Blizzard Top Edge to Reach Conference Championship
Stingy Defense and Ball Control Key in 51-30 Victory
There is an old adage that says it's hard to beat a team three times in one season. The Green Bay Blizzard (12-3) put that belief to the test on Saturday night as they welcomed the Bloomington Edge (10-5) to the Brown County Arena for a first-round playoff match up. The Blizzard had swept the Edge in their two regular season meetings. Five total touchdowns by quarterback Donovan Porterie and a big turnover late by James Romain helped push Green Bay to a 51-30 victory. The Blizzard advance to face undefeated Sioux Falls in the Conference Championship next week.
La'Ron Council again surpassed the century mark on the ground as the Blizzard featured a powerful ground attack in an effort to both run clock and give their defense a rest whenever possible. A stingy defensive effort was led by Greg Jackson who tallied 10 stops on the night. The Blizzard defense held Bloomington 18 points under their season average of just over 48 points per game.
The game got off to a positive start for Green Bay when Donovan Porterie scrambled three yards to the end zone on the first possession of the game to grab an early 7-0 advantage. The Edge answered with a 16-yard field goal by Pete Christofilakos. Just three plays later, Porterie struck again by finding Marquel Willis for an 18-yard score to stretch the early lead to 14-3. Edge quarterback Dusty Burk responded quickly near the conclusion of the quarter by hitting John Cooper on a 12-yard touchdown connection.
Green Bay took advantage of a pair of field goal misses by Christofilakos in the second period to outscore Bloomington 10-3 in a quarter dominated by the defenses. Porterie scored his second touchdown on the ground on the first play of the quarter by sneaking in from a yard away. Bloomington used a successful field goal attempt from 35 yards out to cut their deficit to seven. The only other points came courtesy of a 25-yard kick from the Blizzard's Adrian Trevino.
The teams exchanged heated words on their way to the locker room at the break and as a result both squads came out of the half with something to prove. Bloomington struck the initial blow as Burk and Ricardo Lenhart hooked up on a 12-yard touchdown pass less than three minutes in. That score cut the lead to just three points. The rest of the quarter belonged to Green Bay, however, as Porterie scored with both his arm and his legs. The first was another short dive across the goal line from a yard away and the pass was from three yards out to John Halman. As a result of Porterie's pair of Td's the Blizzard held a 37-20 lead heading into the final period. Of his multitude of rushing scores Porterie said, "It's the playoffs now, I'm just trying to help out the team in any way I can. If that means throwing to open receivers I will do it. If it means handing off to La'Ron or keeping it myself then that's what has to be done."
Blizzard Head Coach Robert Fuller was happy with his team's 14 straight points after the initial Lenhart score, "We knew a quality team like Bloomington was going to make some big plays and get back in the game, but we needed to take care of ourselves and that's what we did during that stretch."
A resilient Bloomington team made a push to get back in the game early in the fourth. Christofilakos drilled a 38-yard field goal which was followed by a Trevino miss on the next possession. Burk wasted no time responding, again spotting Lenhart open downfield and connecting for a 15-yard score. At that point a determined Blizzard offense marched nearly the length of the field, using solely rushing plays, to salt away five minutes of clock and push the lead to two possessions on a Council TD run. Council finished with 102 yards on 21 carries. Second-team all-IFL offensive lineman Seth Smalls liked the drive, "Linemen love to run the ball and that was fun, but we will do whatever it takes to score points and go 1-0 each week." James Romain ended any thoughts of a Bloomington comeback by stepping in front of an errant Burk pass and racing 41 yards untouched to give Green Bay their final margin of victory.
The playoff journey continues for the Blizzard next week Saturday in Sioux Falls against the Storm (15-0). Kickoff is slated for 7:05 p.m. James Romain likes his team's odds. "We would like nothing more than to shock everyone and pull off a huge win in South Dakota. Our goal is to win a championship."