By Chris Baker Feb. 23, 2014- For the second year, the Fort Wayne Black and Blue participated in the Thomas "Chris" Smythe Memorial 10s Tournament in Youngstown, OH. The team travelled with high hopes of being champions this year after a third place finish the previous in 2013. The team was made up of many veteran players, young players, and a few that were new to The Black and Blue; but we all shared the same goal, win the whole damn thing.
Players began arriving to the pitch around nine for the first game against a very tough Toledo team. Captain and Coach Jim Burns led about twenty Black and Blue players onto the pitch for the first time that day. The fast pace of the tens game allowed many players to sub out quickly and for fresh players to enter the game. Toledo struck first and the game was back and forth till a penalty occurred within the 5 meter line. New player to the Black and Blue and current IPFW player, Mitch Olney took the restart and made a quick offload to Wes Steele who broke a tackle and shot to the corner the try zone scoring the game winner.
The Black and Blue were flying high and the next game would be the toughest yet. The Cleveland Rovers were up to par, the currant and defending champions of the tournament were up next. The Black and Blue played this team last year and hoped that the result would be different. The lineup changed to fit The Rovers speed and quickness, many Black and Blue younger players would get their chance to step up this game. The fast pace allowed for Bryan Werling and Jeremy Dunfee to really play fast and pound The Rovers smaller pack. In the second half, Clint Wall stole to ball and made a break for the tryzone while advantage was being played, but play was stopped dead and we went to sudden death overtime.
The game was over in the first thirty seconds, or so we thought. Jeremy Dunfee hit a quick gap and lowered his shoulder to level a defender at the try line effectively ending the game. The Rovers touch judge signaled the try but the head official thought differently, the ball was held up in a pile that occurred after the try; a hard call to make twenty yards down field, but it was the call. The next possession saw The Rovers end the game with a quick burst of speed through the middle.
After a quick hour and a half break, Fort Wayne played rough Erie team that ended our day. Erie stuck first, within a minute or two of play beginning. The game was chippy and shit talk was abundant, and Erie scored a second try quickly after the first. Tensions were high with elimination from the tournament looming; the game quickly spiraled out of the control of the players and the official. The second half started slowly and time ticked away. Then it happened, Mitch Olney was running the ball as play stopped for a penalty; but not for Erie. A player picked Olney up off the ground and returned him aggressively back to the ground on his shoulder; The Black and Blue cleared the bench and Erie followed the lead. No cards were given and the official struggled to regain control on the pitch; he removed both touch judges and replaced them with officials that helped stop the chaos on the field. Eventually time ran out and it was over for The Black and Blue.
The day ended in disappointment for Fort Wayne. We had the team to win but the results said different. We played on hands down the toughest side of the bracket, playing D2 Toledo and D2, returning champions and eventual champions, The Rovers in our first two games. Then there were the bad calls and the lack of able officials that could run. Excuses, we all may have a different one. But the disappoint we all share, because we played hard and left everything on the pitch but came up short in the end. Overall, there is a lot to be excited about for The Black and Blue; we have crafty and able bodied veterans that know the game, great young players coming out, and a spring season full of tough games that are all winnable. We have the friendships and trust to be successful on the pitch and we can get it done. We will be back Youngstown and with vengeance!
Bleed Black and Blue!