Written by: Kevin Kardasz (@kevinn_up on Twitter)
Miracles, they’ve come in bunches for an 8oki squad that just barely slipped into the playoffs. It took pivotal plays in each of the 4 wins, big plays, deep catches, bruising runs, it took grit. The 8oki fanbase is one of the smallest in the league, it’s run by a close group of fans, and an even more impactful leader, Mitch Kidd.
Mitch Kidd, one of the front runners for Offensive Player of the Year, has been one of the most vocal player to fan leaders the league has ever seen. But not only that, it’s taken composure in the biggest moments to take one of the more improbable squads to the playoffs. It was never for lack of talent, it was untimely meltdowns, offensively stagnant performances, but in the end it failed to keep them out.
Going into week 6, the situation for the 8oki’s looked grim, they sat at 2-3, sat behind two of the biggest powerhouses in the FCF and it looked like a wrap. It wasn’t just that, the two powerhouses? The Knights and the Apes, were the last two stops on the schedule for the 8oki’s, it would take two wins against the best to have a chance. First stop, Bored Ape Football Club.
It would only take a performance of historic proportions to beat the Apes (Final: 34-22), not by Mitch Kidd, but by running back Malcolm Ballard. Setting the FCF’s individual single game touchdown record (5), Ballard ran, cut, and bruised his way to a legendary game that left the 8oki fate in their own hands going into the week 7 showdown against the Knights.
The Knights game was perhaps the greatest in FCF history, with the first half slipping from the hands of the 8oki’s and Mitch Kidd capping the half with an interception, the team would shift into familiar territory. Playing from behind is something Mitch is far from new to, every single win to this point had been won on come from behind heroics. Mitch Kidd passed to Joseph Boykin for a walk-off touchdown in week 1 against the Kingpins. He drove and completed a double overtime win against the Beasts in week 3, and in week 6 they came from behind even with Ballard’s heroic game to take the pivotal win.
The last 5 minutes of the game saw 8oki draw a pivotal pass interference call, and Patrick Smith Jr catch one of the biggest throws of the year to save the season. And in the end, even a 40 yard 1 play touchdown run wasn’t enough to take the super powered Knights to the playoffs. In the tiebreaking shootout that came minutes after, Mitch completed two passes to Boykin and Smith that finished the trek to the playoffs for good.
Keys for 8oki advancing to the Championship
- Don’t shy away from letting Mitch Kidd make big time plays, his 5 interceptions on the year shouldnt detract from the elite level passing Mitch shows on a night to night basis. His deep balls connecting haven’t been luck, they’re well placed, timely, and most importantly, they’re big time. Let Mitch continue to direct the offense, it’s gotten the team to good spots before.
- Malik Elion needs to sweep, a lot. The speed that Elion possesses, blows the tops off of secondaries, and keeps defenses honest. The RPO (Run Pass Option) game keeps the team operating on all 3 levels, and Elion can play in 2 of the 3. Whether he’s running out of the backfield for a route or actually carrying the ball, his presence opens up the air for others, and even himself. Keep Elion running, it’s what he does best.
- The D-Block has been pivotal in the last two weeks of 8oki play, they’ve forced big time 4th and 5th downs, and have come up with timely stops along with that. 8oki has the fewest interceptions on the year, with only 1, rather than hope fortunes turn around, let Slick Nick and the suffocating defensive line keep the Apes run game in check and Francois in the pocket.
- Ballard, Boykin, Smith, I’ll keep it short. Each of these players has been heroic, they’ve been pivotal, they’re winners. Let the big 3 play, continue to call plays, converse with Mitch, and let your big time guys make big time plays.
Miracles only go so far, but 8oki’s split their season series against the Apes, they’ve beaten them before and when Francois played the block kept him to a 2-11 passing performance. Feel the energy, last week was a playoff game, and the pressure was at an all time high, do it again.
**EDIT** QB Mitch Kidd is currently in COVID protocols and will be a game-time decision in this Saturday’s playoff game.