The MSFL opened the season this past Saturday with much hype and anticipation. There was a distinct buzz in the Indianapolis area around one game in particular: the Indiana Nighthawks hosting the Indiana Generals. Park Tudor Stadium was packed. The atmosphere was electric. It was a pretty awesome and overwhelming sight for me — and I showed up halfway through the first quarter. My breath was taken away as I entered the field to finish getting ready so I could contribute to my team…then I saw the scoreboard: my team was trailing 14-0. I thought to myself, “Already?! C’mon, man! We can’t get blown out in Game 1.”
By the time I was fully dressed and had warmed up on the sidelines, just over four minutes remained in the first quarter. “Saunders, be ready for the next series.” When Coach Perry McMurren says to be ready then you better be or your night will be done before it gets started. Within my first three plays, I assisted on two tackles. I wasn’t all that impressed with the Generals’ offense but no progress was made by either team. Both offenses seemed to stall. We couldn’t move into scoring position but when the Generals last were on offense, they fumbled and we recovered it just outside the redzone. We went into halftime with same score that ended the first quarter, 14-0.
I started with TeamBLACKOUT to start the second half and we held up well the first couple of drives but again, our offense wasn’t moving the ball. Midway through the third quarter, the right side of our defense got caught out of position and we got burned up top with a long pass down the sideline for a score. Now, we’re down 21-0…No bueño.
What really encouraged me was that the team did not get down on themselves. Our offense pulled together for a nice drive that was capped by a short pass that turned into a long run for a touchdown. We had some miscommunication on the extra try attempt so the score was 21-6 to end the third.
We kept fighting back in the fourth. Our first score of the quarter came on a long punt return. A serious surge of hype hit the Nighthawks as we were within striking distance; again, the conversion failed so we were trailing 21-12. TeamBLACKOUT made another spot which led to another punt by the Generals. The Nighthawk offense marched it down field and converted on a short pass play to get into the endzone; this time, the two-point conversion worked. We were within one point with half of the fourth left…and the momentum had shifted.
Our defense held up and allowed our offense another shot but this time to put the Nighthawks ahead. We got within scoring distance, just outside the redzone, with about two and a half minutes left but couldn’t get in the endzone. We lined up for a field goal…I couldn’t watch…It was kicked…I heard it blocked. I thought to myself, “Defense has to get this ball back.”
The Generals took over on offense with 2:21 left on the clock and we only had one timeout. The game was done. It was painful to accept but I was proud of the way we played. Nobody gave up; we all kept clawing. A 21-20 loss to the league runners-up from the previous season is not something to be ashamed of.
There are plenty of spots where we need to make some adjustments but I feel that this is a solid team. I left an extremely dominate team to be apart of something new and this was the first time in a long time that football was fun. The Indiana Nighthawks is a quality football team that can not be slept on. We will have our share of rough moments but this is a good start to what should be a great franchise.
Unfortunately, I will not be playing next week in the Chicagoland against the Leyden Lions; I will be nursing an Achilles injury and I will be participating in a good friend’s wedding but I have no doubt that my Nighthawks will represent us well. I will be back in action against the Midstate Steel on July 28.
I’d like to thank all of the people who came out to support the Nighthawks. You all were amazing! The whole organization truly appreciates it. I hope you enjoyed it at least half as much as I enjoyed playing in that game. I love playing football and hope that I was able to give you a good show.