SUPER 16 – Semifinal weekend in the Super 16 lived up to all its expectations this week. Billed as the “Super 4“, the franchises playing for advancement to Super Bowl VI included the four highest scoring teams of 2017, three of them Super Bowl veterans, and two of them 2017-18 Pro Bowl Nominees. Competition was intense, but once the fireworks had burned through it was the S16’s two bird franchises – the Firebirds and Birds of Prey – that came out soaring above a hot pair of Wild Card contenders.
In Game 1, the #1 seeded West Division Champion Arizona Firebirds (10-3-0) were hosting the Who Dat Saints (7-6-0) as they tried to make it back to the Super Bowl for the second consecutive season. Things got kicked off on Saturday as the Firebirds let loose their rookie runningback Kareem Hunt to open things up with an explosive score. Hunt produced an incredible 206 yards of combined rushing and receiving for the Firebirds, along with a pair of touchdowns, giving them 39 points to lead off. Combined with 15 more from Arizona reciever, Hill, and LB Justin Houston, the Firebirds took a 66-0 lead over the Saints in the first half. The Who Dats, though have
been a red hot scoring franchise over the last several weeks, particularly their hometeam players, and Week 15 was no exception as they turned in 110 points from Saints players, while Arizona could muster only 29 points from Cardinals. It was the Arizona defense that kept them in control, their IDP’s accounting for 86 points – including 24 from their own Saint, Marshon Lattimore – compared to the Who Dats’ 65 IDP points, and so the Firebirds managed to hold on to a slim lead all through Sunday as the Saints remained in striking distance but could not overtake them. Finally, late in the fourth, the Who Dats’ Saint receiver Michael Thomas produced a lead change for the New Orleans franchise, but it was short lived, as the Firebirds’ Ram defense retook the lead for Arizona and they never gave it up again, their quarterback seeling the victory with a late touchdown to send the Firebirds to Super Bowl VI with the 242-206 victory.
Game 2 promised to be explosive as Coach Roger Tripp’s three-time Super Bowl Champion Birds of Prey (10-2-0) welcomed a Steel Curtain (7-6-0) franchise who twice this season set League Scoring Records, into the Falcons Nest for what most expected to be a shootout. It was not. Birds of Prey took an early lead with 23 points contributed by their halfback, McCoy, but by the later games, when Steel Curtain’s hometeam players took the field, the Pittsburgh franchise began to make their comeback. They posted 62 points combined from Roethlisberger and Bell, but suffered disaster when their star receiver, Antonio Brown left the game with injury in the second quarter after contributing just 24 yards and 3 points. Already without their Defensive Captain, Shazier, Steel Curtain took the lead, but could not advance it and went into the final quarter with just a 1 point lead, 144-143. Birds of Prey played their own hometeam players on Monday night, retaking the lead almost immediately and then running up the score to put the game to bed, 211-159 in route to their 5th Super Bowl appearance in 6 seasons.
Setting up as a rematch of the league’s second ever championship – Super bowl II – in 2013, the 2017 finale will pit the Arizona Firebirds against Birds of Prey in a Super Birds Super Bowl on Christmas Eve.