In commemoration of the 15 year anniversary of my first season with the Helsinki Wolverines, I will publish game reports that I wrote back then. 

Helsinki Wolverines vs. Sipoo Bulldogs

Date: Friday, May 26th, 2000

Kickoff: 1900H

Location: Central Sports Field at Nikkilä, Sipoo County, Finland.

Weather: Strong 25mph gusts from the West. Dark clouds. Windchill around 40F. Slight drizzle.

Field Conditions: Rain from the previous evening left the field damp, yet the natural grass surface itself was quite dry from the high winds. Basically it was a soccer field arranged for an 80 yard football field. PVC-style pipes tied to soccer goals played the role of field goal uprights.

Uniforms: The Wolverines wore last year’s unis (new ones haven’t arrived yet). White jerseys, gold pants, blue helmets with Wolverine wings & stripes. The Bulldogs had maroon jerseys, grey pants and most of team wore white helmets (among the many sponsors knitted on their jerseys was the Sipoo Electric Co.)

Highlights

    First Quarter

The Wolverines kicked the ball off and the Bulldogs were able to manage one first down before their QB threw an interception on 3rd down. The return by our safety (who left game with hip pointer on the next series) left us with 1st and 10 on the Bulldog’s 25 yard line. Four quick runs and it was TD time. XPA was missed due to strong wind.

Wolverines 6 – Bulldogs 0

The Bulldogs got the ball again and on 3rd down was another interception, this time by our strong safety (who broke his pinky in the 2nd half – he’s ok, he doesn’t need it). The Wolverines marched down the field once again as the offensive line continue to make holes big enough for an army to run through. Touchdown again via run. XPA good.

Wolverines 13 – Bulldogs 0

The Bulldogs went three and out. The Wolverines ran all over the Bulldogs again along with a few passes to keep the defense honest. Touchdown. XPA good.

Wolverines 20 – Bulldogs 0

    Second Quarter

This quarter was just like the first except the ‘Rines had no interception and they threw a bit more. Their TE snagged a nice ball in the corner of the endzone with 3 men on him right before the half.

Wolverines 41 – Bulldogs 0

    Third Quarter

This was the only kickoff return of the game for Helsinki. The Wolverines continued the domination, but had to punt once. They soon got the ball back on a muffed catch. Touchdown again. XPA good.

Wolverines 48 – Bulldogs 0

    Fourth Quarter

More passing plays were called. With the wind it resulted in less completions. At 4th and goal on the 5 yard line there was an incomplete. Wolverines eventually scored again but the XPA was blocked.

Final: Wolverines 54 – Bulldogs

Summary: Needless to say, the Wolverines pummeled the Bulldogs last night in a game that one would seriously consider lop-sided. This game is history and this week’s attention will be focussed on the June 4th match in Lappeenranta, in Eastern Finland near the Russian border. Practices will be Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday (Thursday is a holiday).

From a Center’s Perspective: Even though some of the Bulldogs’ linemen were larger than I, they had minimal skills, therefore we were able to push them around and make monster holes for our running backs. There was one gaffe I made in regards to the snap count. Next time I’ll just keep the ball between my legs until the QB snags it. The center is always right, regardless of the count. Offsides on the offense resulted, but on the next play we ran for 20 yards and made up the loss. This happened in the 2nd drive of the game and didn’t happen again. In the second half one of the Bulldogs tried to go for my right knee a few times. I barked back and threatened to kill him if he tried it again. He stopped with his tail between his legs.

It was a blast to be out there with a very organized program. The last team I was on was in ’93 with the US Air Force 8-man tackle football squad of the Ft. Meade League (don’t tell my team members about my lack of experience). We’ve been training since mid-January and the results can show, just ask Joe. No one was sucking wind and we knew what we had to do. This was our pre-season game, everything else from now on will be closely fought battles. Gladiators ready!

No injuries to report, I can play the same game tonight if I had to. And the left thumb is 85%, however, I still use a plastic cover on it along with my lineman gloves for extra protection.

That’s all for now. Until next week.

–Nando Miranda #63

Post game notes: Our first game of the season was against the Sipoo Bulldogs. I was nervous and anxious and fearful of injury. But I learned quickly that this game was meant for fun – the blocking, the strategy, the chessboard before me. I became a leader on the offensive line and made minimal mistakes. Surely, I wasn’t the best blocker on the field. My technique is still suspect. But I was starting and our offense scored big time. It felt good, a dream come true. Only in Finland could an American come onto a team as a walk-on and start for each of the games

One thing that Coach Henri Von Holten always points out. This game is over. Let’s forget about it. Let’s focus on next week’s match. More plays were practiced that week. More sled drills were introduced. We began practicing outdoors on a field in Tali. We practiced on our home turf of the Helsinki Velodrome. My helmet holds the scars of previous battles. Many more to come. Our first real road trip was to eastern Finland’s Lappeenranta. This bus ride was humorous. We saw the football comedy ‘Waterboy’. Excitement of the upcoming match was in the air.

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