July 12, 2006 - Continental Indoor Football League (CIFL)
The Great Lakes Indoor Football League played its first-ever playoff games, and both atmospheres resembled that of a party. For Port Huron, their 74-3 win over Battle Creek was a party from the start as fans prepare to host Great Lakes Bowl I. For Rochester, their 58-27 win over Lehigh Valley was a going away party, as the two teams now prepare for one more game. The Raiders will travel to face Port Huron for a third time on July 22 in the league championship game.
PORT HURON PIRATES 74, BATTLE CREEK CRUNCH 3
In the week prior to the game, both coaches warned that the third time could be a charm for Battle Creek. The Crunch were healthy and could pose a threat to Port Huron. That message was received loud and clear during Port Huron practices, as the Pirates would not allow anything of that sort to happen. A 22-yard field goal by Brad Selent gave Battle Creek a 3-0 lead early in the game, and that was it. The Pirates recorded two safeties in holding the Crunch to five yards of total offense. The Port Huron offense, in a league widely regarded as being defensive, scored ten touchdowns on eleven offensive drives. The only drive where they failed to score points was a missed 42-yard field goal at the end of the half...on second down.
Battle Creek gained 13 yards of offense on their first drive. They gained negative eight yards the rest of the game. Of their 11 drives on the night, Port Huron held them to negative yardage six times. Crunch quarterback Tim Kubiak went a dismal 7/25 passing for only 36 yards. The Crunch ran for 1 yard on 10 carries. Even all-everything player Eric Gardner was held to 72 all-purpose yards (62 on kickoff returns). Overall, the Port Huron defense completely dominated the Battle Creek offense.
Rayshawn Askew had a much quieter day than in the last meeting between these teams. He only ran for 50 yards on eight carries, and he had two kickoff returns for 58 yards. The problem is, he scored five rushing touchdowns on those eight carries, and one of the kickoff returns was a 41-yard touchdown, giving Askew another six-touchdown performance. Ernie Smith ran a 46-yard touchdown as Shane Franzer\'s emergency backup quarterback well after Franzer threw two touchdown passes.
The Crunch look to regroup for the 2007 season, while Port Huron is one win away from the first undefeated season in indoor football since 2003. The Pirates host Rochester in Great Lakes Bowl I on July 22.
ROCHESTER RAIDERS 58, LEHIGH VALLEY OUTLAWZ 27
If there was ever a story of two halves in one game, this is it. After throwing three touchdown passes in the first half to tie the game at 21, the Lehigh Valley Outlawz gave up a 32-yard Ryan DeCamp field goal at the end of the half to give Rochester a 24-21 lead. After such a hard-fought first half, even though Rochester took a short lead, the Outlawz obviously had the momentum.
No one in the ESL Sports Centre knew that that mid-range field goal would be the start of a 37-0 run for the Raiders, as they took a 58-21 lead into the final ten seconds of the game. But the signs of such a collapse became evident quickly in the third quarter. Combined with numerous dropped passes that allowed Rochester to take a 21-7 lead in the first place, the Outlawz offensive line faltered, forcing Chad Schwenk into a number of terrible passes, one that was returned 25 yards by Germaine Goode (Rochester\'s last score).
Not even the news of a Pirates win (that forces Rochester on the road for Great Lakes Bowl I) could damper the mood for the home faithful.
This game was full of surprises. Schwenk\'s first half was easily the best he had all season. Even with the complete lack of help from his receiving corps (save Dominique Stewart, who caught 10 passes in only his second-ever indoor game) and offensive line, Schwenk was a respectable 19/35 for 189 yards, four touchdowns, and the lone interception. Schwenk ran the ball once on a busted play and gained 20 yards. Steve Cook had another poor running game, with only one yard on six carries. He only added two catches for 19 yards through the air.
The most surreal moment of the game was on a pair of kickoff returns in the second half. Outlawz backup quarterback Keeno Theadford was installed as the team\'s kickoff return specialist after Chris Downs had trouble keeping his balance. On a pair of second-half kickoff returns, Theadford was tackled by Rochester backup quarterback Omar Baker, something rarely seen outside of high school football. This is just another example of the dedication GLIFL players have for the game of football.
Rochester threw a few wrinkles into their game plan, including a number of play action fakes to Reggie Cox that resulted in big gains. For Matt Cottengim. On the ground. Cottengim increased his season\'s rushing production five-fold as he ran for 48 yards and a touchdown (Cottengim had ran for 9 yards all season). He was also an efficient 11/16 for 130 yards and four touchdowns, giving way in the second half to Omar Baker, who added another passing touchdown.
The title game matchup surprises few people. It disappoints fans of four GLIFL teams, but it surprises few. Rochester will travel to Port Huron for what should be one of the most exciting championship games in indoor football history.