|Honoring the Polars' seniors and those close to them.|
|Ballard was running like a man possessed.|
|David Hall (#11) is about to teach South some manners|
|The Tigers' QB, Soly Senaphanh, had moves of his own.|
|Ballard's intensity increased as the game wore on.|
|The Polars were swiping at the ball all game long, causing fumble after fumble.|
The Minneapolis South Tigers opened the game with a call rarely seen to start things off - a successful onsides kick. Several plays after a long run by South's nimble quarterback, the Polars forced a fumble and recovered - the first of five times they would do so in the contest.
Running back Morocco Ballard was a man on a mission, twice running for gains of over ten yards on North's opening possession. He finished off the drive with a dazzling 20-yard sprint into the end zone, putting the Polars on the scoreboard first, 6-0.
Following that drive...
...the Polars laid a monster hit on the Tigers' receiver on the kickoff before south put together a respectable drive of their own. North's defense held, and eventually forced a punt. On the Polars' first play of their next possession, the entire Tigers' defense yelled, "Watch the sweep!" regarding an anticipated Ballard run. They predicted the play almost exactly, but were still unable to contain #20 as he scampered for thirty yards. However, Polars' QB Epps was off target on several passes and North turned the ball over on downs.
This Tigers' drive saw a misdirection run for over twenty yards, and another 15-yard gain before sloppy pass coverage yielded South's first score of the game. The Tigers then tried a squib kick to the Polars' 37-yard line. Ballard did a Barry Sanders impersonation, reversing field on a broken play and somehow picking up a first down. The Polars were unable to build off of that play, however. And on the ensuing punt, the long snapper missed punter Michael Davies by a mile. South recovered on the six-yard line and scored one play later, putting them up 16-6.
For a third time, the Tigers attempted kickoff trickery, but this time the onsides kick was recovered by North. Now we have to assume that South would squib or onsides kick every time. This must have been part of their game plan, as the Deloney brothers, although decent return men, aren't such consistent threats that a team would make such an adjustment. The Tigers merely had faith that their offense would generate enough points, that their defense would hold down scoring, and that their special teams would recover enough times to make the gambling worthwhile.
Ballard danced around again on a broken play, but this time went backwards over ten yards. A fumbled pitch on the next play made it third and a mile. Although North failed to convert, the Tigers fumbled on the punt return. North recovered, and Epps hit Shelby Deloney for a 55-yard touchdown pass to bring the score to 16-14. The Tigers' return woes continued, as they fumbled on the kickoff as well. North put together a solid drive, and Ballard punched it in from eight yards to give the Polars the lead again, 20-14.
South fumbled yet again on their next drive and North recovered. After a three-and-out by the Polars, South's fumblitis continued on the punt return, but they managed to keep possession and string together a drive that closed out the first half before it yielded any points.
Boosted by a 15-yard personal foul penalty, the Tigers scored on their opening drive of the second half to go up 24-20. Ballard continued to rack up the first downs for the Polars, but on a fourth-and-eight from the Tigers' 12-yard line, Epps missed an open receiver in the end zone and the ball was turned over on downs.
But North did what its defense has excelled at all season long, and forced and recovered yet another fumble. Morocco Ballard then showed off some jukes that made ME dizzy from seventy yards away, scoring on a 20-yard run. North had the lead again at 26-24. Davies' extra point attempt was ruled no good, although from my angle it was the second PAT that looked like it should have counted. Polars' players and coaches seemed to agree, arguing vehemently with the referees. In a double whammy, North's squib kick sat on the 30-yard line and no Tigers' player went near it. Just as North picked the ball up, the referee threw a flag and declared the ball out of bounds, giving South possession at their 40.
This turn of events, seemingly predicated by bad officiating, wouldn't have bothered a more mature team. This isn't a knock on the Polars at all, just an observation that this is a young team still developing. But losing what should have been a point, then possession with a chance for the underdogs to slam the door took a mental toll. The Tigers came out swinging and the Polars seemed to have lost their focus. They converted on several third and fourth downs, and scored a touchdown and 2-point conversion to go up 32-26.
South added another touchdown as an insurance policy, and North fought to get back into contention, but failed to put more points on the board. The Tigers prevailed 38-26.
More photos from the game follow: