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 "Stung again", Man-O-Man does that two word phrase sum up Saturday night's season opener for the Mohawk Valley Vikings football team! The Monroe County Sting, defending league champs "survived" four quarters of hard hitting, emotion charged football and hung on to squeak past Mohawk Valley 21-19.

The Vikings opened their 2006 New York Amateur Football League season at "home" in a game played at Rome Free Academy stadium in front of a loud, amped up, "are you ready for some football" type of crowd. A crowd made up mostly of friends and relatives of team members and true-blue, dyed in the wool gridiron fanatics!

(Pre game warm ups!)

Before we get to the game itself, which was a great one, I might add, let's talk about the atmosphere! I must confess I have never attended an NYAFL game. Let me say this, after last night's game, I can say for sure that I shall return!

Back to the atmosphere. How does a Wild West show sound? Or maybe a WWE Raw event sound? Or maybe bikers week in Daytona Beach! That's more like it. I say that only because you could sense that both teams and the fans were ready to rumble as soon as you walked into the stadium!

Don't get me wrong, I am not knocking the atmosphere or crowd in any way, shape or form! I loved the energy you felt at the stadium all night long!

The electricity felt was partly due to the fact that this was the season opener for both teams and also due to the fact that the visiting Sting knocked Mohawk Valley out of the post season last year! Let's not kid ourselves... there is no love lost between these two teams. Despite this mutual animosity towards each other, I found it fitting to see both teams and coaching staffs kneeling and praying at mid field after the game had ended!

( Post game hand shakes)

Where else can you go for six bucks and have so much fun? Where else can you see a head coach scratch names off a roster prior to kickoff because players quit the team or had to go to work instead of the game? Where else can you see players dressed in uniforms walk to the stands before kickoff and at halftime to greet their families and friends? Where else could you see a visiting team official walk across the field in the middle of the second quarter to ask why someone from the Viking's sideline had been in their locker room? Where else would you be able to hear so much smack talking from players on the sideline or on the field? Or last but not least, where else would you hear a player say "he just hit me in the nuts... can you believe he hit me in the nuts?" No where else! That's why I enjoyed myself so much and that's why you should go to the stadium on July 15th to watch the Vikings play the Glove Cities Colonials.

First impressions of the Mohawk Valley Vikings and the NYAFL. I came away more than impressed with the play on the field on both sides of the ball. There is a lot of talent in this league. The players play with heart and tons of it. The hitting is hard but clean. The coaches can coach and the players can play!

( Dan Sullivan coaching linemen)

Now to the game! What a game it was. The Vikings wanted this one bad! They wanted it to make up for last year and they wanted it to prove that the 2006 team will be a real player in the league this year! The Vikings came about two inches away from proving their point!

As the teams broke their pre-game huddles and were set to head out to the field of play the entire Vikings roster put hands together and shouted at the top of their lungs, "Whose house.. Our house", over and over and louder each time! Assistant coach Dan Sullivan summed it up best when he yelled to the team, "Every play is the game." How true and man was he dead on with that statement!

( Coin toss)

Mohawk Valley Vikings vs. Monroe County Sting game summary:

First quarter:

The Sting started out the game on offense at their own 36 yard line after the opening kickoff.

On the first play from scrimmage, Sting running back Tarryl Gano, a great player, fumbled the handoff and Vikings linebacker Robert Mclean recovered to give his team early momentum.

14:35 left in quarter one and the Vikings are smelling pay dirt. (Ball on Sting 37)

Romell Ponder, # 33 in your program, who had a great game I might add, picked up five yards on first down. On second down the Vikings were called for illegal procedure and were backed up five yards. (Make a mental note... penalties killed the Vikings all game long). The drive stalled and Mohawk Valley was forced to punt.

( Early action-1st quarter)

The Sting takes over at their 11 for their opening drive on offense.

QB Willie Given hands off to Greg Riley who picks up 1 yard and pays a price as linebacker Jake Reader (# 42) drills him. Reader was a tackling machine all night long. Nothing doing on this drive for the Sting and they punt to Mohawk Valley.

9:25 left in quarter one:

Good field position for the Vikings at the Sting 34 after a good punt return. QB Justin Kastner connects with tight end Norm Dole in the flats and along with the yardage picked up on the catch the Vikings can add on another 15 because of a roughing the passer penalty. The Vikings are in the red zone at the Sting 15 sitting pretty.

Not so fast. On the second play of the series Kastener tries to hook up with wide out Ryan Darling but the pass is tipped and picked off by Marc Gray. Momentum back to the Sting!

Running back Larry Walters starts the Sting drive off with a 15 yard bust up the gut for a first down at the 40. Jake Reader makes a big stop on third down and the Sting is forced to punt.

Vikings ball on their own 21 yard line. A first down penalty for illegal procedure back the Vikings up five and killed the drive. Time to punt.

The Sting starts out at their own 47. On third down QB Wille Given tries to hit Emmanuel Bradberry in the middle of the MV zone. The pass is broken up by LB Kyle Slystra and the Sting is faced with a big decision to make as the first quarter comes to an end.

  • 0-0 After one!

( Second quarter action)

(Ray Scott in deep announcer voice) "We turn our attention now to a key moment in the game!" Just kidding. It is a big point in the game though!

Fourth & two for the Sting from the Vikings 36. New QB Dan West completes a pass in the flats to now wide out Willie Givens! First down! At the MV 29.

Big play two! 4th and 1 from the MV 20. Mohawk Valley jumps offside. First down Sting drive alive. (Another key penalty)

On the very next play West hits wide out Mike Huey who makes a leaping grab at the MV 1 yard line. First and goal Sting.

( Sting scoring drive)

Next play Saucobie Riley dives in from the one for the first touchdown of the game to make it Monroe County 6 Mohawk Valley 0. The kick is good 7-0 Sting.

Nick Smith returns the ensuing kickoff to the 34 yard line where the Vikings offensive line anchored by veterans like Neil Pezzula act like they are taking the Sting TD personally and start to open up huge holes for their running backs!

Dave Hogan rips off 5 yards off the right side. Hogan then runs over defenders for 14 yards more to the Sting 48.

Momentum had swung to the Vikings sideline and you could hear the chants from players and coach Dan Sullivan, "pound it... pound it... pound the ball."

7 minutes left in the second quarter, "The O Line shines"

Following an off sides penalty by the Sting the Vikings had the ball first and ten at the Sting 38 yard line.

On second and nine Justin Kastner, hit one of his favorite targets, Norm Dole for an 11 yard gain to the Sting 27!

From here the drive falls apart. Tim Johnson a huge Defensive End for the Sting sacks Kastner to set up a third and twenty. Tack on another five yards (penalty) and you can see how the drive falls apart.

The Vikings punt with just under five minutes to go before half-time.

Tarryl Gano returns the punt to the Sting 40, but a clipping penalty moves the pigskin back to the 25 yard line.

"Announcer voice"... We move ahead to further action! Half time comes and the score after two Quarters is Monroe County sting 7 Mohawk Valley Vikings 0.

Insert commercials here! And halftime highlights! I have to get a drink, it's hot! I have to change the batteries in my camera as well!

Ok, we're back!

The two teams talk strategy and make adjustments for the second half. This is a great game so far!

Mohawk Valley gets the ball to start half number two:

The Vikings start at their own 24 after the return and get the O Line rolling again. Jacob Frost rips off runs off a fifteen yard run and moves the ball to the 38.

On the next play the Sting comes with an all out blitz. The Vikings read the play well and call a draw to Romell Ponder who makes a great shake & bake move and takes the ball all the way to the Sting 32 for a 28 yard gain. (Ponder is the real deal)

Up pops the devil or should I say Sting! The Vikings get stung on the second pick of the night thrown by Justin Kastner. Kastner tried to get the ball to Steve Pearson but Marc Gray made a great read and stepped in front for Pearson for the pick!

12:26 left in quarter three!

The Sting is forced to punt thanks to big plays from Tim Brower and Keenan Cooper to thwart the drive.

9:08 left in the third Vikings ball on the 50 after a great punt from the end zone by the Sting.

Big series for the home team! Good field position and "ole mo" on their side!

Can you smell a touchdown coming? I can!

Romell Ponder starts the drive with a 3 yard burst, but the Vikes pick up 15 more after a late hit. First down on the Sting 26!

Next play: Ponder makes another great deke (hockey term) and rumbles for 15 more yards to the Sting 11!

Chris Mosher runs for two to the nine on first down.

(Cue up the band!)

On the next play Justin Kastner pulls off great ball fake, hands over to Romell Ponders who runs over, around and through the Sting defense into the end zone for the Vikings first touchdown of the 2006 season. Give the line credit for great blocking on the play! (Monroe County 7 Mohawk Valley 6)

The point after attempt is good and with 4:50 left to go in the third quarter we are knotted up at 7-7!

Hold on to your hats! It gets better!

On the next Sting possession, after a Vikings Squibb kick, the Sting starts out on their own 37.

Willie Givens rips off nine yards for the Sting and is brought down hard by linebacker Anthony Macri. (Macri hits like a mule by the way)!

The Sting advances the ball to the Vikings 34 as the third quarter runs out!

At the start of the fourth quarter the visitors are faced with a 3 & 6. A third down pass attempt is broken up by Joe Pruckno and the Sting tries a long field goal! Wide right! (I won't say a word Bill's fans)

The Vikings take over on the Sting 37 with great field position!

On third and long Dave Hogan breaks off a beautiful 20 yard run for a key first down pick up. The ball is now at the Sting 17!

Up pops the penalty bug! False start. The drive stalls and the Vikings punt with 11:41 left on the clock!

The Vikings sidelines chants "Gotta play D.. Gotta Play D!"

Fast forward to 7:33 remaining in the game! (I'm the editor... I can do that! Besides we're running out of space in this issue! Just kidding!)

Sting ball on the Mohawk Valley 31 yard line.

On the second play of this series for the Sting, Quarterback Dan West made one of the best ball fakes and runs I've seen in a long time! West drew the entire Vikings D to the short side of the field with a marvelous ball fake, then put the ball on his hip and took off down the right side line into the end zone for 6! Monroe County 13 Mohawk Valley 7! The extra point try was wide right!

The Vikings get the ball back with 6:10 left in the game! "Block... block" is screamed from the sidelines!

On the first play from scrimmage Romell Ponder throws for a five yard loss, setting up a second and 15. Justin Kastner drops back to pass and tries to hit Ryan Darling on a deep fly pattern. The pass is picked off again. This time by Emmanuel Bradberry.

Game over? Heck no!

Last stand. 4:34 to go in the game!

After an incomplete pass by the Sting on first down and a short two yard run on second down, the Vikings call time out with 4:13 left to go.

On the next play the Defense stiffens and sets up a big 3rd and 12 for the Sting.

Once again QB Dan West burns the Vikings secondary with a great throw by West and even better catch by Marcus Davis, for twenty yards and a first down at the Sting 35.

Another completion this time to Emmanuel Bradberry, gives the sting a first and ten at the Vikings 46 with 2:58 left to play.

On the very next play West drops back to pass again and hits Alex Leonard in the flats on a short screen pass. Leonard fumbles the ball and Bill Peterson falls on the ball to give his team life!

First and ten Vikings with 2:40 to go! Ball on the Sting 41 yard line!

Romell Ponder bulls for 6 tough yards on first down. Two minute warning!

On second and four Justin Kastner finds Nick Smith open over the middle for a big first down! 1:49 to go! The ball now on the Sting 16!

Time out Sting!

On first down Romell Ponder runs for 3 to the 13. On second down Justin Kastner finds Nick Smith open at the 3 yard line. First and goal Vikings. Time out Sting!

An off sides penalty on the defense moves the ball to just outside the one yard line.

On the next play Dave Hogan rams his way into the end zone to tie the game at 13-13 with 1:21 to go in the contest!

Now it gets crazy!

The Vikings miss two (not one) two extra point attempts!

1:09 left in the game.

After the kickoff the Sting gets the ball at its own 45 yard line. On the very first play of the series Julius Davis takes a handoff from Dan West and beats the Vikings defense to the corner! Davis was off to the races and didn't stop until he motored 55 yards for a touchdown! (Monroe County 19 Mohawk Valley 13)

Dan Davis runs into the left side of the end zone for a two point conversion to make the score 21-13 with 1 minute to go in the game!

Now What?

On the ensuing kickoff Ryan Darling (he of Dolgeville High fame) gathers in the kickoff at his own 23, then breaks two tackles, almost trips, keeps his balance, finds the left sideline and scampers 73 yards for a touchdown to get his team right back into the game! One of the best returns I've ever seen! (Monroe County 21 Mohawk Valley 19) 49 seconds left on the clock. Time out Mohawk Valley!

( Head coach Jerry Loftis)

If you're a Viking's fan you might want to turn away now! After the time out, the Vikings line up for a two point conversion attempt. Justin Kastner hands off to, guess who, Romell Ponder, Ponder follows his blocking into the right side of the Sting defense. Ponder disappears into the bottom of a huge pile. The crowd goes quiet, you could hear a pin drop. The officials confer... the headman waves off the two point try and tell a livid bunch of Vikings offensive linemen that Ponders knee hit the artificial turf before the ball crossed the goal line.

The Sting ran out the remaining 48 seconds to claim a hard fought 21-19 win over the Mohawk Valley Vikings.

After the madness died down the stunned crowd started to file out of the stadium. I found Romell Ponder bent down on one knee on the sidelines with what looked like a tear in his eye. Don't tell me the Mohawk Valley Vikings don't play for the "Love of the game".

MV Vikings 2005