Quad City Steamwheelers 29, Frisco Fighters 57
I expected this game to be a little closer, but once again I can’t find the words to describe just how dominant the fighters have been this season. The 2023 playoffs have yet to be any different. This game was never really in doubt, and Frisco had built up a 30-point lead long before Quad City was ever able to get on the board. Fighters quarterback T.J Edwards continues his MVP pace, in this game he was 9/11 for 183 yards and 4 touchdowns. As has been the case most of the season, Edwards led all rushers with 43 yards on 11 carries, and another 3 touchdowns.
Phazione McClurge led all receivers with 65 yards on 4 receptions, and Jolly Jordan had two touchdown catches. Kordell Jackson headlined a dominant defensive effort, leading all fighters with 6 tackles and coming up with an interception.
Reigning offensive player of the year E.J Hilliard struggled today, only completing 10 of 28 attempts against a stout defense. He would throw for 131 yards and two touchdowns, but one interception. In a very weak rushing effort for Quad City, E.J. Hilliard led all rushers with 15 yards and a touchdown. Wide receiver C.J. Windham led the Steamwheelers with 40 yards. Jerron McGraw had the biggest play of the day for the overwhelmed squad, catching a 38-yard touchdown pass.
For the Fighters, the win means they will advance to play the Sioux Falls Storm this Saturday(7:05 CT). For Quad City, the loss marks the end of a disappointing season, failing to repeat last year’s playoff run.
Massachusetts Pirates 39, Sioux Falls Storm 42
Simply stunning, I don’t know how else to describe it. A month ago, the pirate was in contention for the number one seed in the IFL Eastern Conference. Fast forward a month, and their collapse has left me scratching my head. What’s worse is they lost to the Storm twice in the same manner. This time around was worse. The Pirates had a 17-0 lead at the half and took a 39-21 lead into the 4th quarter. However, Lorenzo Brown Jr. scored with 2:39 left to take a lead that would stand for good, just like last week.
The longtime IFL veteran signal-caller probably earned performance of the weekend. Lorenzo Brown accounted for 183 yards through the air, 33 yards on the ground, and 6 total touchdowns. Wide Receivers Xavier Jackson and Cole Thurness both came up big for the Storm through the air, each managing 2 touchdowns. Xavier Jackson led all Sioux Falls receivers with 92 yards.
For the Pirates, Mike Glass and Alejandro Bennifield split time at quarterback in this game, as Anthony Russo was unavailable due to an injury last week. Glass would throw for 129 yards with 2 touchdowns on 11 of 15 passing. Bennifield threw for 68 yards, ran for 38, and accounted for 2 touchdowns. All-rookie running back Jimmie Robinson ran for 44 yards on 11 carries but failed to find the endzone. Isaac Zico led all Pirates with 58 yards on 5 catches, and Thomas Owens caught two touchdown passes on 52 yards.
The Loss for the Pirates puts an exclamation point on an already epic collapse as they head to the off-season with many issues to solve. The Sioux Falls Storm continues what feels like an unlikely turn of events, headed to Frisco this weekend with the daunting task of slowing down T.J Edwards and the Fighter offense. The Fighters won both regular season match-ups, one 56-15, and the other was 54-51 classic. Either way, the Storm looks to be heavy underdogs going into the eastern conference championship.
Northern Arizona Wranglers 63, Arizona Rattlers 52
At this point, the Arizona Rattlers are starting to remind me of the Atlanta Braves teams from the 90s. Or a more modern reference, the Indianapolis Colts of the Peyton Manning Era. They have no trouble being dominant in the regular season, only to meet some kind of weird end in the postseason. In this iteration, Northern Arizona took a 34-14 lead to the half.
Arizona comes out in the second half and takes the lead with 7 minutes left in the game. However, Northern Arizona would respond with two touchdowns in the final minutes, and an interception to seal it. The interception was one of 6 that the Wrangler’s defense would force on the day.
Nick Watson got the start today for the Wranglers and was spectacular. on 222 yards passing, he threw for 6 touchdowns and only one interception. The Wranglers had no running game to mention but they did not need it. Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman was on another level today for the Wranglers, coming up with 158 yards and 5 touchdowns on 8 catches. Jarrod Ware Jr. added 4 catches for 37 yards and a touchdown coming out of the backfield. Dorian Walker and Kerry Starks both shined defensively, each coming up with 2 interceptions.
3-time league MVP Drew Powell did not look like himself tonight. He managed only 80 yards through the air but made up for it with 72 rushing yards. He had 5 total touchdowns but also turned the ball over 6 times (5 INTS 1 Fumble). The fumble also wound up being a scoop and score. Jamal Miles added to a strong rushing attack with 5 carries for 25 yards and 3 touchdowns, and Jager Gardner led all Rattlers with 60 yards and a touchdown on 5 catches.
For the Wranglers, the upset marks a return to the Western Conference championship game. This time they will take on the Bay Area Panthers (Saturday 8:05 CT). The Bay Area Panthers do look to be the heavy favorite in this game, but then again so were the Arizona Rattlers. For Arizona, the loss marks yet another disappointing ending to a great season, forcing them to wonder when they will finally be able to take one home.
Tucson Sugar Skulls 34, Bay Area Panthers 46
This game had the ending that I expected but the way we got there was different than how I expected. The Bay Area Panthers jumped out to a 22-0 lead and had a 39-20 lead going into the 4th quarter. However, a Carrington Thompson touchdown pass closed the gap to 39-34 with 3:34 to go in the 4th. Unlike the Pirates, the Panthers would finish the game on a Justin Rankins touchdown run with 43 seconds left.
Dalton Sneed did not have to throw the ball much in the victory, going only 5 of 8 for 43 yards and two touchdowns. Justin Rankins led all Panthers with 53 yards rushing and adding two touchdowns. Cutrel Haywood led all Panthers with 24 yards on 2 receptions. Current all-rookie selection Nih-jer Jackson also had two touchdown passes on two receptions.
The Panther defense came up big in this game. Antwon Kincade had 12 tackles. Wesley Bowers added 10.5 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack, and a forced fumble. Finally, Tevaughn Grant had 6.5 tackles, including 4 for loss one sack, and a 36-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown to break the 0-0 deadlock.
For the Sugar Skulls, Ramone Atkins was the reason this game was even close. The Sugar Skulls signal caller threw for 93 yards (18 of 31), ran for 93, and had 5 total touchdowns. Running back Mike Jones added 56 yards but was unable to find the endzone. Carrington Thompson continues to show why he is one of the more established wide receivers in the IFL. In this outing, he had 8 catches for 51 yards, and all 3 of Atkins touchdown passes.
For the Skulls, this was obviously not the outcome they had hoped for, but I don’t think this season would be looked at as a disappointment. For the Panthers, they get to continue their worst-to-first turnaround. The next obstacle in their way, the defending champions. They host the Northern Arizona Wranglers (Saturday 8:05 CT) for a chance to go to the United Bowl.