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Avengers set for post-season

POSTED: July 2, 2014 12:00 p.m.
Adam Wynn/Barrow County News

The Winder Avengers listen to unofficial head coach Les “Brother Pineapple” Vinluan after Monday’s game.

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In a game defined by turnovers, the Winder Avengers flag football team wrapped up their season Monday night with a devastating 43-12 loss to Gorilla Warfare in the Silverbacks indoor flag football league.

“Obviously it’s not the outcome we wanted or expected, you always go in expecting to win, but I think it came down to turnovers,” quarterback and team co-founder James Joyner said after the loss.

Monday’s loss was the last game before the Avengers (1-6) start their playoff appearance next Monday.

The Avengers tossed five interceptions while taking away a trio of balls from Gorilla Warfare (4-3) over the 46-minute game. Both teams also grabbed one additional interception each on PAT attempts.

“We had quite a few turnovers on offense, and I think that really played a part in the final score,” Joyner added. “It was enough to alter the game and I think it was a big key in what happened.”

Gorilla Warfare opened the game on a four-minute drive that covered nearly the full length of the field and ended with Kevin Daniels snagging the interception for the Avengers. The Warfare’s receivers bobbled a pass in the end zone on the play before that would have given them an early lead just three minutes in.

The Avengers sustained a five-minute drive that similarly spanned the field, but just like they had done to their opponent, the drive ended with an end zone interception.

That next possession would prove to be a short one for the Warfare, though, as Daniels would net his second interception of the night on their third play for scrimmage. The Avengers managed to deflect the ball up and Daniels brought it in and made a nice return to give Winder goal to go for the second time that night.

While their first trip to that end of the field had ended unfortunately for Winder, the Avengers made good on this possession when Marquis Mitchell ran through the defense and split a pair of men with intents on pulling his flag for the score. With almost 13 minutes gone, the Avengers found themselves up 6-0 after the PAT attempt was intercepted.

As slow as the scoring had come at first, Gorilla Warfare turned on the jets to grab their first touchdown just two minutes time on the running clock after Winder’s touchdown. They started the drive with a deep pass that put them on the opposite end of the field, setting up the quarterback for the short keeper on the second play. 

Winder’s Daniels would intercept the point after pass off the wall to kill the attempt, keeping the score tied 6-6 for a little while longer.

Deep in their own territory to start the next drive, the Avengers hoped to build on their last drive’s success. Unfortunately, an untimely interception and short return gave the Warfare a 12-6 lead just three minutes after they had been trailing 6-0.

Daniel Joyner would deflect the Warfare pass for the point after attempt, keeping the six-point deficit on the board, but the lead and the momentum had already swung over to the other side.

A short reception and two incomplete passes quickly ended the Avengers’ next drive with just a minute from the clock, giving the Warfare two more possessions before the half with which to do plenty of damage.

After a long reception along the wall set up a quick touchdown pass for the Warfare with about two minutes left to play, armed with a successful two-point PAT to make the score 20-6, the Avengers had one last chance to score in the first half in an attempt to close the gap.

Unfortunately, that chance turned sour quickly as the opposing players snagged their third interception of the night and nearly returned it for a score.

Two incomplete passes delayed the inevitable, but Gorilla Warfare made a six-point connection on a short throw to the middle of the end zone with less than 15 seconds to go. They would catch the two-point PAT with no time on the clock, letting the Avengers get one more shot.

James Joyner handed off to Mitchell for a full-length rush attempt, but the play went nowhere and kicked off the short halftime with Winder down 28-6 and a long way to go.

Winder started the second half with a dramatic drive that sapped nearly six minutes off the clock, though, and looked to be back in the thick of it very quickly.

On a vital fourth down play, brought on by a run for no gain, a short pass and an incompletion, Joyner’s pass to Colton Major was almost shy of the gain with two defenders right on him, but the receiver found a way to break through and gained nearly half the field before his flag was pulled.

Mitchell took one pass for a first down on the next play before Major hauled in a scoring reception to try and bring the Avengers back within reach of the game. 

The Avenger defense once again pushed the Warfare to a fourth down situation and looked to have secured their shot at getting back on top, but a deep pass to the middle of the field from near their own end zone, followed by a blazing run towards the score, gave the Gorilla Warfare their fifth touchdown of the night and a 35-12 lead after an additional point after. 

The game went from bad to worse as a deflected pass in the midfield fell back to the Warfare, although Major would grab his second interception of the night with an end zone grab to give the ball right back to the Avengers. 

“It definitely boosted the team and changed morale,” Joyner said, also referencing Daniels’ two interceptions. “It really means a lot when players come up big like that, even when we’re down. It was great to see us get some turnovers on the defensive side of the ball, as well.”

After Major made himself a force on defense, Gorilla Warfare’s quarterback started to move up in the pocket intentionally drawing Major back towards the line before passing. Major was just a step or two away from sacking the opposing quarterback on a number of plays, but Warfare played on his ability to penetrate and used that to keep him from being a threat in the secondary.

Major would also snatch a completion on a shovel pass by Joyner for a first down on the drive and set up what could have been a great scoring opportunity.

However, the oversized defenders grabbed a deflected pass off the wall that was intended for Mitchell in the end zone.

It took just two plays, one of which required a little trickeration on the hook-and-lateral after a pass to midfield, before the Warfare grabbed their sixth and final touchdown of the night, along with a two-point PAT, to go up 43-12.

The Avengers had one more drive to try and keep the game alive, and it nearly resulted in a score. Mitchell took a short pass the distance for an apparent touchdown, but the official called him for flag guarding and brought the ball back to the opposite end zone for third down.

Joyner’s pass to Major was short of the first down and a fourth down incompletion with 8:10 on the clock prompted the official to call the game due to the deficit.

The Avengers will return to the Suwanee facility next Monday night for their first playoff game of the season and will bring with them a new strategy with thoughts on how to minimize turnovers.

“The overall consensus of what we see is that when we went deep, it ended up in turnovers,” Joyner acknowledged, referencing strategy partly developed by the team’s unofficial coach, Les “Brother Pineapple” Vinluan. “What we’re really going to worry about is the next first down and try to effectively move the ball down the field. Obviously, more time of possession usually means more scoring.

“Go short, try to get the first downs, score effectively, tighten up defense and all around just make the plays we want to make.”

The offense looked solid for much of the game, but some key plays fell foul at the worst moment to prevent a comeback.

“It’s definitely frustrating, especially on the long pass in the second half to Marquis. It looked like he was going to catch it, but it went into the cornerback’s hands and what could have been a touchdown turned into an interception,” Joyner mentioned.

“Even though our record is 1-6, I think we have some things to be positive about going into the playoffs. I think if we come out, we had a few drives that went really well, but if we come out in the playoffs like we did on those first drives, we could win the game and make it to the next round,” Joyner added.

Even if the season ends next Monday with an early playoff exit, the Avengers have enjoyed every minute of the journey and will keep coming back for more every chance they get with the hopes of building a championship team and with the promise of building great relationships.

“Obviously we want to have fun, we all love football on our team, but we want to build a great team of guys and win a championship. Our goal is always to win a championship,” Joyner said. “The ultimate goal is always to win a championship and have fun together.

“Most of us are either Winder-Barrow High School alumni or Apalachee High School alumni, so most of us already know each other pretty well and it’s really great to get out there with some of the guys you graduated high school with and continue your football career,” Joyner added. “It’s always great to play football with your friends.”


 

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