Cleat Geeks

Game 7 & 8 | Summer is Coming

May 21, 2016 – Chicago Eagles vs Bloomington Edge (Round 3)
Three weeks ago, we traveled to Bloomington, IL to face the Edge. The last time these two teams played each other was in Chicago with a close score, Eagles winning 40-37. In order to make playoffs, we had to win this game!

Tensions were high before the game and a small fight broke out shortly after we arrived at US Cellular Coliseum between one of my teammates and an Edge player. No one was hurt, but everyone was ready to knock heads in the game.

We ended up losing 55-33. As a whole, we played terribly. It was like we didn’t show up to play. Everyone was out of sync, including me. I had a dreadful kicking game.

May 24, 2016 – Practice 
Tuesday night at practice I was informed that Coach Scott (special teams coach) and I would be competing for the starting roster spot for Saturday’s game. Due to my poor performance over the weekend and with drop-kicks being worth 2 points in the CIF, Coach Scott was chomping at the bit to get his chance to dress for the game. Only in Chicago do you get a girl kicker and a 62-year old drop-kicker competing for a roster spot on a professional indoor football team.

Practice was weird. I had to work with and compete against my coach. Usually, I would listen to his advice, but this practice I was leery of him. Our team practiced hard and looked good. I had a good practice on Tuesday, building my confidence back up from the awful game before. Thursday night’s practice would be the deciding factor for our last game of the season on whether I would get an opportunity to redeem myself.

May 26, 2016 – The Last Practice
I went to practice with a positive mindset ready to kick. There was no way I was going to lose the starting spot after working so hard to get it. Sure enough, Coach Scott was suited up in his practice gear ready to compete. We both practiced well. I was focused and determined to keep my starting position.

Midnight, roster announced… I made the roster, but so did Coach Scott. In the CIF, teams are allowed to roster 24 players and trim it to 22 a couple of hours before game time if any last minute adjustments are needed. My roster spot was still not locked in for Saturday’s game.

May 28, 2016 – Game Day
I arrived at the UIC Pavilion around 3 pm. Something was different about our home turf. The end zones read “Bloomington Edge” and there were 4 large fans in the center of the field drying a freshly painted Eagle’s logo. Something was missing, but thankfully the turf was ready to go by the time we started warming up.

Coach Scott and I both dressed for warm-ups. I was ready and amped to kick. Some of my soccer girls that I coach was coming to the game and I did not want them to see me on the bench.

Special Teams Coach Scott Duvall and me pre-game

Coach Hay came over to me when I was warming up. “We’re going to go with you for the game.” I felt like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders and I was even more ready to kick in this game.

Before kickoff, Ashlynn Danil sang her first performance and rocked the National Anthem! Her rendition was absolutely beautiful! Eagles and Beef players ran over to her to give her high-fives as soon as she finished the last note.

Chicago, IL, USA, May 28, 2016: Champions Indoor Football (CIF) action between the Omaha Beef and the Chicago Eagles at the UIC Pavilion. Photographer: Daniel Bartel

Singer Ashlynn Danil performs the National Anthem (Photographer: Daniel Bartel)

The first big hit of the game into the dasher pads sent the walls crashing over. Thankfully no one was hurt. Both teams and the officials teamed up to stand the wall back up. Coach Scott started using wooden boards and metal rails to prop the wall up while someone found a rope to stabilize it.

Chicago, IL, USA, May 28, 2016: Champions Indoor Football (CIF) action between the Omaha Beef and the Chicago Eagles at the UIC Pavilion. Photographer: Daniel Bartel

Boards post big hit ( Photographer: Daniel Bartel)

After getting the wall back up we started to play again, both teams being cautious of hitting the boards too hard. The UIC staff then came by and started removing the rails. Another big hit tipped the wall over again, this time towards the stands.

Wooden boards and metal rails supporting the boards

I thought for sure the referees were going to call the game, but they gave us one more chance. This time fans even helped get the wall back up. Some adjustments were made and it seemed pretty stable. With a slight delay, the game was back on!

We were able to finish the game with walls intact. My teammates balled out and I was able to bounce back from the game before making all of my extra points.

Chicago, IL, USA, May 28, 2016: Champions Indoor Football (CIF) action between the Omaha Beef and the Chicago Eagles at the UIC Pavilion. Photographer: Daniel Bartel

Receiver Stacey Howard holds the PAT which is good by Julie Harshbarger! (Photographer: Daniel Bartel)

We fell short with the final score Beef 42 Eagles 29. Although the Eagles ended the season 3-9, they were a first-year team in a very competitive league. They also played a positive role within the Chicago community doing volunteer work, visiting with elderly, and speaking to children in surrounding schools. From here, the only way is up, and I’m excited for the Eagles to soar next season!

Chicago, IL, USA, May 28, 2016: Champions Indoor Football (CIF) action between the Omaha Beef and the Chicago Eagles at the UIC Pavilion. Photographer: Daniel Bartel

Quarterback Anthony Iannotti dives into the end zone for an Eagle’s touchdown (Photographer: Daniel Bartel)

Next week I will be changing focus to the outdoor game, covering the Rockton Rush of the Mid-States Football League (MSFL) as they kick off their season off Saturday, June 11, 2016!

Follow me on Instagram @julieharsh or Twitter @julieharsh99.

Photos by Daniel Bartel Photography

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