This past Friday saw the NFL 5s league bring its own brand of razzmatazz to Milton Park with a regular season match played on our very own Park Club gridiron.
The Ogres were 1 and 1 going into this lunchtime face off, but with their lengthy roster all reporting fit for duty, they were hoping that future hall-of-fame tight end Dan Hartley III could do the business. Hartley has been muted in his appearances thus far, crossing for only four touchdowns but racking up the rushing yards to keep his team optimistic.
Likewise, the Guerinlas had also managed a single win this campaign, earned by an MVP performance from their scrambling Cornerback Bryan Gueringo. The roster looked skinny before the kickoff, but a strong stable of Wide Receivers meant that the Guerinlas would surely favour their slick passing game.
Once the smoke of the flares and fireworks had been ushered through the fire exit, things got off to a promising start for the depleted ‘Las. In favouring their right flank and dogged wide receiver Bezz Lewz, they risked telegraphing their plays, but it bore fruit when Lewz made ground and a switch to the centre found Nik AssKrunk with all the time and space on the field to romp home and milk the applause, pinging the ball off the turf and nodding exaggeratedly. They were finding a lot of room down either side and Ogres backs Victorious Roze and Allstar Meier were having to put in extra shifts to restrict the gains to single figures.
The poor conditions were becoming more obvious by now, with both teams struggling to get a foothold. The Ogres were finding AssKrunk and rookie safety Cashryn Thomas alert in the backfield, snapping onto any attempts to run the ball to halt any progress through the middle. The right flank was still bearing some fruit, but fumbles and blocked runs were causing failed fourth down conversions one after the other. Hartley III had switched to quarterback to try and get some momentum behind his team, but his long bombs were being picked off. Gueringo in particular was underlining his status as the league’s leading cornerback, shutting his receiver down on each and every play. Every time the dangerman looked to be on the verge of a breakthough, the trademark flash of gold chain and cloud of ginger dreadlocks arrived to tip the ball away.
It came as a shock to the packed Park Bowl crowd when Hartley angled a run in from the sideline to burst through for the pullback TD. The ‘Las responded with a flourish, but the tie lasted until the end of the quarter. Raking passes from one end of the field to another were gaining ground by the acre for the Las. One magnificent long bomb from pimped stand-in quarterback Marcus Gillette found strapping, cornfed tight end Andre Rowe for a gain of fourty yards, but they couldn’t convert the territory.
1st Quarter: 7-7
The second quarter was the point that the ‘Las had earmarked in their gamplan for the big push, gathering their offensive line around big center Roe for a big 15 minutes. Hartley III and rangy tackle David Varlois sat out the start in favour of some fresh legs, so there was a chance for Gueringo’s players to make their dominance count.
Sammy Cragge set about disrupting their game with a monster block on DeRyan Kidd as he surged into the backfield and Stylez W. Lazenby followed suit with an astonishing flying tackle on a surging Lewz, but it wasn’t long before the ‘Las found the next gear, locating the endzone three times without reply. Lyndsay Starkerhoffer was looking confident in making ground down the left but it was a sudden switch of tempo down the opposite flank that saw the veteran Gillette isolate his man on a downfield foray with two linemen in attendance and find the zone. As the Ogres tired, Starkerhoffer made the gap for Gillette to stride through and run home for a massive touchdown. The next to put her name on the board was enthusiastic rookie Thomas who picked herself up after a narrow chance seconds earlier to slot through a tiny gap on the right flank. Thomas, monogrammed white towel tucked into her waistband, flatfooted her marked with a series of stutter-steps before vanishing inside to receive the pass and flop over the line. It was great finishing from a player not expected to flourish in a team packed with strong wide players.
The ‘Las were getting more sacks than the elephant man and more turnovers than an apple pastry while the Ogres were fumbling like a furtive teenager. They were looking exhausted with less than half of the clock gone, and could muster nothing in reply. It was telling that the defensive skills of Cragge were to the fore throughout this quarter. In fact, they only managed to threaten the ‘Las endzone when a pass bounced off Gibbonswerth’s helmet, but it was scrambled out of bounds by Gillette before it could be chased down.
Half time: 21-7
The third quarter continued as the second had ended, and Gillette soon increased the ‘Las’ lead as he overcame the taller and stronger Varlois in the corner. Varlois had a grip on his man’s jersey, but Gillette wasn’t to be denied, and thundered across the line. Not content with this, he then followed up with a tidy run through the gap left by Meier’s missed block to register again.
Then came the turning point. The Ogres had thus far held back on introducing their monstrous middle linebacker Dave ‘The Wall’ Owing, but now was the time. Owing wasted no time at all in taking hold of the game and shaking it. Hartley III was the first to benefit from his team’s newfound dynamism, as a lengthy sequence of hard-won first downs saw them positioned 3rd and 5 with Hartley the dangerman. He made no mistake in executing a textbook cutback run that finally gave him the space on Gueringo that he needed to race home and make the score 35-14.
A series of crashing tackles had the crowd baying, just the kind of game that Owing thrives on. He was ubiquitous in dragging rogue ballcarriers to the ground and marshalling his fellow linemen LaGailius Carter and Andrethus Gibbins, denying ground on every play, not to mention a booming field goal attempt that rattled the outside of the goal from 55 yards. Determined to prove that he is a true all-rounder, Owing then contributed his own score, playing at running back for a drive and forcing his way through all manner of flying bodies to find the corner from an almost impossible position. With Hartley III now being shepherded sternly by AssKrunk, it looked as though Owing could be the new option that the Ogres needed.
Hartley himself had other ideas though. His scoring rate had been called into question before the game, and he had spent three quarters frustrated by the ‘Las’ dynamic defensive backs. Now was the time to stand up and be counted as a true pro, just like his old man Dan Hartley the First back in Superbowl XIX. Hartley III took advantage of Owing’s new dangerman status to crash through a weak backfield for what was to be the first of a remarkable scoring burst.
The ‘Las were finding nothing open for them, having switched to a running game in an effort to grind down some territory in the final moments. Kidd was being ground out of the sidelines before he could make a yard, and even when the crowd though they could cheer another TD, Varlois’ injury meant that the drive had to be taken back to first and ten. By the time that Guerin began to channel his plays back towards Lewz, it was too late, the Ogres were ready a waiting.
Lewz frustration was evident as a smashing tackle to heave Owing out of bounds saw the Ogres’ new star on his knees and wheezing. It was the ‘Las dogged determination to push every play through their reliable wide receiver that brought about both their next breakthrough and ironically, their downfall. Lewz showed her NFL pedigree when she converted the first play of a drive into pure touchdown gold with a simple catch and sprint for 42-28.
However, it was this assured finish that made the ‘Las overconfident and, fatally, one dimensional. Hartley III’s impact was massive. First he ran home his own interception and then took advantage of further crossed wires to pick off another wide pass and run home again, dazzling Guerin with a lightning juke to the right before toasting him inside and scorching home. A great piece of quarterback play brought about his final score, converting a long pass downfield with Owing whooping at his side and already choreographing an elaborate celebration routine. 42-49 it finished and the crowd knew that they’d seen a vintage display from the big man at the heart of the Ogres’ title challenge, who was busy being doused with a Gatorade barrel by his teammates.
What actually happened:
Guerinlas – 4 (Ascroft, Gillet 2, Thomas)
Hartleypool – 1 (Hartley)
Guerinlas – 3 (Gillet 2, Lewis)
Hartleypool – 6 (Hartley 5, Owen)