|South Jersey Football:
Lynx Lock Up Division Crown; Eye Home-field Advantage in Playoffs
Saturday, September 16, 2006
By Rich Quiñones
In a defensive struggle, it was a gutsy fourth-down call by head coach Lester Cream early on in the fourth quarter that might have earned the Lynx home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Cream is widely considered one of the best and most intense coaches in the league and is strongly making a case for Coach of the Year in the NAFL.
Without star wide out Maurice Taylor, who was tossed early in the game, Cream designed a play for Edwin Diaz to run a quick slant route in the end zone. However, it was the genius of the play that propelled the Lynx. Knowing that the Terminators would double-team perennial All-Star tight end Samuel Ruh, Cream drew up the play for Diaz, who earlier in the contest hooked up with Cross for a long gain.
Flushed out of the pocket, Cross rolled out to his left, and as he has down all season long used his legs to create space, firing a 12-yard TD strike to Diaz, who bobbled the ball before hauling it in for the score.
“I knew I had to make something happen and Marty got me the ball,” said Diaz, who ended with a pair of catches for 83 yards.
And when Anthony Coleman sealed the contest with an interception in the end zone as time expired, Cream was able to breath a sigh of relief.
“The play was designed for Diaz, and Marty made the play. Sam did a great job of getting off the line and drawing the coverage. Diaz never quit on the play and Marty did what he has done all season long,” said Cream.
The Lynx have won eight straight games overall and in the process have beaten the Terminators (6-3) five straight times including three straight with the New Jersey Division Championship at stake.
We knew coming up here, this was going to be a tough game,” said Cross, who completed 3-of-11 passes for 91 yards on a wet and soggy field. Cross, though, did add 73 yards on the ground and added a gorgeous pooch kick to help the Lynx get out of trouble early on.
“It was tough to travel up here and not have anytime to get dressed, stretch and prepare for the game,” added Cream.
The game didn’t start off any better, as Fidel Napier uncharastically fumbled the ball on the game’s first offensive play. The defense, though, buckled down and forced a 17-yard field-goal attempt that was blocked.
“That was a big play,” added Cream. “Are defense really stepped up tonight”.
The defense was led by John Haltiwanger, who had a coming out party against New Jersey, accounting for a game-high six-and-half tackles to go along with pair of sacks and a pair of quarterback pressures. Haltiwanger hounded the Terminators’ all night, dropping back in coverage during the course of the game, causing a constant disruption in the Terminators’ offense. Haltiwanger’s inspirational play earned him Mystic Defensive Player of the game along with Napier, who earned Offensive honors with 85 yards on 18 carries.
During the Lynx’ next offensive series, disaster loomed on the horizon again, as talented wideout Maurice Taylor was tossed from the game for personal foul.
“He was tossed early and we had to play the rest of the game without him,” said Cream.
The rest of the game was a defensive struggle with neither team mustering any type of offense. The story of the game was the Lynx line- backing crew comprised of Arthur Lewis, Gary Sunkett, Eugene Jones, and Haltiwanger. The four combined for 14 tackles.
The Terminators drove into Lynx territory late in the third, but Delvin Jones halted the drive with his first interception of the season.
“What can I say about the defense, they came to play tonight,” concluded Cream.
Home-field advantage is well in reach for the Lynx. They close out the season with two winnable games against the New York Panthers and then a make up game against the Empire State Wolfpack, respectively. Two more wins and the Lynx would edge the Dakota Lawdawgs for home-field advantage for the playoffs. The Lawdawgs are presently undefeated, but the Lynx would earn home-field advantage because they have more points scored then the Lawdawgs.
“We came out and played hard tonight,” said Cross. “This is what Lynx football is all about, it feels great to beat these guys again and clinch the division. But our work is not down.
Game Notes: Diaz has four touchdown receptions on just 11 catches this season…Coleman recorded his career-high sixth interception…Cross has 22 touchdown passes this season…Former NFL punter Tom Parks booted his first extra-point of the season…Napier surpassed his career-high in yards with 766 (733 in 2005)…The Lynx blanked the Terminators for the second time this season.
NAFL Regular Season
South Jersey Lynx 7