The first ever FNL Bowl (sponsored by Lone Star Gridiron) took place in tiny Schulenburg, Texas this past weekend and the outcome couldn’t have been scripted any better. The venue was an amazing 100+ year old dance hall/wedding venue (Sengelmann Hall) that featured a big, beautiful hardwood floor which served as the field for our tables of Friday Night Legends games.
FNL coaches faced off against each other across the gridiron and were allowed to choose from a selection of 50 Texas small schools (class 4A and under.) The initial selection order was determined randomly by a series of rock-paper-scissors… really!
Because all these teams have different strengths, the winner of each game would be the coach that beat the point spread – as determined by the FNL Ratings. So coaching a favored team that didn’t cover the spread resulted in a loss in the tournament standings. (Ask me about the pain of missing the Championship Game appearance after winning a game by one point but being a two point favorite. Yes, undefeated on the field for the day but relegated to doing play-by-play for the title game instead of competing in it. Doh!)
Rachel Grimes, the top seed, chose 2018 Waco La Vega (TX) as her first team to coach. From there, each competitor selected a team. The only stipulation was that lower seeds seeing the teams they would be facing had to choose a team within 50 Strength of Schedule (SOS) points. Play continued until each coach had two games completed. For each game, the coaches were allowed to choose new teams.
A Consolation Game was played between Coach Keith Williamson and Michael Wright), that saw 2003 Rice Consolidated (TX) taking on 2017 Carthage (TX.) The two teams were rated identical so it was a pick ’em game. This consolation game was a scoring fest that saw Carthage finishing on top 46-38. Williamson commented about the turnovers leading to his defeat – one in particular, “Mike’s damn 72 yard scoop and score before the half was tough.”
He continued the smack talk aimed at Mike and other follically challenged coaches, “I thought there would be more full heads of hair. Next time I will remember to email Turtle Wax for free samples to hand out…”
The title game was one for the ages – this is no exaggeration. Two teams that averaged over 50 points per game all season were shut down by the opponent’s defense. Newton got on the board in the first quarter with defensive score. After an opening drive that saw Newton fumble multiple times, it was a Mart fumble that created the first points. The Newton long scoop and score made it 6-0. Newton attempted a two-point conversion but came up short.
The game stayed 6-0 for most of the game as these two high-powered offenses were stymied. The O finally got involved late and the end of regulation came with a 14-14 tie. In OVERTIME the offensive prowess continued and 21-21 saw them start DOUBLE OVERTIME.
The second extra period saw a chance to break the tie when Newton managed only 6 points. Attempting the 2 PT conversion, Newton was stuffed. If Mart could score now a PAT would win it. The kick was GOOD – but an offensive penalty backed the kicker up ten yards and rather than a chip shot, it was the equivalent of a 30 yard field goal for the winning point. It was MISSED sending the teams into TRIPLE OVERTIME!
Triple OT was all about defense. Newton was unable to convert a 4th and 3 and that gave Mart a chance to win it with just a FG. Instead, they rolled into the endzone, but for the fourth time in the game a penalty took Mart points off the board. Mart too decided to go for it on 4th and 4 rather than kicking a 34 yard FG, but were also stuffed. Since both teams were stopped the game went into QUADRUPLE OVERTIME!
The Mart defense stayed strong and stopped Newton’s drive, forcing them to take just a three point lead after a short field goal. Up 30-27, Newton needed to stop Mart on one drive to stay alive. It was not to be as the Panthers converted a 4th down desperation play into a long TD and the win 33-30.
Newton coach Ricky Prine said this of the heartbreaking loss, “I loved the game and am ready for a rematch”
It was a fitting end to a great day of football. Championship Coach, Duane Moore stated, “The tournament brought a whole new amazing feel to a game I already liked. I loved playing FNL in this tournament format!”
by Chris Doelle