Southern Maine 0 @ New York 26

Staten Island, New York, July 9, 2005
The Southern Maine Rebels won the IWFL Eastern Conference wildcard by beating everybody they played during the regular season except for the New York Sharks. If they were going to advance in the playoffs, their trip had to go through Staten Island. This was the first time the Rebels had made it to the playoffs while the Sharks were playing in their fifth post-season.

It was a nice summer day with a slight breeze and the temperature in the upper 70’s. The skies had opened up with a downpour and lightning 2 hours before game time, but it only lasted about 15 minutes and played no affect on the game.

Teresa SchirrippaNew York won the coin toss and they quickly went to work. The leading passer in the IWFL Val Halesworth quickly started to work on the Southern Maine secondary but twice could not connect with her intended target. So with a third down with 10 yards to go, she put the ball in hands of Teresa Schirrippa who picked up 8 yards to take the ball to mid-field. Putting her confidence with the Sharks defense, coach Lynn Lewis gambled to go for the first down play. Southern Maine made the gamble pay off as they were too eager and got hit with an encroachment penalty that gave New York a first down.

Halesworth again went to the air and threw her third incomplete pass in a row. With the air attack sputtering a bit, she again gave the ball to Schirrippa who picked up 6 yards. But what took the Sharks to the playoffs was the passing game and on her fourth attempt she hit Jen Blum for a 16-yard gain and New York was in the Red Zone. Halesworth again tried to pass but could not find an open receiver, she ran the ball for only a 1-yard gain but the Rebels were hit with an illegal contact penalty and the ball was now resting on the Southern Maine 9-yard line. Schirrippa got the next handoff and picked up 4 yards. With only 5 yards to take the early lead, Halesworth connected with Blum and New York put the Rebels in an early hole only 5 minutes into the game.

Nikki GwinnettThe Sharks have had trouble with their place kicking game all season and the extra point attempt proved to be extremely costly. The long snap was high and kicker Nikki Gwinnett ran back to retrieve the ball. She quickly scooped it up and ran to her right looking for the endzone. But before she could get there she was hit high and her cleats got caught in the ground and she went down in pain. She left the game in an ambulance.

The Rebels’ offense was now going to get their first chance with the ball. Last year, Chicago was in the same kind of situation as Southern Maine. They were the wildcard team because they had beaten everybody but New York and the Sharks defense was able to stop their powerful running attack. In last season’s wildcard game, Chicago tried to do something different for them and tried to beat New York with the passing game instead of the running game. It didn’t work as New York prevailed 40-0.

New York was expecting Maine to come out throwing as the Rebels high-powered running game was only able to score 12 points against the Sharks in their 2 previous meetings. But head coach Chris Kempton decided to go with what got them there and it seemed to be working. On the legs of running back Brooke Peters, the Rebels quickly picked up 2 first downs and had the ball down to the New York 31-yard line. But there, Southern Maine hurt themselves with an illegal procedure penalty and the Sharks defense was able to clamp down to prevent another first down for the ladies from Down East.

Both defenses started to take over as neither team put together a drive for a score until late in the first half. With the 2-minute warning coming up and the Rebels deep in their own territory, Southern Maine decided to eat as much time as possible to go into the locker room at halftime only 6 points behind. After one play they let the play clock run down to 1 second before calling a timeout. It appeared that coach Kempton did not want to give New York enough time to score again.

But with New York’s passing attack, the Sharks don’t always need a lot of time to score. So after a Rebels’ punt and a nice return by Virginia “Cha Chi” Leon the Sharks had the ball on the Southern Maine 28-yard line. The Rebels’ defense came through on the next play and sacked Halesworth for a 9-yard loss to push New York back to the Rebels’ 37-yard line. But it all didn’t matter as Halesworth hit Blum on the next play for a 37-yard touchdown pass. Liz Presto the Sharks’ third place kicker of the season (Antonucci and Gwinnett both being out due to injuries) came in to kick the extra point but it went wide. Still the Sharks had doubled their lead to 12-0 with 1:51 left in the half.

With their season starting to look like it was slipping away, the Rebels came out firing on their next possession. For the most part of the game, they stuck with their running attack. While Peters and Becky Manson were able to move the ball, they couldn’t do it consistently enough to get into the endzone. Now with the first half about to expire and their season in jeopardy they went to the air. Mariette Harpole went to the air 5 times and she completed 4 passes to move the ball down to the New York 24-yard line. But with time running out her 6th pass was batted down in the end zone by Leon to keep the Rebels off the scoreboard.

The Sharks defense kept the Rebels in check for the rest of the game. Late in the third quarter, Michelle Brown picked off a Harpole pass for a 43-yard touchdown return. It was Brown’s second interception returned for a touchdown this season. On the extra point attempt, the Sharks were called for a penalty for having too many players on the field. With the ball now on the 7-yard line, New York went for the 2-point conversion and Halesworth found Leon in the end zone to make the score 20-0 in favor of New York.

The last score of the game came when the Sharks started the drive on their own 16-yard line. It didn’t start off well as the Rebels were able to stuff Shauntay Stewart for no gain, but then Schirrippa bulldozed her way for a 14-yard gain with another 15 yards tacked on for a face mask penalty. The Sharks were on the move and on the next play Halesworth found a streaking Junko Tanida for a nifty 31-yard gain. Two plays later Halesworth scored on a 7-yard run after she was forced out of the pocket. It made the score 26-0 with 9:30 left in the game.

New York’s defense contined to shut out the Rebels for the rest of the game and the Sharks won their fifth playoff game to advance to the IWFL Eastern Conference Championship game. They will be defending their title against either the Atlanta Xplosion or the Jacksonville Dixie Blues. Their playoff game was postpoined due to inclement weather in Georgia.

After the game, the game balls were given out to Brown for her interception touchdown, but kudos went out to Lakisha Grant who made her presence felt on defense. She was constantly breathing down the neck of the Rebels’ quarterbacks or putting on some big hits for tackles. The offensive game ball went to Blum for her 2 touchdown receptions.

While the Sharks ended the day on a high note as they continue on their journey in the playoffs, there are still quite a few concerns for the team. It looks like they might have lost their second kicker for the season with Gwinnett being hurt but also late in the game, Shana Segers was injured when a player rolled over her leg and she was taken off the field on a stretcher. These are two big impact players whose loss to the team will be felt.

In the next round, the Sharks will host either the Atlanta Xplosion or the Jacksonville Dixie Blues. The game will be played on July 23rd at Monsignor Farrell High School in Staten Island. Kick-off is 7pm. Tickets are available and this year we are offering our 2 cent ticket and tickets for the owner’s box. You can order these on-line in our Bait Shoppe.

If you cannot make it the game, you can still follow all the hard-hitting football action over the Internet. Pat Brown and Dave Maxwell will bring you all of the action on our flagship radio station KEDU-FM.

1 2 3 4 Final
Southern Maine Rebels 0 0 0 0 0
New York Sharks 6 6 8 6 26

Scoring Summary
First Quarter
NY – (10:00) Blum 5 yard pass from Halesworth (run failed)

Second Quarter
NY – (01:51) Blum 37 yard pass from Halesworth (kick failed)

Third Quarter
NY – (02:34) Brown 39 yard interception return (Leon pass from Halesworth)

Fourth Quarter
NY – (09:30) Halesworth 7 yard run (kick failed)

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