The better team won the Miller Bowl
by Jason Salas
Sunday - the day of rest. That may have well been the scenario in your household this afternoon, but for the 70+ men that took the field in the 2011 Miller Bowl, that certainly wasn't the case. The Miller Football League's championship game capped a phenomenal season of action, living up to all of its ultra-hyped billing. The game sought to definitively bring closure to the ongoing debate about who the best in the business is.
Just as the season started two months prior, so too did it end, with a blood feud between the league's two best teams.
The Shell Hal's Angels defeated their archrivals, the Cars Plus Rams, 30-20, capturing back-to-back MFL titles - a fitting achievement, since through whipping wind, a driving rain and at a breakneck pace, back-to-back is precisely how the Angels players performed on Super Sunday. And in the end, that's how they concluded their season - all for one, one for all. It was a complete team victory.
Milking my lumbar metaphor for all its worth, the Rams, who went undefeated in the regular season, stormed through the playoffs and notched more players on the All-MFL Team than any other squad, found themselves in some very unfamiliar territory: with their backs against the wall.
From kickoff it was all hands on deck by both teams, each firing like a well-oiled V10 engine - loud, fast and intimidating. The Angels and Rams had playmakers lighting it up at every position on all sides of the ball. This was a man's game - if you didn't buckle your chinstrap and bring the heat on every snap, you didn't belong on the gridiron. The tension behind the UOG Field House permeated the air like so many of the smells of the wafting barbecue from fans cheering on their favorite MFL superstars.
Miller Bowl MVP Steve Phillips had the game of his life, as the quarterback threw for 233 yards and 3 touchdowns, while rushing for 59 yards and another score on 11 carries. (It was the most yardage the Rams defensive line gave up all season.) "SP" executed head coach Ivan Shiroma's game plan to perfection - getting the ball to his dangerous wide receivers "The Triplets" in one-on-one coverage situations and letting the pure speed of Josh Bulla, Jared Ada and Mike James blow away the opposing DBs. Did they ever.
All three receivers found the end zone on long passes, each time inciting an eruption from the Angel sideline and their sea of supporters in powder blue. Bulla's go-ahead score late in the 4th, putting the Angels up by 10, evoked the most raucous ovation. They absolutely torched the vaunted Rams secondary, who succumb to the axiom of physics that says trying to catch something running like the wind at full stride while backpedaling isn't going to work.
As I mentioned, for the first time this season the Rams played from behind. They'd never trailed at all in 2011, but were down by 16 points late in the 3rd. As such, for most of the second half Cars Plus abandoned their formidable ground game. Quarterback Brant McCreadie, who had earlier meticulously assessed the Angel defense and audibled liberally throughout the first half, was forced into a hurry-up set to preserve the clock.
Unfazed by the moment, McCreadie led his team back on consecutive scoring drives, narrowing the Angel lead to 3 halfway through the 4th. McCreadie connected with Eddie Ko seven times, as the wily veteran had a monster game, netting 84 yards in his best contribution of the season. He couldn't be stopped going over the middle, keeping the Cars Plus drive alive on numerous occasions.
Shell's pesky wideouts and swarming defensive unit just made too many big plays when their team needed them to, and McCreadie and company never caught up. And what was probably the last pass attempt in the stellar career of the five-time MFL Offensive MVP was intercepted, as Jude Pinaula sealed the win after picking-off McCreadie with 36 seconds left to go in the game.
But it's not like the Angels played flawlessly, either. Shell overcame countless momentum swings, surges in intensity, a string of All-MFL center Josh Walsh's uncharacteristically high snaps in the shotgun, and penalties that were perfectly (and ear-splittingly) categorized by Shiroma using a word I won't reprint here in the interest of career preservation. But time and time again the Angels stuck together, spurred-on by Ada's impassioned halftime speech, with the star receiver repeatedly driving home "FAMILY!" so loud the residents at the nearby dormitory were inspired to suit-up. They played team football - Angel football - and just kept clawing back and kept finding ways to win.
Defensive tackle "Big Drew" Johnson, playing through the indescribable pain of a sports hernia, plugged up the middle of the field and stunted the MFL's top rushing game. Ozzy Sylvia, who lined up all year on the offensive and defensive lines, didn't let anything past him. Rick Hernandez, who redefined commitment by voluntarily suspending his Facebook account so he could concentrate on the title game, was an absolute demon from his outside linebacker slot. The speedy Will Williams, who I predicted would be a huge factor in the Angel offense, played a huge role in the game as an option outlet for Phillips and ran past, around and through Ram defenders. Cornerback Brian Jackson made a critical stop in a goal line stand after committing a costly pass interference penalty earlier in the drive.
Everybody contributed. Everybody was valuable. Everybody got some.
Today's Miller Bowl was simply a game that nobody in attendance in any capacity will ever forget. It was a battle, pure and simple. Lots of guys are going to hurt tomorrow, with several probably aching for awhile after that. But they'll all bear the scars and endure the pain of a noble quest with a priceless payoff. It's yet another thing they'll have in common together…as a family.
So enough dancing around the issue. Who is the better team? That's a perpetual argument. The only undisputable truth is that the team that played best on this day won the 2011 Miller Bowl.
And that team, and for all time, was the Angels.
Now that the season's over, Jason Salas, who writes his weekly column "MFL Rocks!" on KUAM.com and does play-by-play for Miller Football League games for KUAM-TV, is all out of similes, metaphors, analogies, anecdotes, allusions, allegories and all other literary devices.