths moves worked out for them as they got off to a blistering hot start in Season 7. They opened the season with a 9-0 start as they looked like the best team in the league early on. However, the undefeated start came to an end in Orange County in Week 10 as the Wraiths lost to the Otters. The Wraiths knew they were within striking distance of a championship and didn't want to lose any ground, so they made another move to bolster the defense further by bringing in defensive end Arbin Asipi Jr. They regrouped after their first loss of the season and did not lose another game in the regular season as they went on to finish 13-1. The Wraiths entered the postseason with high expectations as they had not only scored the most points on offense while allowing the least points on defense but they also had finished with the best record in the league, guaranteeing them home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
They would open up with an NSFC Championship match up against the Philadelphia Liberty who they had beaten in both regular season meetings. However, their playoff run did not get off to the expected start as they fell behind early on with the Liberty taking a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter. The Wraiths were never able to recover as they narrowed the deficit to 2 points twice, but never took a lead as they ultimately lost 40-31. It was a crushing loss for the Wraiths as they seemed to fall apart on the big stage of the playoffs, surrendering 40 points after never allowing anybody to score more than 28 against them in the regular season. The Liberty went on to win the championship that season while the Wraiths saw a promising season come to a disappointing and premature ending.
The Wraiths didn't make any dramatic changes over the off season between Season 7 and Season 8. Despite the playoff loss, they felt that they already had the pieces in place to win a championship and had just been caught on an unlucky day. They did lose Arbin Asipi Jr. in free agency but they called up defensive end Zach Skinner from the DSFL to fill in for him and added a new piece to their defense by drafting linebacker Chad Pennington in the first round. There was some uncertainty for the Wraiths as they had one of the older teams in the league and faced the first round of regression, but they believed their players would keep training hard enough to mostly counteract the effects of regression and maintain a similar level of play.
In Season 8, the Wraiths got off to another strong start as they were the last undefeated team in the league. They had big wins early on as they beat the Baltimore Hawks and the Philadelphia Liberty in back to back road games and then beat the Hawks again at home to get off to a 6-0 start. However, they faltered in the game after that as they once again suffered their first defeat of the season at the hands of the Orange County Otters, though this time it was in Yellowknife as the Otters won comfortably by 17 points. After the Otters loss, the Wraiths made big move by trading a draft pick in exchange for linebacker Micah Hendrix from the Phildalphia, adding a major piece to their defense. The Wraiths looked to regroup, but suffered another loss a few weeks later as they were blown out by the Outlaws in Arizona. Two weeks later the Wraiths were blown out again as they lost to the Otters in Orange County. They won their next two games and were able to finish 11-3, giving them the best record in the league and home field advantage throughout the playoffs for a second year in a row. However, the did look shakier this season than they did the previous year as the lost more games and lost by larger margins and finished with a lower point differential, taking a step back both on offense and defense. However, what mattered for the Wraiths this year was not regular season performance, but playoff performance. They had finished with the best record in the regular season again but this time they were determined to show that they could deliver in the playoffs after a strong regular season.
They opened the playoffs off taking on the Baltimore Hawks in the NSFC Championship game. The Wraiths had won both regular season games between these teams but both had been decided by a single score. The game started out looking like a repeat of the Wraith's Season 7 playoff game as they faced a big deficit early on with the Hawks taking a 21-0 lead. However, the Wraiths were determined not to allow another early exit in the playoffs. They went on to dominate the rest of the game as they finished on a 38-3 run to win 38-24 and advance to the championship game.
This set up a showdown against the New Orleans Second Line who were the ASFC Champions and were also trying to win their first Ultimus trophy. The Wraiths had dominated both regular season games between these two teams, but those games were in Week 1 and Week 3 and both teams had made some midseason trades since then so they were both changed teams. The Second Line were the hottest team in the league as they won 7 of their last 8 regular season games and were starting to look like true contenders, though they did not play the Wraiths in that span. The Second Line struck first in the game with a field goal to take a 3-0 lead but the Wraiths answered back with a rushing touchdown on the following drive to take a 7-3 lead late in the first quarter. The Wraiths expanded their lead on their first drive of the second quarter as Robby Rainey ran in his second touchdown of the day to put them up 14-3. The Second Line responded on the following drive with their first touchdown of the game as Borkus Maximus III connected with Dustin Evans to cut the deficit to 14-10. This score held for the rest of the half as the Wraiths took a 4 point lead into the locker room. The Wraiths looked to pull away early on in the second half as they marched down the field on the opening drive and Eric Kennedy hauled in a 36 yard touchdown pass to take a 21-10 lead. Both defenses came on strong as the teams traded possessions until a Dermot Lavelle interception set up a field goal by Forfeit to put the Wraiths up 24-10, giving them their largest lead of the game late in the third quarter. The defenses continued to impose their will as possession went back and forth a few times until the Second Line got a drive going and Peg Leg cappped it off with a field goal to make the score 24-13. However, this would be the final score of the game as the final 9 minutes were scoreless and the clock ran out with the Wraiths taking a 24-13 victory to win their first championship.
It was a win many seasons in the making, but it was all worth it in the end as the Wraiths were finally able to bring the Ultimus trophy to Yellowknife. It will be interesting to see where the Wraiths go from here. Their core is still aging and will have to face another round of regression this year. Now that they have gotten over the top, some of the Wraiths' players are starting to think about retirement or moving on to other teams. However they should bring back most of last season's roster and are not going to sit back as they are still looking to contend next season as seen by their recent signing of veteran linebacker Wallace Stone. Even with their current stars starting to age, the Wraiths also have some promising younger players to look forward to who will hopefully be able to step up next season to make up for other players regressing. The Wraiths will have to work hard to defend their championship next season, but for now they can take the off season to celebrate their big accomplishment.
Jun 26 2018, 02:17 AM
Wraiths Rally in NSFC Championship Game
Many eyes were on the Wraiths as they prepared to host the NSFC Championship game. This was their second year in a row finishing with the best record in the NSFL in the regular season. Last season, the Wraiths went 13-1 only to lose at 40-31 to the Philadelphia Liberty in the NSFC Championship game. The Wraiths worked this season to shake off the choker reputation they had gained after that loss and managed to finish with the best record in the league, but this was the moment of truth. This was the Wratihs' chance to show that they were different this year and wouldn't crumble when the playoffs started.
This season the Wraiths would be taking on the Baltimore Hawks. The Wraiths managed to sweep the Hawks in the regular season series but both games were decided by a single score. The Hawks finished 7-7 and did not clinch a playoff spot until the final game of the season, but they had one of the most talented rosters in the league and had caught a lot of unlucky breaks during the season so they were a legitimate contender coming into the playoffs and a big threat to the Wraiths.
The Hawks struck first after neither team scored on their opening drive but the Hawks managed to drive down the field on their second drive as a 40 yard reception by Budda Browning got the Hawks into scoring position and Avon Blocksdale connected with Alexandre LeClair for a 13 yard touchdown to give the Hawks a 7-0 lead. The Hawks were able to get a drive going between two three and outs by the Wraiths but didn't get any points out of it as the scored remained at 7-0 entering the second quarter. However, the Hawks already had a drive going at the start of the quarter and drove down to the red zone and capped the drive off with a 3 yard touchdown run by Owen Taylor to put the Hawks up 14-0. Both offenses stalled out for a bit as the teams traded three and outs until the Hawks broke through again. Budda Browning put them in scoring position again with a 59 yard reception to put them into the red zone and Owen Taylor ran into the end zone again to put them up 21-0. The Wraiths were unable to answer back as they went three and out again on their following drive. At this point, the Wraiths looked completely helpless as they had now had 6 drives without gaining a single first down. The Wraiths caught their first break on the following drive as the Hawks missed a 48 yard field goal and the Wraiths got the ball back. The Wraiths' offense finally came to life with two big chunk plays as Mat Akselsen connected with Bailey Cook for a 29 yard catch and then found Dermot Lavelle for a 31 yard touchdown pass that got the Wraiths on the board in the final two minutes of the second half, narrowing the deficit to 21-7 entering the second half.
The Wraiths were in need of some major adjustments entering the second half. They had looked completely listless for most of the first half as 6 of their 7 drives ended without gaining a single first down and the Hawks' offense had been driving easily against them. The Wraiths faced a 14 point deficit entering the second half and would need to turn around quickly in order to get back into the game. This felt like deja vu for the Wraiths as in last season's NSFC Championship Game, they fell behind early against the Liberty with a 17-0 deficit and were never able to make up for that slow start. History looked to be repeating itself this year as the Wraiths needed a spark quickly before the Hawks could run away with the game.
The Wraiths came into the second half with guns blazing as they drove all the way down the field on the opening drive and Robby Rainey found the end zone on a 3 yard touchdown drive to cut it to a 21-14 deficit. The Hawks made it into Wraiths territory on their next drive, but the Wraiths managed to force a turnover on downs by stuffing the Hawks 1 yard short on fourth down. However, the Wraiths quickly gave the ball back to the Hawks and the Hawks managed to drive all the way down the field to set up a first and goal on the 6 yard line. The Wraiths defense was able to make a stand to keep the Hawks out of the end zone and hold them to a field goal that put the Hawks up 24-14. The Wraiths stalled out early on their next drive and gave the ball back to the Hawks, but Philippe Carter hauled in an interception to give the Wraiths possession deep in Hawks territory. Two plays later, Mat Akselsen connected with Eric Kennedy on a 30 yard touchdown pass that put the Wraiths within striking distance at 24-21. The Wraiths forced three incompletions on the following drive and got the ball back and started a drive that took them into the fourth quarter trailing by 3. They drove into Hawks territory but the drive stalled out so they settled for a field goal that tied the game up at 24-24. The Hawks drove just outside of scoring range on their next drive bringing up a third and one on the Wraiths 37 yard line. However, the Wraiths' defense made a stand and stuffed the Hawks two plays in a row to force a turnover on downs. The Wraiths began moving down the field and were confronted with a decisive play as they faced a third and ten while they were just outside of scoring range on the 36 yard line. However, they took a big shot and Mat Akselsen connected with Eric Kennedy for a 31 yard gain to put the Wraiths in position to take the lead. With two runs, Robby Rainey punched it into the endzone to give the Wraiths their first lead of the game at 31-24. Both teams stalled out quickly on their following drives as the Hawks got the ball back with about three and a half minutes remaining, giving them one more chance to tie the game back up. However, the Hawks only gained 1 yard on the first two plays and a penalty set them up with a third and fourteen on their own 10 yard line. The Wraiths' pass rush came up big with two sacks in a row to force a turnover on downs and give the ball back to the Wraiths on the 5 yard line. Robby Rainey ran in his third touchdown of the day for the dagger touchdown which put the Wraiths up 38-24 with less than two minutes left. The Hawks tried to get another drive going, but there wasn't enough time left as time expired and the Wraiths won 38-24, having gone on a 38-3 run after facing an early 21-0 deficit.
With this win, the Wraiths were able to shed off a big mental burden. Last season's NSFC Championship loss had been hanging over them all season but they were finally able to make up for it by making it back to the NSFC Championship Game and coming away with the win this time. Despite an ugly start to the game, they were able to maintain their composure and fight back into the game. However, the journey isn't over for the Wraiths yet. They still need to win one more game. This is the third time the Wraiths have played in the Ultimus game, but the first time they will be playing it at home. The Wraiths are still trying to win their first championship, so this will be the final hurdle for them to overcome as they have been able to rise above the challenges they have faced so far this season.
After playing the Orange County Otters in their two previous Ultimus appearances, the Wraiths will be taking on the New Orleans Second Line this time. The Second Line are similarly looking for their first ever championship as this season marked their first ever playoff appearance. On the surface, this is a favorable matchup for the Wraiths as they swept the regular season series against the Second Line, winning 33-7 in New Orleans and 41-13 in Yellowknife. However, these games were both in the first three weeks of the season and the Second Line have looked like a different team in the second half of the season. They are the hottest team in the league right now, winning seven of their final eight games in the regular season. Both teams have made some changes since their regular season matchup with the Second Line adding Bayley Benson and Paul DiMirio and the Wraiths adding Micah Hendrix. It will be interesting to see how the teams match up now after the changes they have made over the course of the regular season. The Wraiths will likely enter the game as favorites, given that they have home field advantage and finished with a better record than the Second Line in the regular season. However, this will be the Wraiths' toughest test yet as they look to finally bring the Ultimus trophy to Yellownknife. The Wraiths still have one more big battle ahead of them, but after last season's ending, it feels good for them to have made it this far and advance past the first round of the playoffs to the championship.
Jun 22 2018, 12:35 AM
Wraiths Clinch Top Seed in NSFC
Week 12 was a disappointment for the Wraiths as they suffered a 38-17 loss in Orange County, but there was still a silver lining for them that week. With the Phildelphia Liberty losing to the Colorado Yeti, the Wraiths have officially clinched first place in the NSFC for Season 8. The Wraiths currently sit at 9-3 with two games remaining while the Liberty and Yeti now sit even at 6-6 with the Hawks one game behind them at 5-7. With only two games left, none of the other teams in the NSFC can get to 9 wins this season, meaning that the Wraiths are now officially guaranteed to finish with the best record in the conference.
Clinching first place in the conference is important because it provides home field advantage in the conference championship game, meaning that the NSFC Championship will be coming to Yellowknife for a second year in a row. However, this is far from a guarantee of success as the Wraiths' players and fans still have fresh and painful memories of last season's NSFC Championship game in which the Wraiths lost despite having home field advantage. The Wraiths will be watching carefully to see who they will match up with so that they can look to avoid a similar fate this year.
While the Wraiths being the #1 seed in the NSFC is already confirmed, the second playoff spot in the NSFC remains up for grabs entering the final two weeks of the season. The Philadelphia Liberty currently hold this spot with a 6-6 record. The Liberty are the defending champions and started the season with a strong 5-2 start before starting a rebuild and trading away some key pieces. The Liberty have gone 1-4 since then and are looking to use their early season momentum to make one last playoff trip before beginning their rebuild. This would be an interesting match up for the Wraiths as it is a repeat of last year's NSFC Championship game and would give the Wraiths an opportunity to avenge last season's loss. However, the Colorado Yeti are hot on the Liberty's trail. The Yeti are also 6-6 right now and are tied with the Liberty but are currently losing out on the playoff spot due to tiebreakers. The Yeti have struggled in recent years but are surging forward this year as their young talent is starting to come together. Before the season, most people did not expect the Yeti to contend for a playoff spot this year, but they have been exceeding expectations so far this season and could do it again by jumping into a playoff spot in the final two weeks of the season. While the Hawks are last place in the NSFC right now at 5-7, they still could jump back into the playoff picture if they finish the season strong and the Liberty and the Yeti struggle in their final games. Though their record isn't great, the Hawks are very talented on paper and have caught some unlucky breaks this season, so they could be a sleeping giant if they are able to make it into the playoffs. The Hawks are probably the scariest potential match up for the Wraiths as they already played them very close twice this season and have a complete roster that could match up against the Wraiths' talent. Overall, it's hard to project which of these teams is going to be the Wraiths' opponent in the playoffs. With the Wraiths' final two games being home games against the Yeti and the Liberty, they could be seeing an exact preview of their playoff match up in the final two weeks of the season. One particular game to keep an eye on is the Week 14 game between the Yeti and the Hawks as this could be the game that decides who will grab the second playoff spot in the NSFC.
While the Wraiths clinching the NSFC's top seed is a great accomplishment, it is not time for them to rest yet. They still need to finish the regular season strong as it is still up for grabs who would have home field advantage in a playoff match up between them and the Otters or the Second Line. The Wraiths also saw last year that a great regular season means nothing if you can't carry that intensity into the playoffs, so they will be looking to keep playing hard and let their momentum carry them to playoff success. The Wraith's road to trying to win their first Ultimus is still long, but being able to lock down the top seed in the NSFC is still a great milestone to hit along the way.
Jun 11 2018, 02:37 AM
Wraiths Start Strong Through First 6 Games
One of the big storylines coming into Season 8 of the NSFL was how the Yellowknife Wraiths would respond to last season's ending. The Wraiths had their best season in franchise history with a 13-1 record and were the regular season champions, but fell short at home in their first playoff game as they lost 40-31 against the eventual champions in the Philadelphia Liberty. Would the Wraiths be broken after that crushing loss and unable to replicate their success or would they come back stronger with a vengeance looking to make up for that loss? So far the latter seems to be true as the Wraiths are off to a hot start as they have posted a perfect 6-0 record so far. Let's look at how the Wraith's season has gone so far.
The Wraiths opened up the season on the road against the New Orleans Second Line. This was an interesting match up as the Second Line are a team that many expected to take a big step forward this season. Meanwhile, the Wraiths were dealing with their first round of regression to some key contributors, so some wondered whether they would take a step back. There were some important questions about how these teams changed over the off season and this match up would give both teams a chance to answer them. The Second Line struck first with a Darren Smallwood touchdown run midway through the first quarter to put them up 7-0. However, Robby Rainey answered Smallwood with a touchdown run of his own on the following drive to even the game up at 7-7. The Wraiths broke the tie with a field goal by forfeit early in the second quarter and Cameron Taylor returned an interception 57 yards for a Wraiths touchdown later in the quarter to give the Wraiths a 17-7 lead heading into halftime. The Wraiths didn't let up in the second half as another field goal by Forfeit and another touchdown run by Robby Rainey made it a 27-7 game at the end of the third quarter. There was little excitement in the fourth quarter as the Wraiths tacked on two more field goals for a comfortable 33-7 victory. The Wraiths' secondary shined in this game as three separate defenders each hauled in an interception and they held Borkus Maximus III to a 35.1 passer rating. Overall, it was a good season opener for the Wraiths as they looked like the same team from last season and picked up a convincing road win against a likely playoff team.
The Wraiths played their home opener in Week 2. They played against an Outlaws team that was not expected to contend this season and was coming off of a 47-10 loss in Week 1. The Wraiths were viewed as heavy favorites entering this game with home field advantage against a team that didn't look very strong. However, it was the Outlaws who took control early on as they had the first score of the game off of a 1 yard reception by Reg Mackworthy midway through the first quarter. The Outlaws held their 7-0 lead through to the end of the first quarter. However, the Wraiths tied the game up shortly after the start of the second quarter as Mat Akselsen scrambled 19 yards to the endzone. However, Mackworthy struck again a couple drives later as the Outlaws turned a recovered fumble into a drive culminating in a touchdown run to put the Outlaws up 14-7. The Wraiths tried to answer back with a touchdown before halftime but their final drive was not quick enough, so they were forced to settle for a field goal that narrowed the deficit to 14-10 heading into halftime. A potential upset was brewing as the Outlaws held on to a 4 point lead entering the second half. This lead didn't last long as the Wraiths took their first lead of the game as they capped off the opening drive of the second half with a Robby Rainey touchdown run to give them a 17-14 lead. There was no more scoring in the third quarter as the Wraiths held on to their lead. However, the Outlaws weren't done as they regained the lead midway through the fourth quarter with another Reg Mackworthy touchdown run to put them up 21-17. But the Wraiths answered back on the following drive as Mat Akselsen ran in his second touchdown of the day to give the Wraiths a 24-21 lead. A few drives later, the Outlaws tried to go for the kill but were stopped on the 3 yard line and had to settle for a field goal that tied the game up 24-24 and sent it to overtime. Both teams went three and out on their first drive of overtime, but the Outlaws broke through on their second drive as a 31 yard reception by rookie Viggo Squanch set the Outlaws up on the Wraiths' 35 yard line in position to go for a game winning score. But then an unlikely hero stepped up for the Wraiths. Ugandan Knuckles, who is the lowest TPE player on the Wraiths' roster and an offseason addition, stripped the ball from Reg Mackworthy in a game saving play that prevented the Outlaws from capitalizing on the field position and gave the ball back to the Wraiths. The Wraiths did not squander this opportunity as they drove all the way down the field and Robby Rainey capped the game off with a walk off touchdown run to give the Wraiths a 30-24 victory. The Wraiths managed to avoid the upset and escape with a win, but this game cast some doubt on the Wraiths as they struggled to win a game they were supposed to easily win.
The Wraiths stayed at home in Week 3 as they hosted the Second Line in a rematch of Week 1. The Wraiths were hoping to show that their comfortable Week 1 victory was more indicative of their talent than their narrow Week 2 victory. The first half of the first quarter was scoreless as the defenses traded stops, but the Wraiths capitalized off an interception to get on the board first with a field goal that put them up 3-0 shortly after the midway point of the quarter. They then forced a three and out and followed up with another field goal on their following drive to end the quarter with a 6-0 lead. The Second Line scored their first points a few minutes into the second quarter as a field goal by Peg Leg made it a 6-3 game. The Wraiths answered back on the following drive as Robby Rainey ran in his first touchdown of the day to extend the lead to 13-3. A few drives later, the Wraiths made a stand on their 6 yard line that made the Second Line settle for a field goal that made the score 13-6. This score would hold for the rest of the half as the Wraiths took a 7 point lead into the locker room. The second half started with a bang as Eric Kennedy returned the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown to put the Wraiths up 20-6. The Wraiths forced a quick three and out and then extended their lead on the following drive as Robby Rainey ran into the end zone for the second time of the game to put the Wraiths up 27-6. There was no more scoring in the third quarter as the Wraiths took a three touchdown lead into the final quarter. The Second Line cut into the lead shortly after the start of the fourth quarter as Borkus Maximus III connected with Dustin Evans for a touchdown point to cut the deficit to 27-13. However, this was as close as the game would get as Robby Rainey found the end zone two more times in the final quarter and the Wraiths held on for a comfortable 41-13 win. Robby Rainey starred in this game as he set a franchise record with his four rushing touchdowns and the Wraiths played a strong game all around to come away with a big victory and remain undefeated in the season.
Week 4 brought on a highly anticipated match up as the Wraiths traveled to Baltimore to take on the Hawks. These were the final two undefeated teams in the league and this game would determine who would be the last undefeated team of Season 8 and would determine who would finish the week in first place in the NSFC. The Wraiths entered this game as underdogs for the first time this season since they would be playing on the road against one of the best teams in the league. However, the Wraiths came out strong as they took the first lead midway through the first quarter as a field goal by Forfeit put them up 3-0. Philippe Carter intercepted Avon Blocksdale a few plays later to set up a touchdown pass from Mat Akselsen to Glenn McPoyal that extended the Wraiths' lead to 10-0. However, the Hawks weren't going to go easily as they answered back with an Owen Taylor touchdown run on the final play of the first quarter to make it a 10-7 game. The teams traded three and outs early in the second quarter until Bailey Cook returned a punt 71 yards for a touchdown but Forfeit missed the extra point so the score became 16-7. Later in the quarter, Trey Willie took a pass 52 yards for a Hawks touchdown that made it a 16-14 game. The Wraiths answered with another field goal on the following drive to extend their lead to 19-14. Neither team got another drive going before halftime, so this score held until the end of the first half. The Hawks came out of halftime hot as their opening drive of the second half finished with an 11 yard touchdown pass from Avon Blocksdale to Verso L'Alto to put the Hawks back on top with a 21-19 lead. Gregory Fletcher intercepted Mat Akselsen on the following drive which gave the ball back to the Hawks in Wraiths territory. A few plays later, Avon Blocksdale connected with Owen Taylor to stretch the Hawks' lead to 28-19. For the first time all season, the Wraiths trailed by more than one score. However, Mat Akselsen stayed poised on the following drive, completing multiple long passes culminating in a 24 yard touchdown pass to Bailey Cook to put the Wraiths within striking distance with a 28-26 score. The Hawks took their two point lead into the fourth quarter of the game. The Hawks started the fourth quarter with the ball but were unable to get any points as they punted the ball back to the Wraiths. The Wraiths drove the ball 80 yards down the field and Mat Akselsen scrambled 1 yard into the end zone as the Wraiths regained the lead but a missed extra point made the score 32-28. The Wraiths' defense stuffed the Hawks on 3 and 1 on the following drive and it looked like the game may have been over as the Hawks decided to punt with just over three minutes remaining while down by 4. A couple plays later, former Wraith Arbin Asipi Jr. came up big as he stripped the ball from Mat Akselsen following a 7 yard run and gave the ball back to the Hawks on the Wraiths' 47 yard line with two and a half minutes remaining and a chance to win the game. They needed a touchdown to win, so the Wraiths took a bend but don't break approach as they let the Hawks slowly drive closer to the endzone while chewing through their timeouts. The Hawks made it down to the 6 yard line on a 10 yard pass from Avon Blocksdale to Owen Taylor, but there was not enough time to get another play off as the clock expired and the Wraiths hung on for the win. This was a huge win for the Wraiths as they not only won an important road game, but did so against a conference rival who they will likely be competing with for playoff seeding later in the season. With this win, the Wraiths settled any questions about whether they would be top contenders again this season by showing up big time in what was potentially the hardest game on their schedule.
Week 5 brought on a game that stirred up some emotions for the Wraiths. They were facing the Philadelphia Liberty for the first time since losing to them in the playoffs last season. The Wraiths had the chance to get some revenge from last season's ending while also picking up a win that would greatly help their playoff standing this season. Coming off of a big road win, the Wraiths had the chance to win a key road game against a conference rival for a second week in a row. The game started out as a defensive battle as no team scored until there was just over a minute left in the first quarter. The Liberty struck first as Tyler Oles connected with Carter Bush for a 7 yard touchdown pass to give the Liberty a 7-0 lead. The Wraiths answered back with a touchdown pass of their own on the following drive as Cesar Milan caught a 9 yard pass from Mat Akselsen to tie the game up at 7-7. However, the Liberty quickly regained their lead as their following drive ended with another 7 yard touchdown pass, this time from Tyler Oles to Paul DiMirio to put the Liberty up 14-7. A few drives later, the Wraiths answered back as two consecutive 39 yard completions set up a 1 yard touchdown run by Mat Akselsen to tie the game back up at 14-14. A few plays later, Clee Hardrool hauled in an interception on the Liberty's 28 yard line that gave the ball back to the Wraiths with the chance to take their first lead of the game before halftime. They made it to the 3 yard line, but did not have enough time to reach the endzone and instead settled for a field goal that put them up 17-14 heading into halftime. The Wraiths looked to extend their lead early in the second half as they held the Liberty to a three and out and then drove deep into Liberty territory but the drive stalled out and they kicked a field goal that put them up 20-14. The Liberty responded quickly as Josh Garden returned the following kickoff 89 yards and a couple plays later, Damien Kroetch found the end zone on a two yard run to put the Liberty back on top 21-20. After the teams traded punts, Mat Akselsen broke off a 39 yard touchdown run that put the Wraiths back on top with a 27-21 lead in the final minute of the third quarter. This score allowed the Wraiths to carry a 6 point lead into the fourth quarter. The Liberty's opening drive of the fourth quarter took them all the way from their own twenty yard line to the end zone as Carter Bush ran 11 yards for a touchdown but the Liberty were unable to regain the lead as Stephen Harris missed the extra point and the score was tied at 27-27. The Wraiths took the lead back on the following drive as they drove down the field and Robby Rainey capped the drive off with a 3 yard touchdown run to put the Wraiths up 34-27. The Liberty began driving back down the field with a chance to tie the game up as the time on the clock dwindled down. The Liberty made it to the Wraiths' 16 yard line but the Wraiths' defense made a stand and forced a turnover on downs. At this point, the Wraiths were able to run out the rest of the clock and held on to win 34-27. The Wraiths remained undefeated after a tough two game stretch on the road and got to avenge their playoff loss from last season. Once again, the defense made a late stand to keep their opponent out of the end zone on the final drive as they held on for a major win to give them a leg up in the standings against a conference rival.
The Wraiths returned to Yellowknife in Week 6 for a rematch against the Baltimore Hawks, who they would be playing for the second time in three weeks. The Hawks were determined to make up for their previous loss at home to the Wraiths by stealing the second match up on the road while the Wraiths hoped to cushion their lead in the conference and complete the season sweep of the Hawks. The Wraiths came out hot as they drove down the field on the opening drive and Mat Akselsen connected with Bailey Cook for a 16 yard touchdown reception to put the the Wraiths up 7-0 early on. The Wraiths held the Hawks to a three and out and then scored again on the following drive with a field goal by Forfeit to put them up 10-0. This lead would hold for the rest of the first quarter as the Hawks quickly punted the ball back to the Wraiths on their next drive. The Wraiths' hot start continued into the second quarter as another field goal gave them a 13-0 lead before the Hawks had gained a first down. However, the Hawks weren't going quietly as they got on the board with a field goal on the following drive to cut the deficit to 13-3. After the teams traded a few punts, Antoine Delacour took one to the house with an 85 yard punt return that put the Hawks within striking distance at 13-10. Neither team could sustain another drive as this score held through to half time. The defenses held strong for most of the third quarter before the Wraiths broke through with a field goald with just under three minutes remaining in the quarter to give them a 16-10 lead. This was the only scoring of the third quarter as the Wraiths entered the final quarter looking to extend their lead. On the first play of the fourth quarter, the Wraiths completed a field goal to give them a 19-10 lead and make it a two score game. But the Hawks fought back on the following drive as Avon Blocksdale found Alexandre LeClair for a touchdown that cut it to a 19-17 deficit for the Hawks. However, the Wraiths pushed the lead back to 9 points on the following drive as Mat Akselsen connected with Eric Kennedy from 5 yards out to give the Wraiths a 26-17 lead. The Wraiths would extend the lead on their next drive as Forfeit converted his fifth field goal of the game to put them up 29-17. The Hawks were able to draw closer on their next drive as Trey Willie ran a pass from Avon Blocksdale 26 yards to the end zone to make it a 29-24 game. However, the Hawks would not get a chance to take back the lead as the Wraiths ran out the rest of the game clock and held on for the 29-24 win. With this win the Wraiths completed a regular season sweep of the Hawks and improved their record to 6-0 with a 3-0 start in conference play.
Looking back at these games so far, this looks to be another promising season for the Wraiths. After a series of closely fought conference games, the Wraiths remain perfect so far at 6-0 with two very tough road games behind them. They currently sit at first place in the NSFC with a two game lead over the second placed Philadelphia Liberty and also have the best record in the league overall as the only challenged in the ASFC is the 4-2 Otters. If they keep up this pace, the Wraiths have a good shot to finish as regular season champions for the second year in a row. Will they be able to get things right in the playoffs this time around? That remains to be so far, but so far this season has the makings of a very exciting year for the Wraiths as they hope to bring home their first championship.