Two weeks into the 2023 IFL season, it is beginning to become clear that teams that win in the IFL win in three areas consistently:
- A competitive IFL team needs a quarterback that is a playmaker, and they need to have the ability to be a dual threat.
- Successful IFL teams need to be able to make their extra points, especially in close games.
- The best IFL teams have a defense capable of producing takeaways or stopping the opposing offense several times per game.
To win in the IFL, teams must address these three areas consistently. Fundamentally, these aspects give teams a chance to win in a wide-open league like the IFL.
Game #1 Result
Frisco Fighters (2-0) 35 Tulsa Oilers (0-1) 13
For an expansion team that was playing its first game in the IFL, the Oilers had a good showing against one of the best teams in the IFL. Defensively, the Oilers had an excellent game plan which focused on containing Fighters quarterback TJ Edwards who had to make plays throwing the ball. While the Fighter did make enough plays to win, they could never get into a rhythm. The Tulsa offense struggled to get going, but quarterback Giovanni Sanders was able to find his targets and put the Oilers in scoring position consistently.
After the Fighters scored 76 points at Green Bay in Week 1, the expectations were sky-high for Frisco’s offense. The Fighters started the game with a kickoff return for a touchdown, but the Frisco offense struggled to get into their offensive flow. Penalties and self-inflicted wounds limited the Fighter’s offensive unit, and the Oiler’s defense played conservatively, which made it difficult for the Fighters to generate big plays. Nevertheless, Frisco’s defense dominated the game and produced multiple turnovers and stops.
Game #2 Result
Duke City Gladiators (1-0) 43 Northern Arizona Wranglers (0-1) 35
The Duke City Gladiators’ offense picked up where it left off in the 2022 season, where they had the top passing offense in the IFL. Gladiators quarterback Nate Davis had 19 completions on 26 attempts for 198 yards and four touchdowns. Davis has a quarterback rating of 172.4 which is an outstanding performance. While the Duke City run game was non-existent, their defense did produce three interceptions.
After winning the IFL National Championship in 2022, the Wrangler’s roster was raided, primarily by the Bay Area Panthers. Northern Arizona started the game with Nick Watson at quarterback, and while Watson did not make any significant mistakes, he did fail to get the offense rolling. George Kettle came into the game and led an explosive comeback which gave the Wranglers a chance to win after starting the game down by 19 points in the first quarter. Kettle produced four touchdowns (2 passing and two on the ground), but he also threw three interceptions giving him an unimpressive quarterback rating of 75.9.
Game #3 Results
Vegas Knight Hawks (1-0) 57 Iowa Barnstormers (0-1) 44
The Iowa Barnstormers are a great example of an IFL team that seems competitive but needs defense improvement. Quarterback Darius-James Peterson and running back Antonio Wimbush led the Barnstormers on offense. Peterson had ten completions on 21 pass attempts for 133 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions; he also had 12 carries for 78 yards. Wimbush had 15 carries for 79 yards and three rushing touchdowns; he had four catches for 52 yards. Defensively, the Barnstormers were not able to slow down the Vegas offense, and they were unable to keep up on the scoreboard.
Vegas had an offensive explosion led by quarterback Daquan Neal, which had 13 completions on 21 pass attempts for 220 yards and scored six passing touchdowns. Neal did throw an interception but produced a staggering quarterback rating of 234.7. The Vegas receiving unit is outstanding and already has excellent chemistry with Neal. The Knight Hawks’ defense also made two interceptions, allowing Vegas to pull away in the 2nd half.
Game #4 Result
Quad City Steamwheelers (1-1) 49 San Diego Strike Force (0-1) 47
The Quad City Steamwheelers started the IFL season with a championship mindset after coming two points short in the 2022 IFL National Championship game. The last two weeks indicate that the Steamwheelers must improve each week to return to the championship game. Coming into San Diego, Quad City was a heavy favorite.
Early in the game, the offense led by quarterback EJ Hilliard jumped out to a lead, but they could not put away the Strike Force and had to hang onto a shootout win out west. Hilliard had eight completions on 15 passing attempts for 128 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. He also ran for 48 yards on eight carries and scored three rushing touchdowns.
The Strike Force has traditionally struggled on offense and has yet to be able to run the ball effectively. However, with Demry Croft at quarterback, the Strike Force has a chance to overcome the offensive challenges they have had historically. Croft had 19 completions on 29 pass attempts for 174 yards and four touchdowns for a quarterback rating of 154.5. Defensively, the Strike Force was able to frustrate Hilliard and get stops after facing an offensive onslaught in the first quarter.
Game #5 Result
Massachusetts Pirates (1-0) 55 Green Bay Blizzard (0-2) 41
After the Green Bay Blizzard gave up 76 points at home in Week 1, traveling to Massachusetts did not seem like an opportunity to bounce back. In the first half, the Blizzard struggled to produce on offense and could not stop the Pirate’s offense. However, later in the game, quarterback Ja’Rome Johnson started to get into a rhythm, allowing the Blizzard to have offensive success. Johnson had 15 completions on 26 pass attempts for 191 yards, three touchdowns, and two rushing touchdowns.
The Pirates had a fast start in the game and had a 31-7 lead at halftime. However, they seemed to slow down in the second half and had difficulty getting back into the game’s flow. In recent history, Massachusetts has had a habit of starting fast and needing to finish better. These areas must improve as the Pirates prepare to face a hot Bay Area team. However, quarterback Antonio Bennifield did produce 18 completions on 22 pass attempts for three touchdowns and ran for two more touchdowns. Also, running back Jimmie Robinson emerged as a dynamic weapon with 73 rushing yards on 16 carries, two touchdowns, and five catches for 62 yards.
Game #6 Result
Bay Area Panthers (1-0) 47 Arizona Rattlers (1-1) 46
The Arizona Rattlers have a problem brewing in the Western Conference. In 2022, the Rattlers were a dominant team but were upset by the Northern Arizona Wranglers by one point in the Western Conference finals. Many of those are now a part of the Bay Area Panthers, and similarly, the Rattlers lost to the Panthers by one point. Quarterback Drew Powell played well with 13 completions on 21 pass attempts and 127 yards, and one touchdown pass. He also added three rushing touchdowns. The problem was that the Panthers were able to make adjustments in the 2nd half and made a series of stops that allowed them to come back and win the game.
The Bay Area Panthers spent the off-season attempting to build a championship team after having one win in 2022. Their first game of 2023 shows that their efforts are paying off, and they got a huge home win against the Rattlers. Quarterback Dalton Sneed had 13 completions on 18 pass attempts for 131 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 48 yards and a touchdown. Running back Justin Rankin also had a massive game with 17 carries for 59 yards and three touchdowns.
Follow me on Twitter: @AaronSauter7
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