Destiny is often mentioned in reference to athletic competition, but it almost never plays any clear part in the end result. Down three games and on the verge of elimination from the 2004 American League Championship Series, the Boston Red Sox rallied to beat the New York Yankees in four straight games and eventually went on to beat the St. Louis Cardinals in a quick four-game series to end their 88-year drought without winning a World Series.
The Red Sox didn’t win because it was their turn or because an all-powerful force or being decided it should be so — no, they won because they came prepared to play and never quit once there.
The Fenwick Lions Junior Diamond League football team might have never thought that a championship was a possibility at the beginning of the season, especially after losing their first three games. But a spark ignited in the team’s Week 3 loss to the 2005 defending league champion Elkton Saints — it just never became a flame.
They allowed the Saints only one touchdown in the third quarter but shut them out from there, which let them know that the possibilities are endless.
Three straight wins earned the Lions a playoff berth and an opportunity to repay the Saints in the opening round of the 2006 playoffs, which they did in a dramatic 12-6 double-overtime win, earning them a berth in the championship game against the Norfolk Chiefs.
The Lions and Chiefs split the regular-season series (with a Chiefs 18-0 Week 1 loss and a Lions 14-0 Week 6 win) but this game was new.
Hearts brimmed with fire but only one team’s hopes would smolder. And in the end the Lions fell short of a destiny’s mark. The Chiefs were simply able to make the big plays when they needed them in the team’s 26-0 win over the Lions on March 12.
“We came out flat and a little overconfident, especially since we beat them (the Chiefs) last time (Week 6),” said Lions Head Coach John Stevenson. “They (the Chiefs) stepped off the bus ready to play.”
The Chiefs torched the Lions on outside runs and accumulated 262 rushing yards, compared to the Lions 44 total yards. Running back Montario Olds led the Chiefs with 160 yards on eight rushes, which included a 66-yard run and a 69-yard touchdown run.
Olds left a trail of burning Astroturf and a gang of lunging defenders in his wake because no one was able to bring him down.
“The coaches told me not to let any one person bring me down, and that’s been the key all season,” Olds said.
The Lions shut down the outside run game in Week 6 and limited Olds to only 30 rushing yards, but the Chiefs made a commitment to do what they do best in the championship — get the ball to the edge.
“They’re fast,” Stevenson said. “So we knew we were going to have to stop their outside run. They got the big plays and we just couldn’t get that play.”
The Chiefs tallied nine runs over 10 yards but most (six) came from quarterback Joshua Wood on broken plays.
He rushed for 74 yards on eight attempts, including a 9-yard touchdown run and tossed one completion for 42 yards. Running back Wayne Lumpkin also scored a 2-yard touchdown.
Balancing out the Chiefs’ 262 rushing yards were 20 penalties. They were penalized on six of seven drives, multiple times on three drives and once drew five flags on an 18-play drive that failed to yield points. The Chiefs simply had enough game-breakers to win the game.
“We just couldn’t get that big play,” Stevenson said. “We just don’t have a lot of big-play players. We tried to get the ball to My’kael (Purnell) but they know he has the speed.”
The Lions had two open-field opportunities on a Jordan Malone interception and a Purnell kickoff return, but both times were tackled before they could make a break for the end zone.
The Lions committed two turnovers, turned the ball over on downs twice and committed four three-and-outs.
The Chiefs’ defensive front nine destroyed any play the Lions tried to run. Sweeps were thwarted by crashing outside linebackers and cornerbacks. Counter plays were busted by quicker defensive lineman and blitzing linebackers. Quarterback R.J. Moore was hit on each of his eight pass attempts. He completed two passes at the end of the second half.
“We’re lucky that penalties or turnovers didn’t hurt us because it could’ve been a different game,” said Chiefs Head Coach Herbert Lyons, referencing the fact that the Chiefs only had one turnover. “The one thing we could rely on is that we bring good defensive pressure.”
The Chiefs will play the winner of the Cape Coral/North Fort Myers game in Florida for the East Coast Diamond League Championship at Dover High School on April 8.