Fort Wayne Falls to Chicago 56-41
by Randy and Adam Snow
Originally posted on OurSportsCentral.com, Sunday, April 19, 2009
Going into Saturday night's game in Fort Wayne, the Chicago Slaughter was undefeated at 5-0 and the top team in the Continental Indoor Football League's Western Division. On the other side of the ball, the Fort Wayne Freedom started out the season strong with a two-game winning streak, but have fallen in two tough road games, losing both by a combined 10 points. There record was 2-2 and the team was in second place in the CIFL Eastern Division.
However, there was a bright spot going into this week's game as the team added stand-out wide receiver Nick Body to the roster. Body played last season for the Saginaw Sting, who won the 2008 CIFL Championship. He was named the MVP of the championship game. Body was in training camp with the Freedom earlier this year, but decided to return to Saginaw and played in the Sting's first five games. Saginaw left the CIFL to join the newly formed Indoor Football League after last season.
Body made an immediate impact with the team, catching nine passes for 71 yards and four touchdowns (one in each quarter) in his Freedom debut. "I knew the (Fort Wayne) offense from training camp," Body said after the game. "It was just a matter of getting in there and getting a feel for (the game). Football is football. I've been playing football since the third grade."
Things did not start off well for Chicago, however. On their opening drive, QB Russ Michna was picked off in the end zone by Freedom DB David Gator, who returned the ball to midfield. From there Fort Wayne drove down the field and capped off the drive with a four-yard touchdown pass from QB Randy Hutchison to Body for a 7-0 lead.
Body added a second touchdown catch of six-yards in the second quarter to give the Freedom a 14-7 lead. But on the ensuing kickoff, Chicago kick returner Reggie Gray took the ball five yards deep in the end zone and returned it all the way for a quick six. The point after was missed, making the score 14-13 in favor of the Freedom early on in the second quarter.
Following a long, clock-consuming drive, Fort Wayne kicker Brad Selent was unable to connect on a 27-yard field goal attempt. Chicago then took the lead 20-14 after a 21-yard touchdown pass to WR Donovan Morgan with one minute remaining in the first half. Selent then had a 23-yard field goal attempt blocked as time expired in the half.
HALF-TIME ANALYSIS BY ADAM
"The noticeable thing about what I saw during the first half was Fort Wayne and their commitment to controlling the clock against this powerful Chicago Slaughter team. Chicago has displayed their ability to blow teams out in three of their five previous games. It was very obvious that Fort Wayne knew how to keep themselves in this ball game against a team with so much talent.
With Fort Wayne adding the explosive talent of WR Nick Body this week, I did have a feeling that he would be the go-to guy throughout the game. I wasn't proven wrong. Body caught five catches for 40 yards and two touchdowns in the half. With Fort Wayne down by six and getting the ball back in the second half, I saw no reason for this team to be out of this game at all, especially since they controlled the clock pretty much two to one."
HALF-TIME ANALYSIS BY RANDY
"Fort Wayne looked like a team that was well prepared for the Slaughter. They were running the ball effectively and controlling the clock, keeping the Chicago offense on the sidelines.
Body played as if he had been with the team all season long. He used his height advantage to out-jump defenders for the ball on several occasions. Chicago kick returner Reggie Grey had three returns for 117 yards in the first half, scoring a touchdown on the third return. The Freedom need to do a better job on kick coverage."
The opening drive of the third quarter for the Freedom did not go as planned. They were forced to attempt a 58-yard kick, which fell way short and Chicago ended up with the ball at their own 12-yard line. On the Slaughter's first offensive play of the half, Michna connected once again with WR Donovan Morgan on a 38-yard touchdown pass to widen the their lead over the Freedom, 27-14.
On the ensuing drive, Fort Wayne QB Randy Hutchison fumbled the ball and it was recovered by Chicago. That eventually led to a six-yard touchdown pass to WR Keith Herron, giving the Slaughter a 34-14 lead.
Fort Wayne had given up 27 unanswered points to Chicago since the early part of the second quarter and it was beginning to look like the game was going to be a blowout. But a pair of interceptions by Fort Wayne in the fourth quarter, one by DB Scott Heighland and another by DB Aaron Lane, kept the Freedom in the game.
After a two-yard touchdown run by WR Luther Stroder, Fort Wayne trailed by just six points, 41-35, with 3:32 left in the game. The Freedom tried an onside kick, but it was recovered by Chicago at the Fort Wayne 17-yard line. That led to a five-yard touchdown pass to Donovan Morgan, his fourth of the game. Chicago added a two-point conversion by Keith Herron and the Slaughter led 49-35 at the one-minute warning.
Chicago then attempted its own onside kick, which went out of bounds at the 25-yard line, giving Fort Wayne the ball at midfield. A few plays later, Hutchison connected with Body on a 12-yard touchdown strike. It was Body's fourth touchdown of the game. The extra point was missed and the Freedom trailed by eight points, 49-41, with just 21 seconds remaining in the game
Fort Wayne attempted another onside kick and they did recover it, but the team was penalized for being offsides on the play. The Freedom was allowed to retry the kick and on the second attempt, Chicago's Keith Herron recovered the ball at the nine yard line and ran it in for a score with 16 seconds left on the clock. That gave Chicago a 56-41 lead, and sealed the win.
POST-GAME ANALYSIS BY ADAM
"The final score is the only thing that truly matters in the game of football, on any level. Despite how hard Fort Wayne played they were unable to match the intensity of the Chicago Slaughter. The Freedom left so many points on the field, a couple of touchdowns and missed field goals all could have gone the other way and easily turn the game in their favor.
Despite falling now to 2-3, the Freedom should feel pretty good. Yes, they lost tonight, but they played a good team, exposing Chicago's weaknesses, as well as their own. In the first half Fort Wayne was able to control the clock and really kept themselves in a position to take advantage of the close game. However once the second half rolled around, they lost a lot of focus. But they did manage to overcome 27 unanswered points by the Slaughter and come back within six with only a few minutes left to play.
Fort Wayne had a lot of opportunities fall their way, as well as a few that didn't. With the addition of Nick Body to this team I believe that they can still manage to turn things around and climb back up in the standings and possibly give Chicago a run for their money again, hopefully in the post-season."
POST-GAME ANALYSIS BY RANDY
"Fort Wayne QB Randy Hutchison completed 22 of 47 passes for 146 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran three times for 22 yards. His 47 pass attempts are a new CIFL record.
By comparison, Chicago QB Russ Michna completed 18 of 24 passes for 235 yards and six touchdowns. He was also intercepted three times. WR Donovan Morgan had eight catches for 157 yards and four touchdowns in the game. His 157 yards receiving are also a new CIFL record. Ironically, the previously record of 156 yards in a single game was held by Nick Body. It occurred in last year's CIFL title game when the Sting defeated the Kalamazoo Xplosion.
The Freedom showed that they can hold their own with the best team in the CIFL, but they will need to take advantage of all their scoring opportunities. There were a number of dropped passes that could have resulted in first down or touchdowns and you can't do that against a team like Chicago."
POST GAME INTERVIEW
In spite of the loss, Freedom head coach Matt Land was optimistic about team's chances in the coming weeks. "We are going to re-focus. We are going to start over and we're going to get back on track," Land said. "I know these guys and I think they identified the fact that this game could have gone a different way it weren't for a few plays here and there. They are professionals and we're going to be ready to go."
The Chicago Slaughter (6-0) will host the Milwaukee Bonecrushers on Saturday night, April 25. That same night, the Fort Wayne Freedom (2-3) will host the Miami Valley Silverbacks.
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Randy Snow is a freelance football writer from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Since 2003, he has covered the Arena Football League, arenafootball2, United Indoor Football, the Continental Indoor Football League, the Indoor Football League, the All American Football League and the Canadian Football League. Randy has been a member of the Arena Football League Writer's Association since 2005 and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also maintains the web site www.theworldoffootball.com and is the organizer of Operation Gridiron Airlift, which collects footballs and sends them to our troops serving overseas.
Adam Snow is a student at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, studying English and Journalism.