Written by Jennifer A. Kuchta
Wednesday, 09 May 2007 18:44
Under a sky darkened by swarming termites instead of Persian arrows, much as it went for the Spartans at Thermopylae, it went for the New Orleans Blaze women’s football team at Buddy Lawson Field. After heroic offensive attempts and Herculean defensive might, the Blaze went down in a blaze of glory under the formidable Pensacola Power 22-7. Oh, and don’t think the allusion ends there. While the Blaze might have their Leonidas in quarterback Chris Zboril, the Power have their Xerxes with 5’ 11,” 208 lb. running back LaKiesha Johnson. Da-amn!!!
Blaze QB Zboril opened up the first possession with a trio of passes, two caught and one missed. A miscue on the snap for the punt left the Power with the ball deep in Blaze territory. Quicker than quick, the Power were up 7-0.
The Blaze’s second chance at the ball went a little better, but ended with a punt that sent the Power back into their own turf. As the Blaze defense took the field, a shout from the stands, “Gotta holla back, girls,” fired them up. The defense held the Power to two handoffs, a dropped pass, and a punt so short and so bad no one even saw it. The Blaze’s next series of plays started off with a pair of handoffs to fullback Roxanne Hadley. Rough and tough play on the field left someone in the stands shielding her eyes and telling her companions, “I don’t like this – they play so mean!” And after four Blaze first downs, Hadley scored the home team’s first TD, and an awesome boot of a kick tied up the score 7-7.
The Power opened up the second quarter with a series of plays involving their mighty warhorse Johnson, and ended their first possession with a rare pass never seen by its intended receiver. Last week’s Blaze racehorse Danielle Coleman got her first shot at the ball, but nothing doing. Soon a punt, a re-punt, and a big penalty against the Blaze left the Power in position to score again, and four Johnson carries later, the Power were up 14-7.
Coleman saw some action in the Blaze’s next possession, and a big Hadley run made things exciting, but a fumble left the Power clutching the ball in their own territory. And this, this was when the mighty Blaze defense stepped up huge in true Spartan style, especially DL Yanni “Tank” Morales. The Power were sent stumbling backwards, backwards, backwards so far they were almost in Shreveport at the end of the half – the score still 14-7.
The second half of the game started with a nerve-racking series of Power plays in which RB Johnson carried the ball five times. But the Blaze defense was still king stepping, still playing take-no-prisoner football. The Power were held to a field goal attempt that looked like a low flying bird and sailed right under the uprights.
The next couple of possessions brought a whole lot of nothing from either side as the action stalled out. But the Blaze possession that followed the impasse was crazy exciting, complete with some blind refereeing. WR Lynette Kokemor was taken down hard away from the play action. She came up in full war dance, ripping her helmet off and ready to throw down. No call on the hit, but Kokemor was redeemed on the punt when the Power player back to receive was completely lifted into the air and annihilated when she was nailed as she started to return the ball.
Pensacola took the game into the fourth quarter. A million plays and a scary giant beetle incident in the stands later, the Power were up 20-7. After a hold on the extra point attempt, they instead went for the two on their second attempt. A juggled catch and a two-point conversion later, the game was 22-7.
A spirited rally from the Blaze offense saw their next possession through nine plays of a wide variety. The best plays were a huge run around the end with room to spare by Kokemor for a first down, and a scramble by Zboril that left the Blaze turning the ball over on downs, just short of a first down. The Power’s next possession went nowhere, perhaps because Johnson was cooling her heels.
And in the last minutes of the game, Beyonce singing in the background, suggesting that the Blaze run “to the left, to the left,” came the offense’s most huge-ass play of the game – a Zboril-Kokemor triple play of pass/catch/run. Valiant, yes, but too little too late. Held to 156 yards, the Blaze fell to 1-2 at the whistle, the final score 22-7.
But unlike those Spartans at Thermopylae, the Blaze players all left the battlefield standing. And even after the loss, all of their fans were still in place in the stands and cheering – all of them. Cinco de Mayo margaritas could wait.
* * *
The Blaze’s next home game is June 2 back out at Muss Bertolino Stadium in Kenner against the Dallas Rage. Between now and then, the Blaze will see action against the Gulf Coast Herricanes (May 12) and the Emerald Coast Barracudas (May 19). See you in the stands.
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