Wild End to Wild Card Weekend
Worrell Vs. Guidugli, Martin Jr. Vs. Robinson, and Bill Vs. O’Brien.
It was two of the league’s gladiator teams who were pitted against each other in the final Wild Card game for Season 4 of the Relocation Football League. The levels of unparalleled talent within both teams--their offenses in particular--was more than enough to ensure a mind-blowing battle before the game even started. With everything on the line, the Portland Snowhawks and Columbus Explorers made sure they left nothing behind. The Snowhawks certainly made this clear first, as they possessed a 2-score lead for the majority of the opening 3 quarters. As Portland got comfortable, Columbus began a full-scale attack on their advantage. The Explorers became unstoppable on offense, defense, and special teams in the 4th quarter, propelling them to a victory and a spot in the Divisional Round to play against the defending Relocation Bowl champions.
The Snowhawks began the final Wild Card Weekend game with the ball. Portland’s offense only had to battle through 1 3rd Down situation en route to a 10-yard rushing touchdown by Mitchy O’Brien. Columbus’ response was nothing shy of a fiasco, as they went three-and-out. It only took 2 plays for the Snowhawks to reach the 2-yard line, but they could not gain an additional 2 yards on 3 plays. Consequently, they settled for an 18-yard field goal with 4 minutes remaining in the 1st quarter.
The Explorers had very little trouble with navigating the Snowhawks’ secondary, despite being down 10-0. Latavien Worrell regularly relied on Ferazey throughout the drive, but threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Sheldon Shepherd. To undo the Explorers’ touchdown, the Snowhawks took care of business immediately. Joseph Guidugli threw a spiral to Derrell Martin Jr. on the very first play of the drive, who made the easy catch and ran for a 75-yard touchdown. The Snowhawks were back ahead by 10 points towards the beginning of the 2nd quarter.
Guidugli continued to decimate Columbus through the middle after regaining possession. Surpassing 200 passing yards, he was able to get the Snowhawks to the 20-yard line to kick a 37-yard field goal. The Explorers showed no signs of panic while they slowly and cautiously got inside field goal territory, largely due to Atogwe’s rushing efforts. They were stopped on 3rd & 2, however, and settled for a 44-yard field goal with 4 minutes left before halftime.
Another punt by the Snowhawks gave the Explorers an opportunity to “double-up” in the 2nd and 3rd quarters to take the lead over Portland. Once again, they methodically worked to get inside field goal range, this time relying on a run and pass balance. However, the 45-yard field goal attempt with 1 minute to go went wide left, preserving the Snowhawks’ 20-10 lead at halftime.
Despite the previous miscue, Columbus still had a strong opportunity to get within a possession of Portland’s lead. A 6-yard sack by Schofield was not enough to stop Columbus, who scored a massive 57-yard touchdown on a pass to CJ Robinson. The extra point put the Explorers within a field goal of Portland’s lead. For the 2nd time of the night, the Snowhawks would respond to an Explorer touchdown by scoring on the very next play. Just as it was on the first occasion, Guidugli threw another 75-yard pass to Martin Jr. for a touchdown, and the Snowhawks were back ahead by 10.
Worrell continued to cause trouble in Portland with another productive series. He put the Explorers in field goal range by throwing short, but precise, passes to several of his receivers. It was enough for them to kick a 35-yard field goal and get within 1 possession of the Snowhawks.
A three-and-out by Portland’s offense set up an amazing punt return for the Explorers, reaching the Snowhawks’ 44-yard line. The Explorers did not need to do much to get Ferazey in position to score a 5-yard touchdown. With the extra point, Columbus and Portland were tied at 27.
The Snowhawks’ offense needed to get back in the groove after blowing a 10-point lead. Guidugli made sure of that as he flawlessly slung the ball towards all the right receivers. The drive was capped off at the end of the 3rd quarter with a 10-yard touchdown, which put the Snowhawks back in the lead. Worrell was also flawless. A major completion to Robinson established the Explorers in goal-to-go territory. Following a Delay of Game penalty, Columbus was pushed to the 12-yard line, which was where they scored a receiving touchdown on a slant route, tying the score once more, now at 34-34.
While Portland’s offense did their job and put the kicking unit at the 34-yard line, Columbus forced the key turning point by blocking the attempt and recovering the ball. They followed this by kicking a 49-yard field goal to take their first lead with 7 minutes left. Momentum began to snowball against the Snowhawks. From positive territory on 3rd & Long, Guidugli attempted to scramble for the 1st Down. He was not close to the line, but when he was taken down, he lost the ball. Columbus pounced on it to regain possession with 6 minutes to go.
The Explorers drained the clock to 3 minutes before punting to the Snowhawks, who had one opportunity to tie or win the game. In only 4 plays, they committed a Turnover on Downs after their final pass on 4th & 12 fell incomplete. The Explorers needed to get a 1st Down to seal the game without doubt, and on 3rd & 1, they fought their way forward. Rather than going through kneel downs, the Explorers scored a touchdown to put an end to an incredible matchup and win over the Snowhawks by a 44-34 score.
After the game, Explorers Head Coach Bill talked about the major momentum swing that enabled the 4th quarter comeback. “In my opinion, momentum is the biggest factor and on the same tier as skill,” he stated. “Worrell got the guys going when things were rough and kept us in striking distance all night until the defense and special teams caught up with him. That’s all you can ask for with your QB; control what you can and assist where necessary.”
Written By: Luke Rainey