04.06.2008 klo 16:33
The Trojans visited Helsinki Wolverines ("Wolvos") for their second Maple League game. The day was quite windy but warm and sunny. The uncovered amphitheater seating at Helsinki Velodrome attracted a lot more spectators than the bleechers in the main audience. The game proved to be eventful, full of tight spots, and, very much like the previous one, unresolved until the last remaining seconds.
Ever got tackled by a dwarf with a ketchup ad on his butt?
The Trojans started with the promising young QB Danny Andersson, as his senior colleague Jayson Davis had barely recovered from the thigh injury he suffered less than two weeks ago. According to head coach Jarmo Rautiainen it was necessary not to stress Davis too much at this point. The wolverines had a predictable but effective pattern to their game right from the beginning: straightforward, aggressive running play every now and then interrupted by a screen or a short pass.
The Wolverines first drive earned them less than 20 yards. The Trojans got the possession of the ball only to allow the hosting team an interception around the Trojans' own 30. The Wolverines appeared to score right away but a flag was thrown. The Wolvos were out of luck the rest of their drive and in fact got pushed back by LB Janne Salonen's successful blitz. The Trojans fumbled the ball on first down and let the defense recover it. The Wolverines did the same on their second down. The rest of the quarter was going back and forth with neither team gaining a serious advantage over the other. Trojan offense relied much on RB Teemu Pietiainen who had played an excellent game last week. DB Seikko Vennela stood out in the defense making sure run-aways don't run away.
The Trojans changed tactics from the careful running plays and short passes in the 2nd quarter. A first-down near interception was followed by a fatal second-down interception. The Wolverines began an offensive that, in despite of two self-recovered fumbles, resulted in a TD by Stephen Stokes. 7-0.
Eemeli Sainio and Kamran Osman stand guard while Jayson Davis cooks up a devious plan.
The Trojans, who were visibly nervous at this point, had hard time holding on to their instruments. The kickoff return was fumbled with no problem at all and recovered by the defense. Defense did their job well though. A sack by the "Russian Rocket", LB Ilja Redin, and nice tackling by the young duo Ville-Valtteri Suojanen and Ilkka Koiranen helped out as defensive teamwork kept a dangerous, nearly scoring Wolverine offensive at bay. Finally, a turnover on downs gave the Trojans and QB Jayson Davis a chance to show what time it is. It was Davis' and WR Johnell Wyatte's passing play beauty time. In despite of suffering some 15 yards on a blitz, the dos amigos de los Estados Unidos helped their team to advance from their own 28 all the way to the cigar zone. The scoring play was a long, left-hand side pass from Davis to Wyatte. Janne Stenberg's PAT was good and the game was even. 7-7.
The rest of the 2nd quarter was mainly uneventful, but Ilja Redin's and LB Sami Toivonen's sacks were truly something to look at. Both teams first had trouble advancing the ball after the halftime, but the Trojans got their stuff together on their 2nd drive. RB Ville Jarvio bulldozed his way through Wolverine ranks while Janne Stenberg and WR Ville Vene caught long passes. To make a good offensive count, QB Jayson Davis played a keep and scored a touchdown. PAT was good; 7-14 for the Trojans.
The Wolverines' got right back in business, and slowly but steadily reached the Trojan end zone from their own 20. Andrei Kipahti scored a touchdown from an 8 and goal situation and what followed was a nail-biting and fateful series of events. The Trojan crew would sigh in relief as the PAT was no good, only to find that there had been some foul play. Supposedly an illegal block in the back. The wolverines found the courage to go for a 2-point conversion now that the line of scrimmage was at the 2-yard line. Stephen Stokes tried to dive through, but appeared to lose control of the ball before crossing the goal line. Right after he was pushed back from the goal line he managed to regain possession. Still, one of the officials would argue the conversion was good, and it was eventually made official. The Wolverines' daring move had brought them to a lead position, 15-14. Witnesses would disagree with the decision, but the Wolverines are hardly to blame for that. What was perceived as unfair treatment seriously upset the Trojans and most likely had a deep impact on their performance.
"You take it" -"No, YOU take it!"
No one wants to take it with Trojan defense nearby.
Following the kickoff, the Trojans would allow an interception dangerously close to their own end zone. The Trojan defense was able make the opposition punt, however, and mounted a final, all-out offensive to reclaim the game. Passing game would gradually bring the boys from their own 12 to opposing 11 and the decisive 4th down with just a few minutes on the clock. One could hardly breathe watching the team line up for something entirely different from the expected field goal formation. QB Jayson Davis would keep the ball and personally go for the remaining 3 or so yards. It was a close call too, warranting measurement, but was deemed enough. The new downs would bring the Trojans only a yard closer to their objective, and a field goal was finally on the menu with 1:51 remaining and 7 yards to goal. The strong gush of wind that accompanied the attempt may or may not have affected Stenberg's kick, but it was no good nonetheless. Against all expectations, the Trojans had one more chance when the Wolverine offense fumbled the ball while trying to run down the clock (!). With 15 seconds to go, there was one more chance to win the game but the desperate last-minute long bomb was intercepted by the Wolverines.
The wolverines won the game 15-14, but from a statistic point of view it is hard to say which of the two very different teams was truly better. The Trojans gained much more yardage, but the Wolverines played slow, steady, and careful, avoiding unnecessary mistakes. A sure thing is that getting Jayson Davis in shape and full throttle is imperative.
More pictures of the game will be available shortly.
Story: Jussi Hakokari
Photography: Kari Toivonen