The first game of the Varsity 2021 season pitted two very much alike squads in the New England Nightmare and Raw Talent.
JJ Lopez set the tone early for Raw Talent when he gave his team a seven point lead right out of the gate. QB Devon Collier connected with Lopez over the middle for 40 yards as he sprinted his way to the endzone scoring the opening touchdown of 2021. The Nightmare didn’t let that deter them from going on a drive of their own. Dillon LaPlante hooked up with his tight end, Mike Kamysz for their first score of the season to pull them within a point. Raw Talent’s ensuing drive, Lopez struck again. This time he took a little flip from Collier inside the ten yard line and dipped his way over the goal line with one forty-five left to play in the first half. The Nightmare offense marched the ball all the way down the field until, Ivan Quijano picked off an errant pass and started rumbling downfield. The angry QB in hot pursuit, went all out sacrificing his body and popped the ball out to regain possession. Finally with a measly fifteen ticks left on the clock, LaPlante found Nick Santana in the corner of the endzone to tie the game up at the half.
The first half of the second half belonged solely to the Nightmare. Santana backed his way in for a score, followed on the next offensive drive by a Felix Torres TD after a Santana forced fumble. With a thirteen point lead and eight minutes to play, the Nightmare would not step on the throat of Raw Talent; they let them right back into this game. Nate Guillermo earned player of the game honors thanks to his magnificent final eight minutes of gameplay. The man known as “Ghost” snagged in five of his seven receptions in Raw Talent’s final two drives. Collier threw a bomb in Ghost’s direction, that he was able to hone in on and take it to the house for six. After a slow methodical drive, Guillermo shook a defender off in the endzone to tap his toes inside the pylon to tie it up with three minutes to go. Of course you can predict that Ghost would be the guy wide open for the extra point to take the lead. A lead they would hold for good, as on the second play of the next drive, Guillermo would sneak his way past the o-line and sack the quarterback for a safety to ice it. Raw Talent wins at home on opening day in a thriller, 29-26.
The age old battle of Flagnado and Scorgasms took place at 8:40. Defense was the name of the game early in this one, or was it rust? Perhaps more of the latter because neither team was able to find the endzone until the final minute of the first half. Jason Michelini got a shovel pass from his quarterback and backed it himself in like a semi-truck untouched for the score to go up by seven at the break. The Scoregasms came out of the lockerroom with a vengeance going on an unanswered nineteen point run started off by Scott Daniliuk. QB Derek Riley led his offense to the six yard line in a clock eating five minute drive. He tossed a jump ball in the direction of Daniliuk who soared up over everyone to haul in the equalizer for the away team. After a costly Flagnado fumble, Dan Walkley found the endzone for his first score of the season to put the Scoregasms up by a score. The icing on the cake was a Travis Tripodi TD in the back of the endzone with 1:04 left on the clock to seal it. Flagnado was able to keep the bettors at ease with a clock expiring touchdown by Michelini once again to pull within a score. But the Nano touchdown proved costly, as Flagnado couldn’t convert their Money Ball and ended up losing this one on opening day. Scoregasms win going away, 19-13.
Next up was Rampage and the Vikings. A tale of two teams going in different directions. The Vikings had their historic run or championships and records and all the fanfare, now they are struggling to piece together five guys for one singular game. Rampage started out as Reign, filled with a whole bunch of B players or youngins’ who hadn’t grown their A bracket legs yet. Now they’re leading the league in everything consistently and are the talk of the town. This game was just that. Despite the Vikings getting on the board first by way of an outstandingly athletic leaping grab in the endzone by Johnny Granfield, the Rampage got their bearings straight. Reigning MVP, Andrew Duval hauled in a deep bomb to get Rampage on the scoreboard to tie it up. After a slow start by Rampage out of the gate, they really got the needle moving in the second half. Carter Cormier found paydirt in the back of the endzone for his first TD of the season then on the next drive, Duval struck again for another touchdown from the five. The Vikings didn’t have any answer for the electric Rampage offense in this one. Gunner Siverly ran in a sixty yard screen pass for the garbage time TD. The Vikings lose their home opener, 24-6.
The Raiders were picked as a preseason favorite to capture the belt after getting so close a year ago. In their first game, they opened up against a Battletoads team that is always hungry and ready to leap over the competition. The first half of this one was all Raiders…literally. Very early, Rookie of the Year favorite, Brian Pacheco led the way with two first half TD’s. One on the opening drive for fifteen yards, then another from the ten with six seconds left in the half. Sandwiched between those Pacheco TD’s was a leaping grab from last season’s Offensive Player of the year, David Baldwin. Raiders up nineteen zip at the break. Most games are a story of two halves and this was just that. The Toads got the spirit of the Eye of the Tiger from their halftime powwow to ignite their stagnant offense. Ben Phelps kicked off the scoring with an acrobatic toe tapping touchdown from Scott French. Then after a quick Raiders turnover on downs, the Toads came out of the huddle fast; much to the dismay of a napping Raiders defense. Josh Briand took an easy stomach catch right down the sideline for sixty yards to pull within a score. It was at that moment that, Quarterback Mike Howe got his Raiders back on track. Just when momentum was in their favor, the Toads blew coverage on Baldwin who streaked up the sideline for a wide wide wide open easy touchdown. Briand found the endzone one more time to pull the Toads within a score but it was too little too late. The Raiders hang on and survive a second half surge from the Battletoads, 25-19.
Despite all the action and adventures from the previous games, the Blitz Game of the week was just as advertised. Half of the defending champs took on the team that they knocked out in the championship, Shake n’ Bake. This game didn’t light up the stat sheet as one would imagine, but it was a battle of the titans for each and every second. Shake n’ Bake was the only team to muster up a score in the first half. Dane Schindler located Austin Williams hanging out at the pylon by himself on a crucial fourth and goal. Legion of Doom came out in the second half with an immediate score. Kiel Canada, was scrambling for his life until he threw the ball across his body to the other side of the endzone where Jamaal Woods was just chilling all alone for an easy touchdown. Williams again converted from close for Shake n’ Bake with another receiving touchdown for the lead. A lead that wouldn’t last long as “Scoreboard” was heard and the fire was lit. Melvin Bonilla then went off. He intercepted an arrant Bake pass and shook his way to the 25 yard line. He then pitched in with a few YAC shovel passes to set up another Woods pylon TD. Legion of Doom converted the extra point to send it into overtime. On LOD’s possession, Bonilla took a handoff right up the sideline and danced his way into the endzone to put this one on ice. Shake n’ Bake loses in an overtime cliff-hanger, 20-13.
The next game was a B game that didn’t quite have the same flare for the dramatics. Expansion franchise, Take Over opened their season against the veteran skeleton squad, Shotgunnaz. Rookie sensation, Jeremy Beland put on a show in his first career game. On their second possesion, QB Jose Rivera launched a bomb that Beland would nestle under nicely for a put-em-on-notice kind of first career catch for the score. Not long after that, Don Wright went up high in the sky to corral his first career touchdown for Take Over. Beland picked off a pair of Shotgunnaz passes and helped them complete a first half defensive shut out. A shut out that didn’t last long as the Shotgunnaz welcomed back Andre Rioux who took a handoff in the backfield and diced his way over the goal line for the score. Take Over veteran, Scott Nightingale scampered sixty yards on a bubble screen for his first TD of the season. Then original six vet, Dylan Berry caught his first touchdown since 2015 to pull within eight points. Finally just two plays later, Beland struck again. Rivera found Beland down the sideline one final time to pull ahead for good. Take Over wins in their inaugural opener, 28-13.
At noon, America’s Children welcomed another new franchise, the Spartans to their home field. The Spartans came out of the gate hot. QB Aiden Hatt lobbed a hitch to rookie Shawn Lopes, who shook everyone in the building with his fancy footwork to take it to the house on one play. The Children responded with a Darrin Standish touchdown on a wheel route from midfield. On the very next play, the Spartans struck for sixty yards again. Hatt connected with speedster Ryan Barry who went from 0-60 in 2.7 seconds for the score. Spartans have run two plays on offense and scored two touchdowns. QBR through the roof for Hatt. America’s Children used their timeouts to gather themselves and get back in this game. Patrick O’Donnell found his own shining speedster in Andy Geffard. From their own twenty yard line, O’Donnell scrambled to buy time only to find Geffard outstanding in his field all by his lonesome. Children pull within a point before the halftime show. The Spartans finally faced their first fourth down of the season and it resulted in a Geffard INT. Fittingly, Geffard then converted his own pick into points, as he squirmed his way into the endzone again to take the lead. A lead the Children wouldn’t give up. Geffard completed his Hatt-trick with his third and final touchdown to close it out. The Spartans come out hot but fade late and go down in their opener, 26-14.
The days’ finale featured the Tribe and the Phantoms. This would be a mythological matchup dreamed up by sci-fi westworldian Game of Thrones enthusiasts but alas it was just a plain old beatdown. Tribe jumped out to an eighteen point lead and completely shut out the Phantoms in the first half. Jordy Bolarinho hauled in the first score by way of a sixty yard post route, followed by a Patrick Bradenise TD after his own interception. Former offensive player of the year, DJ Ramos got involved right before the whistle, picking off a Phantoms pass and taking it to the house for six. The Phantoms bright spot was their first drive out of the locker room. QB John Freese pitched it forward to rookie center Dakota Lurvey for the pairs first score together. After that, it was more of the first half routine. Ramos caught a thirty yard crosser and George Urena got on the stat sheet with an easy touchdown to close it out. If the Tribe played like this when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth rock, this country would have a totally different look today. Tribe keeps the Phantoms dead 31-7.