The Spring League 2021 Season is coming towards its conclusion. Just two weeks until TSL’s Mega Bowl championship game takes place at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas, airing on FOX, Saturday, June 19th at 3 pm ET.
For the players of all eight Spring League teams, these final two weeks will help provide one last chance to make an impression and perhaps find a pathway, as recently some TSL players already have, onto an NFL roster before training camps begin later this summer. But on the horizon emerges a new doorway towards the returning United States Football League, which will be taking the field in 2022. Many of the players and coaches in The Spring League will be looking to transition to the USFL when this season ends.
In the Northern Division of The Spring League. The Linemen at 4-1 will control their own destiny next week if they sweep their season series with the Alphas (3-2). A victory will earn the Linemen a trip to the ‘Mega Bowl.’ In the Southern Division of the Spring League. The picture is a lot less clear. Saturday’s Week 5 action helped provide some clarity towards what will be at stake in the final week of the TSL season.
The Spring League On Fox: Week Five Generals-Sea Lions Game Recap
Back in week 2, the Sea Lions defeated the Generals 17-13 for their lone victory of the season. Going into Saturday’s South Division games, there was an existing scenario where all four teams could finish the season at 3-3. However, the Sea Lions are mathematically eliminated from championship game contention based on a season sweep by the Blues and their overall point differential. Besides playing for pride, the Sea Lions are in a position to play the spoiler role with games today against the Generals and the Jousters in week 6. The Generals are still alive in the chase to repeat as TSL champs, but there is very little room for error.
Arguably, the most explosive player in The Spring League, Darnell Holland, kicked off Saturday’s game with a 88 yard-kickoff return for a touchdown. Thanks to the electrifying play by “Crazy Legs,” the Generals took a quick 7-0 lead.
The Sea Lions failed to respond on their first offensive series of the game, going three and out. On their first possession on offense, the Generals, led by Ryan Mallett, kept the early momentum on their side by marching down the field deep into enemy territory on a lengthy eight-minute drive, thanks mostly to a quick underneath passing attack.
On the 14th play of their opening drive, Ryan Mallett connected with Siaosi Mariner for the fourth time on a six-yard touchdown strike. Lirim Hajrullahu would miss his first kick of the season on the extra point keeping the Generals lead at 13-0.
Looking to jumpstart their offense and get back into the game after taking some early body blows, Sea Lions Running Back Dawonya Tucker would return the ensuing kickoff out to midfield. Quarterback DeAndre Johnson, of Last Chance U fame, would attempt to get his team going on their second drive, but unfortunately, the team would go three and out again. However, the game’s momentum would swing back in the Sea Lions’ favor when Generals’ returner Tareke Lewis would muff the punt by Garrett Hartley inside the five, which James Tyrrell recovered.
The Sea Lions would start the second quarter down 13 but with a first and goal situation thanks to the turnover. Despite the gift, the Lions’ offense failed to cash in with a touchdown and had to settle for a 23-yard field goal by Garrett Hartley to cut the Generals lead to 13-3.
After peppering the Sea Lions defense with mostly underneath throws on their first drive. The Generals would attack the Lions’ defense by going deep immediately and drawing a pass interference penalty fifty yards down the field. On the very next play, Running Back, Paul Terry would get a first down run to set his team up in the red zone. But the Sea Lions defense would hold and force the Generals to kick a field goal. Former CFL/NFL kicker Lirim Hajrullahu would connect on a 38-yard field goal to extend the Generals lead to 16-3.
After generating only one yard on their first three possessions, Sea Lions head coach Larry Kirksey would insert backup quarterback Ben Holmes into the game. Looking a lot more comfortable than he did a week ago in a loss to the Blues last Saturday. Holmes would complete his first six passes for 73 yards to get his team deep into Generals’ territory.
With under two minutes remaining in the first half, RB Aca’Cedric Ware would score from four yards out on the ground to cap off an eleven-play 78-yard drive. Garrett Hartley missed the extra point, but the Generals’ lead was now 16-9.
During the FOX broadcast, the focus during the break-in action shifted on the value of alternate pro football leagues and how they can serve as a valuable tool for young quarterbacks to make their way into the NFL. The announcers discussed some recent examples from the XFL, AAF, and even the Spring League.
With just over a minute left in the first half of play, up by seven and looking to answer the Sea Lions’ score, the Generals’ offense led by Ryan Mallett would drive quickly across midfield. Facing a third and one at the Sea Lions’ 27 yard line with time running out. The Generals would fail to convert and were forced to trot their kicker for the field goal attempt. Lirim Hajrullahu would stay perfect on the season with a 46-yard field goal to give the Generals a 19-9 lead going into the second half.
Down ten points, Brad Holmes would be back at the controls calling signals for the Sea Lions offense to start the second half. Unfortunately, Holmes could not repeat the same success he had at the end of the second half, and the Lions’ were forced to punt after a quick three and out.
A poor punt by NFL veteran kicker Garrett Hartley, who in TSL is performing double duties, would set up the Generals with excellent field position at midfield. Paul Terry would continue his success on the ground with a twelve-yard gain on the Generals’ very first offensive play in the third quarter.
Facing a 4th and four from the Sea Lions 33-yard line, Generals Head Coach Bart Andrus would bring out his kicker for a fifty-one-yard attempt. Lirim Hajrullahu would miss his first field goal of the season when linebacker Jalen Choice deflected the kick at the line of scrimmage. Darius Williams would pick up the deflected kick and return it to the Generals’ 35-yard line.
Following the big special teams’ play, The Sea Lions would pick up a first down on a run by Aca’Cedric Ware, but the drive would eventually stall. Garrett Hartley connected on a 38-yard field goal to make it a one-score game at 19-12 in favor of the Generals.
Looking to extend their 7-point lead, the Generals offense would get back to work. A first down pickup on another connection between Mallett and Mariner setting the stage for yet another amazing play by The Spring League’s most dynamic player Darnell Holland.
On a third and five, Ryan Mallett would complete a safe swing pass out of the backfield to Darnell Holland, resulting in a 47-yard touchdown. Words don’t do the score justice; however, Darnell Holland would break several tackles on the highlight-reel play on the play, making four separate defenders miss him, including a fancy tightrope down the sidelines where “Crazy Legs” put his nickname to the test by staying in bounds. The Generals would fumble the snap on the extra point, but the big play by Holland would give them a 25-12 lead over the Sea Lions.
Needing to respond, The Sea Lions, led once again by quarterback Brad Holmes, would move into Generals’ territory. On a crucial third down, an interception by the Generals was wiped out by a roughing the passer penalty by Carroll Phillips. The penalty would set the Sea Lions’ on the 16-yard line as the third quarter ended.
Two plays into the fourth quarter, Aca’Cedric Ware would score his second touchdown on the day from eight yards out. The extra point would close the Generals’ margin to 25-19.
Back to the Darnell Holland show. Darnell Holland would once again return a kickoff nearly 90 yards for the touchdown on the ensuing kickoff. In a display of great speed, where Holland was almost untouched. Because of the 12 point advantage on the score, the Generals went for two and succeeded when Mallett connected with Siaosi Mariner on a slant to give the Generals a 33-19 lead.
Down 14, The Sea Lions offense returns but Brad Holmes goes down to a lower leg injury and is replaced by starter DeAndre Johnson. The Lions’ offense fails to get anything going and are forced to punt with time ticking away in the fourth quarter.
Looking to ice the game up by two scores, the Generals’ offense would get a big first down thanks to Raymond Epps on a 22 -yard catch and run from Ryan Mallett. A 17-yard Jeremy Neal reception for a first down extended the drive. The big plays through the air would guide the Generals to their third red-zone drive of the day.
Facing a 4th and 1 inside the 2-yard line, the Generals would opt to go for it, and they would convert on a pass interference penalty. One play later, Chris James would punch it into the end zone to give his team a 39-19 three-score lead with 3 minutes left. A penalty on the extra point try by the defense led to the Generals attempting a two-point conversion, which was unsuccessful.
Usually, this part of a game would have very little consequence, but with the Generals not only needing the win and some help to make the championship game, but point differential could also determine tie-breaking scenarios at the end of the regular season next week.
So the Sea Lions late scoring drive which produced eight points on a DeAndre Johnson pass to Kavontae Turpin, followed by a conversion to AJ Greene, could end up hurting the Generals playoff chances.
Finals Score: Generals 39 Sea Lions 27
Now at 3-2, the Generals will close out the Spring League regular season next Saturday at 8 pm ET on FS2, against the Blues. While the Sea Lions (1-4) will play the Jousters on FOX, Saturday afternoon at 12 pm ET. Both games could determine who will be playing for a league championship in two weeks.
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