Week 3 of the IFL season was a full slate of six games. Among those six games, four involved teams from the Eastern Conference, including four undefeated teams to start the season. Out of those undefeated teams, the Frisco Fighters and Massachusetts Pirates both picked up key victories over the only undefeated teams in the Western Conference.
Along with the Eastern Conference showing dominance over the Western Conference, several teams had to battle injury situations. Injuries to quarterbacks can be a significant wildcard during the IFL season. How a team responds to losing its quarterback can reveal its ability to maintain success over an entire season.
The Iowa Barnstormers lost their starting quarterback Darius-James Peterson early in their game in Green Bay, and after losing their signal caller, the Barnstormers could not recover. On the other hand, the Massachusetts Pirates lost their quarterback late in the week and immediately found a competent replacement. These are just two examples of how teams must be able to adjust to injuries, especially injuries to their quarterback.
This week we went 4-2 with our predictions, but this season we are holding an 11-3 record after three weeks. So let’s look at how each IFL in action performed in Week 3.
Game #1 Results
Green Bay Blizzard (1-2) 44 Iowa Barnstormers (0-2) 25
In Week 3, the Barnstormers were looking to bounce back from losing on the road in their first game and were the favorites to pick up a win against their local rival. However, early in the game, the Barnstormers quarterback Darius-James Peterson went down with an injury and would not return to the game. Backup quarterback Zack Reader stepped in a played well enough to put the Barnstormers in scoring position but struggled to get the ball in the end zone.
During the first three weeks of the 2023 season, the Green Bay Blizzard have consistently improved, especially with Ja’Rome Johnson leading their offense. Johnson produced three rushing touchdowns and two passing touchdowns. In addition, Johnson did not turn the ball over, and running back Terrence Smith complements Johnson as a runner and a receiver with two receiving touchdowns and a rushing touchdown. The Blizzard defense also produced four defensive stops and played well in goalline situations.
Game #2 Results
Quad City Steamwheelers (2-1) 36 Sioux Falls Storm (0-1) 34
During the off-season, the Sioux Falls Storm experienced numerous changes to its roster, including at the quarterback position. The Storm had a slow start offensively but then took off in the 2nd quarter. By halftime, the Storm was tied with the Steamwheelers and had a chance to take the game over. In the 2nd half, Sioux Falls found some success but needed to get the ball into the end zone consistently. Defensively, the Storm slowed down the Quad City offense but struggled to get defensive stops.
The Quad City Steamwheelers continued to show they are a team built around the playmaking ability of EJ Hilliard. Hilliard did not disappoint while throwing four touchdown passes and producing a quarterback rating of 167.6 despite throwing an interception. Receivers CJ Windham and Keyvan Rudd both had a pair of touchdown catches. The limiting factor for Quad City will be their defense. The Steamwheeler’s defense produced two interceptions, allowing the Quad City offense to get a lead and protect that lead.
Game #3 Results
Frisco Fighters (3-0) 60 Duke City Gladiators (1-1) 55
The Frisco Fighters’ offense has shown the ability to take over games with their running game. Quarterback TJ Edwards ran for 49 yards on 13 runs and scored three touchdowns. Jimmy Smith also ran back for 49 yards on 11 attempts and scored a touchdown on the ground. In addition, TJ Edwards threw two touchdown passes to Jerminic Smith and BJ Bunn. Defensively, the Fighters produced three interceptions, and in a matchup between two explosive offensive units, those interceptions decided the game.
The Duke City Gladiators’ offense continues to be explosive through the air, with quarterback Nate Davis throwing four touchdown passes, but he did throw three interceptions. Coming into the game, the Gladiators struggled to establish a running game, but they did show the ability to run the ball effectively near the goal line. Defensively, Duke City did force a turnover but could not overcome multiple interceptions by Davis.
Game #4 Results
Northern Arizona Wranglers (1-1) 48 Vegas Knight Hawks (1-1) 42
The Vegas Knight Hawks coming off of a 57-point performance against Iowa last week, did not sustain their offensive efficiency from their first game. The Vegas offense struggled early against the Wrangler’s defense, and quarterback Daquan Neal and running back Davonte Sapp-Lynch needed help to overcome a solid defense and turnovers. Neal threw two interceptions while getting stopped by the Wrangler’s defensive unit four times.
The Northern Arizona Wrangler’s defense returned strong after struggling to stop the Duke City offense in their first game. The Wrangler’s offense, led by quarterback Garrett Kettle, took advantage of field position and scored consistently. Running back Glen Gillen Jr. also stepped up with three touchdowns on four rushing attempts. However, the Wranglers kicking game did struggle with three missed extra points.
Game #5 Results
Massachusetts Pirates (2-0) 59 Bay Area Panthers (1-1) 52
The Bay Area Panthers faced the challenge of returning from an emotional win against the Arizona Rattlers in their first game of the 2023 season. In addition, the Panthers had to travel coast to coast and played what equates to a 10 am kickoff time on the west coast. Offensively, the Panthers played well and had the momentum at halftime with a 38 to 30 lead. However, in the second half, the Bay Area Panthers could not sustain their first-half success and allowed the Pirate’s offense to take over the game.
The Massachusetts Pirates faced the challenge of losing quarterback Alejandro Bennifield to an injury starting the week Bennifield was the only quarterback on the Massachusetts roster. Massachusetts adjusted by signing Anthony Russo, and Russo was able to come in and find instant chemistry with the Pirate’s weapons on offense. Russo threw for 127 yards and four touchdowns with only one interception. Massachusetts running back Jimmie Robinson added eight runs for 52 yards and three rushing touchdowns. The Pirate’s defense also stopped the Panther’s offense three times in the second half.
Game #6 Results
Tucson Sugar Skulls (1-0) 35 San Diego Strike Force (0-2) 16
The Tucson Sugar Skulls made numerous changes to their roster during the off-season, but for the first half of the game in San Diego, those changes appeared to be successful. The Sugar Skulls’ defense and offense dominated the game and jumped to a 28-3 lead at halftime. The Sugar Skulls could have been more efficient in the second half, but that may have also been part of an effort to shorten the game. The Sugar Skulls’ defense stopped the Strike Force offense seven times which in the IFL is defensive domination.
The San Diego Strike Force came into the game carrying momentum from their two-point loss to the Quad City Steamwheelers in their first game. Offensively, the San Diego offense struggled to execute on the ground or in the passing game the entire game. However, in the second half, the Strike Force defense did stop the Sugar Skulls’ offense four times which gave their offense a chance to put points on the scoreboard.
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