It was the always interesting blue blood vs. upstart championship game, but the Orlando Rockets made it very clear quite early they were out to prove why they are considered to be the premier organization in the SFL with a 49-9 beatdown of the New Orleans Nightmare at Ford Field in the SFL Grand Finale XIX.
Under the guidance of long-time owner Jeff Stoicescu, the Rockets earned their third championship as Devonta Freeman led the way with 245 rushing yards and three total touchdowns on his way to being named the Grand Finale MVP. Trevor Harris also silenced all doubters with four passing touchdowns and 342 yards through the air as he won his first title as the team’s starting quarterback, replacing the legendary Ricky Ray.
The game didn’t start out all that great for Harris, though. He was picked off by DJ White on the first drive of the game and Lance Geesey put the Nightmare on the board with a 33 yard field goal just over five minutes into the game. But he rebounded well. It took the Rockets only three plays to get into the endzone to take a lead they never dropped and it was capped off by a 21-yard touchdown pass to Eric Rogers.
Rogers capped off a legendary season for a wide receiver with nine receptions for 218 yards and two touchdowns in the title game. His second touchdown game just four seconds before halftime and gave Orlando a commanding lead.
Before that big Orlando run, New Orleans was able to get back within one point before the end of the first quarter with a second Geesey field goal. But at 7-6, that was a close as the Nightmare would get. Orlando scored 28 points in the second quarter and hadded anotehr touchdown in the third quarter to make it 35 unanswered points.
Harris started the run with a 25-yard touchdown pass to tight end Luke Willson before Freeman ran in two touchdowns. His second rushing touchdown was a 51-yard breakaway run. Harris followed up with a 47-yard touchdown pass to Rogers with just four seconds remaining in the game to make it a 35-6 lead at the break.
While Harris was completing long passes, it was the gashing of the defense by Freeman that was opening everything up. In the second half, Orlando switched to a 5-2 defense and put Brad Kaaya out at quarterback, hoping to spark a comeback. Defensively, the 5-2 defense worked as the Rockets only scored two more touchdowns. But offensively, Kaaya was taken back out quickly and Aaron Murray returned to the field after just four passing attempts. That didn’t spark it the offense either. New Orleans managed just one more field goal by Geesey before the end of the game.
In the second half, Harris threw a 25 yard touchdown pass to Freeman and in the final few minutes Jerome Messam ran in a touchdown from 10 yards out.
Orlando won their second time in three years and third since 2013. Head coach Larry Coker, who has been at the helm of the franchise since 2008, announced his retirement after the game.