The Spring League wrapped up week 4 of their six-week regular season Saturday on FOX with a battle between two 1-2 teams in the Sea Lions and Blues.
Going into this weekend, only one game separated the teams in the Southern Division standings. All four teams were meeting in rematches from week one. The Blues squeaked by the Sea Lions in the opening week 15-12 but have been reeling ever since. A victory in week four could reenergize their hopes to compete for the division crown and a shot at The Spring League championship game on Saturday, June 19th.
Sea Lions-Blues Game Recap
One of the odd occurrences leading into week four’s slate of Spring League games was the quarterback movement. Last week’s starting quarterback for the Blues, Deondre Francois, was released and subsequently signed by the Generals. The Blues picked up quarterback Nick Fitzgerald after the Sea Lions let him go. Fitzgerald would be facing off against his former team Saturday in Houston.
Connor Kaegi would be at the controls of the Blues offense on their opening drive. A week after coming off the bench and going 11/20 for 107 yards and a score. Kaegi could not jump-start the Blues struggling offense as the team went three and out on their first possession.
A poor punt would set up the Sea Lions’ offense nicely on their opening series. Missing the game with a left-hand injury for the Sea Lions would be standout runner Ladarius Galloway.
Former Texas Southern QB and ‘Last Chance U’ star De’Andre Johnson, one of the leading rushers in the Spring League, would help guide the Lions quickly into Blues territory. On 3rd and long, A De’Andre Johnson touchdown deep down the middle of the field to Cameron Echols-Luper would be called back due to a holding penalty. As a result, the Sea Lions would end up punting on fourth down, former NFL kicker, Garrett Hartley, was brought on to assume the punting duties, and he would help pin the Blues inside their own 15-yard line.
Behind the running of Oklahoma’s Marcelias Sutton and the playmaking ability of receiver Davion Davis the Blues offense would get cooking on their second drive. With the Blues at the Sea Lions’ 28-yard line, Connor Kaegi would draw an interference penalty at the goal line on a pass intended for receiver Lucky Jackson. The penalty would set up Marcelias Sutton for the easy one-yard score to give the Blues an early 6-0 lead. Kicker Jonathan Barnes would miss the extra point.
Larry Kirksey’s Sea Lions offense would get to midfield on their next series, but ultimately the drive would stall, and they would be forced to punt the ball away again.
With the second quarter well underway, it appeared as if the Blues would be trading punts immediately but an offsides penalty on the Lions’ defense, followed by a favorable spot on a third-down down run, helped extend their next drive. Facing a 4th and 1 at midfield, Blues Head Coach Ted Cottrell would opt to punt despite his players audibly pushing for him to go for it.
The Sea Lions would end up giving the football right back to the Blues when Quincy Mauger picked off De’Andre Johnson on an overthrow deep down the field. The interception and return would set up the Blues offense at the opposing team’s 39-yard line.
Two plays after the turnover, Connor Kaegi was able to find his best playmaker, Davion Davis, for a catch and run down to the five-yard line. Kaegi would cap off the scoring drive using his 6’7 frame to leap across the goal line on a quarterback sneak to extend the Blues lead to 13-0.
After Stephen Adams, the teams’ punter executed the extra point and a short kickoff for the Blues, FOX picked up a conversation on the sidelines between Ted Cottrell and his quarterback Connor Kaegi, where they discussed having to go for it on fourth downs or for two points on any potential future touchdown scores. The update was that kicker Jonathan Barnes was banged up and unavailable to kick for the rest of the game.
Facing a crucial third down and eight with two minutes left in the half, DeAndre Johnson would complete a first down pass on the sidelines to Tristen Wallace. Unfortunately for the struggling Sea Lions offense, the play would not lead to their first scoring drive of the day. It was one step forward, two steps backward. However, what it did accomplish was leave little time for the Blues offense to operate with the first half of the game winding down. With only 40 seconds left, the Blues decided to kneel and take their two-score lead into the second half.
Sea Lions-Blues Second Half
Coming into the second half, the Sea Lions offense had only mustered 4 first downs and 53 total yards. With quarterback DeAndre Johnson going 6/12 for only 33 yards through the air and the Blues defense keeping his running in check (2-10 yards).
Facing another third and long to start the third quarter, Johnson’s running would get them out of their funk as he picked up 20 yards on the scramble, splitting a hole in the defense and his pants in the process.
Three plays later, De’Andre Johnson would connect on a 44-yard touchdown strike down the field to Kavontae Turpin for the Sea Lions’ first score of the day. Garrett Hartley would convert the extra point to cut the Blues lead to 13-7.
Connor Kaegi would remain at quarterback for the Blues to start the second half. A rejuvenated Sea Lions team would keep the game’s momentum in their favor as Tyson Graham Jr. would intercept a deflected Kaegi pass in plus territory.
Two big first-down runs by the diminutive 5’5 Dawonya Tucker would immediately get the Sea Lions into the red zone. The game’s action would be halted midway through the third quarter because of a serious lower leg injury to Sea Lions TE Erik Swoope.
Swoope, the former Indianapolis Colt, who played three seasons in the NFL, was brought on earlier this week, had to be carted off the field. A tough circumstance for a player looking to make a comeback in a league where players are only rewarded with an opportunity.
When play resumed, facing a 4th and 1, the Sea Lions would opt to go for it at the twenty-yard line rather than attempt a Garrett Hartley field goal. DeAndre Johnson would barely pick up the first down on a quarterback sneak. However, the Sea Lions would fail to capitalize on their first drive in the red zone and would end up settling for a 30-yard Hartley field, after all, to trim the Blues lead to 13-10.
Needing an answer to shift the momentum of the game. The Blues offense would respond on their next possession with a Connor Kaegi 51 yard completion to Hakeem Valles. The Blues would enter the red zone as the third quarter came to an end.
The 4th quarter would begin with the Blues extending their lead to nine (19-10) on a quick tunnel screen play by Connor Kaegi to Davion Davis from ten yards out. With kicker Jon Barnes out with a hip flexor, the Blues went for the two-point conversion but the team was unable to convert on a reverse pass by Davion Davis.
Down nine, De’Andre Johnson would complete a big first down pass into Blues territory but the play would be called back due to a holding penalty. The setback would result in the Sea Lions punting the football away.
Up 19-10, with under ten minutes left in regulation, the Blues offense took over on their own 13 yard line. Utilizing their ground game and a conservative approach, the Blue would end up punting the ball back to the Sea Lions with just over 5 minutes left.
A terrific punt by Stephen Adams would pin the Lions back inside their own two-yard line. Coming on for the Sea Lions and operating out of their end zone, in place of DeAndre Johnson was newly acquired quarterback Ben Holmes out of Tarleton State University. Holmes most recently played for the Arizona Rattlers in the IFL.
Holmes caught a break on a pass deflected behind the line of scrimmage by Blues defensive linemen Seth Thomas. The officials did not blow the play dead, and Dawonya Tucker astutely picked up the ball at the three-yard line and advanced it nearly thirty yards for a first down. Despite the clear evidence and a lengthy review process that showed that the play should’ve been ruled an incomplete pass. The play stood.
Looking to score quickly, Holmes’s next pass would be down the field to an open Kavontae Turpin, but he would drop the football in stride. Ben Holmes, next attempt down the field would succeed, as he would connect with Cameron Echols Luper for a big gain down to the Blues 38-yard line. Unfortunately for the Sea Lions, the comeback bid would come to an abrupt end when Holmes would telegraph a pass over the middle of the field that linebacker Damon Lloyd intercepted.
The Blues ended up punted the football back with under three minutes left in the game. Looking to redeem himself, Brad Holmes would return with the Sea Lions offense, but the teams’ hopes of rallying would come to an end on a miscommunication and an incompletion on 4th down where Holmes mistakenly assumed that his team had already picked up a first down on the previous play. It was that kind of day for the Sea Lions.
Finals Score: Blues 19 Sea Lions 10
With the victory, the Blues sweep their season series with the Sea Lions to improve to 2-2. They will play the Jousters next Saturday night on FS1. The Sea Lions fall to 1-3, and will take on the Generals next Saturday afternoon on FOX. The Spring League should consider flip flopping the times of those two games next Saturday.
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