Conference Semifinals Recap
4. Philadelphia Bulldogs upset 1. Orlando Rockets, 17-10
Trevor Harris wasn’t bad, but his inexperience in big games might have cost the defending championship and caused them to go one and done in the playoffs. Harris completed just 10-of-16 passes and had a touchdowns, but also an interception that set up a first quarter first goals and gave Philly their first points of the game. Then, Orlando missed a field goal and just couldn’t put a struggling Bulldogs team away when they had the change. Jay Ajayi and Michael Vick finally put things together in the fourth quarter and scored two touchdowns, including one in the final minute of the game for the upset.
2. San Antonio Marshalls topple 3. Pittsburgh Forge, 24-10
It was sort of projected. What would happen when the high-powered Pittsburgh offense met a really worthy defensive opponent and could their own defense half up enough to give them a shot to win? The answer was no for the Forge as Bo Levi Mitchell picked them apart and Khiry Robinson finished in close with another two touchdowns in the game to put the Marshalls in the Empire Conference championship game. But it’s impossible for the Forge to be upset with this season even despite some immediate disappointment. For an expansion team to win their division is amazing on it’s own. But the Marshalls are just ready to try to win it all now.
4. Los Angeles Stars repeat upset of 1. Seattle Orcas, 13-9
For a second straight time against them, Case Keenum stuck it to his former team. Just a few weeks ago Keenum led the Stars to an upset victory over the Orcas. This time, he did it again on a much bigger stage. All year long the Orcas looked like they were the best team in the league with Isaiah Crowell having just a dominant record-breaking season, and the defense being one of the very best in league history. But Keenum and the Stars pulled off another shocker. But looking a little deeper, the Orcas might have to start looking for a better option at quarterback. Ryan Griffin wasn’t bad, but only 50-percent completions and 112 yards in a playoff game like this just won’t cut it. The problem is he’s never been a guy who will do more than that. The Stars were able to key in on Crowell and by relatively limiting him to just 82 yards and no scores, Griffin couldn’t make up the difference. Now the Stars are in the championship game and Keenum will be out to prove he can win even bigger games.
3. Carolina Generals conquer 2. Michigan Stags in overtime, 30-27
On paper this looked like a mismatch, but the Generals made their doubters eat some crow with a big overtime victory over a powerhouse Michigan Stags team. The equalizer was kicker returner Josh Huff, who had two huge return touchdowns to make up for the Generals having only 146 yards of total offense in the game. The Stags rushed for 211 yards and three touchdowns compared to only 32 yards by Carolina running backs. Erik Meyer also had a fairly inefficient passing game, but he didn’t make any mistakes. Once again, Zach Collaros failed to step up in a big game, throwing two picks that proved to be very costly. One of those picks came in the fourth quarter and led to a quick Generals touchdown. The other came in overtime and on his own side of the field. Travis Coons booted in the 38-yarder to win the game with no problem.
Conference Championship Preview
Empire Conference Championship Game
2. San Antonio Marshalls vs. 4. Philadelphia Bulldogs
Two teams build in different ways but executing quite similarly. The Marshalls’ top guy is quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, who wants to do nothing more but add a championship trophy next to his MVP to further solidify himself as one of the greats. But the Marshalls have been way more than just a team with a great armed-quarterback. They are perhaps the most complete team in the league this year, and definitely seem to be the most complete team left in the playoffs. Khiry Robinson and Jacquizz Rodgers have been a tremendous thunder and lightning duo in the backfield, with Rodgers having a great comeback type of season and picking up huge yards while Robinson has punched in 22 touchdowns through the season and the first round of the playoffs. And defensively, they are a bench but don’t break unit, largely because of their tremendous pass rush. That pass rush might cause some problems for Michael Vick, who has been tremendous at not making mistakes and turning the ball over this year, but at 37 years old doesn’t have the rushing ability that once made him the most electrifying player in the game. The Bulldogs will need to run the ball with Jay Ajayi, who has had an epic season, only overshadowed by an even more epic season by Isaiah Crowell. But giving the ball to Ajayi, the Bulldogs can avoid the pass rush, wear down a defense that gives up yards, and keep Mitchell and company off the field. It’s a very interesting matchup, and the playing style that wins earns a spot in the title game.
Pick: San Antonio Marshalls
Metropolitan Conference Championship Game
3. Carolina Generals vs. 4. Los Angeles Stars
It seemed like a sure bet that the Seattle Orcas and Michigan Stags would be playing in this game but both were upset because their quarterbacks just couldn’t get it done on the bigger stages of the playoffs. So now, the Generals will be hosting the Stars in one of the least likely conference championship tilts we’ve seen. The Generals used two huge kick returns to get into this Metropolitan Conference Championship game. The Stars had quarterback Case Keenum leave them to victory. This one is a toss up because the Generals cannot bank on Josh Huff having another effort like he did, and it is possible that Keenum’s big game was fueled by a little bit of extra emotion going against a team that didn’t give him much of a chance. But when it comes time to pick a winner, the quarterback with the higher ceiling has to be the pick.
Pick: Los Angeles Stars
Andre Ellington won’t re-sign with Orlando
Perhaps it seems obvious, but running back Andre Ellington’s agent announced that his client will no re-sign with the Orlando Rockets and will hit the free agent market this fall. Ellington rushed for 1,629 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2015 but unexpectedly dropped on the depth chart and has less than 400 rushing yards combined in 2016 and 2017. The Rockets deep backfield with Devonta Freeman, Jerome Messam and Robert Kelley makes Ellington want to find a new home in 2018 where he can once again be the undisputed top guy in the backfield. Ellington is only 28 years old and was a second round draft pick by the Rockets in 2013. He’s rushed for 3,397 yards and 34 touchdowns in his career.