This past weekend taught us three things about the New England Bobcats.
First, on the field they are the cream of the EIFL. On Saturday night, just a week after beating the then 7-1 Southern Steam, they took down the formerly 8-1 Western Maryland Warriors, 61-14, to clinch first place. QB Najee Hillman threw for four touchdowns and fullback Darryl Cyprien ran for three others, while safety Treavor Pugh picked off Tyquan Bryant three times and Antonio Young added a pick-six as the Bobcats secured home field in the upcoming championship game, now set for July 7
This team is stacked on both sides of the ball, but Saturday’s biggest theatrics did not come from Hillman carving up the Warriors secondary nor from Pugh stonewalling its offense, but from Offensive Coordinator Bill Savary’s postal outburst in the first quarter. That brings us to our second Bobcats lesson: despite nine games under their belt, they still don’t know arena football rules.
On New England’s second possession of the game, Savary dialed up a wheel route down the left sideline, but it was a play Head Coach Julien Robinson was prepared for. His 6’5″ 215-pound jack linebacker T.J. Brooks fired to the sidelines and broke up the pass intended for Zander Perry circling out of the backfield. That prompted Savary’s meltdown, as he insisted Brooks should have been flagged for leaving the box. The referees, equally as unsure of Rule 9.2.7, which removes all linebacker restrictions when a running back leaves the offensive box, lost control and confusion reigned during a five-minute stoppage of play. At one point, Savary had to be physically restrained from Robinson, who was attempting to explain the legality of his defense. Savary left the field to campaign for support from the bench while his offense converted on fourth down without him. He returned on the next play and the Bobcats went on to score.
It was a matter that could have been averted if the 32-page league rulebook had been assigned reading in the preseason, but owner Cynthia Hudson had no one around to assign it after running two successive head coaches out of town before her first game. She’s since left the position vacant, and that’s our third Bobcats lesson: ownership doesn’t play well with others.
Take the past week, when Hudson spent her time pressing Robinson and Southern Steam owner Bobby Dammarell to move the playoffs up a full week, concluding it on July 7. The EIFL’s postseason schedule was set months ago and included an off-week to allow travel teams to arrange economical plans, so both Robinson and Dammarell – each of whom face playoff travel – held their ground. Hudson’s efforts picked up after her win on Saturday, given she would now be looking at a three-week layoff before the championship game on July 14. Only a few weeks ago, a similar three-week break was not so disruptive. In early June, Hudson declined a trip to Rochester to take on the AAL’s Kings after cancellations left her team idle for two consecutive weekends, so her latest efforts are quizzical at best.
As Robinson spent most of his Sunday afternoon trying to resolve issues that threatened the Warriors’ participation in the postseason, Hudson reportedly badgered the league for a decision on whether he was in or out. When Robinson confirmed earlier today that he was forced to withdraw, the semifinal game was canceled and the league agreed to move the championship game up to July 7 at the Bobcats’ Chelmsford Forum home.
One problem: Hudson failed to secure the venue beyond last Saturday’s game. The Forum is no longer available and Hudson is on her way out.
Now the league wants answers from her, specifically about where she intends to host the championship game. And time is of the essence. As reported a week ago, Dammarell, who is also the league’s commissioner, had arrangements in place to hold the championship in the neutral-site Richmond Coliseum if his Steam made it that far. With the Warriors out he is in, but his window to secure the Coliseum is shorter given the game has been moved up. So, as the entire league scratches its head over Hudson’s inability to enter into a season-long lease that covered the postseason, it is she for whom the bell now tolls.
Fifty Yarder’s self-appointed mission is to call out the good, the bad, and the ugly of arena football. To have all three rolled into a single team’s weekend is an unexpected convenience for which we are grateful to Hudson. In a tenancy with the Chelmsford Forum that started when she was locked out of a scheduled press conference to introduce the community and team to one another, it is only fitting that it should terminate with Hudson locked out once again, this time with a lot more at stake.