MFL 2011: a look back - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

MFL 2011: a look back

by Jason Salas

Guam - Over the course of another successful two-month season, Guam was treated to incredible action in the Miller Football League with a cornucopia of storylines, personalities and scenarios that made The MFL Experience like nothing else in island sports. So with the playoffs now upon us, I'm basing my column on an age-old (and debatably lazy) television trope: the end-of-season clip show.
 
So for those of you still reading at this point, here's a retroactive look at the 2011 season.
 
This never gets old...
The 2011 season couldn't have kicked-off in more dramatic fashion, as last year's championship game saw the mutual dislike between the Cars Plus Rams and Shell Hal's Angels renewed in absolute nail-biting fashion. In a driving rain, both teams played to a tie and sludged through an exhausting three overtime periods before Rams fullback Anthony Viemanu punched-in the walkoff touchdown from 2 yards out.
 
It was the perfect cardiac ending to a nearly four-hour exhibition of the game's best rivalry, setting the tone for the rest of the season.

The return of Tommy Gun
Two games in, Pepsi starting quarterback Eric Fejeran aggravated an already injured ankle, breaking it midweek during practice. Head coach Loring Cruz placed a call to an old friend, Tommy Morrison. The gesture proved to be the difference in the Warriors' season, with Morrison injecting instant leadership and willing his team to consecutive victories. The Umatac native helped secure the Warriors a 2nd place standing until being upset by the Angels in the regular season finale.

The multisport star - Morrison's also training for the Pacific Games this fall where he'll start at pitcher for Team Guam Baseball - was able to find rhythm with veteran receiver Sandy Fejeran and exploit the young talent of Stephen "Juice" Santos, Mychal Borja and Keola Fernandez. He's brought strong guidance to a promising squad.

And upon returning to the gridiron after a year's hiatus, he was all smiles. "This is so much fun, I'm glad to be back", Morrison said. Couldn't put it any better myself.

Big Mac gets one for the thumb
2011 crowned the league's first five-time Offensive Most Valuable Player, Rams quarterback Brant McCreadie. The former Milwaukee Brewers minor league pitcher, sportscaster and now entrepreneur had a better season than he had last year, in which he also won the honor.
 
While the 41-year-old signalcaller said his team was a run-first offense, he had his most efficient QB rating of his MFL career, finding his best target in 38-year-old Danny Cepeda, who also had his best season in years.

The call of the year
"Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please...the Miller Football League kindly requests that you NOT sit on the scoreboard." ‘Nuff said.

Heavenly triplets
No one could have predicted that three receivers from the same team - much less a veteran coming back from a broken collar bone and two rookies - would finish the regular season first, second and third in yardage. No one, perhaps, except for the Angels wideouts themselves - a trifecta of athletes whose play is equal parts stunning, selfless and supportive.

Newlywed and expectant father Jared Ada led the league in yards, catches and receiving touchdowns. North Concord, California's Josh Bulla didn't play until the third game, but the former junior college player made quite the introduction with 11 grabs against the Warriors, dazzling the crowd and confusing defensive backs with his deceptive moves. And Mike James proved that you don't mess with Texas, as the Fort Worth native showed off mercurial breakaway speed, leading the league with a 23.4 yards after catch average.

Built Ram tough
Four playing as one, one playing as four - that's all you need to know about the 2011 Rams defensive line. "Baby Joe" Taimanglo, Ashton Adams, Roque Martinez and Leonard Kaae were the primary reason this was a year no opposing team rushed for more than 42 years per game on the Rams. The front four was absolutely dominant all season long, forcing the most turnovers of any team.
 
On a defense loaded with talent, the Cars Plus quartet collectively proved to be THE standout star.

Nickname-a-palooza
One of the truly fun things about calling MFL games is sharing the stage with the master: The Voice of the MFL, public address announcer Phil Leon Guerrero. Andy Wheeler and I call the games for broadcasts, but it's Phil that works the crowd. And for more than a decade he's adorned the league's superstars with memorable nicknames. So it's with great joy that we were able to add a verse to this ongoing symphony.

In addition to mainstays and fan favorites like Mike "Oh No" Kono, Ryan "Chairman of the Board" Rios, Allan "Say Ow" Blend, Mike "Malojloj Madness" Meno, "Curly" Chandler, Emonty "Means Business" Means; and some recent handles like Justin "The Shocker" Cruz, "Big Island" Billy Pahulu, Andrew "Terminator" Staats, The A-Bomb (Ashton Adams), Brian "Big Country" Kitson, and Ryan "Mr. Biggs" Bigler, Andy came up with some gems of his own for some of the sport's more entertaining personalities.

In our Week 6 broadcast, Andy dubbed 6'5"/240-lb. Warriors guard Mike Tamua "The Condominium" and Mike Pangelinan "Mass Transit" after the Angels fullback lumbered ahead for a big gain.

(Personally, I'm ashamed that we've got receivers named Sandy and Danny (Fejeran and Cepeda), and neither of us attempted to make a single "Grease" reference all season.)

Red & black & blue
An interesting sidebar to this year's season was the overlooked but undoubtedly felt defensive presence of the DOCOMO Chargers. The team suffered its second straight winless season, giving up 118 unanswered points in the first three games before scoring on a pick-6 (more on that in a moment). But throughout, the Chargers played inspired defense, struggling through teammates having to fulfill military duties to guys dropping out, eventually playing iron man football their last game, with most of the defensive unit lining up in the backfield or on the line.
 
They put together an impressive highlight reel of hits and stops, despite their outcome, and were one of the most-fun teams to watch.
 
Which leads us to (clever segue)...

In the Mix
…a star was born in Week 3, as Chargers middle linebacker T.C. Mix juggled a tipped McCreadie pass, taking the pigskin 60 yards to the house for DOCOMO's first score of the season. From that point on, Mix became the focal point of his team's defensive unit, the guy teams were forced to game plan against. And still, the Motor City native and Air Force firefighter continued to make big play after big play.
 
He would eventually be an obvious KUAM All-MFL Team pick, as well a finalist for Defensive MVP.
 
Bon Jovi (FINALLY!) gets the Old Yeller treatment
A running gag with players, coaches, fans and certain broadcasters who will go unnamed has always been the repetitively uncreative background music at the UOG Field on gameday. In short, you'd be treated to former radio disc jockey James Castro's iPod…which evidently only contains Bon Jovi's "Slippery When Wet" CD and "Welcome to the Jungle". It's as if the music industry ceased to exist after 1987.  
 
Fortunately, Tropical Productions promotions extraordinaire John Galu Muna mercifully decided to open up his eclectic iTunes library in Week 3 to immediate rave reviews. There's now a healthy mix of tracks - hip-hop, nu metal, reggae, country, classic rock - that everyone enjoys.

Old dudes can still play
I wrote last week about how the MFL's older generation still gets it done. There's a whole bunch of guys in the 40-and-over club who not only put on pads, but will soon have to consider AARP benefits. You know who you are.
 
And a child shall lead them
The rookie that led all rookies, pocket-sized tailback Jess "Pompy" Manglona, combined quicksilver speed with Paul Bunyan toughness, handily winning the league rushing title by racking up 370 yards from scrimmage and scoring 4 touchdowns. His ability to cut in traffic and dash behind his massive linemen made him the MFL's top backfield threat, and a finalist for Offensive MVP - the first rookie to earn the honor since legendary Angels running back Scott Persing in the late-90s.
 
Socially networked
The unofficial postseason award for Best Team Presence on Facebook is split between the Chargers and Angels. I highly doubt Mark Zuckerberg is a fan of our league, but his players certainly were quick to post status messages and multimedia about their practices, gameday hype, trashtalk, pride and stats. They were also incredibly gracious, accepting any friend request, interacting with fans and each other, injecting into the game a human element not seen before.
 
Talented-yet-temperamental
Ivan Shiroma might have a few more gray hairs than when he started out the 2011 season. As much as the Angel coach would like to keep the dirty little secret that is Steve Phillips' outbursts swept conveniently under the carpet, the ugly truth of the matter is that despite his phenomenal ability, the star quarterback's rants can get quite public, quite often.

SP had his best season ever, being the only QB to pass for over 1,000 yards, throw 10 TDs and rush for 6 scores; he was also 4th in the league in rushing. But his questionable leadership can juxtapose his gaudy numbers, as he's been known to storm off the field after a bad series or blown call, chuck his helmet and pout on the sideline, or even engage in scraps with teammates that escalate beyond just verbal confrontations.

He's a gifted athlete and big-game playmaker and the odds-on favorite for next year's preseason Offensive MVP with McCreadie having announced his retirement. I don't at all doubt his desire to win. But in a sport where tempers run high, he shoulders the burden of a position where you just can't afford to throw tantrums.

In Sunday's playoff against Pepsi, a costly muffed punt return by the Warriors with 1:06 left to go in the game gave Phillips one last shot at victory. SP simply took over the game with his arm, legs and heart. He was clearly the best player on the field in engineering the game-winning drive. Afterward he wasted no time in thanking his teammates and their effort. This was a completely different man than the frustrated quarterback I saw on occasion earlier in the season.

It was a glimpse at the future.
 
"Franchise #88"
The island was shocked to learn of the death of Pepsi Warriors wide receiver Steve Alcantara on February 26, as the MFL mourned the loss of one of its most popular players. Alcantara's teammates joined his parents, girlfriend and the Angels at midfield before kickoff of their season finale for a prayer for their fallen friend.
 
Both teams wore "88" helmet stickers and many of the Angels wore items of red clothing to honor the former GW Gecko and athlete his teammates affectionately called "Franchise". It was THE moment of the season...and one of the most touching moments I've ever seen in sports.
 
Alcantara was also a star pitcher in the Budweiser Baseball League, where fittingly the Bank of Guam Athletics will retire his #27 jersey.

---
So there you have it. The 2011 MFL season in a nutshell. A year unlike any other we've covered. And with the Edward M. Calvo Cup up for grabs in next weekend's Miller Bowl with the Angels and Rams, there's one more chapter to add to this great story. Like most of you, I can't wait to see how it all turns out.
 
See you at the field on Sunday!


In addition to writing his weekly column "MFL Rocks!" and doing play-by-play for KUAM, Jason Salas plays volleyball...which is about as fundamentally, philosophically and testosteronally opposite as you can get from the gridiron.

  • NEWS HEADLINESMore>>

  • DJ Ludwick arrested for terrorizing with a gun

    DJ Ludwick arrested for terrorizing with a gun

    He apparently wanted to be the victim's boyfriend when he allegedly threatened her with a gun. DJ Ludwick is charged with terrorizing, possession of a firearm without a firearms ID, and possession of an altered identifying marking of a firearm. Court docuMore >>
    He apparently wanted to be the victim's boyfriend when he allegedly threatened her with a gun. DJ Ludwick is charged with terrorizing, possession of a firearm without a firearms ID, and possession of an altered identifying marking of a firearm. Court docuMore >>
  • Man hit by car on Ypao Road

    Man hit by car on Ypao Road

    Police have blocked off both lanes along Ypao Road in Tamuning after a man is hit by a car Sunday evening. It happened in front of the Wyndham Garden suites just before 7pm. Witnesses say the unidentified man was walking along the road when the accident occurred. He was rushed to the hospital, but his condition has not yet been 

    More >>

    Police have blocked off both lanes along Ypao Road in Tamuning after a man is hit by a car Sunday evening. It happened in front of the Wyndham Garden suites just before 7pm. Witnesses say the unidentified man was walking along the road when the accident occurred. He was rushed to the hospital, but his condition has not yet been released. Two women believed to have been inside the car at the time o

    More >>
  • Former university professor Ehlert taking UOG to Supreme Court

    Former university professor Ehlert taking UOG to Supreme Court

    Longtime University of Guam psychology professor Dr. Michael Ehlert is taking his former employer to the Supreme Court. Dr. Ehlert, as we reported, was tried and convicted for two counts of felony criminal sexual conduct. That guilty verdict was rendered More >>
    Longtime University of Guam psychology professor Dr. Michael Ehlert is taking his former employer to the Supreme Court. Dr. Ehlert, as we reported, was tried and convicted for two counts of felony criminal sexual conduct. That guilty verdict was rendered More >>
Powered by Frankly