Foshan Tigers Defeat Hangzhou in Dramatic Playoff Finish

By Brian Badzmierowski, November 21, 2019

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The Foshan Tigers held on to win 25-22 against the Hangzhou Smilodons in what can only be described as a dramatic finish.

As the ball sailed high into the end zone with the Smilodons (a scientific term for sabertooth tigers, if you were wondering) down by three and the game on the line, a Tigers defender intercepted what had become the final pass in Hangzhou’s season.

Image via Jayden Lin

This playoff game was a rollercoaster of emotions, featuring flaring tempers, disputed calls and even a gyrating referee.

“It’s always good to get the win. It’s a good thing I don’t have high blood pressure,” said Head Coach Jacobi. “I get emphatic and I yell a lot, but some of the stuff is just frustrating with the referees. They took plays away from us.”

The Tigers scored first in the game on a beautiful 70-yard catch-and-throw and kept that momentum until a series of self-inflicted wounds caused them to unravel.

The Tigers quarterback, known as Fisher, tried to re-enter the game after being injured. But instead of providing a spark, he threw an interception at his own 5-yard line and was re-injured on the play.

Later in the game, the Tigers mishandled a punt at their own 1-yard line, setting up an easy Smilodons score. A fumble inside their own 20-yard line led to another Smilodons score. Hangzhou had turned the tide by halftime and appeared to be in a great position to finish the game with a win.

While the head coach tore into the team at halftime, it took the Tigers an extra quarter to regain their swagger.

“I blew up at them in the locker room,” said Jacobi. “I said: understand your play, make your play, don’t try to make everything.”

With the starting running back out with an injury, Mamyati Kifasi stepped in and took on the Smilodons almost single-handedly. He gained a crucial first down and then scored a touchdown to pull the Tigers within three points with just minutes remaining in the game.

football-fat-guys.jpgImage via Jayden Lin

“I knew I had to step up for the team. We were playing at home, we were the better side. We just lost focus at some point in the game,” he said. “I had so much belief that we were going to win, there was no better way to tell my team other than making them see it.”

After the touchdown, he started salsa dancing with a teammate, which led to a penalty. Jacobi demanded to know what the penalty was for, which lead to a dance re-enactment from the referee. The crowd certainly got a show. 

“The referee gave us a penalty for that,” Kifasi said. “But it wasn’t directed at anyone, it was just a normal celebration.”

After the Smilodons fumbled on the following possession, the Tigers seized on the opportunity with another touchdown, going up 25-22.

On the final drive, the Smilodons had found their groove, passing the ball with ease, letting their star tight end bulldoze his way down the field. The Smilodons could have tied the contest with a field goal but elected to go for the win, a decision which cost them the game. 

Image via Jayden Lin

The Tigers will travel to Wuhan on November 30 to face the Berserkers in the second round of the playoffs. The Berserkers’ QB played Division I football in the US and will pose a tough challenge for the Tigers.

For some Tigers players, it will be their first time visiting Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province.

Tigers cornerback Leona Lin, the only female player to suit up for either team on Saturday, is excited for the trip. “I know it’s a beautiful city, but I’ve never been,” she said. “Every time we play away, I think, ‘Wow! I can travel now!’”

But she knows the business at hand is beating the Berserkers. “They’re great, they’re excellent. They’re number one in the West (division).”

[Cover image via Jayden Lin]

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