Cleat Geeks

Game 2 | Just a Bit Outside

Chicago Blitz vs West Michigan Ironmen

April 2, 2016 – Game Day
Our last game was two weeks ago. With two bye games, it was finally game day! Early Saturday morning, we jumped on a team bus and traveled to Muskegon, Michigan (four hours from Chicago) to face the West Michigan Ironmen. The first disappointment that morning was the weather. One minute it was sunny, the next it was whiteout conditions. The same could be said for the game we were about to play. We made it safely to Grand Rapids where we stopped for our pregame meal at Old Country Buffet. Also making the trip with us was the 9th Man. The 9th Man is a group of die-hard fans and are part of the Blitz family. They come to every home game and almost every away game. They are the best!

Our game was played at L.C. Walker Stadium, an international ice rink and super nice. Our team warmed up first. Then both teams took the field for one last time. Captains met at half field for coin toss. We won the toss and elected to receive.

A Lot of Action
The kicker for the Ironmen is Jimmy Allen. I played against Jimmy last season when he was with the Buffalo Lightning, and he is a very good kicker. His kickoff pinned us at the 5 yard line. On the second play, the ball was fumbled leading to an Ironmen touchdown. Next possession . . . SCORE! A Demetrius Jones touchdown to wide receiver James Walton. I lined up for the extra point and hit the upright. No sweat, I thought to myself I’ll make the next one . . .

The Ironmen scored again. We answered back with a touchdown and decided to go for 2 to make up my missed kick. Incomplete. Now we were down by 2. Towards the end of the first half, our QB got hit hard and didn’t get up right away. We could tell from the sideline that he had definitely broken a finger on his throwing hand, but what we didn’t realize was that he also sprained his opposite wrist. The trainers ran to the field and helped him up and off.

It was fourth and long. One of the coaches yelled, “Kick it!” I ran onto the field to attempt a 45-yard field goal. I lined up, took my steps, and gave my holder the nod that I was ready. The snap came back, he pinned it to the ground and then was able to set it up. I kicked the ball, and it missed wide right. Immediately after, my legs were taken out from under me by the defensive end, which caused the referee to throw the flag. I got up just in time to see that a defensive player had caught the ball for a return. The returner was able to break a couple of tackles and get into the open field. All that stood between the returner and the end zone was myself, he gave me a jab step inside and went back to the sideline causing me to dive and miss, but I didn’t feel too bad about it because there was a flag on the play. However, after the touchdown celebration I looked back for the flag only to find out the referee picked it up. There was no roughing the kicker penalty. I was seething mad!

The following possession, our back up QB Tony Powell stepped in. This was Tony’s first professional indoor game and he got us right back in the game. I have played against Tony a few times in outdoor. He plays for the Lincoln-Way Patriots of the Mid States Football League (MSFL) and is a great QB. One of the many things I love about indoor football is the chance to play with guys that you have played against in outdoor football. The indoor game brings a lot of talent together from the surrounding area and gives you a chance to play with some of your rivals, building camaraderie throughout the league.

Not the Ending We Wanted
A trainer met me in my locker room to stretch my hamstring and look at my knee from when I got rolled up on. The trainer said I slightly hyper extended it, but I would be ok. I then went over to the team locker room to hear Coach O give his speech. After that, I left early to go back onto the field to get a few more kicks in.

The game continued to be a tight one all the way to the end. With less than a minute left, we scored giving us a 2 point lead. My coach told me to kick the ball deep into the right corner so we could pin them down on their half. I did just that. Put the ball deep into the right corner of the field, but the returner again was able to break tackles and fight his way into the end zone. This score put them ahead by 4, 34-30.

Jimmy’s last kickoff was another good one. We still had time to make something happen. Tony looked for Wide Receiver Bryant “Speedy” Pascascio in the end zone. The DB read the play and intercepted the ball. Our defense took the field in hopes of a miracle to recover the ball. The Ironmen attempted a QB sneak which was read by our defense. They all rushed in and a flag was thrown which ran the clock out. 34-30 Ironmen win.

It was a tough loss, especially with so many missed opportunities on our part. But games like this can be a blessing in disguise this early in the season. A wake up call and a chance to get better. As a kicker, I had one job and I didn’t do my part. It’s hard to shake that awful feeling when you lose by 4 points and came up short on your one and only job. But, I need to shake it off and focus on the next kick.

The Blitz return to Chicago this Saturday to face the Northern Kentucky Nightmare for the second time this season at 7pm at the Odeum in Villa Park. For more information on the Blitz, visit www.chicagoblitz.com.

Follow me on Instagram @julieharsh or Twitter @julieharsh99.

Photos by: BriAmo Photography

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