FLL Final 23
The 7th of October, the most awaited day of the season had finally arrived and the Saints Ladies could not be more excited. The Superfinals were set to take stage at the Ravelin Footballzentrum and for the third time in FLL history, the Ladies were set to play for the gold medal and title of National Champions, a feat yet to be achieved but very much desired. The Saints’ mental and emotional status leading up to the this final could only be describes as diverse. There were obviously the nervous, the excited, the extremely(!) hyped and finally, the ones in denial, lying to themselves that it was just another ordinary day in Simmering.
Under the still shining autumn sun, the stage was set, cameras ready, flags flying proudly and the fans were ready to witness a rematch of FLL titans, returning for the second year in a row: DeLaSalle Saints Ladies vs Vienna Constables Ladies. After the ceremonials, the teams introduction and the national anthem it was time to get down to business. Captains Saskia and Sophie represented the team in the coin toss, but as fate would have they had to take that L and hope it was the last of the day.
The Saints Offense, comprising of SafeHandsTM and CrispRoutesTM Receivers Jessica, Franny, Claudia, Anja and Steffi and BulletThrower QB Sassi took the field first in high spirits and confident strolls. First snap, first catch and the jitters seemed to have been gone, this final was indeed underway. Confidently, the unit marched down the field with short completions, crowned by an excellent first down catch by Claudia. The Saints were therefore in prime position to score first in the game and hit the ground running. That was unfortunately not the case, as the Cons defense heroically managed to defend two short-yardage situations in front of their endzone.
Defense was immediately called to attention after that, to defend the castle and not allow the enemy to get hold of the scoreboard and sneakily add 6 points to their tally. For a lot of the drive the goal was looking achievable, even though the Cons offense patiently marched down the field. However when it came down to a long 4th and goal the opponents succeeded to convert not only for the six points but for another thanks to the PAT.
Everything was going to plan for the Cons and nothing for the Saints it seemed like, but the offense took the field once again to do what they have done time and time again during the season. As if the spectators were watching a rewind of the first Saints offensive drive, this second one proved very similar. The ball was carried easily past the first down and beyond, securing a manageable 3rd and goal, but the big scary Endzone was not a friend of the Saints, yet again. Strong coverage and blitzing from the Cons side, secured them another no-score drive and this was looking like an uphill battle for the Saints Ladies.
With a gold medal on the line and with last year’s loss still fresh in their minds, the defense had no time to wallow in self-pity, so along they went facing the Constables experienced offense. Although they succeeded to keep the opponents on their toes, forcing a long drive, the safe hands of the opposing receivers were enough to add another 6 points to their score, taking it to 13:00. This game was unfortunately starting to resemble last year’s loss pretty accurately, since the Cons were scoring every one of their drives with the Saints not being able to retaliate.
Some saying goes on about the third time being a charm, and so it was for the Saints offense. QB Saskia connected with WR Jess on a long pass from the Saints’ own 10 yard line, and long legs did the rest. Saints Ladies were finally on the board, and after a flawless catch in the Endzone by Steffi on the PAT, the new score did not seem as desperate anymore: 13:7
With the end of the first half in sight, the Saints Defense had one goal in mind, stop this last drive and give their receivers a much needed breather to start the second half in a better position. Typical now of their offensive drives, the Cons took their time and a total of 7 downs to get in the red zone. Yet again, no defense seemed capable to stop them, as they scored another touchdown from a short yardage situation on the 4th down. Having been drilled with the notion that Extra Points are of extreme importance, the defense set to do their absolute best to at least end the half on a small high. No such was luck was to be had. At the end of the firs half the scoreboard showed 20:7 for the Vienna Constables.
Slightly demoralised, thinking of other final losses and what Gods they might have angered in their past lives, the Saints Ladies needed a stern talking to. And that is exactly what they got, as HC Tudor made it very clear in his half-time speech that there was still all to play for and if they opponents could win a half by 13 points, so could his beloved team.
With the feeling that they had nothing to lose anymore, Saints DBs Sophie, Saskia, Alba and Esther had no choice but to play relentlessly, risk some more and give the ball back to the offense. After a slow start and allowing a quick first down, the big girl pants came on and the Saints stopped their opponents for the first time in this game, with a bit of help WR (turned scary blitzer) Jessica sealed the drive with a QB Sack. It was not looking like mission impossible after all… But it was indeed, since the team could not capitalize on this stop. A wonderful deep catch from Jess was ruled out of bounds and the Cons had the ball again.
What seemed impossible in the first half, became routine in this one, as rookie Esther deflected a ball in the Endzone. She did that, between two opponent receivers and on 4th down, undeniably cementing the title of Saints Rookie of the Year (Author’s note: at least in my eyes). As most of the second half was gone, the offense felt indeed some pressure to score in this drive. After a patient start, where all 4 downs were used to get over the first down line, a crucial catch from Claudia secured the much needed breather. The Cons defense did not know what hit them as, QB Sassi went for a deep throw right from the first down and found there as always Jessica, who yet again gifted her team with 6 points. New score: 20:13
As the game was getting hotter with every passing second, defense knew that each drive and each snap of the ball was crucial. Again, with a little help from Jess, aka the Tower of Power, a 4th down sack of the QB gave the ball back to the Saints offense. It was now or never. The Saints struggled slightly as the Cons defense proved yet again why they topped the FLL table in the regular season. After a drive that consisted of exactly 8 snaps, QB Sassi took matters into her own hands in 4th down and goal. In need of exactly 11 yards to reach the Endzone she threw a dime in the back corner of the endzone, where only WR Jessica could reach. Euphoric, but still knowing the game was on the line, the offense lined up for the PAT. Wouldn’t you believe, small but mighty Franny catches the ball in the middle of the opposing Endzone. Saints tie the game 20:20. Everyone was now thinking about the comeback story. Was this final that was proving to not be for the faint of heart, achieve a Hollywood ending? One last drive had to be played before the credits rolled.
The players on the field, undoubtedly all felt the weight of the whole season on their shoulders, be it the Saints defense or the Cons offense. Narrowly missing a stop before the first down mark, the Saints defense found itself yet again in their own half. So this was it. A 4th and short in the Saints Redzone. Ball is snapped, receivers run their routes, ball is in the air, but Captain Sophie said not in my house! An excellent deflection in the endzone sends the final in Overtime. The Saints Ladies had woken and like seasoned infomercial presenters had shouted: “But wait, there’s more!”
Unlike the NFL, the Overtime rules here were simple: Each team gets 4 downs from the midline to score in the Endzone. As fate would have the Constables offense took this opportunity first. First pass is incomplete, second an incredible catch, third stopped short of the endzone, but the opponents manage to score on their last opportunity. Another do or die moment on the Extra Point, another deflection from Captain Sophie in the Endzone. Cons lead 26:20 with the Saints getting the ball one last time.
QB Saskia fires a quick ball on first down, Steffi catches easily. On the second down Jess runs a sneaky out and up in the endzone and what does she find there? The perfectly placed ball thrown by Sassi. The Saints have tied the game for the second time, but this time they have one more shot. With everything on the line, the Saints receivers line up, no time for nerves only focus in their eyes. Ball is snapped, QB Saskia Stribrny quickly scans the field, and with ice cold determination throws a bullet to none other than the legend herself, the unanimous MVP of the game, Jessica Macharia. Ball is confidently caught, Saints are the National Champions of Austria!
After a long and winding road of coming always so close, the Saints Ladies had finally done it. Gold was theirs, the curse was broken and the elation immeasurable. At the end of a gruelling season with unfortunate injuries, but a lot of work and dedication by every single player and Coaches Tudor and Lila, the team could finally write their name in Austrian Flag Football history.
Celebrations were definitely in order, as the continued success of the team was followed by individual ones as well. Two of the Saints Ladies made it to the 2023 All Star Team, the usual suspects: Saskia and Jessica Macharia. The latter, unsurprisingly was awarded as Offense MVP of the final game, adding another accolade to her enormous bling collection.
A rollercoaster of a season came to an end in the most beautiful of ways and the Saints Ladies are off to a well-deserved offseason break. Fret not, they will be back to rigorous training in the new season, shenanigans and all. There’s a title to defend after all!
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