Taz Vang Bell & Co. Remain Perfect
OPFL - Varsity FootballJohn Urban
Every time the Jr. Mustangs Varsity football team takes the field, perfection is on the line. After an 11-0 perfect 2017 season, London has followed that up with a perfect 7-0 regular season in 2018. Now they enter territory where a loss wouldn’t just end their perfect record, but eliminate the defending champions from the OPFL Playoffs. Saturday evening at City Wide Field the Jr. Mustangs hosted the Niagara Spears in a Conference Semi-Final match-up, a Spears squad they had beaten 40-3 at the same location in late June.
Niagara knew coming down to the Forest City that if they had any chance at winning this game, they would have to contain London’s Running Back #2 Taz Vang Bell. Who rushed for over 1100 yards and 15 touchdowns during the regular season and had 89 yards with 2 TDs in the win over Niagara. Despite all the Spears scouting, the TVB Show would start without delay, grabbing a 67-yard rushing TD 35 seconds into the game to make it 7-0 London early. Later, with 2:29 left in the opening quarter, the offensive line would create a hole and Taz Vang Bell would do the rest, for a 30+ yard rushing TD to make it 14-0 home side after the 1st quarter.
Both defenses did a great job in the first half to limiting the Quarterbacks aerial assaults, as both London’s #15 Garrett Holmes and Niagara’s #4 Travis Arp failed to find rhythm with their offenses. In the red zone, Niagara would gamble on 3rd down with 7:44 left in the half instead of kicking a field goal. Only to have Arp’s pass into the end zone bounce off his receiver for an incompletion and turnover on downs. With 1:38 left to play in the 2nd quarter Taz Vang Bell displayed poetry in motion yet again, with his longest TD run of the game, this time from 80 yards away. TVB’s third TD of the game made it 21-0 for the Jr. Mustangs, giving the young Running Back close to 200 yards before halftime. Niagara did manage to put up some points up in the first half, with #2 Justin Succar grabbing an Arp pass for a TD catch with just 6 seconds left on the clock, to send the teams into the locker rooms with a 21-7 score.
Taz’s backup is #21 Dylan Gallant and despite only getting secondary reps, he still finished the regular season with the third most rushing yards in the league. With Vang Bell resting on the sidelines, Gallant would get in on the action, scoring a rushing TD of his own from close to the end zone to make it 28-7 with 8:01 left in the 3rd quarter. On Niagara’s next position, a fumble recovery by London’s #1 Ryan Long would give the Jr. Mustangs the ball back deep in Spears territory, allowing Kicker #18 Brian Garrity to nail a 42-yard field goal to make it 31-7 heading into the 4th quarter.
With the game well at hand, all London was concerned about was playing good defense and not getting injured. Well, with 11:13 left in the game #13 Noah Johns would run the ball for a first down, but injure himself and had to be carried off the field. With 2:24 left Niagara’s Quarterback Travis Arp would heave the ball into the end zone, having it deflect off of two sets of hands and caught for a touchdown. The Spears also converting for two-points to cut the lead down to 31-15, but that is as close as they would get. Another Brian Garrity field goal in the dying seconds would hand Niagara a 34-15 loss and eliminate them from the playoffs.
The Jr. Mustangs Varsity team is now a perfect 8-0 in 2018 and will now host the Hamilton Jr. Tiger Cats for the Conference Final, a team they beat 39-14 at TD Stadium back on May 26th. The Semi-Final win did come at a cost though, with #13 Noah Johns appearing to have a serious hamstring injury that should keep him out of action. Despite the loss of Johns, the real question for Hamilton is; can you stop Taz Vang Bell? Who had 4 rushing TDs and accumulated 236 yards during the regular season win in late May and even if you can stop TVB, will that stop the perfection that is the London Jr. Mustangs Varsity team?