Well, I think we can all agree on this statement: It feels good to have spring football back. The Spring League kicked off their 2021 season last night, with a doubleheader featured on FS1. It opened up with the Alphas taking on the Aviators, which was a one-sided game, as the Alphas won 23-9.
For those of you who decided to stay up into the wee hours of the night, you were in for a treat, as the second game proved to be a fun one. The returning Conquerors competed against the Linemen (an expansion team) in week one, and both squads played relatively well considering the circumstances.
What separates The Spring League, from other alternative football leagues, is that it is purely developmental football – focused on helping these players and athletes get to the next level. With this design in mind, the teams do not have much time to practice, which in turn means the first couple of weeks are going to feature messier play.
With Hal Mumme as the head coach for the Linemen, it was no surprise to see their offense start off quickly. The Linemen swiftly marched down the field, and they scored off an end around to Ben Putman to put them up 7-0 early. Ryan Willis looked sharp in the early stages of the game, and definitely fits well in Mumme’s offensive scheme.
GAMEDAY ALERT: Ben Putman drives the ball into the end-zone for the #TSLLinemen.
The Conquerors offense struggled to get things going early on, as they had multiple three and outs, and even missed a FG after Ryan Willis fumbled the football.
However, things would take a turn when Sola Oletaju broke through a gap, and took off for a 52 yard touchdown, tying up the game at 7.
Ryan Willis struggled to find a groove in the 2nd quarter, and despite some solid ball movement between the 20’s, the Linemen just couldn’t find a way to score. After an impressive march down the field, Willis missed his man and was intercepted by Nicholas Washington.
Cole Murphy, kicker for the Conquerors, was an issue, as he missed his second consecutive field goal of the day, keeping everything knotted up at 7.
After another Linemen punt, Kevin Anderson put on a show, and found Vinny Papale for a 7 yard score to get the Conquerors on top.
While the Linemen continued to struggle, they did pull out quite the interesting trick. On 4th down, Ryan Willis (yes, the QB), took the snap…and then punted it. 69 yards. It was one of the best punts you will ever see, and it was from a quarterback. He even punted again later on in the game, giving us one of the weirdest stat lines you will ever see:
In the 3rd quarter, the Linemen came out with a purpose. They immediately forced a fumble, which Chase Demoor recovered, and ended up having to settle for 3 as Jonathan Song knocked through a 35 yarder.
The Conquerors were unable to get much going, and Robert Myers (an OL) ended up being ejected from the game as he was causing quite a bit of trouble. The game remained 14-10 heading into the final quarter.
The Linemen were given plenty of opportunities in the second half, but ultimately were not able to capitalize. Song kicked another FG in the early 4th, to bring the game within one, but the Conquerors weren’t going to be shut down forever.
On the very next drive, Kevin Anderson dropped an absolute dime to Jordan Salima for a 14 yard score, and the Conquerors took a 20-13 lead.
— Gridiron Gallery Podcast🏈 (@GridGalleryPod) May 7, 2021
Disappointingly for the Linemen, they once again marched down the field, only to end up turning the ball over. Willis threw another interception, as he was picked off by Nicholas Washington for the second time.
The Conquerors controlled the rest of the ball game, as a big completion to Michael Bandy, and another TD run by Olateju put the game away. The Conquerors hung on to win 27-20, picking up their first victory of the season.
The difference in Game 2 of Week 1 was the Conquerors ability to capitalize on their opportunities while the Linemen could not. Strong ground game, smart QB play, and a resilient defense secure the W for the Conquerors.#TSLConquerors (1-0): 27#TSLLinemen (0-1): 20 pic.twitter.com/NixNOztQNL
At the end of the day, The Spring League is providing some enjoyable football to keep us content during what are usually seen as “off months” for the sport. As these teams continue to practice together and create chemistry, the level of play will become more entertaining.
The Conquerors so far look like a solid team all around. Kevin Anderson has shown time and time again that he is a reliable signal caller (Stats: 14/22, 159yds, 2 TD) – and Sola Olateju put up two scores of his own. Their defense has some excellent players, especially in the secondary. They will be a difficult group to beat if they can keep playing complete football.
Hal Mumme has some work to do with his Linemen. They have plenty of talent, and Ryan Willis has a lot of potential to be a great QB in this league, despite a poor stat line from night one. With some time, practice, and effort, they certainly have a chance to go far in the TSL this year.
What did you think of TSL’s 2021 opening night? Did you enjoy watching the games? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!