Written by: Kevin Kardasz (@kevinn_up on Twitter)
Nail biters came BACK for another round, thankfully we got yet another fantastic week of games in the FCF. The storylines are slowly clashing as the season winds down and almost the entire league looks poised to enter a tiebreaker in some way or another. Even outside of the team storylines, individual players continue to win over fans, but we’ll get to them soon. I’ll once again try to condense this but as we all know it probably won’t shorten the read at all, let’s begin.
Game 1 – Shoulda Been Stars (24) v Zappers (28)
Yup, read that title again, run it back one more time for me, the Zappers are in the win column for the first time this season. On the tail end of a slightly controversial 3 team trade that, most importantly here, sent QB Jason Stewart to the Zappers in light of the likely season ending Kelly Bryant injury, the Zappers got it done. On the flip side, the Stars who started the first 3 weeks undefeated have continued to slide and now sit at 3-2, with what just feels like lackluster play.
Zappers nation, I extend my formal congratulations to each and every one of you, you kept your slim yet existent playoff chances alive, and got your first win of the season. Let’s begin with the obvious, Jason Stewart might be “him” and the deep ball only narrative might be flawed. Stew was stellar, he threw a 5 for 11, 83 passing yard, 3 touchdown, 1 interception game in the air, and added 32 rushing yards. To say he was the X-Factor would be downplaying his impact on the game. His 3 passing touchdowns came in the forms of 19, 22, and 32 yard passing bombs (50 yard field in case you forgot), he made the right reads, and made the right plays. The only real knock against him is his interception was indeed taken back for a score, but to that I say. Scoreboard?
For the Stars, I think it’s time to be a little cautionary but still somewhat optimistic about your chances to make the playoffs. Jarman went 10 for 19, had 116 yards, 2 touchdowns, and an interception, but it just never felt like it was going to amount to a winning effort. The Stars have now lost back to back games against teams looking for their first win, and it really is demoralizing. Tyis Boykin continues to be a bright spot for the team as he hauled in 54 yards and a score, but the Stars simply didn’t have it against a team they probably should have been able to put away. With Galloway’s status in constant limbo, I truly worry for the rest of their season.
Game 2 – 8oki (28) v Kingpins (34)
I was wrong, 8oki is NOT going 5-2, but wow does this team manage to constantly lose in some heartbreaking ways. Whether it’s a painful blowout or a close game they simply refuse to finish, it’s not pretty when they lose. The Kingpins on the other hand have refused to let themselves fall out of the picture as they clawed for their second win in a row to inch closer to a possible playoff tie breaker.
Looking at 8oki is just messy, on paper Kidd’s 10-17 effort in the air, for 162 yards and 4 scores with 2 interceptions (his second came on a last play endzone heave so take it as you wish) would generally be enough to win. Malcolm Ballard had by far his best game of the season with 70 rushing yards and 56 receiving yards while hauling in 2 scores. Even Malik Elion, who has had an unusually quiet season, had a breakout game with 57 receiving yards and a score, but it wasn’t, and honestly I’ve run out of answers. Ballard for the second week in a row had a horribly timed fumble this time while crossing into the endzone, and had that gone in, the game completely changes. It didn’t help that 8oki’s fans were on the wrong side of a fan missed call that involved a Pins touchdown that was very obviously not a touchdown. This 2 game losing streak has been brutal to watch.
Meanwhile the Pins continue to fight, and so do their players. Brandon Silvers was awarded the start this game, and within about 6 plays received the biggest hit of the season from Cecil Cherry which sent his helmet flying. It got flagged, and although it really wasn’t an illegal hit, it sent Silvers to the bench for the rest of the game and allowed Tirri Jones to pick it up again. And pick it up he did, for the first time this season TJ had a passing performance that wasn’t horrible, throwing 4 for 7, for 72 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions. That combined with 37 yards on the ground was just enough to get the job done as the Pins rode the legs of Daryl Virgies as well while he powered them with 56 rushing yards and 2 more scores. It was a complete effort from a team that needs a complete turnaround and as of now? The turnaround is on.
Game 3 – BAFC (24) v KOD (22)
The game that most people were excited for refused to disappoint the masses. In the 3 team deal that dealt Jason Stewart to the Zappers, it also sent Terrell Owens to the Knights with star receiver Jacoby Herring. The new look knights offense is so ridiculously powerful that the only thing other fans would like to do with it is look the other way. However, the team with the best record in the FCF has it for a reason, and the Apes really brought their team together to rally round perhaps the most star studded roster in the FCF.
The Apes kept Francois playing in a smaller role as has been the usual but he has now adopted the usual as his best possible play style. Francois completed 6-12 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for 76 yards and two more scores. They seem unstoppable, if there was a team I’d choose to beat these Apes it would be this week’s Knights and the fact it didn’t happen is a little scary. Jakobie Baker continues to chase his week 1 magic and this week had another rushing touchdown, while Darren Woods also continues to play at a high level with a touchdown of his own. It really feels like there isn’t much to say, this Apes squad is the championship favorite in my eyes and they absolutely play like it.
Knights of Degen didn’t exactly have the debut they hoped for with their new pieces, and it came on a lot of the arm of Ed Crouch who went a mere 6-15 with 125 yards, 2 scores and 1 interception. Outside of one touchdown run, Ed was largely shut down in the run game and it really made their offense less three dimensional than it ever has been. The teams swapped end of game touchdowns but it just wasn’t enough to overcome the 2 point deficit they faced as a team at the end. Terrell Owens only had a single catch on 5 targets but look for that to improve as the QB and WR build up chemistry. The biggest take away here is once again not the Knights, it’s just how good the Apes are.
Game 4 – Glacier Boyz (34) v Beasts (18)
Is Chris Barrett really him? Wow is this dude having the most random yet welcome career turnaround in the FCF and it’s been breathtaking to watch. The Beasts on the other hand performed about as well as I had expected for a team that lost it’s #1 or #2 WR on the roster, not very well. Alphonso Howard, try as he might, was the only good thing going for the Beasts.
Phonso truly has continued to impress, at every level he has truly been a joy to watch succeed. He went 10-20, had 152 passing yards, and 3 touchdowns with not a single interception, but was shut down on the ground which forced him to air it out more than he ever has, and he really was the farthest person from the problem this game. The Beasts had a whopping 4 total rushing yards and it was a back breaker that forced their offense to be super linear and one dimensional. Jordus Smith added 92 receptions and a touchdown but his usual end around runs just got stuffed. It felt like truly only one player on the entire field could ever find a rhythm and that was Phonso while the rest of the team let the Boyz run up the score on them.
The QB carousel turns its head around again, and Chris Barrett has taken the opportunity with pride. 7-14 in the air, 82 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception plus a rushing touchdown capped off his first career FCF win as a starter and he relished the moment. For a guy who remained undrafted until the last draft, and when he did get playing time looked rough, Barrett has turned in the other direction. Sure, he isn’t in the upper echelon of QBs but he’s far from the worst and it makes it impossible to dislike what he’s doing, The Chris and AJ connection has taken a monumental leap forward as AJ caught 5 passes for 71 yards and 2 scores, if this duo continues to burn defenses they could be a legitimate threat in the playoffs. They’ll need to keep fighting to secure a playoff spot but for the sake of watching clutch time Chris, I’m hoping it happens.