Strong advance to GDFL playoffs

by Paul "Boy Green" Esden, Jr.

The Syracuse Strong are playoff bound after a 30-0 beat down of the Upstate Predators, but let’s explain how we got there. 

In the GDFL regular season finale, the Strong had everything on the line. Win and you move on to the playoffs. Lose? Syracuse would’ve likely been couch-bound for championship season. 

It was an uneventful first quarter for Syracuse that was highlighted by a sloppy Patrick Mahomes

impersonation interception by Zavon Watkins. 
No. 6 rolled out was being held by multiple Predator defenders and tried to underhand a pass that was immediately intercepted. 

That ended up being a sign of things to come. The theme of the night for Syracuse was consistently shooting themselves in the foot:

- Unnecessary penalties that made things more difficult offensively.

- Extracurricular activities after the play defensively which kept Predator drives alive when they shouldn’t have. 

The good news is none of that ended up mattering, but the better news is Syracuse knows they can be even better.

While the passing offense struggled throughout the contest, Watkins finished with only 72 yards passing, that’s when the offensive strategy adapted. 

Star running back Rashad Burns finished with 90 yards on 11 attempts and scored three touchdowns. 

His best play of the game came on his first touchdown where he avoided contact, hit a spin move, stayed on his feet and took it to the house. 

Burns is a familiar name to Strong fans and has been a constant in the team MVP conversation seemingly on a game-to-game basis. 

You could’ve made a legitimate argument with his resume he could’ve added another award to the trophy case, but a different player ended up walking away with the hardware. 

Syracuse fans may not be as familiar with defensive back Patrick Twan, but it’s about time they get acquainted. 

After the game when I walked to the Syracuse sideline and I let him know he was the MVP of the game for the first time in his Strong career, his fellow teammates went wild and congratulated him. 

Twan had a pick-six in the second half that gave the team an 18-0 lead and went coast-to-coast to take it to the crib. Then shortly thereafter he followed that up by returning a shanked punt back to the house on a punt return touchdown. 

He finished with two interceptions and two touchdowns (defensive and special teams). 

Overall the defense earned another shutout victory keeping the Predators out of the endzone:

- Dewayne “Flash” Gordon was a man possessed with three tackles for loss (best on team) and two sacks.

- KJ White was the leading tackler for Syracuse (five tackles) and also registered a force fumble. 

- The rest of the team tallied four sacks combined, three total forced fumbles, and three total interceptions. 

Final notes and quotes:

- Our thoughts and prayers are with Syracuse wide receiver Joshua Thomas who suffered a painful looking injury in the first half. When he went down in a heap on the gridiron, you could hear his screams of pain on the football field as he clutched his leg. 

We feared the worst when AMR Medical Services rushed with a stretcher on the field. The good news is the stretcher wasn’t necessary and he was helped off the field by his teammates and some of the staff.

 He remained on the sideline for much of the game with his foot elevated before ultimately leaving the field. No. 3 is one of the true heart and souls of this Syracuse roster and our love is sent out to him. 

- Hit stick of the game belongs to linebacker Wilquan Burke who absolutely laid the lumber on an unfortunate Upstate offensive player. 

- Man whoever the starting center was for the Upstate Predators shouldn’t quit his day job because he was god awful with an array of high snaps that totally threw off their offensive flow from pillar to post. Word of advice? Bring someone new in or make sure you get some extra practice reps next week. 

- Good luck to the Strong as they get a rematch in the postseason on the road vs the East Penn Raiders.