The Syracuse Strong has won back-to-back NFA championships. Here are all the details, highlights and what’s next for the minor league title holders.
They say it’s difficult to beat an opponent twice in the same season, it’s even harder to beat an opponent three times.
But that’s what the Syracuse Strong was able to accomplish vs the Troy Fighting Irish on Saturday evening in the NFA Championship game.
The first two matchups were much simpler for the Strong:
- After having a close contest early in the season, Syracuse scored 17 unanswered points to walk away with the victory at home.
- Then Syracuse didn’t play with their food the second time blowing out the Fighting Irish by over 30 points.
This third contest was much different and much weirder.
Troy won the coin toss and chose to defer. Regardless of the result, that is always the wrong choice. By deferring, you’re allowing the home crowd to get into it and allowing the Syracuse Strong to set the pace of the game.
Syracuse made Troy pay for it by converting a third and 12 for a 20-yard touchdown from Jason Boltus to Zavon Watkins.
That’s when fans at the Valley Sports Complex got to witness the wing-t offense.
For fans who don’t know what this means here are some quick points:
- Instead of snapping the ball, like in a normal offense, there is tossing.
- The formations are bunched and tight which in theory minimizes mistakes.
- Also, this offense grinds a defense, there may not be a ton of explosive plays but they lull you to sleep.
On top of the unusual offense, the Strong defense was facing they dealt with a lot of adversity in terms of penalties and turnovers.
Syracuse Strong quarterback Jason Boltus looked off in this game and never really found his rhythm. He threw a bad interception deep in Troy territory into double coverage.
Thanks to some more penalties and a punishing Syracuse defense, they made the most of an
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unfortunate situation. The Strong forced Troy back to their own endzone and a high snap later resulted in a safety.
With Syracuse up 9-0, it seemed like the game was starting to get under control. Due to the safety, Syracuse also was awarded possession and it looked like another touchdown until it wasn’t.
Boltus found Watkins (a familiar connection) for seemingly a touchdown, but a Troy defender simply ripped the ball away from Watkins.
In pre-game, Zavon was running routes and he was holding the ball like a loaf of bread after the catch. Fortunately the Irish couldn’t do anything with the possession and punted it back.
That’s where we really started to get weird.
Once again Syracuse seemingly scored a touchdown, but after the refs convened they said that star Syracuse running back Rashad Burns lost the football in mid-air as he was diving into the endzone giving the ball to Troy as a touchback.
Strong gets the ball back again, missed a field goal.
After countless missed opportunities by Syracuse, Troy finally capitalized.
The Irish milked nearly the entire second quarter as they methodically moved down the field little by little punching in a touchdown. 9-6 lead after missing on the two-point attempt.
Syracuse extended its biggest lead of the game thanks to some clutch defense (fourth and short stop at midfield) and Jason Boltus delivering a 23-yard strike to Laquan Rouse aka LA for the 15-6 lead.
The Irish wouldn’t give up as they benefitted off some personal foul penalties and respond with their own touchdown, but another missed two-point conversion made it 15-12.
Syracuse wasn’t phased, being in this spot before, they responded with a clutch drive to punch it into the endzone one last time to extend their lead 22-12.
That was good enough for the 30th straight victory for this organization, per Team President Khalid Bey. That also completes a 14-0 undefeated 2019 season for the Strong.
Also, it delivered more hardware in the form of consecutive NFA Championship games.
Up next for the Strong they will contemplate their bowl invitations and explore the possibility of consecutive minor league New York state championships.