Leeds Chargers and GB Lions baller Gaby Knops has been having one helluva season since making her move to the West Coast, competing for the Seattle Majestics in this year’s Women’s National Football Conference. This week, Knops saw action in all three phases as the Majestics fought for a narrow win over the San Diego Surge, booking themselves a place in the Pacific Conference Championship game just three days later! (Sat 15 June – tonight!)
In what at first glances appears a bit of an oddly cramped postseason format, Thursday saw Gaby and her teammates kick off their postseason campaign once against squaring off against the San Diego Surge – a team that the Majestics had become very familiar with this year having dueled them twice in the regular season. With a Majestics win in the first meeting, and a 20-20 draw in the second, it was clear coming into the postseason that these two teams with 4-1-1 records were very closely matched, and Thursday’s showdown certainly lived up to the hype of being a nailbiting clash!
Coming into the playoffs as the #2 seed in the Pacific conference, the Majestics took to the skies as they flew down to San Bernadino, California, where the LA Bobcats would play host to all four postseason outfits across the three fixtures (two semi-finals and a Conference Championship game) – thus limiting the potential traveling expense of each of the teams involved.
As has been their pattern in recent weeks, the Majestics would once again lean heavily on their elite performing defence for Thursday’s win – Seattle booked their place in the postseason courtesy of a shutout win over the Rebellion, and Thursday evening saw them hold the Surge to just a single field goal.
No small part of the Majestics’ growing resilience on D has been Gaby’s emergence as a playmaker on both offence, defence and special teams. She had an MVP-worthy breakout game against the Rebellion to wrap up the regular season, not only busting out big plays on offence, but also making huge plays on D as well as a potentially game-saving tackle on an interception return.
Therefore, it came as no surprise to Gaby fans who’ve been following her season from this side of the pond that Gaby was all over the field playing like a wrecking ball on Thursday, kicking off her day as the Majestics made use of a heavy set that had been a rare sight during the regular season, Knops breaking a play to the outside to set up first and goal.
Though a delay of game pushed Seattle back, Gaby lead the way for fellow running back Cara Lord right up to the 1yd line, allowing Lord to follow up with what would be the first, and indeed last, touchdown of the day for these two teams on the very first drive!
Though the offence were off the field, there was no rest for Gaby as she made both the tackle on the Surge’s kick return, and also a tackle for a loss on the Surge’s first play of the day, sweeping in from outside backer to bring down the running back.
The second play saw Knops blitz the edge, hurrying the San Diego QB, and the Surge looked flustered from the out as they’d turn over the ball on the very next play.
From here, however, both teams’ resilience would begin to shine through, as neither outfit could make much ground, the Surge splitting the uprights in the second Quarter.
Come the second half, it looked like the Surge might have been intentionally playing away from Knops’ left side of the field and she justified that choice when they made a rare play in her direction and Gaby blew up the play, not fooled by the misdirection she took down the San Diego QB for a massive loss!
Neither team could find any points in the third quarter as they traded punts and turnovers – the Majestics picking off San Diego just outside their end zone and leading to a dangerous situation, receiving shotgun snaps in their own end zone. Much as it had been against the Rebellion, it was Gaby’s ability to break plays to the outside that gave the Majestics some breathing room, busting a play to the outside and trucking some defenders on her way to the biggest Majestics rush of the night.
With the Surge looking dangerous in the final few minutes of the game, San Diego set themselves up with a first and goal from the 7yd line, before a pair of penalties pushed them back to a 1st and 22! Continuing to apply pressure from the edge, Knops once again took down the Surge QB, chasing her down from behind for a big tackle on 2nd down.
As the Surge set themselves up for a potential game-tying field goal, strong pressure from Gaby and the rest of the Majestics special teams saw a hurried kick go wide left and gave the Majestics an opportunity to grind out the final two minutes of football.
Leaning on their ground game, Gaby lost her boot on a deep dive through the Surge defence, unfortunately setting up diminutive second string back Kiki Williams to receive a crunching hit, emphasising why Seattle tend to look to Gaby to grind the hard yards up the middle of the field.
Unable to run out the clock, Seattle once again had to turn to their shutdown defence to close out the game, allowing the Surge nothing for four straight plays before the Majestics took over to kneel out the game – taking a 6-3 win into the Pacific Conference Final where the Majestics will take on the #1 seeded Utah Falconz – live streamed for those committed to following Gaby’s season at 0200 Sunday morning on the LA Bobcats’ Facebook page!