Archived Posts ‘Miracle Season’ Brings Home Another Coyote Championship Posted on December 8, 2015 0 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr (LOS ANGELES) – The story line was written within the first five minutes of the title game between the SoCal Coyotes and defending champion Inglewood Blackhawks Sunday, one that would define the fabric and sheer will of the eventual winner. League MVP and Coyote slotback James Calhoun was rocked with a vicious blow to the face on a crossing route over the middle that bent him backwards and left his mouth gushing blood. The Blackhawk bench – and stands – exploded in bedlam. That’s what’s up, they screamed. There is something beautiful, however, about the laser focus of a professional football player who refuses to be sidetracked by fear, or participate in sideshows of emotion. With the hopes of 30,000 Coachella Valley youth riding on his ability to ‘Defend the Shield’ of Faith, Family and Football, Calhoun quietly turned the other cheek. Two plays later, the Coyote Comet snagged a pass on ‘72 Screen’ from record-setting quarterback and league Offensive Player of the Year Zach Adkins, turned up field, and twisted the Blackhawks into soft pretzels, en route to a 77-yard touchdown that shut up the crowd without saying a word. Um, that’s what’s up. As in these supremely talented Coyotes are never intimidated, or discouraged. Thanks to their brutally physical ‘Darkside Defense,’ the Coyotes would never trail in the game. Calhoun would catch seven passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns, and tack on game MVP honors to go with his other league hardware. The 13-1 SoCal Coyotes completed their fall 2015 ‘Miracle Season’ by punishing the Inglewood Blackhawks 31-14 at Jackie Robinson Stadium, earning their fourth championship in just three years of existence, to secure their place as the most dominant football team in Coachella Valley history. THE FIRST HALF WAS A FURIOUS FIGHT, much like the first three rounds of a Mike Tyson loss. The Blackhawks got on the board in a play more bizarre than an episode of the ‘Twilight Zone.’ A short Inglewood pass was broken up, with one official correctly ruling it incomplete. The ball on the ground was casually picked up by Coyote linebacker Cade Cowdin, who – like everyone else – thought the play was dead. A Blackhawk slapped it out of his hand. Another Blackhawk picked it up and ran for a touchdown while the back judge was conversing with two other players. Meanwhile – what, no whistle? – the play was ruled an Inglewood touchdown. The furious Coyotes silently voiced their protest by blocking the PAT. The score stood at 7-6 until kicker Dan Kelly – who would earn league Special Teams Player of the Year – calmly drained a 49-yard field goal – his longest of this season – just before the half, giving the Coyotes a 10-6 lead at the midway point. SoCal coaches, aware of the boiling cauldron their defense was conjuring, warned the mature Coyotes to not be fooled by gimmick plays, predicting Inglewood would not hold up under such pressure. Keep chopping with big swings, they instructed, until the tree falls. COYOTE COACHES CALLED A SURPRISE ONSIDE kick to open the second half, and Kelly delivered. The Coyotes attacked the lone Blackhawk in the ball’s path and recovered. That set the tone – and field position – for what came next: Sizzling defensive line play and strafing linebackers, the likes of which have seldom, if ever, been seen at this level. How dominant was the SoCal ‘Darkside Defense’? Wave after wave of Coyotes pummeled former CFL and Blackhawks quarterback Kyle Parrish, sacking him 10 times, knocking him down 21 times, and intercepting him three times. “Our whole team has taken on the personality of our defense,” says assistant head coach Shane Helms, the architect of the ‘Darkside.’ “Their attitude is one of ‘we will find you, we will hunt you, we will eat you.’” Eat, indeed. As the sun drooped behind the Hollywood Hills, the stadium lights – and the Coyote ‘D’ – turned up. What followed was one of the most destructive performances in Coyote championship memory. Overnight, the vaunted Blackhawks offensive line looked reaching, and immobile, against a lethal, younger, stunting, twisting and flying-to-the-football Coyote unit engineered from superior Division I and pro-prospect talent that is both lightning fast and physically overwhelming. “They were guessing all night where our pressure would come from next,” says linebacker Ryan Pervine, who had five solo stops. “Mostly, they guessed wrong.” ALL GAME, THE COYOTES NEUTERED the Blackhawks runners, holding them to a whimpering net of 31 yards. This was largely thanks to towering North Carolina State linebacker Robert Caldwell, the former Cleveland Brown, who sent the NFL another memo with eight spine-shuddering stops for huge losses or no gain. Which, of course, forced the Blackhawks to throw. “Kill the run, kill the tight end, kill the quarterback” is literally a page out of the Coyote playbook. Enter Arizona State defensive end Jake Sheffield, who caused irreparable harm, with four vicious sacks, four tackles for loss and an interception off a tipped pass. And he was only part of the migraine that made up the Blackhawks pounding headache. The Coyotes moved mammoth Delta State nose tackle David Williams from the left side, to the right side, to everything in between, collapsing the pocket. Bemidji State linebacker/freak-of-nature Gary Young, 6-3, 285, dipped and sprinted under Inglewood’s tackles all day, delivering three more swooping, thunderous sacks and six tackles. Utah State linebacker Cade Cowdin was sideline-to-sideline, with four tackles and two sacks. Southeast Louisiana linebacker Devin Jones had six tackles and a sack that folded Parrish like a lawn-chair. Parrish, a valiant veteran and consummate pro, did his best to put his team on his back, even calling his own number on a quarterback draw to pick up a first down. “Sheesh, tell him to slide,” whistled one by-stander, as a pair of Coyote linebacker missiles barely missed their mark. “Those bullets are live.” The depth of the Coyote defense was demonstrated by standout linebacker Will Hoglund – a hero in the regular season. Three deep in the rotation, the poised Hoglund poured off the edge in relief, more harassment served up fresh. ALMOST LOST IN THE FOG of the settling dusk was the lights-out play of the Coyote secondary. Texas El-Paso star rookie corner Nick Gathrite defensed five passes, had six tackles, and returned an interception for a touchdown. From the ‘Department of this Could Have Been Worse’ – Gathrite dropped two more interceptions – with a clear path to the end zone. Cornerback Ridge Turner, and safeties LeRon Wilson and Anthony Spencer, played up to the challenge of Inglewood’s elite receivers, playing physically rough when necessary, draping them like a cheap suit in deep thirds, and rerouting them all night. Collectively, the Coyotes made one mistake – a late fourth-quarter blown coverage that resulted in a long, and by then, meaningless, catch-and-run touchdown by Blackhawk standout Solomon Jones. THE RUN ‘N’ SHOOT IS DESIGNED TO keep taking shots, until you pay with a mistake. The Blackhawks, to their credit, didn’t make many, but when they did, that’s exactly what happened. Adkins stepped into the pressure of the championship crucible exactly like the Arena Football League teams watching him hoped the Coyote gunner would: Cool under fire, and error-free. His 17 for 32 passing – with zero interceptions, again – dished up a Joe Flacco-like 333 yards of consistency, and his 11-yard second-half touchdown to Calhoun in the back of the end zone was right off an ESPN highlight reel. Adkins patiently fed the other Coyote receivers, who worked harmoniously, and unselfishly, like a chorus of doo-wops behind Calhoun’s center stage Mo-Town act. Stevie Will Jr. put up 91 yards on three catches, while Billy Eichman, Rashad ‘The Franchise’ Roberts, DeMario Brown and Mario Rolland added riffs that kept alive the drives that resulted in Coyote points. Running back Warren ‘Lil’ Train’ Matthews had 65 yards on eight carries. With 2:08 to play, he burst through the massive Coyote offensive line, bounced off tacklers, spun through another, and then dragged two exhausted Blackhawk defenders with him for a 14-yard touchdown that iced the game at 31-14. The Coyote defense would enjoy one last stand, before Adkins brought down the curtain on the Silver Stretch, respectfully closing the game on bended knee in the Coyotes victory formation. “GOD CALLS ON HIS BIGGEST PEOPLE to solve the BIGGEST problems, and only asks BIG people to do BIG things,” head coach J David Miller told his triumphant team, which won 13 straight after a shocking opening-day loss in August. “BIG people don’t get caught up in petty things. They don’t talk small, or play small, or act small. They focus on the BIG picture with BIG ideals and BIG futures. And they never, ever, let their history determine their destiny.” For everyone riding this rocket ship called the four-time champion SoCal Coyotes, destiny looks brighter than ever – and very, very big, indeed. POST-SEASON HONORS – The Coyotes finished the season with an exclamation point. Calhoun was league MVP and championship game MVP; Adkins, Offensive Player of the Year; Kelly, Special Teams Player of the Year; and AAA Hall of Fame head coach J David Miller was named by his league peers as ‘Coach of the Year’ for his third time, in three different leagues. AMERICA’S #1 DEVELOPMENTAL PRO FOOTBALL PROGRAM became the only team in Coachella Valley history to win two championships in a single calendar year, playing a back-to-back pro and amateur schedule. Over seven seasons, the Coyotes are 63-11 under Coach Miller, and have played in six championships, winning four. GOLIATH FALLS III – In three meetings this season with the Blackhawks, the Coyotes outscored Inglewood, 117-64. In their last six quarters of play, the Coyotes outplayed them 66-14, and are the only team to shut out the Blackhawks in a half. The Coyotes are also the only team to defeat the Blackhawks – for 15 years considered the standard in Southern California – three times in a single season, including an unprecedented two times on the road, in the challenging environment of Jackie Robinson Stadium.