Once again, for those of you that don’t have a lot of time and instead like to just quickly skim through the after-action reports, the short version is that Bruce Reiff took down his twelfth overall championship in the Football Strategy tournament at the 2017 WBC. Now on to the rest of the details…
The 2017 event was the 27th Football Strategy tournament during the history of our convention. The recent years have seen the event pretty much dominated by three players: Bruce Reiff, Joe Powell, and Ken Whitesell. Between the three of them going into this year’s event, they had won the tournament seven straight years, eleven out of twelve and fifteen out of eighteen times. This year once again, all three players would play a prominent role in determining the winner. Of course, despite their dominance and winning championships, there have been several other players that make it tough on these three. We get close… but not quite over the proverbial hump most years.
Continuing a tradition started last year, we let the participants select a team that they represent for the write up. This has no impact on the actual game play. Due to popular demand, we let folks pick college teams this year instead of sticking with the pro teams. As a refresher for those of you who aren’t familiar with this tournament, we play two heats, which are single elimination down to a heat winner and then those two play for the championship.
The first heat was on Monday with 20 folks participating. Bruce, representing Ohio State, held on as Jeremy Billones’ Raiders team scored 13 points in the 4th quarter to make it close, losing by a 26-20 score. Joe’s Falcons flashed his defensive abilities to knock off Ralph Gleaton’s Gamecocks 23-6. Ken Whitesell, the Dolphins, also played tough defense to cruise to a 27-3 win over Doug Galullo’s Rams. The best game of this first round was the Seahawks of David Rynkowski scoring a safety in overtime to take down the Jets, led by Marvin Birbaum by a 25-23 final score.
Our best tournament newcomer, Lorson Poirier, taking advantage of four missed field goals led the University of Maine Bears over GM Bert Schoose’s Chicago Bears by a tight 12-10 score. Former 2004 champion Kevin Keller led his Packers to a 24-3 win over the Giants. Another former champion, 3-time winner Paul O’Neill, got off to a strong start with his Steelers 31-9 victory over Robert Powers’ Redskins.
The other first-round winners included Nicole Reiff as the Browns, Greg Berry as the Bills, and Jim Burnett as the Buccaneers. Nicole knocked off Ray Stakenas Sr 18-6, Greg outlasted Mark Gutfreund 23-17 and Jim won his game easily by a 23-7 score over Barry Shoults. If you’re keeping track, we saw some of the best overall defense that we’ve seen in some time as six of the ten first round games resulted in at least one of the teams scoring in single digits. Only one team scored over 30 points in the round.
Bruce’s Buckeyes continued the defensive dominance in the second round, holding Paul’s Steelers to 6 points on his way to a 20-6 win. Joe’s Falcons came from behind in the 4th quarter with a 25-yard TD pass to eliminate Jim’s Buccaneers by a tight 17-13 score. Kevin’s Packers doubled up Nicole’s Browns 20-10 and Lorson won his second game by a high scoring 38-30 result. Lorson’s University of Maine then knocked off the Packers by a solid 35-25 result to reach the heat semifinals. His opponent would be Ken Whitesell, who overcame a 7-point half time deficit and squeaked by David Rynkowski 21-17.
Lorson’s strong initial appearance in this tournament ended here with a 38-20 defeat to Ken. Winning three games, including wins over two former champs, was quite the performance. Great job! Bruce and Joe squared off in the other heat semifinal and this was a very tight game as would be expected when they play one another. Bruce prevailed with a 21-19 final. This created a rematch between last year’s finalists for the first heat final. Ken led the game by a 17-3 score going into the 4th quarter. Bruce got within 7 and then on the final play of regulation, Bruce scored a touchdown. He said that he didn’t like his chances in OT against Ken and so he went for the 2-point conversion and was successful to pull out an improbable 18-17 win. He advanced to the championship game to take on the heat two victor.
On Wednesday, following the demo, the second heat began with a low turnout of only ten players. One player was not interested in advancing had he won and so Jeff Mullet led his Columbus Metros against the GM’s Alabama Crimson Tide. The Tide rolled in this one by a 30-19 verdict. The other eight players were left to see who could advance out of this heat.
Lorson Poirer and the University of Maine Bears were out to show that the first heat was no fluke. He took on perennial contender David Rynkowski and the Seahawks. Lorson got out to an early lead but David came back to tie it up and force the game into overtime. Note that David’s first game in heat one was also an OT affair in which he won by a safety. This time Lorson pulled this game out when he successfully kicked a 78% chance field goal. The final was 26-23.
The other games weren’t nearly as close or with similar drama. Jeremy played tough again this heat but his Raiders fell 20-10 to Kevin’s Packers. Joe’s Falcons rolled over Nicole’s Browns by a 44-10 final. To wrap up this round, Paul’s Steelers flashed some serious D as he held Greg’s Bills to only a field goal on his way to an 18-3 win.
The heat semifinals saw two very close games. Lorson again played well but couldn’t hold his early lead and fell to Joe Powell by a final score of 32-28. The other semifinal saw Paul O’Neill knock off Kevin Keller by a 26-21 score. This set up a heat final of Joe versus Paul.
In this one, Paul got out to an early lead with a first quarter field goal. The two teams traded touchdowns in the second quarter leaving Paul with a 10-7 lead at the half. Joe figured something out during the halftime adjustments because he came out and put 10 unanswered points on the board in the third quarter and added another touchdown early in the fourth for a 24-10 lead. Joe got the ball back and drove down to the 5-yard line where Paul held him. Joe somehow managed to miss the chip shot field goal and Paul still had a small chance.
He took every advantage of that chance. First, he drove down the field to score a touchdown to get back within 7. Next, with time running out, he recovered the ensuing on-sides kick. Then, with very little hope, he managed to drive down and score another touchdown! As Bruce had done in the first heat final, Paul decided to go for the win via the 2-point conversion. His offensive, with a call of 7, was met by Joe’s F and the dream comeback fell one point short.
This set up a final of Bruce versus Joe. As you might recall, these two have hooked up for the Football Strategy championship in the recent past. Bruce had squeaked by Joe 21-19 on his way to winning the first heat. This game, however, was a completely different story. Incredibly, Joe managed only one first down the entire first half. Very simply, Bruce had all the mojo and he cruised to a 44-7 win.
Congratulations to Bruce on another fine win. Joe had no shame in once again advancing to the finals match. The other two heat semifinalists, Ken and Paul, also had very good performances. The GM, wants to thank all our participants and hope they enjoyed playing their games.
Looking ahead to 2018, the plan will be to move the Wednesday heat to the First Sunday, earlier in the afternoon, so that we might increase our participation. This should allow us to wrap up this tournament before we have so much competition from all the other fine events. Hopefully, we’ll get some new and returning players as we know that somebody can beat Bruce!