The Spring League kicked off the second week of their six-week regular season, Saturday on FOX, with a Northern Division matchup between two 1-0 teams, The Alphas, and Conquerors, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Both teams are coming off of victories in the opening week of the TSL season. The Alphas bested the Aviators 23-9, while the Conquerors edged the Linemen 27-20.
Each game carries more significance in a shorter season as teams try to qualify for the Spring League championship game on Saturday, June 19th, on FOX. The Alphas are led by veteran coach Peter Vaas, Quarterbacks Vad Lee & Brian Lewerke, and a dynamic two-headed backfield of Brian Burt and Blake Morgan, both runners combined for over 270 yards rushing in week one. On the opposing side, the Conquerors championed by the legendary Jerry Glanville, have a balanced attack on both sides of the ball, and former Houston Roughnecks coach, AJ Smith, had a great opening week orchestrating a diversified offense with quarterback Kevin Anderson and running back Sola Olateju leading the charge. Two smaller school standouts are getting an opportunity to shine in TSL. A running theme throughout the Spring League, which features many small school players among its eight-team rosters.
Alphas-Conquerors Game Recap
The Conquerors’ opening drive started at their own 44-yard line after an excellent kick return by DB Dominique Martin. A third-down conversion by Kevin Anderson to Vinny Papale Jr., followed by a defensive facemask by Azeem Victor, set the Conquerors up quickly into the Alphas Red Zone. But the Conquerors’ drive would stall, and kicker Cole Murphy ended up missing a 44-yard field goal left of the uprights. Murphy’s third miss of the early season.
The Alphas offense would take over on their 33-yard line to start their first drive with former Michigan State standout Brian Lewerke under center. Two failed screenplays opened the drive, but Lewerke would connect with receiver Tevon Wright for 27 yards on a big third-down conversion. However, a sack by mike linebacker Zach Hall would derail the Alphas’ drive and force them to punt.
The Conquerors would begin their second offensive drive deep inside their own ten-yard line, and they would quickly go three and out. A short punt by Cole Murphy would result in the Alphas offense setting up shop in Conquerors territory. As a result, the Alphas would get on the board first when kicker Nathan Hierlihy would convert a 48-yard field goal to give his team a 3-0 advantage.
Going into the second quarter, another Conquerors’ drive on offense would stall, this time, thanks to the Alphas pass rush led by former FCS standout Nasir Player. On their next drive, the Alphas offense would be captained by Vad Lee, James Madison’s holding QB. Lee, the former JMU standout would use his escapability and creativity to complete his first pass for 17 yards to Ka’Ronce Higgins. The play helped kickstart the Alphas offense.
Using an RPO-styled offense with Vad Lee at the controls and behind superb blocking in the trenches by former NFL veteran and Seattle Seahawks draft pick Kristjan Sokoli. A player who graded out as TSL’s best linemen in week one after the Alphas rushed for over 300 yards. The Alphas offense would quickly move from inside their own ten and across midfield. A Vad Lee completion off of play-action to Tavon Wright would put the Alphas deep into scoring position. The Conquerors defense would stiffen inside the twenty and force the Alphas to settle for a 30-yard field goal by Nathan Hierlihy.
Trailing by six at the halfway point of the second quarter, the Conquerors offense, which has a returning seven players from last fall, would surprisingly continue their struggles to move the football. The offense did get past midfield, only to fail to convert on third down. A running theme in the first half, Cole Murphy attempted a 56-yard field goal with enough distance, but the kick would sail left, leaving the Conquerors scoreless.
With under two minutes left in the first half, the missed kick by Murphy would give the Alphas great field position on their next drive. And almost immediately, with Brian Lewerke back in the game, he would connect with newly arriving WR Jeff Cotton, making his third reception of the day and help take the Alphas into the red zone area. Cotton, the former Chargers UDFA, and Idaho Vandal proving himself to be a quick study.
Two plays later, the Alphas would score their first touchdown of the day when Brian Lewerke would find WR Ka’Ronce Higgins on a jump ball from thirteen yards out. The extra point would give the Alphas a commanding 13-0 lead.
In a funny moment captured on the sidelines, Ka’Ronce Higgins, when interviewed by Kevin Kugler and Brock Huard about the scoring play, Higgins would cut the session off in mid-stream, as he was out of breath and at a loss for words.
The Conquerors would attempt to answer with a score before the half, but a Tavvon Salter fumble near the sidelines would send them scoreless into the third quarter.
The start of the second half would see Jerry Glanville’s troops on defense force the Alphas to punt. Former Seattle Dragons quarterback Brandon Silvers would see his first action in the Spring League, coming in for Kevin Anderson to try and kick start the Conquerors’ offense. Backed by some great adjustments on offense by OC AJ Smith, Silvers would get cooking immediately, connecting on his first four passes, the second of which, a 29 yard hookup with tight end Matt Seybert. The Conquerors’ biggest play of the day to that point. Two plays later, Silvers would hook up with RB Jordan Salima on a twelve-yard touchdown strike.
Brandon Silvers would finish the drive, 4/4 for 59 yards and a score, providing the spark that his team needed. The extra point by Cole Murphy would cut the Alphas lead to 13-7.
On the ensuing possession by the Alphas, the Conquerors defense would step up again, this time forcing a turnover as Brian Lewerke’s attempted underarm flip was intercepted by a diving Zach Hall. Thanks to the former 2018 Buck Buchanan award winner for defensive player of the year in the FCS. The Conquerors’ offense would be back on the field immediately.
However, the momentum would shift back to the Alphas when defensive back Jojo Tillery intercepted a 3rd and 17 pass attempt by Brandon Silvers. The former Tennessee Titans safety would return the ill-advised pass by Silvers 56 yards down to the 8-yard line. Three plays later, the Alphas would cash in on the turnover with a rushing touchdown by Vad Lee from three yards out. Extending their lead.
On the next Conquerors possession on offense, Brandon Silvers would connect with Vinny Papale Jr. on a key third and long conversion to keep their teams’ chances alive late in the third quarter. Facing another key third down, WR Cole Spieker would make an acrobatic first-down reception near the sidelines to extend the drive.
With the game heading into the 4th quarter, down by 12, the Conquerors would face another crucial conversion attempt, this time on 4th and 4, at the Alphas 27-yard line. However, the Conquerors’ offense would be turned away on downs when Brandon Silvers failed to connect with Matt Seybert, who was streaking towards the end zone.
The Alphas would attempt to chew up the clock by leaning on their ground game, but the Conquerors’ defense was able to force them to punt the ball back to their offense. With Brandon Silvers still in the game, he would hook up with Tavvon Salter for a leaping 26-yard completion for a first down. The big play would help the Conquerors drive down to the Alphas 20-yard line, but they would be faced with another fourth-down decision once again. On 4th & 4, with 9:06 left, but this time, the Conquerors were able to convert with Michael Bandy picking up the first down on an underneath completion down. It would lead to Brandon Silvers second touchdown of the day, as he would connect with Matt Seybert from twelve yards out to get the Alphas lead down to 19-14.
Nursing a five-point lead, The Alphas, Behind the running of QB Vad Lee, and their offensive line would drive into enemy territory on their next series. Alphas linemen Shane Carpenter would be carted off the field in the midst of the drive after going down with a serious leg injury.
As action resumed following the injury, on a key third-down play, Vad Lee would escape a sack and pick up a first down by sliding in the field of play to keep the clock rolling. As a result, The Alphas would extend their drive into the red zone, forcing the Conquerors to use all of their timeouts. Facing a 3rd and 7 at the Conquerors’ 11-yard line, up five with 2:41 left in the game, rather going with the safe play of running the clock down to the two-minute warning and kicking the field goal. The Alphas wisely decided to throw the football with Vad Lee, and it paid off as he hit on WR Tevon Wright with a twelve-yard strike for the score.
Wright, the former Chadron State receiver, who broke all of Don Beebe’s records at the university, would finish the day with 8 receptions for 92 yards, and the score that would extend the Alphas lead to 26-14.
Down by 12, with very little time to spare, Brandon Silvers and the Conquerors would drive quickly down the field into scoring territory. Thanks in part to a kickoff out of bounds, which set them up in excellent field position. With 1:14 remaining in the contest, Brandon Silvers would throw his third touchdown pass of the day, from 18 yards out, this time to Michael Bandy. The score would cut the Alphas lead back down to five.
However, a failed onside kick attempt by the Conquerors would thwart their late comeback attempt, and the Alphas would hand on to stay undefeated.
Final Score- Alphas 26 Conquerors 21
With the victory, The Alphas move to 2-0. They will face Hal Mumme and the Linemen on, Thursday 5/20, on FS1. The Conquerors, now at 1-1, will square off with the Aviators on Thursday night as well. Both teams operating on a short week in Indy. The Aviators and Linemen will meet this evening on FS1. So all four Northern division teams will have the same amount of days to prepare for one another.
Players of the Game- Alphas QB Vad Lee (3 touchdowns), Alphas WR- Tevon Wright (8 receptions, 92 yards, 1 td), Conquerors QB- Brandon Silvers- 17/26 203 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception (All in the second half)
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