They say the sun shines on the righteous. Today, that saying was carved deep into the fledgling league's granite history books. As the winter sun beat down on players, coaches, officials and the large crowd of enthusiastic fans, we were treated to a righteous display of flag football. The UFL's draft system has been the league MVP so far this year and it pressed home its case even harder today, with two more stunning competitions and two more one score victories.
Mavericks 26 - 20 Wolf Pack
Cellar dwellers vs Penthouse owners, the scored on vs the scoring machine. But you should never take a UFL franchise lightly and it was the case that the Wolf Pack were still a bit full of turkey and mince pies post Christmas - meanwhile the Mavericks were hungry and keen to show the world that they were not deserving of a winless record.
Offence ruled in the first half and following the Howlers decision to defer to the second half and give the Mavs the ball, with Dylan Walsh at the helm they marched downfield with a steely purpose. Five plays later and Walsh threw to an incognito Devos in the corner. The masked man pulled it in and the Purple ones were ahead by six. Deciding to go for two, Walsh then called the Run Pass option, reading the drop into coverage correctly he stormed to the pylon himself and the scoring festival began Mavs 8 - 0 Pack. But the Howlers bust out first play, Panashe running 50 yards untouched on first down and a Yarwood - Thompson one two levelled it up at 8 - 8.
Back came the Mavs though, another clock sapping drive and another Walsh - Devos hook up put the Cattle up again, Walsh again with the RPO 2 pointer and it was deja vu all over again 16 - 8. With the clock ticking down to the half, Owen Yarwood called Panashe's number again - again it paid dividends, scampering down the field for the TD, but their 2PAT was unsuccesful, broken up on the goal line.
As the clock wound down, UFL rookie Taylor halted proceedings with an impressive interception and the ball was raised. HT Mavs 16 - 14 Pack.
The second half was a much closer affair, with defence ruling out drive after drive. Free agent Maverick rookie Taylor showed his first half pick was not a one off by intercepting Yarwood in his own half and running a full 35 yards into the end zone to put them 6 more ahead, with the familiar Walsh Devos combo punching in another 2 points to put them 24 - 14 up.
But with the steel of Field General Yarwood called into question, he led the Pack back upfield again and they pulled it back to 24 - 20. The clock ticking down inside the last 2 minutes, they decided to go for 2 points and as Owen rolled out to find his receiver he threw the Hail Mary... only for it to be intercepted by James Hattersley, who ran it back the full length of the field and scored a 2 point conversion of his own for the Mavericks. Clock management mode engaged, the purple machine then sapped the last few seconds running the ball to come out 26 - 20 winners.
With a plethora of choices for MVP, it was a close run thing, Free agent rookie Taylor was a revelation, Oscar Devos was in the running until an over celebration drew flags from the officials, but in the end it could only really be true Maverick, Dylan Walsh named by the league as most valuable.
Thunder 37 - 31 Hawks
The sandwich fixture, 2nd vs 3rd and the battle of the 1-1 teams. The Thunder had 68 points for and 66 against, the Hawks 51 for and 46 against. But this was no vanilla fixture, no battle of the also rans. This was a nailbiting, ding dong, close up slugfest between two chiselled heavyweight behemoths.
Every drive ended in a score, every move was mirrored by a stalking opponent and both defences were KO'd by high powered offences capable of scoring in every department. The judges scored it thus: First out of the blocks were the Hawks, with Joe Bliss scampering in for an unconverted score. 0-6 Hawks. Back came Zak Thompson for the Thunder with a score of his own, 6-6. Six Gun Krishan Johnson then threw to an impressive Joe Smith 12-6, but back came Zak to level it up again 12-12. Hawks on the ropes, what do they do? How about run an RPO with Johnson tucking the ball against deep cover and barrelling in to put them ahead again, this time converting via a pass to Bliss to make it 19-12. Back comes Zak Thompson with another run, also converted to level it up at 19-19 at the half.
Thunder ball, this time Zak Thompson throws deep to Oscar O'Connor and the Thunder are ahead for the first time in the game 25-19. As day follows night, as Donald Trump tweets incessantly and as snow causes gridlock - so the Hawks came back to level again - Johnson to Bliss makes it 25 - 25. Franchise anchor, Zak Thompson decided enough was enough and found Oscar O'Connor again and with no conversion it was 31 - 25 Thunder: so Krishan Johnson decides to retaliate for the Hawks 31 - 31 and the minutes turn into seconds... the clock is running out and the Thunder have the ball. Thompson under centre and the RPO brings dividends again - unconverted, the Thunder now hold the high ground 37 - 31. Clutch time is short, real short and as the Hawks rush the field to get the scores back level they drive all the way down to the Thunder goal line.... But it is in vain, as they line up for one last play the whistle goes. It's over. Thunder 37 - 31 Hawks and fade to black.
With power, speed and poise all over the field, it was almost an impossible task to choose an MVP, but the league committee decided that the two way Hawk Joe Smith was MVP for the Hawks and the Game MVP had to be the ubiquitous Zak Thompson with some incredible passing and running as well as inspirational leadership skills.
Thunder 2 1
Wolf Pack 2 1
Mavericks 1 2
Hawks 1 2