Alex Niznak’s acrobatics lift Recife Mariners over João Pessoa in nail-biter

Recife Mariners – 14
João Pessoa Espectros – 10

Vila Olimpíca Parahyha – João Pessoa, Paraiba

When in doubt, follow the rules. That maxim worked well for Recife Mariners quarterback, Alex Niznak and Tight End, Eduardo Palacio in João Pessoa over the weekend.

With about a minute left in the game, facing a second and goal on the two, Mariners Head Coach, Lucas Cisneros called a roll out pass to toward the right of the Recife offensive formation.

‘’Alex was getting positive yards when he was on the move, so he was going to read it and if it wasn’t there, he was going to run it or throw it out of bounds,’’ said Cisneros.

‘’We liked the matchup with our TE, so we called a play to roll the pocket and get him a 1v1 opportunity,’’ said Niznak. At the snap, the Espectros defense pressure Niznak to the sideline with their box defenders, as the secondary stuck to their coverage assignments.

‘’I rolled out he followed our scramble rules and trailed me and as I was hit by the LB I saw the corner come up,’’ said Niznak

The Espectros players in coverage had seen Recife’s number one receiver run off to the middle of the field, and at the very last second before the Mariner quarterback was taken to the ground, attacked Niznak, running past Palacio, who had converted his initial route to mirror his scrambling quarterback.

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Above: Jesus ”water to wine” Emanuel and Bruno Sherman wrap up Mariners qquarterback, Alex Niznak. Photo credti: Anderson Silva Fotografia.

‘’I took a shot that Palacio would be where his rules say he should be and he was there,’’ said Niznak, who as he was being taken to the ground, with Espectros defenders swarmed him, threw the ball backwards and over his head, in a no-look fashion that would make Chris Paul proud, into the waiting hands of Palacio, to score maybe the most unorthodox touchdown in SuperLiga this season. ‘’(It was a) crazy play but we will take the points and I know our fans love it,’’ added Niznak.

Watch Alex Niznak’s game winning, over-the-head toss to Eduardo Palácio.

That play, as bonkers as one will see in any league in any country, capped off a well-executed two-minute drill, highlighted by a 4th and 10 connection from Niznak to Vinicius Jah to keep the drive alive.

Just minutes prior, a defensive battle that saw the Espectros go into the 4th quarter leading 3-0, had exploded with scoring. Niznak found Richard ‘’Guash’’ Texiera on a backside post to put the team from Pernambuco up 7-3, and the ensuing kickoff saw the Espectros play the ‘’hidden ball trick’’ with two of the countries most dangerous return men, Heron Azevedo and Carlos Cox, in which multiple members of the Espectros return team gathered at the spot of the dropped ball, and then separated, with Cox and Azevedo running in separate directions. Cox kept the ball, all the way to the end zone, putting his team up 10-3.

As much of a circus as the 4th quarter might have seemed like, it was not without planning. ‘’We deferred when we won the toss, and we were very fortunate to end the game attacking towards the wind,’’ said Cisneros.

If you ask Cisneros what his favorite play is from his teams nail-biting victory over rival João Pessoa, his answer might surprise you. The play Cisneros loves, an exquisite onside kick and recovery by Recife kicker Rafael Bandeira, followed the still-being-talked-about touchdown from Niznak to Palacios, sealed a huge road victory for his Mariners squad. ‘’This was the best play of the game, maybe better than the behind the back,’’ said Cisenors. ‘’We had about a minute left and we didn’t want Cox or Heron to return another one, so we squibbed it,’’ he said.

For his version of a squib, Bandeira, one of the top kickers in the country, unleashed a rocket directly at the center of the front line of the Espectro return team, which ricocheted off the shin of an Espectro and bounced back into the hands of Felipe ‘’Lacraria’’ Barros.

‘’We just heard a loud ‘pop’ and then saw the ball bouncing back to Felipe,’’ said Cisneros.

AFI’s take: The latest in what is quickly becoming the ‘’getcha popcorn ready’’ game of Brazil, had a lot to live up to, and it did not disappoint. Each of the last four match-ups, dating back to last season, have seen a difference in victory of less than a touchdown.

Check out the entire MarinersEspectros game here:

Clayton Lovett
Clayton Lovett has served football in Brasil in a variety of roles, including as the member of the coaching staff of two CBFA national champions (Cuiaba Arsenal 2010, 2012). Football is his hobby. Professionally, he is the founder of CS Educacional, which provides educational and competitive opportunities abroad for student-athletes.
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