The Spring League held its 2020 Championship game this past Tuesday and aired on FS1. After COVID-19 shortened the regular season from four games to three, the top two seeds met in a battle to crown the champion of the league. Originally scheduled for December 2nd, the league postponed the game to a later date, citing COVID-19 outbreaks in the San Antonio “bubble” which housed all 6 teams’ players and coaches. The continued spread of the virus is what led to the trimming of the regular season. The official announcement came down on November 17th and left many wondering if a championship game would be played at all. Spring League CEO Bryan Woods remained optimistic that they would be able to reconvene and crown a 2020 Champion. Another announcement was made by the Spring League on December 8th which confirmed the optimism, as a new date was set for December 15th 2020. A new location and housing rules were also announced for the players and coaches. The Championship Game would take place in Orlando, Florida at Camping World Stadium, home of the Citrus Bowl. The league also announced that the game would be closed to the public.
An email was sent out to all players which detailed new, strict rules regarding rejoining each team ahead of the championship game. As players left San Antonio and were brought back for this championship game, each player would need to submit a negative COVID-19 test in order to be eligible to play. Furthermore, The Spring League set a ground rule that each team would stay in its own hotel. Lastly, the league recommended driving to the hotel and game, if possible, to further prevent potential all exposure to COVID-19. Players from the four teams who did not make the playoffs, Alphas, Blues, Conquerers and Jousters, were all eligible to play for the Generals or Aviators in order to fill out the championship game rosters. Enough of the logistics, let’s play some football, shall we?
(3-0) Generals vs (2-1) Aviators Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at 7 PM EST Broadcasted on FS1
The Aviators received the opening kickoff led by explosive return man Mathew Sexton. Aviators backup Quarterback George Bowen got the start as McLeod Bethel-Thompson was not seen on the Aviators roster for this game. Former Conquerors running backs Jordan Salima and Sola Olateju were moved to the Aviators and split carries on the opening possession. The drive ended after a failed fourth down conversion attempt. The Aviators second drive was an uneventful one going three and out. As the third drive of the quarter started to get rolling, George Bowen’s pass was intercepted by former Seattle Dragon Channing Stribling who returned it for a touchdown. Putting themselves in a 14-0 hole early, the Aviators finally put together a decent offensive drive. Kick returner Mat Sexton provided the spark needed and gave his team excellent field position on their fourth drive of the quarter. The Generals were hit with a couple penalties which resulted in the Aviators marching toward the end zone as the quarter winded down.
The Generals looked as if they did not skip a beat to start the game. They drove down the field led by Quarterback Bryan Scott, whom many considered the 2020 Spring League MVP before this had even started. Scott looked sharp as the led his offense down the field, capped off with a touchdown pass off a deflection to Melvin Vaughn. Generals took the lead 7-0. The second drive resulted in a quick three and out. The Generals boasted a 14-0 lead heading into the second quarter following the Channing Stribling pick-6. It was obvious early on that team chemistry could play a factor in this game. The Generals seemed to be clicking on both sides of the ball.
DB Channing Stribling (@C_Strib8) comes down with his third pick of the #TSL2020 season and takes this one back to the house to put the Generals up by two scores in the first quarter of the Championship Game.— The Spring League 🏈 (@TheSpringLeague) December 16, 2020
XP by @Nuker_46 is good.
Aviators 0 pic.twitter.com/1HvnYWr7EU
The second quarter begins with the Aviators near the end zone. A sack by Generals DE Howard Stephens and some penalties pushed the offense back to 3rd and 22. A dropped pass made it 4th and 22 with the Aviators offense staying out on the field. Another sack given up, this time it’s Michael Scott which lead to a turnover caused by the Generals. The next drive results in a three and out. The Aviators special teams unit showed up on the next drive. After yet another three and out, they down the ensuing punt at the 3 yard line. This would be the last time the Aviators would touch the ball in the first half.
The Generals started the second quarter on Defense. Defensive Tackle Merrick Jackson and the rest of the front seven wreaked havoc on the Aviators to open the quarter. They registered two sacks and carried some momentum over to the offense. After driving the ball down the field, former Conquerors kicker / punter Matt Mengel attempted a 48 yard field goal. The Aviators jumped offsides which kept the drive alive for the Generals. After an Aviators sack and an incomplete pass, Mengel and the field goal unit were sent back out to attempt a 44 yarder. It hit the left upright and the score stayed 14-0. The next two possessions were 3 and outs, but, the Generals defense continued to step up and make plays. The Aviators backed up the offense deep in its own territory. Bryan Scott and the offense trots out for what would be the final drive of the half. Scott connects with Jordan Suell for a monster 52 yard gain. Kelvin McKnight, Jr also got involved with some short completions of his own. A penalty and some incomplete passes stall the drive and the half ends with the Generals on top 14-0.
Some first half statistics of note include 172 total yards of offense for the Generals, while the Aviators yielded just 39. The Generals passed for 154 yards compared to just 12 for the Aviators. An eye opening stat for the Generals was the 0/6 on 3rd downs for the offense. Playing turnover free football made up for it as the Aviators coughed up the football once in the first half.
The Generals received the second half kickoff and were gifted with great field position. After a bad snap and an incomplete pass resulted in 4th and 9, Kicker Matt Mengel had a chance to redeem himself. He nailed a 55 yard field goal which extended the Generals lead 17-0. His successful kick gave him the longest field goal hit in the Spring League in 2020, breaking his own previous best of 53 yards. After the Aviators score, the Generals once again started with great field position starting at the 44 yard line. A two play drive was all it took to extend the lead 24-8. Wide Receiver Jordan Suell caught a beauty of a pass from Bryan Scott. The 6’6” Suell had no issues using his frame to snag the pass and find his way into the end zone. Channing Stribling came up with his second interception of the game on the ensuing Aviators possession. The offense was unable to capitalize on the turnover as they went three and out.
The Aviators were finally able to put some points up on the board in the third quarter. Jordan Salima and La’Michael Pettway continued to pick up solid yardage as the offense marched down the field. A successful 4th and 4 conversion gave the team some life on the drive, and it was capped off by a George Bowen QB sneak for a touchdown. The Aviators went for two and converted thanks to former Conquerors Tight End Dimitrious Tsesmetzis who went up and snatched the ball away from the defender. The lead was trimmed 17-8 following the score. The kickoff duties were being handled by Punter Clark Riedel instead of Toshiki Sato for some reason. This hurt the Aviators as it caused the Generals to have an advantage in the field position battle. George Bowen threw a costly interception on the first play of the next Aviators drive. The next drive for the offense was uneventful as the third quarter came to a close.
The Aviators started the fourth quarter on defense. They let up another score by the Generals as the lead grows to 31-8. Their first possession on offense sees the Aviators going four and out, unable to gain enough yards for a first down and turning the ball over to the Generals as a result. The Aviators defense is tested once again, failing to stop the Generals offense as they find pay dirt. The score leaves a steep uphill climb for the Aviators as they trail 37-8. The Aviators would turn to Delvin “Izzy” Isadore for its final offensive possession of the game. They march down the field, thanks in part to Mathew Sexton who hauled in a deep pass from Isadore. Running back Sola Olateju caps it off with a rushing touchdown to make it 37-14 with little time remaining. This Aviators team did not look the same with the loss of McLeod Bethel-Thompson at Quarterback. All in all, it was a great effort by Terry Shea’s Aviators team.
The Generals used the fourth quarter to prove they were far and away the best team in the league. Starting on Offense to open the quarter, Running back Paul Terry and Tight End Sal Cannella singlehandedly move the ball all the way to the goal line. The drive was capped off by a Bryan Scott rushing touchdown to make it 31-8 Generals with 10:16 remaining in the game. After the Defense held steady and forced a turnover on downs, the Generals were back at it again. On this drive, Running Back Darnell Holland showed off the wheels and had some nice chunk yardage runs. Sal Cannella would end the drive as he hauled in a pass from Bryan Scott, Scott’s fourth touchdown of the game. This score all but ended the game theoretically, as the Generals took a commanding 37-8 lead. The Aviators would score a late TD of their own however, making it 37-14 late in the fourth. A few plays from scrimmage for the Generals offense and a knee would end the game. Former XFL Team 9 Head Coach Bart Andrus had his team playing lights out all season long. The Defense, led by NFL Hall of Famer Mike Singletary played disciplined football in each of the four games in 2020.
FINAL: GENERALS 37 AVIATORS 14
Bryan Scott – 22 of 32, 263 Passing Yards, 3 Passing Touchdowns, 1 Rushing Touchdown
Darnell Holland – 5 Rushes, 51 Rushing Yards
Jordan Suell – 4 Receptions, 100 Receiving Yards, 1 Receiving Touchdown
Sal Cannella – 5 Receptions, 66 Receiving Yards, 1 Receiving Touchdown
Channing Stribling – 2 Interceptions, 1 Defensive Touchdown
Matt Mengel – 1 of 2 Field Goals Made, 55 Yard Field Goal, 4 Extra Points Made
George Bowen – 8 of 20, 88 Passing Yards, 2 Interceptions, 1 Rushing Touchdown
Jordan Salima – 14 Rushes, 44 Rushing Yards
Sola Olateju – 9 Rushes, 25 Rushing Yards, 1 Rushing Touchdown
Woody Brandom – 3 Receptions, 20 Receiving Yards
Ja’Len Embry – 6 Tackles
The Generals cap off a perfect 4-0 record with a huge win over the Aviators and capture the 2020 Spring League Championship! This wraps up a wild, controversial season for the Spring League!
MVP – Generals Quarterback Bryan Scott
Header Pic Credit
(Credit: @TheSpringLeague on Twitter)