It’s a snap.
According to the old idiom, a snap is something easy, effortless and automatic. For the Silesia Rebels on Saturday, nothing could have been further from the truth.
Desperate to record their first win of the season, the visiting Rebels staged a late comeback against the Bydgoszcz Archers but came up one point shy of the mark losing 29-28, a margin that was possible thanks to a conceded safety and failed extra point attempt earlier in the game. Both were the result of sky high snaps and, unfortunately for the long snapper, the special teams gaffes came on a night when the rest of the team looked poised to pull an upset.
After an unsuccessful opening drive, the Rebels flipped the field to pin the Archers deep in their own end. Defensive end Timur Litvinov came unblocked off the edge on the first play, blowing up Bydgoszcz quarterback Dustin Hawke Willingham and dislodging the football. Defensive back Marcel Kramarcyk picked up the loose ball and trotted in from a few yards away to open the scoring for the Rebels.
Silesia’s first and only lead of the day would not last long. With the ball back in their hands, the Archers wisely gave it to French running back Meril Paul Zero, who rumbled 42 yards up the middle to get his team into enemy territory. Shortly thereafter, Willingham set Zero up with a simple screen pass and the speedster broke outside for a 24-yard catch and run touchdown, knotting things at 7-7. Rebels tight end Benjamin Boldys dropped a pass to end the next drive and it was then that the first snap sailed over the head of punter Courtney Etienne, giving up two crucial points.
It looked as if the Archers might score again to start the second quarter after a pass interference call against Rafal Morzinski put them in prime position, but Willingham airmailed his end zone toss on fourth down and the team came up short. A few drives later, Willingham went deep, only to be picked off by the athletic Devion Young. British quarterback Ashley Bailey got his team into plus territory with a 34 yard strike to Jan Kurkuc, with a horse-collar penalty against Patynowki Blazej tacked on for good measure, but was sacked by Grzegorz Piotrowski to force a field goal attempt. This time the snap was good from Adrian Gabrys but Jakub Krystecki broke through the line to get his hand on the ball and keep Bydgoszcz in front.
That lead would grow shortly after, when Zero took the dive up the middle, broke one tackle and then headed for the pylon on a 56-yard touchdown run. The Archers missed the extra point and Silesia regained some momentum on the next drive. The Rebels marched the field and Bailey connected with Jan Kurkuc in the back of the endzone from 10 yards out to make it a 15-14 Archers lead at the half.
The second half began in the same back and forth nature as the first. A struggling Dustin Hawke Willingham looked to gain momentum with a deep throw down the sideline but Young again came in to pick off the underthrown ball. It wouldn’t change much however, as Archers linebacker Piotr Fafinski jumped the swing pass intended for Jan Trojniak and took it in for the score on his offense’s behalf. After Rafal Michon and Adam Izydorcyk recorded back to back sacks to give the Archers the ball for the start of the fourth quarter, Zero did the rest. The Frenchman began the drive with a big 25-yard carry, then capped it by bouncing outside and racing in from 26 yards out to make it a 15 point game.
Though behind in the late going, the Rebels were far from done. Backed up by a Fafinski sack, Bailey found Jan Kurkuc for 23 yards on the fade to get the ball rolling. When all seemed lost on fourth down, Bailey bought time before finding an open Trojniak for the crucial first down, then did the rest himself by following a parade of blockers off the left side for a 14-yard touchdown run. With a chance to make it a one score game, the Rebels’ faulty snapping again reared its ugly head and the ball went airborne, almost returned by the Archers for points of their own.
Down nine with minutes remaining, Silesia tried and failed to recover the onside kick. Thankfully for the Rebels, the Archers passing offence continued to flounder and a Devion Young knockdown on a fourth down shot gave the Rebels back the ball. Bailey connected with tight end Benjamin Boldys for a big 23 yard gain over the middle and then played hero once again. Rolling right, the British pivot took off from 21 yards away, breaking one tackle and narrowly staying in bounds before powering the rest of the way to pay dirt with multiple defenders hanging off his back. He again connected with Boldys for the two point conversion and the Rebels were down just one with the failed extra point looming large.
Curiously, the Rebels went deep on the next kickoff and it proved their undoing. Willingham and Zero alternated carries as the Archers ran out much of the clock. Though the two came up one yard short on fourth and ten with seconds remaining, it wouldn’t matter. Bailey’s attempt at a hail mary fell incomplete and he was swallowed up on the final desperate lateral play as his team fell 29-28.
The British pivot was his team’s best player in the loss, battling through a handful of dropped passes from his receivers to go 12 of 26 passing for 155 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Jan Kurkuc was on the receiving end of four of those passes for 80 yards and a score. Bailey was also the Rebels’ leading rusher, taking off five times for 50 yards and two touchdowns. All purpose man Devion Young had 24 yards of offense to go along with his two interceptions and Ukrainian Timur Litvinov anchored the defense with two sacks.
Archers quarterback Dustin Hawke Willingham struggled through the air, completing only five passes for 55 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, but his team sparkled elsewhere. Meril Zero ran for 218 yards and 2 touchdowns on 17 carries, adding 33 yards receiving and another score to lead his team to victory. The Archers defense added a relentless pass rush against the mobile Bailey, combining for nine sacks. Grzegorz Piotrowski led the way as a blitzer and got home for 2.5 sacks himself, while Piotr Fafinski had one to go along with his pick six.
Even with the dazzling running and pass rushing from Bydgoszcz, everything came down to the missed snaps and missed opportunities from the Rebels. Falling to 0-4, Silesia couldn’t quite get the pieces to snap into place, both literally and figuratively, and are now firmly in fifth place and out of the playoffs in Poland.
Photos: Juwel Fotografia