by Jason Salas
Guam - It's as if the Guam football gods have perpetually blessed each and every contest featuring the MFL's most heated rivals. There were numerous compelling subplots to the season opener for the 2011 Miller Football League season featuring the Cars Plus Rams and Shell Hal's Angels - a veritable cornucopia of gridiron things to think about, to watch, to consider, of which to stand in total awe.
There couldn't have been a more perfect way to start a new season of island football.
There's the obvious "rematch/revenge" theme in play dating back to last year's championship game. How would Angel pride bear the heavy crown of being defending champions of the Edward M. Calvo Cup? How many new stars would emerge from the void created by those athletes unable to return this season? Would the defenses be at mid-season form? Would the bad weather we've been dealt of late play a major factor into how the game was played? How would the fiery crop of new MFL players from the military and high school graduates add to the drama of the game?
All of these, and more, proved to be major factors.
Too often the phrase "instant classic" is uttered, but Saturday's contest was precisely that. The Rams outlasted the Angels 12-6 in a triple-overtime thriller, with second-year fullback Anthony Veimana plunging in for the game's walkoff touchdown from a yard out.
While the game was a defensive struggle from the onset, the teams also had to battle Mother Nature, who saw fit to lend a healthy dose of swirling winds, raindrops that appeared to come straight out of a Forrest Gump narrative, and...fog. Yes, fog. On Guam. In late-January. At 4 in the afternoon.
Several new names paid immediate dividends and became fan favorites on both sidelines, and any off-season rust never showed up. Each team exhibited bone-crushing hits and infectious enthusiasm that got the crowd of several hundred fans roaring.
The wind was murder on each team's kicking games, as All-MFL kicker Matt Cruz went 0-for-3 for the Rams, and the Angels Mike James had his only PAT partially blocked by stellar Rams' free safety Chris "Dancing Machine" Santos, who also had 3 interceptions, the first of which setup the Rams first TD.
The Angels debuted a new wishbone formation straight out of the '70s Oklahoma Sooners playbook (last season's DOCOMO Chargers had great success with the same scheme), but the Rams' massive defensive front was stout, with Ashton Adams and Leonard Kaae limiting any major production from Shell's stud tailbacks Joshric Fenwick and Joaquin Pangelinan. The Angels found their greatest success in the aerial game, as Steve Phillips thrilled the hundreds in attendance on long passes to fellow FD Friar Jared Ada and James, a new addition at wideout.
Case in point: late in the 4th quarter, down 6-0 facing 4th-and-14 from his own 32, Angels head coach Ivan Shiroma went for it. It proved genius. Phillips dropped back, had time and threw a perfect strike in double-coverage to a streaking Ada who laid out for a 37-yard gain over the middle. The crowd went completely ballistic, with the Angels riding the momentum to an eventual game-tying 2-yard QB keeper by Phillips.
Reigning Offensive MVP Brant McCreadie found his rhythm with his receiving corps, liberally distributing the pigskin to Eddie Ko, Danny Cepeda and Nate Baza. But it was diminutive rookie tailback Jess Manglona who proved to be the workhorse for the Cars Plus backfield, repeatedly coming up with big yardage plays, including taking a 12-yard swing pass on 3rd-and-long during the game's final drive in the third overtime period to setup Veimana.
And in the end, that's all it took. One play, done. Veimana went in standing up. The fans, on their feet the entire time, went crazy. Every player, coach, official and fan was absolutely spent. Both teams immediately embraced at midfield with the trademark sportsmanship that's indicative of the entire MFL, but for this rivalry in particular - an open and mutual display of respect after nearly four hours of brutally punishing competition.
It was only the first game in this new season, and in a four-team league where everybody makes the playoffs, it's mathematically inevitable these two titans of the island's gridiron will meet again.
Think both rosters haven't circled that next date on their calendars? Think again.
Make sure to catch the Pepsi Warriors and DOCOMO Chargers today at 2:30pm at the UOG Field in Mangilao, and watch the broadcast of Rams/Angels on KUAM-TV8 at 2pm and again at 7pm on MCV Local2, or streaming on KUAM.com/live
An inmate is found dead at the Department of Correction prison overnight. Corrections officers reported inmate Luis Hocog was found unresponsive inside his Post 16 cell around 11 pm on Friday. The officer contacted the platoon commander of the situation and requested for medical assistance, a news release stated.More >>
An inmate is found dead at the Department of Correction prison overnight. Corrections officers reported inmate Luis Hocog was found unresponsive inside his Post 16 cell around 11 pm on Friday. The officer contacted the platooMore >>