Sunday, May 25, 2008

Game of the year

In a rematch of the May 3rd game, the California Quake hosted the Las Vegas Showgirlz on Saturday night. We all knew it'd be a spirited and hard-fought game ... but were surprised and pleased when it turned into one of those games that'll be regarded in future as "One Of The Best I've Seen". A stupendous effort from both squads, and six lead changes in the fourth quarter, made it the memorable matchup of 2008.

Quake came away with a 41-38 victory, eliminating the Showgirlz from divisional contention (Las Vegas is still alive for a wildcard playoff spot, so these two teams could potentially meet again in playoffs.) California has all but secured the Pacific Southwest division title for themselves ... the only team not mathematically eliminated at this point are the So Cal Breakers, who would need to win out their three remaining games and have California lose their two remaining games in order to win the title. It's considered a pretty unlikely scenario, but since the Breakers host the Quake next week, there will be plenty at stake when gametime arrives on the 31st!

The game was the highlight of a quick visit from my sister, who had traveled to Southern California on a work-related visit. She took a couple of days extra and came up to the Valley to hang with me for a while, and we had a fun time bumming around a bit. We hit her California Visit Trifecta of food she can't get in Missouri: sushi, good Mexican (specifically fish tacos) and In-n-Out Burgers. On Saturday daytime, we tried to get in to the Bowers Museum to see an exhibit of the Chinese terra cotta warriors, but unfortunately tickets had already been sold out for the day. So we ended up walking around & talking before going to the game; our conversations usually go off on strange tangents that amuse us. It was great to get to spend some time with her before she left to head home this morning!!

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Grand Canyon in May

WOMAN ON THE EDGE!!! At Yavapai Point, Grand Canyon

Caught a couple of beeeyoootiful days in northern Arizona for WildWestFest '08 (the party formerly known as Ravenfest.) It was way too hot going there and coming back, but totally worth it!

I endured the Weekend of Cursed Cameras, in which I brought the big SLR cam with the fancypants new lens, and the compact flash card fried & would not work. I had forgotten to bring a spare or two, and the store in Williams did not have any. I grumped until I remembered that I had my spare little camera, a Nikon Coolpix, that I had bought with the express intent of taking pictures while riding (since you can sort of work it one-handed.) I took pictures with that until I ran out of battery, since I had forgotten to pack the charger for that one as well. LOL

The Coolpix takes pretty decent photos, hmm?

Eastbound on Hwy 64. Note the white waterspots on the mirror, left over from the Las Vegas-Paso Robles weekend :D

More photos here. (This is a Flickr set instead of KodakGallery.)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

5-0 Quake

The California Quake prevailed again in their second meeting with the Tucson Monsoon this year, by a final of score of 37-0. KodakGallery photos here. The team is now at 5-0 on the season, on top of the Pac SW division.

Irene Kim ("Smalls") had a big game, 11 carries for 62 yards, with one rushing and one receiving touchdown, and powerback Kristin "Bulldog" Nicholas had 10 carries for 36 yards, 2 touchdowns. Kicker Sarah Oliver was 4 for 5 on the night on PAT kicks, plus 1 for 1 on field goals, with a 38-yarder. The big play on special teams happened when the Tall One, Esther McGee, got in to block a 33-yard field goal attempt by Tucson, and Armida Luna scooped it up and ran it all the way back the length of the field for a touchdown.

Next game is a big one, when Las Vegas comes to visit on the 24th. It's the final home game of the regular season. I am SO looking forward to it. My sister is coming to visit & we're gonna hang out at the game together! Come say hi if you see us there :)

Monday, May 05, 2008

My weekend: ... and BBQ

On Sunday I was meeting up with some RSBS pals in Paso Robles for lunch. It's a bit of a ways from Las Vegas to Paso Robles, so after the football game I hopped back on the bike and came back as far as Barstow, where I got a cheap hotel for the night. It was sort of windy, but not too cold, coming across the desert at night.

Unfortunately I parked the bike in the one spot in the parking lot that gets completely watered by the lawn sprinkler overspray. That must be some hard water in Barstow 'cause the waterspots were totally white on the black tank and saddlebags. The bike sort of looked like a reverse Dalmation ;)

So, up early, and an easy cruise west on Hwy 58. It was a little windy going through Tehachapi, but not bad, I've been in much worse. Past Bakersfield I jogged a bit north and picked up Hwy 46 to the coast. Strangely I don't think I've ever been on that road before. Coming up on the junction of Hwys 46 and 41, cars heading towards Fresno are turning left in front of you, a situation that makes you sit up and get alert. Well that very intersection is the James Dean Memorial Junction where the rebel without a cause ate it fifty-plus years ago. Now I know I've never managed to take this road before, I would have remembered that.

Lunch was with Jen, Rhonda, BluDog, Mel, Roger, and I got to meet Laura (BigRed) at Big Bubba's Bad To The Bone BBQ. It was pretty good 'que by California standards; meaty ribs and decent sauce. I enjoyed stuffing myself on spareribs but I'm still looking for the kind of smokehouse that is rare in the West.

No one rode the bull.

I decided to ride back via US 101, which would have been way out of the way for everyone else, so I was on my own again. No prob. The coast route was socked in with a heavy marine layer and I got practically no sun for most of the way home! I stopped at a gas station in Pismo Beach and called in to the WFBTalk line, and gabbed about the prior night's game until my battery started beeping. Then, it was time to saddle up and ride the rest of the way home.

A little over nine hundred miles total on the weekend, and my butt's not in shape for it. I think I must have landed on my tailbone in karate or something 'cause it was really killing me the last few hundred miles.

My weekend: Football ...

On Saturday I rode out to Las Vegas, to see a football game (natch! you mean there's other stuff you can do in Vegas?) The California Quake were visiting the Las Vegas Showgirlz for a 6 pm kickoff. Both these teams are in the IWFL's Pacific SW division and both undefeated coming into the game, so the matchup had big implications for the standings. Also, this is the Showgirlz' third season -- their two prior years they'd been playing in the WPFL and had been roundly spanked by the likes of the Amazons, Energy and Scorpions, and their only wins prior to 2008 had been recorded against the New Mexico Burn. However, they'd been working hard in the offseason on bringing their game up to the next level. They have good athletes and are definitely a threat nowadays. The Showgirlz had beaten the Breakers and Monsoon earlier this year, by ten and nineteen points respectively.

Now it was time for a bigger test. A lot of people picked this as the IWFL Game Of The Week, along with the Pittsburgh-DC showdown back east. I was on the sideline with a camera, the KodakGallery shots are here (317 photos.)

When the (figurative) dust cleared, California edged out the win with a big gut-check second half, with a final score of 30-27. The Quake now stand at 4-0, first place in the division. What a game! It certainly lived up to its billing.

After receiving the kickoff, the Showgirlz opened with a swinging gate formation. Personally I don't like the swinging gate, it's too gimmicky even for me who likes razzle-dazzle double reverses, but hey it's their choice and it's legal so they can run it if they want to. It didn't work too well for them when the center flung the snap over the quarterback's head, and Las Vegas ended up pinned inside their own five yard line and had to punt it away.

The Quake got out of the blocks fast when superstar running back Monique Zaky (#5) scored on a long run down the left side. Julie Blied (#33) threw a crunching block that opened up the sideline for Zaky, and set the tone of big hitting in the game. The team converted the two-pointer to take an 8-0 lead in the first quarter. In the second, California added a safety when the Las Vegas longsnapper sailed the ball past the punter, who had to fall on it in the end zone. The Quake later added a second touchdown and two-point conversion, to build the lead to 18-0. The score was by Kristin "Bulldog" Nicholas (#42) on a short blast run, her first touchdown of the year. Then, a huge momentum swing happened when the Showgirlz ran back the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. On their next possession, the Quake eventually turned the ball over on downs in Las Vegas territory. Showgirlz quarterback Kerri Mytych (#9) hit her receiver in stride on a long pass play that scored, and with under a minute remaining in the half, an eighteen-nothing game had suddenly closed to 18-14.

Coming out of halftime, Quake head coach Josh Penn started freely adjusting his team's formations and personnel, in order to stymie the Las Vegas defense which had come on strong in the second quarter. The adjustments worked: the Showgirlz couldn't seem to get a handle on the constantly changing splits on the O-line, and the Quake started moving the ball again. California put together a long drive that ended with a score by Zaky. Quake went for two and failed, and the score was 24-14. Las Vegas answered back with another long pass play, and narrowed the gap to 24-21. Three points was as close as the Showgirlz would get, and on this night of great football, everything still hung in the balance. This game would go down to the final whistle.

Incomprehensibly, the Showgirlz tried the swinging gate a few more times. I thought the whole point of that play is to catch the defense napping, or confused. The more times you run it the less it's gonna work. Same thing with a razzle-dazzle double reverse ... if the defense has a pulse, you'll be dead in the water the third or fourth time you run it LOL.

It was during the grind-it-out minutes of the fourth quarter that Zaky demonstrated that she has toughness as well as speed, and the California offensive line took control and won the game in the trenches. Play after play, the Quake would advance the ball three or four or five yards at a time, getting first downs when they needed them, and Zaky took a pounding and kept coming back for more. She scored her third touchdown on the night to put the lead back up to nine, at 30-21. On their next series, the Showgirlz completed a pass to the receiver on the left side, who had to go to the ground to get the ball. The referee missed seeing the Quake defender touch the girl down, or possibly thought she had gotten up before being touched by the defender, so when she got up and ran to the end zone the touchdown was allowed. This brought the score back to three points, 30-27, as the Showgirlz failed the two-point try. With about 1:40 on the clock, an attempted onside kick turned out to be a thiry-yard line drive down the middle. The Quake recovered it, and with only one time out remaining for Las Vegas, California was able to bang a few plays into the line and let the clock expire.

HUGE kudos to both teams for a GREAT game. That was one of the most exciting matchups I've seen in a while! However, I am admittedly biased, I cheer for the Quake and wear purple to the games, so I have to say it was one of the most nerve-wracking games I've ever been to, and I think the team owes me a new bottle of Tums LOL.

On the radio the next day, the Vegas coach said they just ran out of clock and would have beaten the Quake if they had more time. I understand that he's a coach and he's gotta say those kind of things, but I respectfully disagree. What his team really needed was to come alive before the two-minute warning at the half. The Showgirlz had the Quake a little stunned by those two quick scores, but California came back after the halftime break with their sh*t in order and went toe-to-toe with Vegas for the rest of the night. The four-point margin at the half got narrowed by one point in two additional quarters of play. I am so freakin proud of those girls. They played one hell of a game.