HONEY BOWL III
The other semi-final had Green Machine taking on the Stingrays. Green Machine, Quarterbacked by veteran Ben MacManus, had finished runners-up through the regular season, surging offensively with a number of talented young players. Quarterbacking the third place Stingrays was impressive rookie Tom Gargiulo, hoping to earn a spot in the finals and play for a third consecutive championship for the boys in white.
Raptors vs Outlaws:
In what turned out to be one of the most impressive first halves of football, the undefeated Raptors edged their way into half-time with just a 1-point lead over the aggressive Outlaws. Malcolm Mitchell, Captain of the Outlaws, had his squad playing with dangerous precision and in prime position to spoil the Raptors perfect season.
The Outlaws blow-for-blow magic of the first half however couldn’t be sustained as veteran playmaker Jirka Simecka continued his season dominance, as well as some impressive skills displayed by rookie star Aliyah Tinetti. The final score of 41 – 26 sent the red-hot number one seed Raptors into the final.
Final: 41 – 26 Raptors
Green Machine vs Stingrays:
The second and third seed matchup between Green Machine and the Stingrays opened with some impressive drives by each offense. Shane Gordon, captain of Green Machine, had his offense and defense both looking sharp. Missing their captain, and NZ Makos player Mitchell Bateman, the Stingrays had their backs up against the wall, but found a way to go into halftime down only a handful of points.
In the second half however, Green Machine really came alive and displayed their growing dominance on both sides of the ball. MacManus lead some impressive drives and also displayed his rare athleticism on defense, guiding the Machine to a 44 – 19 victory and wiping out the Stingrays chance of a third title.
Final: 44 – 19 Green Machine
Breaking up the days action was the annual Pro Bowl. This year saw players born pre-1992 take on players born post 1992. The age vs youth game displayed some impressive talent on both sides of the ball, with players from the Reapers, the Blackhawks, the Outlaws and the Stingrays all eligible to play. In a flurry of points, some impressive intercepts by both sides, and a lot of laughs, it was the older generation who managed to come away with the win.
Honey Bowl III Finals – Raptors vs Green Machine:
You couldn’t ask for a better matchup than the number one seed Raptors, chasing the perfect season, pitted against the young and surging second seed Green Machine. Two of the most dominant defences and also two creative and athletic offenses.
Unlike the earlier semi-finals it was the defences dictating the game, with offenses struggling to string together long drives. Trading blows, the matchup was as advertised with the teams entering the half all tied up at 13 apiece.
The second half didn’t disappoint, with the stout defences remaining solid. The teams again traded scores, however the Raptors took advantage of their Red Shirt players (females or players 13 and under being awarded more points for scores and point-afters) to inch ahead in the middle of the second half. With everything to play for Green Machine responded by marching down the field to take the lead away from the Raptors with less than 5 minutes remaining in the game. With their perfect season on the line the Raptors opened the responding drive with a few short passes to get the ball rolling, before Sedaka uncorked a deep ball to veteran receiver Drue Griffins in the back corner of the endzone. The defensive coverage did everything they could, but Sedaka found the one spot on the field only his player could get the ball, and gave his team a narrow 3-point lead with less than 1-minute to play. With next to no time to work with, Green Machine began what would be the final drive of the game. An impressive play to capture a first down and stop the clock put Green Machine within striking distance to score and steal the game. One play later Green Machine were less than 15 yards from pay-dirt but with time on the clock for just one last play. The snap to MacManus, drops back, surveys the field, an open player right on the goal-line, MacManus lets the ball go... The pass is on a line, the receiver plants his feet in the endzone and prepares for the catch, until at the very last second Jirka Simecka dives past at full stretch and swats the ball to the turf. Incomplete with no time remaining. Raptors win 28 – 25, capping off a storied season and becoming the first team in Nelson American Football history to go undefeated for an entire year. Congratulations Raptors!
Final: 28 – 25 Raptors