Maassluis Merchantmen, take 3 (FOF MP)
Maassluis Merchantmen, take 3!
February 2nd 2004, that's the day the original Maassluis Merchantmen dynasty thread was created (by me, of course). Due to load times back in the day, a second thread was started on December 20th 2007, yet I struggled to keep it updated on a regular base and April 26th of 2015 saw the last update. So, given my track record, this new thread could go either way from daily updates to having full months of nothing new. Either way, the most important part is whether I'm interested in writing about this team and apparently I've found some motivation and inspiration. Perhaps the brink of the 75th IHOF season has me in a nostalgic mood?
Dates mentioned above are 'real time', but later on, I'll refer to in-game years/seasons. To kick off this thread, I'll pick up with how the previous 74 seasons have gone. Going one by one is probably a bit too optimistic, not to mention that the first 42 seasons have been written about in the old threads. I'll try to do it a bit like how those Wikipedia threads have their time frames. There've been some definitive moments in franchise history, most notably the days we spent a 1st round pick on a new quarterback, presumably the franchise quarterback of the future. Well, I'll spoil it a bit, we've had three Hall of Fame enshrined quarterbacks, I'll kick off with describing their respective era's, with the transition periods and all the way down to the retirement of the Class of 2064 and where were are today.
2004 - 2019 The Louie Flannery era
In professional football, every franchise strives for success. One way or another, long periods of success are usually determined not just by how the team is ran, but the arrival and continuing excellence of a franchise quarterback can lift a team from a usual suspect playoff team to a championship winning franchise. The Maassluis Merchantmen thought the 5th pick of the 2006 draft was the place to get this player. Louie Flannery was his name, 6'4" tall out of Middle Tennessee State. The story of the Merchantmen started two years earlier. The International House of Football kicked off in 2004 with the Maassluis Merchantmen as 1 of 32 competing teams.
The 2004 season turned out to be a false start for the Merchantmen, posting their first victory in week 3, but failing to beat any other opponents, to 'clinch' the #1 overall pick in the 2005 draft. Before the draft class was revealed, the Merchantmen made a truckload of trades, finishing the draft with 4 first round draft picks, including QB Leonard Lyon. But as the general management was unconvinced by Lyon's skills, despite seeing the team improve to a 7-9 record. Lyon had to fight off management's favorite Fumblin' Justin McDavid, whom blew out his knee with a career devastating injury. McDavid came back after a long recovery and played a backup role for 14 seasons.
Lyon's stint was terminated after just 1 season. The Merchantmen told Leo to pack his bags and try to win the starting gig of the Springfield Isotopes. But that was just the beginning of another crapload of trades that eventually had the Merchantmen able to move up to the #5 overall slot and select Louie Flannery. Unlike Lyon and despite the love-hate relationship with fan favorite McDavid, Flannery was designated the opening day starter. Flannery became the centerpiece of the Merchantmen offense, helped by a strong defense anchored by defensive tackle Charles Gomez (Maassluis' 1st round pick in the 2004 league draft) and linebacker Cody Cluff. In 2007, Flannery got the top-notch left tackle he wanted in Indestructible Ivan Jacques and repaid the team with their first AOC Championship appearance.
The 2007 AOC Championship game turned out to be the highlight of Flannery's career. Gomez retired after the 2014, Jacques and Flannery's favorite target tight end Jim Reiser retired after the 2015 season. In 2016, Flannery finally posted his first 4,000-yard season and in 2016 he was at last rewarded with a top-notch wide receiver Gabe Springer out of Ohio, taken #8 overall, the Merchantmen's first 1st round pick since Louie Flannery 10 years earlier, as the Merchantmen made a habit of trading their top pick in prior off-seasons for over the hill veterans. Springer burst into the league receiving All-IHOF 2nd team honors as a rookie. But Flannery to Springer turned out to not be a winning combination, the Merchantmen posted 6-10 records in three straight seasons after Springer's impressive rookie campaign. Even the acquisition of all-league cornerbacks Randall Allen and Ben Greer in the 2019 off-season for the #9 overall pick and a triplet of second round picks didn't improve the team.
2004 1-15 (16th in the AOC)
2005 7-9 (12th)
2006 8-8 (9th)
2007 13-3 (2nd) conference finalist
2008 9-7 (4th) wild card round
2009 8-8 (11th)
2010 6-10 (12th)
2011 11-5 (3rd) wild card round
2012 10-6 (6th) conference semifinals
2013 8-8 (9th)
2014 9-7 (8th)
2015 8-8 (9th)
2016 8-8 (11th)
2017 6-10 (11th)
2018 6-10 (13th)
2019 6-10 (10th)
2020 - 2034 The 'Rusty' Harrison era
Going into his 15th season, Flannery was confronted with a battle that he was bound to lose. The Maassluis Merchantmen traded the #6 overall pick and their 2021 1st round pick for the #1 overall pick. Quarterback Russell Harrison out of Navy was selected. Flannery hung around for 2 more seasons, but like his precedessor, Harrison was announced as the opening day starter and from there on didn't look back, at least for a the first 10 seasons... The Merchantmen posted a 7-9 record in Harrison's rookie season and followed up with a disappointing 5-11 campaign in 2021 and 2022.
The 2023 off-season, things drastically changed. The Merchantmen traded down from the #5 pick to the #9 overall in two steps and there took wide receiver Terry Thomason. The added value was used to pick linebacker R.J. Knight at #15 overall and the 2024 and 2025 first round picks were also traded, to select defensive tackle Andy Cottle at #20 overall and former #1 overall running back Stanley Givens respectively. With Harrison, Givens, Thomason and a rejuvinated Springer, the Merchantmen became the top scoring team in the league, breaking the magical 500-point barrier. Harrison struggled with injuries, gaining him the nickname Rusty as he became accustomed to playing through pain, while backup Patrick McDonnell stepped in for 7 games. The Merchantmen quarterbacks combined for 4,580 yards and 46 touchdowns passing, until then unheard of from a defensive minded franchise. The Merchantmen crashed in the wild card round, but with this fabulous foursome on offense and Cottle and Knight anchoring the defense, the Merchantmen were a force to reckon with. Despite losing Harrison on the first drive of the 2024 season, the Merchantmen rotated between quarterbacks, mostly relying on McDonnell and still won the European division with an 11-5 record.
In following seasons, the Merchantmen saw Harrison struggle with injuries more often, but despite the retirement of Givens after the 2026 season, the Merchantmen reached (and lost) the 2027 AOC Championship game. Springer retired after that game, but the Merchantmen still managed to post a 12-4 record in the 2028 season. It turned out to be the end of a strong stretch of seasons of 11-5 or better records. In 2029, the Merchantmen missed the playoffs with a 9-7 record, while getting outscored by their opponents. The Merchantmen management and Rusty Harrison's agents failed to agree terms of a new contract in the 2030 off-season and the Merchantmen made the drastic decision to trade him to the Rochester Lake Monsters. In retrospect, the Merchantmen turned down an offer from the Tucker Tigers that could have included the eventual 2031 #1 overall pick, which the Tigers used to acquire quarterback Jackie Collier, the best and most succesful player in IHOF history.
Instead, the Merchantmen acquired Fort Wayne Fury's 3rd year pro Jay McGee as their new quarterback. Despite the arrival of left tackle Kerry Zumdahl, linebacker Fred McCorkle and safety Thurman Hopper in the 2031 draft, followed by running back Darrin Keegan, guard Ricky Castillo and cornerback Tito Close in the 2032 draft, McGee failed to return the Merchantmen to the playoffs. In the 2033 off-season, Rusty Harrison made a surprise comeback to Maassluis. Initially traded from the Lake Monsters to the Syracuse Mohawks, Harrison was traded a second time in the same off-season and returned home. Plagued by injuries, Harrison missed 12 regular games in his last two seasons before retirement and the Merchantmen failed to reach the playoffs for six straight seasons. With Harrison hanging up his cleats, it was back to Jay McGee for the Merchantmen.
2020 7-9 (12th)
2021 5-11 (13th)
2022 5-11 (16th)
2023 12-4 (4th) wild card round
2024 11-5 (3rd) wild card round
2025 11-4-1 (4th) wild card round
2026 10-6 (5th) conference semifinals
2027 11-5 (3rd) conference finalist
2028 12-4 (2nd) conference semifinals
2029 9-7 (7th)
2030 5-11 (15th)
2031 9-7 (7th)
2032 9-7 (8th)
2033 6-10 (12th)
2034 9-7 (7th)
2035 - 2039 Jay McGee period
With Harrison no longer in front of him, Jay McGee looked like a better version of himself. The running game of Keegan behind Castillo, Zumdahl and veteran center Shawn Hudspeth, supported with the defense anchored by safeties Thurman Hopper and Percy Walker, gave McGee the freedom to lead a run-heavy offense. 2035 was the start of an unprecedented period of double digit victory seasons combined with victories in the playoffs. In the 2036 draft, the Merchantmen first acquired the #20 overall pick from Paris and then packaged it with the #26 overall and a bunch of 3rd round picks to be able to move up to #6 overall to select wide receiver Terry Haskell as a replacement for just retired Terry Thomason. They then traded their 2037 and 2038 1st round picks to be able to draft defensive tackle Jerome Tyson at #26 overall and linebacker Wesley Devine in the second round. Set to step into Andy Cottle's shoes, Tyson turned out to be a bit of a bust. Devine quickly became the centerpiece of the defense, setting new standards for what a Merchantmen middle linebacker should be like. Haskell started his career with a 1,000-yard season and earned rookie of the year honors. Albeit failing to top 4,000 yards, McGee continued to improve from season to season, still leaning heavily on that running game and defense. Especially in the 2037 season, when the Merchantmen allowed only 188 points all season. Three times in four seasons, the Merchantmen were beaten by Jackie Collier and the Tucker Tigers in the playoffs.
In the 2039 off-season, cap problems piled up and the Merchantmen became a trading house once again. Castillo and Zumdahl together where shipped to the Tucker Tigers for basically all of their 2040 draft picks. Darrin Keegan was traded to the North Plainfield Plague for a fourht rounder. The craftly acquired quartet of second round picks were pacakged with the #30 overall pick for a move up to #12 overall to be able to select wide receiver Vincent Cox (he turned out to be a major bust and left the team after just 4 seasons with just 80 receptions for 938 yards and 5 touchdowns). After all was set and done, the Merchantmen running game seemed to be gone. But the contrary turned out to be true. Third year pro former fifth round draft pick Donald Terry became a sensation. Terry ran for a league leading 1,489 yards and 5.6 yards per carry from behind a line anchored by former third round center B.J. Samuels. The Merchantmen once again had to face Jackie Collier's Tucker Tigers, but this time finally broke the trend and advanced to the IHOF Bowl for the first time. While Terry played like he did in the regular season, McGee struggled against the Chesapeake Chitterlings. The Merchantmen had no answer to them and fell 23-10, never really having a chance.
2035 11-5 (4th) conference semifinals
2036 10-6 (5th) conference semifinals
2037 13-3 (2nd) conference semifinals
2038 13-3 (2nd) conference finalist
2039 12-4 (2nd) conference champion
2040 - 2044 Perry Coleman period
The IHOF Bowl loss still fresh in mind, the Merchantmen found themselves in another cap strapped situation. Contract negotiations with Jay McGee proved to be difficult. In the 2040 draft, the Merchantmen bolstered the defense with Cornerback Mark Crum and linebacker "Double D" Daniel Duncan. The Merchantmen also traded for Brooklyn wide receiver J.T. Pritt, who came off his third 1,000-yard season and the Merchantmen acquired quarterback Harvey Corbett from Snapfinger for a third round pick. The latter to fill an unexpected gap: the Merchantmen found no suitable trade partner and released McGee shortly after the draft and before training camp. McGee managed to find gigs in Iowa and Paris for the next two seasons, but IHOF Bowl XXXVI turned out to be his last game as a starter.
The opening day starting quarterback was Stanley Bissel, initially signed from Gothenburg to have enough quarterbacks going into training camp. Bissel's season ended after just 1 pass attempt in the second game, ending the season on injured reserve. Sixth year pro Harry Osborne stepped in and guided the Merchantmen to a 7-0 start. In week 9, surprisingly Corbett took over and continued the streak to 8 wins with just 65 points allowed. The Merchantmen flip-flopped between Osborne and Corbett, eventually settling for Corbett and crashed out in the playoffs 24-0 at home against the Atlanta Vipers. To this day, everybody in and around the Merchantmen organization kept thinking "what if Osborne was giving the start?"
The quarterback controversy ended in the 2041 off-season. The Merchantmen signed veteran quarterback Perry Coleman to be their starter for a handful of seasons. Injuries plagued Coleman in his second and fourth season in Maassluis, resulting in short comebacks for Osborne. Bissel was cut in that 2041 off-season, Corbett in the 2042 off-season. The Merchantmen once again improved their defense, sending their 2042 first rounder to Minnesota for cornerback Mark Pomato. The defensive line was improved with the signing of Dennis Lucas as their new pass duo with Eugene Johnstone. The defense continued to be impressive, keeping opponents below 300 points for 8 straight seasons from 2040 to 2047. Linebacker Fred McCorkle was past his peak, but otherwise the team remained pretty much unchanged for Coleman's reign. In 2042 the first round picks of the next two drafts were traded to draft running back Harold Riley, to take over from early over the hill Donald Terry, and to draft tight end Irving Clark, in hopes to improve the passing game.
In 2044, Coleman's season was cut short and with Osborne failing to get the confidence from the staff, second-year undrafted pro scrambling quarterback Malik Weaver was thrown in. In spite of the woes at quarterback, the Merchantmen still managed to finish the 2044 season with 7 wins, leaning on that all-star defense and seeing Terry Haskell have his best season to date. Still, after 9 seasons the streak of double-digit wins and playoff visits was over. After the season, Thurman Hopper retired, one year after his fellow safety Perry Walker.
2040 13-3 (2nd) conference semifinals
2041 11-5 (5th) wild card round
2042 10-6 (6th) wild card round
2043 11-5 (5th) conference semifinals
2044 7-9 (8th)
2045 - 2056 The Bryson Chow era
And then there was Bryson Chow. Without hesitation, the Merchantmen started the 2045 off-season with a blockbuster trade. Result of the worst season in quite some time, the Merchantmen held the #12 overall pick. The Merchantmen packaged their 2045 draft picks and first and second round picks in 2046 for the #1 overall pick. Everybody in the IHOF knew one thing for sure: quarterback Bryson Chow was the top prospect and a hall of famer in the making. Chow was the Merchantmen's new man under center. As early as training camp 2045, the Merchantmen started to realize that Chow wasn't a generational player, but still had the potential to be a starting quality quarterback. Chow struggled in his rookie campaign, but despite having future hall of famer Coleman still around, the Merchantmen committed to Chow. His rookie season turned out to be the only losing season of the Merchantmen with Chow on the team.
In 12 seasons, Chow had to work with wide receivers far below the franchise's standards as 2047 first round pick Marvin Badger and 2051 first round pick wide receiver Braxton Carter both turned out to be a disappointment. Despite sticking around for 10 and 11 seasons, they combined for just 2 1,000-yard seasons. Luckily, in his first couple of seasons, past his prime Terry Haskell continued to be a force. In 2046, Chow posted his first winning season, division title and a victory in the playoffs over the Bordeaux Vineyards. In 2047, the Merchantmen started the season 1-4, with their only victory being a 52-24 hammering of the Tucker Tigers. But starting in week 7, the team was off for a monstrous series of 11 straight victories, only once winning by less than 10 points and somehow earning the #1 seed in the playoffs. They beat the Houston Mustangs, but fell to the San Antonio Tidal Force in the AOC Championship game.
In 2048 the Merchantmen traded their first round pick for veteran defensive end Andrew Matthews, but even more importantly they sent their 2049 first round pick to Snapfinger for running back Norbert Talley. With Talley, the Merchantmen returned to a run-heavy approach. At the same time, one by one, the other stars of the team quit the game and the Merchantmen failed to find replacements of similar quality. Terry Haskell and Wesley Devine retired in the 2049 off-season, Daniel Duncan in the 2050 off-season and Dennis Lucas, Marc Crum and Mark Pomato in the 2051 off-season. In 2049 the Merchantmen took linebacker Jeremiah Collier, but he failed to reach the standards of Devine and Duncan. In 2052 the Merchantmen drafted cornerback Everett Heiser in the second round, who turned out to be the best cornerback since Randall Allen and Ben Greer from 29 and 34 seasons earlier.
The Chow-Talley lead Merchantmen set a new standard for mediocrity, finishing at 8 or 9 wins season after season. The rare 11-win season in 2051 was a rare feat, but the Merchantmen still managed to miss the playoffs. In 2055, Chow finally posted his first 4,000-yard season and repeated that in 2056. That season, former fourth round pick running back Fernando Scott had taken the place of Norbert Talley. Talley finished his career after the 2055 season as the all-time IHOF leader in rushing attempts and second overall in rushing yards. 2054 first round pick wide receiver Kai Oburn had ended the trend of bad receivers and had 105 catches for 1,520 yards in 2056. The Merchantmen posted three impressive victories in the last three regular season games and sneaked into the playoffs at 9-7 as the last AOC wild card. The streak continued as the Merchantmen posted close victories in Gothenburg and North Plainfield to reach the AOC Championship game in Toronto. In a shootout, Chow threw for 295 yards, but was unable to avoid the 42-34 deficit. At last, Chow had managed what the hall of famers Louie Flannery and Rusty Harrison also achieved: to reach and lose with the Merchantmen in the AOC Championship game.
2045 7-9 (12th)
2046 10-6 (3rd) conference semifinals
2047 12-4 (1st) conference finalist
2048 9-7 (4th) conference semifinals
2049 8-8 (8th)
2050 8-8 (7th)
2051 11-5 (7th)
2052 9-6-1 (7th)
2053 9-7 (4th) conference semifinals
2054 8-8 (8th)
2055 8-8 (11th)
2056 9-7 (6th) conference finalist
2057 - 2064 Lester Lowe period
In the 2057 off-season, all signs were the Merchantmen wanted to build on the 2056 success with Chow still as the starter. The Merchantmen used their 2058 first rounder to move up from #29 to #14 overall to select wide receiver Riddick Stanley and in that trade also acquired quarterback Lester Lowe from Augusta. In the fifth round the Merchantmen drafted defensive end Jordan St. Pierre, who became a day one starter. Chow guided his team to a 3-2 start, but off-season acquisition Lowe was forced into action in week 7 as the new starter. Following a 23-30 loss to the Lake Monsters, the Merchantmen won 8 games straight, including a four game stretch where they averaged 43 points per game. They lost the last 2 regular season games, but by then had already locked up the division title and #3 seed in the playoffs. In the playoffs, Lowe guided the Merchantmen past North Plainfield and they followed up with upset victories at Toronto (37-31) and Tucker (34-30) to reach IHOF Bowl LIV. In a close game, the Merchantmen eventually came short to the Williamsburg Colonials (34-27 loss).
As undisputed Chow had been for so long, Lester Lowe had taken over. With Riddick Stanley, Kai Oburn and the tight end tandem Jorge Juruvicius and Emmanuel Forbes (2056 first round pick), Lowe had four stellar receivers. In the 2058 draft the Merchantmen added wide receiver Bubba Ellard to the mix with their late second round pick. The Merchantmen passing game kept improving and the Merchantmen became an elite offense. In 2058 they posted a 13-3 record after an 8-0 start, but as #2 seeds fell flat 17-14 to the San Antonio Tidal Force. Bryson Chow retired after that season. In 2059 the Merchantmen seemed unstoppable. The Merchantmen posted a 15-1 record, scoring 562 points and allowing only 254 points, leading the league with those figures by large margins. Shockingly, the Merchantmen crashed once again in the playoffs, losing 31-17 at home to the Atlanta Vipers, becoming arguably the best team to go one and done.
In 2060 the team quickly regrouped and despite scoring only 383 points, they went into the playoffs with a 12-4 record as the #3 seeds. Following a home victory over San Antonio to avenge the 2058 defeat, they followed up with a 24-21 shocker in Tucker. By virtue of facing the #4 seeded Atlanta, they hosted the AOC Championship game and had yet another payback moment, winning 34-17 to reach IHOF Bowl LVII. The Chicago Norsemen and Merchantmen made it a close game. Chicago with their run heavy approach and Maassluis with their quintet of receiving threats for Lowe. The Norsemen played it cooler though and came out of it victorious (17-14).
In 2061, Jurevicius was the first of Lowe's targets to retire. The Merchantmen once again started strong (10-1) and despite a 3-game losing streak still claimed the #2 seed. Their old playoffs nemesis Tucker Tigers handed them another one and done. In 2062 the Merchantmen started the rebuild of the defense. Defensive tackles Shaun Hartman (first round) and Preston Urquoila (fourth round) were drafted, while defensive tackle Brian Tyler was signed as a free agent to mentor those two. Urquiola spent the season inactive, but Hartman immediately made an impact teamed up with Jordan St. Pierre and Brian Tyler. The Merchantmen offense struggled with how the game had changed. The offense scored only 294 points, seeing the team miss the playoffs for the first time since Lester Lowe took over.
In 2063 the Merchantmen fell even further, posting a losing record for the first time in 18 seasons. They actually had a chance to win the division, but choked in week 17. The 2064 season started even worse, but after a 2-7 start, they regrouped and won 7 straight to miss the playoffs on tie-breakers. Some of the credit went to the class of 2064. Trades in previous off-seasons had them going into the 2064 draft it with first rounder picks from Colorado, Outer Banks and their own. After additional wheeling and dealing, the Merchantmen used the #10 on cornerback Peter Tucker, #12 on linebacker Gabe Hamilton and #16 on linebacker Edward Ross. Second round pick cornerback Kendrick Stewart busted (just 1 season in the league), fourth round pick Bradley Gutsche never became a full time starter and fifth round defensive tackle Spencer Rousseau was a career backup, but they also used a sixth round pick on wide receiver J.T. Rivera and in the seventh round selected Daquan Strugielski.
2057 11-5 (3rd) conference champion
2058 13-3 (2nd) conference semifinals
2059 15-1 (1st) conference semifinals
2060 12-4 (3rd) conference champion
2061 12-4 (2nd) conference semifinals
2062 10-6 (7th)
2063 7-9 (11th)
2064 9-7 (8th)
2065 - 2072 Alfred Hickman period
With Lester Lowe coming off his worst passer rating, the Merchantmen sent their 2066 first round pick to Hanalei for quarterback Alfred Hickman. The draft resulted in #16 overall taken center Tom Anaya. With the loaded defense, Hickman basically just had to make sure the offense scored enough points to get ahead and maintain the lead. Given the game plan on offense, it proved to be difficult for Hickman. Aside from his first season in Maassluis, Hickman threw for 20 or more interceptions in each of the 2066 to 2069 seasons. He did throw for 4,367 or more yards in 5 straight seasons. Contract disputed forced the Merchantmen into cutting Hickman prior to the 2070 training camp. He returned in 2071 after the Merchantmen went through the 2070 season with Robbie Rhoades at quarterback. With Hickman, the Merchantmen seemed to be able to turn any wide receiver into a 1,000-yard receiver. Bubba Ellard (2065-2067), J.T. Rivera (2068), Riddick Stanley (2068), Gerald Cook (2069), J.R. Mills (2070-2072) and Rusty Andrade (2071) all topped 1,000 yards in a 5-season period. Cook was a 2063 third round pick, Andrade an undrafted rookie signing in 2066 and J.R. Mills Maassluis' 2069 first round pick. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
In 2065 the Merchantmen returned to the elite, posting a 12-4 record and losing to Houston in the conference semifinals. In 2066, the Merchantmen had some struggles, but at 10-5-1 still were European division champions. Hickman even posted more interceptions than passing touchdowns, a rare feat for a Merchantmen quarterback. Yet, leaning on the extremely talented defense, the Merchantmen cruised through the playoffs. Bordeaux (21-18), North Plainfield (31-23) and Houston (31-20) were beaten, the last two on the road. The Merchantmen had reached IHOF Bowl LXIII. Despite going into the game as underdogs to the 13-3 Texas Sharks, the Merchantmen defense took control early on and paved the way to a dominating 33-3 victory. Fittingly, defensive tackle Shaun Hartman received IHOF Bowl MVP honors, achieving what Charles Gomez never did. Moreover, the Merchantmen finally reached the top, they were IHOF champions!
Their championship defense campaign was a typical struggle. With a 5-6 record, they looked done, but after a 5-game winning streak, they claimed another division title with a 10-6 record. Victories over Snapfinger (24-17) and at Houston (29-24) gave then an opportunity to become back-to-back 10-win conference champions. But despite hosting the AOC Championship game against the North Plainfield Plague, they lost a back-and-forth game 35-32. Moreover, the victory at Houston turned out to be the last victory in a playoff game for a long time.
Despite the apparent ability to turn any receiver into a 1,000-yard receiver, the selection of J.R. Mills as the #9 overall pick (traded up from #24) in the 2069 draft marked the arrival of the third elite wide receiver in Maassluis after Gabe Springer and Terry Haskell. In the 2071 draft, the Merchantmen selected offensive tackle Oscar Meadows #14 overall, moving up from #21 overall, having acquired that pick from Texas a draft prior. At #19 overall, moved up from #24, the Merchantmen selected quarterback Robbie Howe, despite having re-acquired Alfred Hickman as a free agent. Unlike with previous first round pick quarterbacks, the plan was clear to bring Howe slowly, banking on Hickman to stick around for a couple of season and likely ending up in another money dispute to force him out of Maassluis again. The 2072 draft saw the arrival of wide receiver Brody Stevens, giving Maassluis a wide receiver duo with more talent than any previous tandems. Stevens' rookie campaign was underwhelming, but the prospect of having Howe to throw to Mills and Stevens, with 2069 third round pick running back Lance Blackwell toting the ball from behind Anaya and Meadows, the Merchantmen figured that their stretch of 10-6 or better seasons wasn't going to end soon and the lack of victories in the playoffs was soon to be over.
2065 12-4 (3rd) conference semifinals
2066 10-5-1 (3rd) IHOF champions
2067 10-6 (3rd) conference finalist
2068 10-6 (4th) wild card round
2069 10-6 (6th) wild card round
2070 11-5 (3rd) wild card round
2071 12-4 (3rd) wild card round
2072 11-5 (5th) wild card round
this is wonderful stuff, mijb. great read for those of us that are relatively new to the league. i hope you find the motivation to continue writing about one of the most traditional franchises in IHOF.
2073 - 2077 Search for franchise quarterback continues
In the 2073 off-season, the Merchantmen anticipated the upcoming decline of their star player defense. Linebacker Antonio Battle was taken with the #12 overall pick after a trade up from #23. It turned out to be necessary as Gabe Hamilton appeared to be the first of the stars to fall apart. At the same time, the Merchantmen management and Alfred Hickman's agents were once again on opposite sides of the table. Just like in the 2070 off-season, the two parties failed to find an agreement, as Hickman rightfully so felt like he was a playoff caliber quarterback and the Merchantmen felt he didn't deserve that kind of money. With Robbie Howe far from ready to take over, the Merchantmen rang the Oakland Black Panthers and acquired their veteran backup quarterback Winston Buckner. It turned out to be a good decision. Despite losing star wide receiver J.R. Mills in week 3 for the season. Buckner proved to be capable of running the gun slinger passing game the Merchantmen have made their style. With 13.35 yards per catch and 35 touchdowns, Buckner had some numbers that resembled a winning quarterback. The Merchantmen started the season 7-2, but a couple of closely contested home losses and an unnecessary 40-34 loss at Gothenburg put them in a must-win-and-still-need-help situation. The Merchantmen rolled up Williamsburg and Bordeaux, but despite the 10-6 record missed the playoffs on head-to-head tie-breaker to Gothenburg.
Buckner's stint in Maassluis was short, as the Merchantmen failed to even offer him a contract extension before week 1. With Mills back fully recovered and Brody Stevens expected to finally break out, the Merchantmen thought they had the weapons to make any quarterback play well. As a result, the Merchantmen committed to their first round pick from 2071 Robbie Howe in his fourth season in the league. The Merchantmen improved their pass protection on the line with rookie left tackle Louie Murray, which also meant Oscar Meadows would be able to move back to his natural position at right tackle. Against all odds, Howe played admirably well, nearly reaching the 4,000-yard mark and throwing 26 touchdown versus 20 interceptions. Howe flip-flopped from good to bad games and in the last six games was held under 200 yards 4 times. Apparently the 51-yard showing in week 17 20-16 loss at home against the Paris Musketeers, in which a victory would have actually put the Merchantmen in the playoffs, was the moment the Merchantmen management decided to look for a new quarterback in the 2075 off-season.
The Merchantmen found their new quarterback in Erick Loera, who lead the Tucker Tigers to the last four IHOF Bowls, with one victory. Loera was out of contract and decided to see what he could do away from the team that picked him in the third round of the 2063 draft. Loera had the mobility and strong arm that should make him capable to succeed in the Merchantmen offensive game plan. Howe's respectable performance made his agents think Howe deserved starting money and as the Merchantmen decided to not pay it to him, Howe decided to hold out. The Merchantmen were unimpressed and cut Howe, choosing their 2074 sixth round pick Ellis McAlister to stick as the primary backup. The overhaul of the defense continued. Shaun Hartman and his sidekick Preston Urqouila both stepped away from football, while two-time Solecismic Defensive Player of the Year Daquan Strugielski made the team in a role as the fourth defensive end. Gabe Hamilton retired as well. The Merchantmen invested with the #15 overall in cornerback Dylan Small and swapped the #20 overall for defensive tackle Glen Stiegler, whom the Rochester Razorbacks had taken at #16 overall, despite not really wanting him. The demise of the defense became apparent, as the Merchantmen gave up over 400 points for the first time since the 2020 season. Stiegler proved to be too green to make an impact, while Small turned out to be a complete bust.
Nevertheless, despite falling from a 6-4 start to an 8-8 finish, the Merchantmen were the beneficiary of widespread mediocrity in the league and snuck into the playoffs. They were no match to the Atlanta Vipers in the wild card round.
The 2076 off-season marked the departure of three more potential hall of famers. Defensive end Daquan Strugielski, linebacker Edward Ross and cornerback Peter Tucker all retired, as did linebacker Gabe Hamilton, who had missed the 53-men cut in Maassluis in the 2075 pre-season. It felt right that the Class of 2064 retired altogether. Rumor has it that the release of Hamilton prompted the decision of the three remaining stars to step away from the game. The Merchantmen did little to fill the gaps, even cutting bust Dylan Small, sticking just to filling the void on the offensive line by taking guard Harvey Hank with the #20 overall pick in the 2076 draft. The Merchantmen felt Loera to Mills and Stevens was enough to keep the offense going. After a 6-2 start with an easier second half schedule, the Merchantmen thought they were back in business. But despite stumbling into a 8-5 record, the wheels cam off in the last three regular season games, dropping them to 8-8 and far away from the playoffs.
The 2077 off-season marked the arrival of quarterback Sammy Erickson. He was brought in to challenge Loera for the starting role. On defense, the Merchantmen selected linebacker Glenn Brewer #30 overall in he draft, after moving down from the #16 slot. The Merchantmen also invested in defensive backs who excelled in one or two pass defense schemes and are weak in the other(s). It backfired and the Merchantmen defense gave up 446 points, just 4 short of tying the worst figure in team history. The defense also ranked last in rushing yards and total yards allowed. Despite all that, 2077 became the season of J.R. Mills. Sammy Erickson won the quarterback battle over Erick Loera, throwing for a career high 4,731 yards, but it also turned out to be a blessing for Mills. With 13 100-yard games, Mills racked up the yardage, ending the season with 225 yards and 3 touchdowns in a 44-21 trashing of the Paris Musketeers. Mills finished the season with 2,228 yards receiving, the third highest figure in league history and breaking Gabe Springer's franchise record by 559 yards. Despite the worst defense in the league, the offense still managed to outscore the opponents by 6, but it wasn't enough to avoid the first losing season since the 2063 season.
2073 10-6 (7th)
2074 8-8 (10th)
2075 8-8 (6th) wild card round
2076 8-8 (8th)
2077 7-9 (11th)
So, that wraps up the history lessons. The 75th season of IHOF has begun with the off-season. Training camp is upcoming, I'll get y'all up to date what we did in the off-season.
2078 Pre-training camp report: quarterback situation
Going into camp, the situation looks awesome in the short run. We've managed to persuade Bennett Morris from Orlando to play in Maassluis. Morris was second in the league with 4,747 passing yards last season. Yes, that was just ahead of our own Sammy Erickson (4,731 yards). Due to Morris' massive cap figure, it was necessary to release Erick Loera in the off-season. We've also brought a bunch of young unproven quarterbacks to camp. Let's take a look at the scouting report:
Usually, I bring only 3 quarterbacks into the regular season, never have I felt right with just 2, but 4 is also uncommon. We actually had 4 last season, with Radford and McAlister both looking decent enough to have a chance to break out. Holmes is very likely to make the final 53-men roster, I demand my team to always have one of the best holders and Holmes looks like he's in the top5 in the league. So, that means we might actually cut both the talented guys after pre-season. Same applies to McAdams. If one of them breaks out, 4 quarterbacks could ne an option, or a trade of Erickson.
Actually, Erickson has already proven he can play and Morris gives us our best quarterback since Rusty Harrison (in pure talent). It will be tricky to keep Erickson happy, he's the best backup we've had since Jay McGee was backing up Harrison. If we can keep Erickson happy, he should be able to take over once Morris feels like it's enough. But with quarterback you never know when that is. This will be Morris' 13th season, it could be anywhere from 1 to 6 more seasons.
Traditionally, I've been one to draft the franchise quarterback (Flannery, Harrison, Chow), but it has proven to be worthwhile to look around for quarterbacks that fell out of favor with their owner either due to lack of performance or because they've been replaced by a young gun. In a way, I've always been able to find a quarterback through trade or free agency, but having both Erickson and Morris is a luxury.
2078 Pre-training camp report: offensive line
Sure, the game lists the skill players above the offensive line, but I'll take a look at this unit first. If you take a look at our team in more detail, you will see quarterback with high sense rush ability. My philosophy is that pass rush pressure is about 40% on the quarterback's sense rush, 40% on the line's pass protections skills and 20% on having a hard to guess game plan. We've got a talented unit here, let's take a look at the scouting report:
In principle, I used to be able to find my starting linemen in the 3rd, 4th and 5th rounds. The current unit only in part is like that as Anaya, Hank and Meadows are all 1st round picks. Webb was a 3rd round pick and Murray a 6th round pick. I consider them both as prototypical at their positions. Usually I want my LT to be a great pass blocker, don't care too much about run blocking. Second, the center has to be rock solid in run blocking. At right guard, I want a run blocker, making him and the center together be a better than average duo in that area. I want the RT and LG to support in both areas, the LG leaning towards being a pass blocker and the RT to a run blocker. The current quintet fits in my style quite well. Depth is non-existent. Houshmandzadeh is half-decent, we lost our tackle backup due to lack of playing time and I fully expect Hamilton to be even worse after pre-season.
Anaya and Webb are due a new contract, being in the final year. I will wait until after the pre-season volatility rolls and age effect revelation to see whether Anaya is worth extending and Webb is still the top-notch guard that he looks like now. I'll have to find about $10M of cap space for Webb though, which could be tricky.
2078 Pre-training camp report: backfield
In the recent draft, I picked Walt Blair with the #13 overall pick. Surely this is out of character for me (and the team), because for years I've been able to find decent runners with later round picks, or traded for an elite running back (Givens, Talley). I cut Lance Blackwell in late free agency, our main ball carrier of the last 9 seasons. I suspect he'd be about 4.0 yards per carry worth next season, which doesn't make him worth the $15M he'd cost. Let's take a look at the scouting report:
In the backfield, I look at 3 types of players: a run blocking fullback, a power back and a speed back. The first one seems to speak for itself: a fullback with very high run blocking skills. Taliancich is that kind of player. Latschaw has the potential to be that, but there's no guarantee his potential is enough to make the 53-men roster, we cut him in pre-season last season. The power back to me is a player with power inside and third down running ability. In the past we've had fullbacks capable of playing this role, but it should preferably be a running back with low elusiveness, to minimize the number of runs for a loss. Connell and Curie will fight is out for that role, where Connell does have the edge in cohesion value and having superior hole recognition.
The speed back is a running back with high hole recognition and breakaway speed, while having low elusiveness. Blair, Smoot and Graham are all high on the first two. Graham is low on elusiveness, while Blair and Smoot appear to be about average. It's also important to have endurance, because we want this player to be our 1st and 2nd down rusher. Blair does have the endurance, while Smoot and Graham don't, which means these last two are basically change of pace material at best.
Every now or then, a player comes around that can play both the power back and speed back role, Hall of Famers Givens and Talley played that role for us in old times. We tried Lucas Blackwell to play it recently, with mixed results. In the end we let Blackwell alternate formations with a true speed back.
Last but not least, I believe in cohesion being a factor for a running back to be successful. As a result, I try to draft linemen and running backs a season before they become starters. Lately it's become harder to keep that going, which means linemen are thrown in there as rookies and rookie running backs do get carries. That's why the selection of Walt Blair is atypical.
After pre-season, I will likely keep Blair, either Connell or Curie for third down duty, either Smoot or Graham for the change of pace role and Dean Meadows will make the team if he ends up being the best punt returner or kickoff returner. And if I think I can keep up with his fumbling habit.
2078 Pre-training camp report: receivers
Awesome, we drafted the fastest player in the league: Rico Techen! Well, we all know that's not worth a lot if you can't turn that speed into football skills, but a 6th round pick is worth that gamble. We're coming off a season where J.R. Mills played a season that we thought impossible to ever see happen. 1,500 yards was considered the golden standard for excellence, but after a 2,200 yard season, anything below 1,600 yards will be a disappointment. Techen is the only new face in camp, with nobody of the 2077 roster disappeared. Let's take a look at the scouting report:
At tight end, it's nice to have a guy that can run block and be a force in the passing game as a receiver. But with the rules of the game demanding teams to carry at least 3 tight ends, it's cheaper to have some run blocking experts and have some receiving type players. Thankfully we landed Elliott in the 6th round of the 2076 draft, making him still a cheap player for the near complete tight end that he is. Schwirzke is the better receiver and Curtis can catch a short pass on third downs or in the end zone. Curtis is also our second best blocker, which is great for third down situations. Ellison has proven to be able to play third down tight end. But most likely he will spend the third straight season inactive.
At wide receiver, Mills is our best guy, by far. Stevens has been up and down, being down last season, eventually making me put Nadell second in the pecking order. Nadell's route running appears to also be a double team magnet to liberate Mills, but that's not by design at all. It will be interesting to see if Techen will be good enough to replace Allen as our fifth receiver on the roster.
2078 Pre-training camp report: special teams
Traditionally, I have strived to have an above average punter and kicker, supported by top5 talent at long snapper and kick holder. Additionally, I want above average to top5 talent at both punt returning and kickoff returning. Given all that, it becomes slightly harder to find a good number of other players with above average to very good special teams skills. I strive to have at least 2 excellent guys, but it's no guarantee. Depth at other positions can come with their sacrifices. We lost our long time long snapper to retirement in the off-season and found a decent enough replacement in Chris Bertolone as a free agent. Let's take a look at the scouting report:
This collective comes close to what I desire. I'm undecided on whom to assign the starting roles in the return specialist roles. Meadows has fumbled a bit more than I'd like to see him do. Lavelli has been even worse (sample size be damned) fumbling 2 times on 4 returns. Lahnum and Kirkpatrick have been without fumbles so far. Kirkpatrick was an end of season signing.
In the 'other' department, we have a mixed bag of players capable to play special teams:
90+ LB Turner, S McIndoe
80+ WR Stevens, RB Connell, LB Foster, DE Morrish
70+ LB Nason, TE Elliott
60+ RB Curie, S Kornbluth, WR Allen, CB Kirkpatrick
50+ DT Stevens, DT Stiegler, FB Latschaw, FB Taliancich, RB Blair
I may or may not continue with a longer write down of the defense, time dependent.
Most importantly, I suspect our horrible display on defense was in part a result of the large change over in players recently. Cohesion usually is a strength of the Merchantmen defense, but last season both the front seven and secondary ranked in the bottom third in that area. That won't work with a team that's usually designed to be filled with players that are one-trick or two-trick type of players. Our linebackers are an exception to things, but especially the defensive line is loaded with players that should be excellent pass rushers, but need the cohesion boost to go from a good DL to the top3 pass rush that we have been for quite some time with Shaun Hartman, Daquan Strugielski and linebacker Edward Ross out there.
Additionally, aside from the historical stuff, I hope to find time for a bunch of player stories of players that have been the face of the franchise, are hall of famers, should be hall of famers or will likely be hall of famers a couple of seasons down the road. I've kept my record of players that I think belong in a Merchantmen ring of honor. Or maybe just an all-time Merchantmen selection of 53 names to honor the 75th anniversary.
i'll be following this, mijb. pretty thorough report of MAA's status.
2078 Pre-training camp report: defensive line
We lost our sack machine Craig Ford, who had been part of the support cast of Hartman and Stugielski for quite some time. Posante was drafted in the second round in anticipation of a decline of Turner or Stevens.
Let's take a look at the scouting report:
It should be obvious, but the report supports it: I like defensive linemen with pass rush technique. More over, I really like to have a bunch of guys capable, to nullify the lack of endurance a lot of these guys usually have. Stiegler is basically the only all downs player, the rest will be playing in a couple of package formations, based on whether we use that formation in run oriented or pass oriented situations. Clinton, Lyons and Posante look like the obvious running downs guys, with May, Crane and Stevens the pass rush support. Marrish might fail to miss the cut, moving him to linebacker is an alternative.
2078 Pre-training camp report: linebackers
I love Battle and Brewer. They could be the best linebacker duo in the league. Let's take a look at the scouting report:
Yes, Battle and Brewer. They stepped into a long tradition of top-notch linebackers playing on the Merchantmen defense: Cody Cluff, Mike Kershner, Bernie Surry, R.J. Knight, Oliver Drake, Fred McCorkle, Wesley Devine, Daniel "Double D" Duncan, Jeremiah Collier, Edward Lyons, Gage Hamilton and Edward Ross. What some of those names missed, and Battle and Brewer do have, is being a complete linebacker, capable of anchoring the run defense, covering opposing receivers and quick enough to blitz he quarterback.
Foster and Dees have been in supporting roles last season, Foster has a slight edge on passing downs, while Dees is a much better option on run oriented formations. Gonzalez was a rookie free agent, longshot to make the team. Nason and Turner are special teamers.
2078 Pre-training camp report: secondary
We signed a couple of okay prospects at the end of the 2077 season and picked them up for the 2078 training camp. Glenn and McIndoe came on the team in the same fashion a couple of seasons ago. We have a young group that needs to develop cohesion.
Let's take a look at the scouting report:
First and for most, Hitchcock and Harkleroad are fine players, but not in the realm of start that I would prefer to play as the shutdown corner and at strong safety. Hopefully Slocum or Lavelli will grown into shutdown ability in the right schemes. We've got enough players that can play a zone defense role well, with most of them also decent enough to catch a ball if it comes in their way. But, based on how awful we played last season, I'm not so sure we've got what it takes to play well in the current game...
2078 Training Camp Report
Eight players made good progress (+4 or more current), my theory is this level of progress is a sign of being starting quality. 14 others made at least some progress.
+7 LB Brewer
+5 QB McAlister, DE Lyons, CB Lavelli
+5/-1 DT Posante
+4 LT Coughenour, DE Clinton
+4/-1 LB Gonzalez
+3/+2 QB Holmes
+3 S Kornbluth, QB McAdams, FB Latschaw, RB Blair
+3/-1 CB Morton
+2 QB Radford, DE Morrish, RB Graham, RB Smoot, RB Curie
+1/+1 WR Techen
+1 G Hamilton
+1/-2 C Houshmanzadeh
But we all know that pre-season will reveal the declines of aging players, give a new look to the young players like they were never scouted before and some randomness.
Post Camp transactions
We released QB Kerry McAdams, RB Jose Smoot and CB Tyrus Kirkpatrick.
McAdams was a long shot to begin with. He was a 53-men cut casualty previous season and signed during the playoffs with the prospect of being a restricted free agent (and getting a cohesion boost). His sense rush is decent, as is his long passing. But we've got enough other options. His training camp was okay.
Jose Smoot started 3 games for us last season. That figure is mostly based on what formation we used on the first play from scrimmage, he was more of a short-term change of pace back that we used in 3 games on a couple of formations. With some time on the team he could grow into a 4.5 yards per carry back, but the competition was too heavy.
Tyrus Kirkpatrick was another soon to be restricted free agent playoffs signing. Quality kickoff returner, but I decided we should go with Lathum, Meadows and Stevens as the three options.
2078 Pre-Season, first two games
Alright, pre-season is here! Finally we're got to see some football. We went into the first couple of games with the intention to mostly play the youngsters and keep some starts off the field. Most notably quarterbacks Bennett Morris and Sammy Erickson have been saved for the second couple of games.
Despite the backups being in action, we managed to win both of the first two pre-season games. QB Ellis McAlister was in his usual pre-season form, completing 17 of 29 for 247 yards and 1 touchdown in the 19-12 win at the Oakland Black Panthers. How about the rookies? RB Walt Blair was inactive. RB Ronald Graham ran for only 4 yards on 6 carries. WR Rico Techen had 2 catches for 6 yards. DT Chandler Posante was on the field only 29 times, his endurance issues are already imminent? LB Abel Gonzalez lead the team with 3 passes defended.
The pre-season home game against the Arizona Miners wasn't nearly as close as the 31-24 score suggests. Arizona came back within 7 with only 14 second to play. We outgained them and actually forced turnovers. QB Ellis McAlister was even more impressive, completing 23 of 32 for 359 yards and 4 touchdowns. Two of those scores went to J.R. Mills, who wasn't supposed to see a lot of action, but still gained 101 yards on 5 receptions. Rookies: RB Blair was still inactive. RB Graham ran for 26 yards on 5 carries and had 1 catch for 29 yards. WR Techen had 2 receptions for 36 yards. DT Posante played on only 26 downs, this doesn't bode well. LB Gonzalez had 3 tackles.
Abel Gonzalez is one of six casualties of the first series of cuts down to 53. He was an undrafted rookie free agent signing and had an impressive training camp, but we're too deep at linebacker for this kid to make it without any special teams skills.
Veteran defensive tackle Marc Stevens is the biggest name of the six cuts. He was a starter the last 3 seasons, but never lived up to his pass rush potential.
Quarterback Jamal Radford was our 2077 5th round pick. We kept him inactive for the majority of his rookie season. His sense rush ability suggest he might be better than '31 overall', but behind Morris, Erickson, the emerging McAlister and kick holder Holmes we have no roster spot available.
Dean Meadows played 4 seasons with us. On paper was a starter in his third season, but gained only 2.7 yards per carry. He did win DogBytes Special Team Player of the Year honors as he scored 2 punt return touchdowns and 1 kickoff return touchdown. But his fumbling (18 on 528 touches) makes him a liability.
Safety Ricardo Kornbluth and defensive end Avery Morrish were both signed during the 2077 post-season. We gave them a training camp and 2 pre-season games to show their ability. But their odds to make the team were slit to begin with. Kornbluth does have the potential to be an excellent zone defender, but right now we'll prefer the cohesion other guys at safety give us. Morrish was only an option to make the team as a pure special teamer and I decided to stick with Alexis Turner and other long standing guys for that unit.
That leaves us with 54 guys signed, just 1 too many. We've got 3 starting quality quarterbacks, with Morris in the top5. Perhaps I should go onto the market and try to find a new home for Erickson or McAlister.
I'm also mulling over which running back should be our 3rd down back: Connell or Curie. First things first: two pre-season games to see what Morris with Mills, Stevens, Nadell, Elliott and Schwirzke might be capable of.
2078 Final pre-season games
And then there were 4 victories. The Maassluis Merchantmen fans should be ecstatic. Moreover, our key players all looked in tip top shape. In the past, it has been considered a jinx to go 4-0 in the pre-season. But seeing what they guys did, we should feel comfortable.
We rolled up the Hanalei Dragons 43-17 on the road. We were 27-14 up after the first quarter with touchdowns on all four of our possessions. Bennett Morris completed 11 of 13 for 158 yards and 1 touchdown. In relief, Sammy Erickson completed 15 of 29 for 173 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. J.R. Mills caught 8 balls for 155 yards and 1 touchdown. Antonio Battle received game MVP honors due to his 3.5 sacks. Rookies? RB Walt Blair had 12 carries for 66 yards and 3 touchdowns, that's the kind of red zone play we've lacked in recent seasons. WR Rico Techen was invisible (active on 0 plays). DT Chandler Posante underwhelmed again with 1 lowsy tackle on just 13 plays active. QB Jamie Holmes won the kick holder role. RB Ronald Graham was inactive.
The home game against the Iowa Cobbers was closer, we overcame 2 interceptions to win 17-14 on a late game touchdown to come back from behind. Bennett Morris completed 12 of 19 passes for 209 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. J.R. Mills had 7 catches for 200 yards and 1 touchdown, I think our main is in shape. RB Walt Blair had 8 carries for 46 yards (5.7 yards per carry). DT Chandler Posante woke up: 3 tackles, 1 assist and 1 sack, on 29 plays (progress!). WR Rico Techen was once again active on 0 plays.
Did I mention yet that Battle and Brewer have quickly become my second, maybe third, or form now perhaps fourth, most favorite linebacker duo. I mean, The Class of 2064 with Ross and Hamilton was super awesome. Devine and Double D were phenomenal in the roaring '40s, they even teamed up with Fred McCorkle for 3 seasons. R.J. Knight had Oliver Drake on his side for 5 seasons, but that defense struggled in general. Cody Cluff had Mike Kershner and later on Bernie Surry. But Battle and Brewer are so complete, they should be able to be all over the field and make it fun to watch our defense.
Incidentally, we agreed terms with Antonio Battle on a new contract, extending it by a season and making his cap figure $60.2M next season. The important part is that it frees the cap room required to finally make an offer to our all-IHOF second team guard Carlos Webb to keep him from becoming a free agent in the next off-season. Center Tom Anaya and linebacker Roosevelt Dees also extended their contract, making them signed for the next season.
But the core of the team is the offense. Bennett Morris has just played 2 pre-season games, but he's shown flashes of why we consider him the second most talented quarterback to ever wear the orange-white-and-blue. And that guy ahead of him was so brittle and Rusty, we decided to trade him to the Lake Monsters. Mills looked slightly slower in pre-season than we were used to, but the numbers suggest otherwise. Rookie Blair could be the other missing piece. He's going to run behind a line with Tom Anaya probably playing like he's on a mission to block himself into the top 10 all-time in key run blocks. No, not the Merchantmen's, the IHOF's.
2078 Regular Season, week 1
Expectations were sky high going into the season opener against the Bordeaux Vineyards. In a nearly sold out Oranje Haven, the Merchantmen and Vineyards performed one of the most sensational starts to a game. Bordeaux' Joel Stargell returned the opening kickoff for 94 yards and a touchdown. Bart Lahnum replied with a 34-yard return. Bennett Morris then got strip sacked on the first play from scrimmage by the blitzing Bordeaux linebacker Deron Newman, losing possession. Bordeaux' quarterback Ike Woodhouse tried to go for the endzone on their first play from scrimmage, but saw it get picked off by Alonzo Hitchcock. And on the next play, Bennett Morris connected with J.R. Mills on a medium distance pass that Mills ended up running all the way for a 94-yard touchdown. After just 1:14 minutes of game time, the score was tied Maassluis 7, Bordeaux 7!
From there on, the Merchantmen took control of the game. Bordeaux saw their next drive stalled on a 3rd and 16 attempt that went for 15 yards. Maassluis replied with an 80-yard drive ended by a 7-yard pass from Bennett Morris to Walt Blair, the two new faces in Maassluis showed their fans what they're capable of. The Merchantmen defense replied with a three and out, anchored by Glen Stiegler sack, and the Merchantmen offense finished the first quarter with Walt Blair running for a first down to the Bordeaux 9-yard line.
Walt Blair scored his second touchdown of his official debut on a 2-yard run. Dave Eiermann missed the extra point making it a 20-7 lead for Maassluis. The third Bordeaux drive was cut short after 4 plays, this time with a key sack from Arnie May. Another 80-yard drive for a touchdown was the Merchantmen answer, with Bennett Morris connected for 29 yards to J.R. Mills for the 27-7 lead after the PAT. Bordeaux kicked a 46-yard field goal, which set the half time score at 27-10 in Merchantmen advantage.
Maassluis was stopped early despite a 19-yard run from Walt Blair, setting Bordeaux up for a 93-yard drive, mostly consisting of no less than five 8 to 13 yard runs. Maassluis responded with a touchdown drive of their own, in which Bennett Morris ran on a crucial 3rd and 6 situation, completed for 10 yards to Monty Elliott on 3rd and 9 and found Branden Schwirzke in the end zone from 2 yards out for the 34-17 lead.
In the fourth quarter, Bordeaux was stopped near midfield, while Maassluis next pinned the Vineyards back at their 7-yard line. Ike Woodhouse completed for 19 yards to Avery England, for 22 yards to Monty Salinas and finally for 41 yards to Middlemarch Crackel to make it a two-score game (34-24 Maassluis). The Merchantmen responded with a time wasting drive that finished on another catch and run masterpiece from Bennett Morris to J.R. Mills, this time for 35 yards and a touchdown. Bordeaux drive all the way to the Maassluis 9-yard line in an attempt to comeback, but the drive ended in the end zone on Alonzo Hitckcock's second interception of the day. A 9-yard run on second down from Walt Blair was enough to make Bordeaux burn all their time outs and see Bennett Morris knee drop to the 41-24 victory!
Bennett Morris completed 17 of 27 passes for 297 yards and 5 touchdowns for a league leading 140.0 passer rating. J.R. Mills caught just 4 passes for a league leading 176 yards and 3 touchdowns. Walt Blair ran for 161 yards and 1 touchdown, ranking him 2nd in rushing yards. Offensively, that's pretty much all you can ask for, with touchdowns on 4 of the first 5 drives of the game.
The defense fell apart in the second half of the game, eventually giving up 142 yards rushing (7.9 per carry, 2nd worst in the league), with the majority coming from Bordeaux' non-scrambling quarterback. The pass defense played well, with Hitchcock's pair of interceptions and the team's 4 sacks and in total 14 of 43 plays broken up by the pass rush.
Despite the victory, the Merchantmen management tried to temper the optimism. Last season started with a similar 51-20 trouncing of the Gothenburg Giants, but the Merchantmen won just 3 of their next 12 games, with just 1 victory at home. This season continues with road games at the Hanalei Dragons and San Antonio Tidal Force, both finished last season with a 7-9 record. Today the Dragons went into an overtime game against the Colorado Cutthroats, which ended up tied 26-26 after both teams missed a game winning field goal in regulation, yet both scored a field goal in overtime (Clarence Rivera scored an impressive 58-yarder for Hanalei), leaving too little time left for either team to have a game winning drive.
2078 Regular season, week 2
And then we lost. We kicked 4 short field goals from our 4 red zone visits, costing us a lot of points that we needed against a decent Hanalei Dragons team that we outgained by 102 yards (413 vs 311) in a turnover free game where neither team had a field position advantage. Bennett Morris threw for 247 yards, 127 yards went to J.R. Mills, including a 24-yard touchdown. Rookie Walt Blair ran for 142 yards. Mills and Blair lead the league in receiving yards and rushing yards respectively, both with a 303 yards figure. Morris has the highest passer rating.
1 Paris 2-0
2 Maassluis 1-1
3 Gothenburg 0-2
4 Bordeaux 0-2
Next up, San Antonio Tidal force on the road. Like us, they are 1-1 with a divisional victory and a loss on the road against an NAC team.
2078 Regular season, week 3
The Maassluis Merchantmen returned home after a smooth 27-3 road victory over the San Antonio Tidal Force. The Merchantmen defense received accolades for keeping the Tidal Force to 184 total yards, with the only three point allowed coming after a drive that started at the Merchantmen 24-yard line. Linebacker Antonio Battle received player of the game honors.
Despite 425 total yards on offense, the Merchantmen struggled for the second week in succession to get points on the board from within the red zone. Rookie Walt Blair ran 28 times for 135 yards and 2 touchdowns, although he did record his first career fumble. Bennett Morris completed 20 of 32 for 264 yards, 1 touchdown with 1 interception. J.R. Mills caught 6 passes for 90 yards. Brody Stevens caught a pass for his first touchdown of the season.
The defense held the San Antonio running backs to 37 yards on 15 carries, while keeping quarterback Colin Clemons to completing 9 of 32 passes for 107 yards and 2 interceptions. His replacement Max Guffey completed just 1 of 11 passes for 12 yards. The Merchantmen pass rush disrupted 16 of 46 passing plays, with Antonio Battle leading the way with 2 sacks and 2 hurries. The pass defense deflected 10 passes and made 2 interceptions, while allowing 10 catches.
The victory puts Maassluis in the lead for the AOC's second wild card, behind the undefeated Rochester Razorbacks, the current virtual first wild card. Victories for the other three European teams mean the ranking of teams within the division remain status quo.
1 Paris 3-0
2 Maassluis 2-1
3 Bordeaux 1-2
4 Gothenburg 1-2
Morris' first interception drops him to third in passer rating. Mills' 90 yards drop him to second in receiving yards. Blair remains at the top of the league with 146 rushing yards per game. The offense and defense both rank 3rd in the league in total yards and both rank 5th in points scored or allowed. But after just three games, that means very little...
75th season anniversary: 50 Legends, introduction
With the 75th season of IHOF in full glory, I felt it would be fun to make a list of players that were either cream of the crop at their position, or otherwise were a popular figure with me for whatever reason. To do this, I've decided to cut the 75 season of the Merchantmen into 25 periods of 3 seasons and select the 2 most notable players on the 53-men regular season roster in any season in that timespan. I've mulled over the method of finding a list of players, the process to get there went through various options and the number of names, but after coming up with many complicated calculations, 50 sounds like a nice round number and with 75 seasons, 2/3rd is the magic number to apply. But let's kick off with 25 also-rans, near-legends, or quite simply players that (in some cases just barely) missed the cut.
RB #28 Randy Harris 2004-2010
League draft pick. Harris was the leading rusher of the Merchantmen in the first 7 seasons. Had 1,000 yard performances in the first 4 seasons. Ranks 5th in rushing yards for the Merchantmen.
TE #86 Jim Reiser 2004-2015
League draft pick. Ties for 10th most receptions for the Merchantmen, tied most for a tight end. Was the favorite target of Hall of Fame quarterback Louie Flannery.
CB #32 Myron Stevens 2006-2013
Undrafted rookie signing. Played mostly at nickelback. Was lowly rated overall, but was a zone defense specialist with decent interceptions skills. Favorite player of Merchantmen management.
LB #56 Bernie Surry 2008-2017
5th round pick. Rookie boomer. Fit well in the zone defense scheme used in 2007-2012.
CB #39 Warren Pennell 2015-2023
Undrafted rookie signing. Primarily kickoff returner, with 5 touchdows, rarely fumbled. Played in a dimeback role early in his career, but later on became a pure special teamer.
QB #12 Patrick McDonnell 2022-2026
Off-season free agent signing. With Russell Harrison formed the spectacular quarterback tandem of the 2023 season. 14-6 record as a starter when Harrison was hurt, with 43:14 touchdown to interception ratio.
DT #75 Tyrus Willis 2022-2032
Undrafted rookie signing. Primarily pass rush specialist, but was a full time starter for several seasons.
LB #57 Oliver Drake 2026-2030
In-season trade acquisition. Defensive Player of the Year season before joining Merchantmen. All-round linebacker.
CB #36 Walt Wheatley 2026-2032
In-season trade acquisition. Highest pass defense rating for Merchantmen cornerbacks with 2000+ pass plays active. Franchise's 11th most passes defended, despite short stint in Maassluis.
LB #51 Fred McCorkle 2031-2042
1st round pick. Complete linebacker. 6th most forced fumbles.
RB #26 Darrin Keegan 2032-2038
1st round pick. 1,000-yard back in all 7 seasons with Merchantmen. Broke 10,000 yards after being traded by Merchantmen. 3rd most rushing yards for Merchantmen and 4th most rushing touchdowns.
QB #7 Perry Coleman 2041-2045
Off-season free agent signing. Hall of Famer.35-18 record as a starter. 84 touchdowns versus 34 interceptions in 55 games with Merchantmen. Threw for 4,117 yards in only regular season with 16 games played.
P #12 Malachi Pennell 2044-2058
2nd round pick. Considered to be best punter in franchise history, pending how current punter Tito Hornsby does.
G #70 Bryant Huffman 2044-2054
5th round rookie. 3rd most key run blocks in franchise history. All-round skilled guard, despite being undersized.
TE #89 Jorge Jurevicius 2049-2060
3rd round pick. Pro-bowl caliber receiver. 50 receiving touchdowns, second most for a Merchantmen tight end.
WR #84 Kai Oburn 2054-2064
1st round pick. With 7 1,000-yard seasons ranks 6th all-time in Merchantmen receiving yards. Has 5th most receptions and 5th most receiving touchdowns (with J.R. Mills quickly closing in).
S #44 Lonnie Razo 2054-2064
2nd round pick. 4th most tackles for a defensive back, 3rd most for a safety.
RB #23 Fernando Scott 2055-2062
4th round pick. With 6 1,000-yard seasons has the 4th most rushing yards and 5th most rushing touchdowns for Merchantmen. With 5.0 average has highest yards per carry of all Merchantmen running backs.
TE #18 Emmanuel Forbes 2056-2065
1st round pick. Pro-bowl caliber receiver. 53 receiving touchdowns, most for a Merchantmen tight end.
DT #97 Preston Urquoila 2062-2074
4ht round pick. Drafted and retired in the same off-season as Shaun Hartman. Has 3rd most tackles and 8th most sacks amongst Merchantmen defensive tackles. 3-time All-IHOF first or second teamer.
RB #23 Lucas Blackwell 2069-2077
3rd round pick. Had 6 1,000-yard rushing seasons. Ranks 2nd in rushing yards in franchise history. Also ranks 2nd in rushing touchdowns, 1 shy from tying the record. Still active, but unlikely to return to Maassluis.
CB #30 Alonzo Hitchcock 2072-2078
2nd round pick. Complete cornerback. Recently grew into being an elite corner with 7 interceptions in 2076 and 20 defended passes in 2077. Still active.
DT #96 Glen Stiegler 2075-2078
Trade acquisition shortly after being taken in 1st round pick by other franchise. Successor to Shaun Hartman and Preston Urquiola. All-IHOF second teamer in his 3rd season with 65 tackles, 6.0 sacks, 15 hurries.
G #74 Carlos Webb 2075-2078
3rd round pick. All-IHOF second teamer in his 3rd season with 48 key run blocks and 9 sacks allowed. 48 key run blocks is tied 2nd most in a single season for a Merchantmen player.
QB #16 Bennett Morris 2078-2078
Off-season free agent signing. First season on team, already making a good impression. Potentially Hall of Famer.
RB #26 Walt Blair 2078-2078
1st round pick. First season on team, already making a good impression.
75th season anniversary: 50 Legends, Louie Flannery era
To celebrate the 75th season of the Maassluis Merchantmen, I selected 50 players that I consider the legends of that time span from 2004 until the start of the 2078 season. I split the list of players into 5 groups, each being a time period of roughly 15 seasons. We'll start with episode 1: the Louie Flannery era.
DT #78 Charles Gomez 2004-2014
Charles Gomez was the first selection of the Merchantmen in the league draft in 2004. A 25-year old defensive tackle, Gomez was the whole package: strong, fast, endurable. Gomez was text book example of what should be expected from the position. For 11 seasons, Gomez was the center piece of the fearsome Merchantmen defense. He kept linemen busy to make room for the defensive ends to make the sack and on running downs forced opponents to go outside tackle a lot, but surely running up the gut wasn't an option. In 169 regular season games, Gomez made an astonishing 706 tackles and 254 assists, 72.5 sacks and 206 hurries. Gomez ranks 2nd all-time in the IHOF in tackles amongst defensive linemen (the number one was moved from linebacker to defensive end late in his career). From 2005 through 2010 Gomez was an All-IHOF 1st or 2nd team selection. To the disappointment of the Merchantmen management, Gomez wasn't selected into the Hall of Fame.
QB #3 "Fumblin'" Justin McDavid 2004-2017
Justin McDavid was the 9th pick of the Merchantmen in the 2004 league draft. Then considered a rookie, 23-year old McDavid was the most promising, or perhaps the least dreadful option as quarterback for the Merchantmen in 2004. Despite sitting out week 1, McDavid was considered the first starting quarterback for the franchise. He quickly earned the dishonorable nickname "Fumblin' Justin" leading the league that season with 13 fumbles. In his second season the quarterback battle with 1st round pick Leonard Lyon was initially won by McDavid, but eventually a career devastating injury determined his faith as a career backup. In 2008 he made a two-game comeback to replace injured Louie Flannery. From there on, McDavid was demoted to third string, later on in a mentor role to young backups to Flannery. McDavid got one final play in week 16 of the 2016 season, knee dropping for the victory.
LB #50 Cody Cluff 2004-2016
Cody Cluff was the Merchantmen's 13th pick in the 2004 league draft. Then considered a rookie, the 23-year old Cluff immediately made a name by earning Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. Cluff was mostly a run stopper, teaming up with Charles Gomez in the middle to force opponents to run outside tackle. Cluff wasn't much of a pass rusher, but usually stayed behind to support the pass defense by covering tight ends or picking up on receivers from the backfield. Cluff made 23 interceptions (currently tied for 10th within the franchise) and forced 25 fumbles (third most amongst tMerchantmen players), making him one of the best turnover forcing players in Merchantmen history. He finally earned All-IHOF honors in his next to last season. Cluff was also the first player to break 1,000 tackles and as of the start of the 2078 season ranks 9th all-time in the IHOF in tackles.
S #46 Lincoln Gilmore 2004-2014
Lincoln Gilmore was the Merchantmen's 23rd pick in the 2004 league draft and only 23 years back then. Behind Charles Gomez and Cody Cluff, as the strong safety Gilmore was the last resort for the Merchantmen to stop the run. On top of that, Gilmore was a reliable pass defender, supporting his cornerbacks where ever needed, or picking up on the tight end if Cluff was otherwise occupied. Gilmore ranks 2nd in Merchantmen history in pass defense rating for players with over 2,000 pass plays, and 6th for those with at least 1,000 pass plays.
K #8 Al Bettis 2006-2019
As a 23-year old, Al Bettis went through the draft without being selected. However, after the draft the Merchantmen decided to give Bettis a chance to make the team as an exclusive kickoff specialist, with Cary Coles sticking around for field goals and extra point attempts. Bettis impressed enough to make the team and ended up sticking around for as many as 14 seasons in that role. Only in his rookie season did he once get a chance to show his points racking skills, nailing his only field goal and extra point attempts. Bettis built a tremendous reputation as a kickoff specialist, racking up the touchbacks and being a crucial element in the Merchantmen's field position battle strategy of having elite special teams specialists. Albeit stats have gone lost over time, Bettis used to be all-time best in kickoff distance and touchback percentage.
QB #14 Louie Flannery 2006-2021
The first franchise quarterback in Maassluis, 24-year old Louie Flannery was the Merchantmen's 5th overall choice in the 2006 draft. Struggling with interceptions, Flannery never had the accuracy or determination to be considered amongst the best amongst his peers. Despite that, Flannery racked up the numbers, being the full-time starter for 14 seasons in Maassluis and still sticking around to mentor successor Russell Harrison for 2 more seasons. Flannery guided the Merchantmen to their first AOC Championship game in 2007 and despite his gun slinger reputation rarely threw for more interceptions than touchdowns. His 327:223 touchdown to interception ratio supports that. Flannery had 4 4,000-yard seasons. Despite never getting any All-IHOF honors and a 115-102 record as a starter, Flannery was inducted in the league's Hall of Fame.
LT #63 "Indestructible" Ivan Jacques 2007-2015
After an unimpressive 3-year stint with the Brooklyn Fightin' Bums, the Merchantmen saw their chance to acquire Ivan Jacques in the 2007 off-season through trade. The 27-year old Jacques was hired to be the left tackle of Louie Flannery and stuck around as the starter in that role for 8 seasons. Despite being brittle, as Jacques missed at least 2 games in 7 of 9 seasons in Maassluis, he was called "Indestructible Ivan" in Maassluis after allowing only 1 sack in 12 games in his first season in Maassluis. He continued to be reliable, never allowing more than 4 sacks in a season. Jacques was a complete lineman though, getting credit for key run blocks more often than the guards he played with and being on par with the center. Never an All-IHOF selection, but Merchantmen fans knew what to expect and when he was in the field, Jacques was there to protect his quarterback and make room for the running backs to do their job.
WR #81 Alfredo Bass 2012-2014
Before coming to Maassluis, Alfredo Bass was an All-IHOF first or second team selection 4 times. The Merchantmen acquired Bass aged 32 through trade in 2012 from the Minnesota Miners, hoping to give Louie Flannery a true WR1 to throw to. Bass quickly became Flannery's favorite target always having at least 80 catches for 1,000 yards and 9 touchdowns. Bass was an All-IHOF second teamer in his first season in Maassluis, being the first to have a 1,000-yard receiving season in franchise history. His stay in Maassluis was shorter than hoped, as Bass retired in the 2015 off-season, months before celebrating his 35th birthday.
WR #83 Vince McAlister 2015-2018
Then 26-year old Vince McAlister was acquired from the Boulder Blizzard in the 2015 off-season. The former 3rd round draft pick had been in a backup role for 2 seasons, making just 2 catches for 31 yards in that 2nd season. Despite not being highly rated by scouts, the Merchantmen saw potential in McAlister's speed and agility, even hoping to have a suitable replacement for recently retired Alfredo Bass. McAlister surprisingly delivered, making 77 catches for 1,116 yards and 7 touchdowns in his first season in Maassluis. He missed some time in the second season, but in the third season, despite playing opposite Gabe Springer, McAlister set new personal records with 78 catches for 1,191 yards and 10 touchdowns. In week 9 of the 2018 season disaster struck, McAlister blew out his knee. He was released in the 2019 off-season and spent a couple of days on the training field in the 2020 season, but never saw the field at game time again. He retired from football at the age of 30.
75th season anniversary: 50 Legends, Rusty Harrison era
To celebrate the 75th season of the Maassluis Merchantmen, I selected 50 players that I consider the legends of that time span from 2004 until the start of the 2078 season. I split the list of players into 5 groups, each being a time period of roughly 15 seasons. We'll continue with episode 2: the Rusty Harrison era.
WR #86 Gabe Springer 2016-2027
In the 2016 draft, the Merchantmen traded up to select 24-year old Gabe Springer at #8 overall in the draft. Springer jumped into the league with an exceptional season, catching 128 passes for 1,574 yards. He continued to be top-notch in what quickly became a pass-happy era, initially with Louie Flannery throwing the ball and from 2020 onwards as Russell Harrison's favorite target. In 2018 he scored a then franchise best 16 receiving touchdowns. A lingering injury cost Springer the lionshare of the 2021 season, but he bounced back strong. Springer managed to top 1,000 yards no less than 9 times, missing that opportunity twice due to injuries. Despite his regular season success, Springer didn't manage to carry his skills to the post-season, with just 406 yards on 36 catches in 8 games. The 2027 AOC Championship game was his last game in IHOF as Springer retired after his first season in the WR3 role. Springer received All-IHOF honors 4 times and ranks second for the Merchantmen in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns (both receiving and total). In 2032, Springer was enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
CB #27 Randall Allen 2019-2023
In the 2019 off-season, the Merchantmen thought they were a couple of shutdown cornerbacks away from being a power house. Fairbanks' 33-year old Ben Greer turned out to be a single season acquisition. Randall Allen was coming off back-to-back All-IHOF 1st team seasons when the Merchantmen traded for the then 29-year old cornerback. In 5 seasons, Allen made only 13 interceptions, but did defend 61 passes in that timespan. Allen peaked early in his career, winning an IHOF Bowl ring with the Rochester Lake Monsters as a rookie. It doesn't take away that he was the most talented cornerbacks to wear Maassluis' orange-white-and-blue.
QB #5 Russell Harrison 2020-2034
With the first overall pick of the 2020 draft, the Maassluis Merchantmen selected Russell Harrison out of the Navy. As a 23-year old rookie, Harrison burst into the scene and earned Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. But from the 2023 season onwards, in which Harrison threw for 26 touchdowns in just 9 games, it became apparent he was injury prone and got the nickname "Rusty". Harrison missed all but 2 plays of the 2024 season and from there on went from one minor injury to another. In 2027, Harrison guided his team to his only AOC Championship appearance. After a disappointing 2029 season, in which the Merchantmen went 9-7 and Harrison threw for only 17 touchdowns, it was decided that Harrison was the odd man out in the cap hell and he was traded to the Rochester Lake Monsters. In a surprise twist of events, Harrison went through two trades ending up back to Maassluis. He played two more injury plagued seasons in orange-white-and-blue, posting a 9-11 record. Harrison ranks 3rd in the Merchantmen history in passing yards and passing touchdowns. He was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2039.
S #48 Jimmy Chellino 2020-2031
In the shadows of Russell Harrison's spotlights, Jimmy Chellino was the Merchantmen's third round pick in the 2020 draft. The 24-year old was a day one starter, although he did miss some time due to injuries in his rookie campaign. Chellino turned out to have interception skills the Merchantmen were unknown to at that time. As a strong safety, he was also a key contributor to stopping opposing runners and receivers that escaped their cornerbacks. Despite all that, Chellino came short of All-IHOF honors at various occasions and eventually had to settle for becoming the all-time Merchantmen interceptions leader. His 36 picks today rank him tied for 3rd in franchise history.
WR #80 Terry Thomason 2023-2035
At the age of 23, Terry Thomason was the 9th overall pick in the 2023 draft, taken by the Maassluis Merchantmen. As a rookie he became part of an extraordinary offensive quartet in 2023 with Russell Harrison, Gabe Springer and shortly after the draft acquired running back Stanley Givens. In his rookie season, Thomason scored 12 receiving touchdowns, which turned out to be a career high. Thomason turned out to be a WR2 type, a fast wide receiver with great yards after catch skills. Opposite Springer, he was a 50 catches for 800 yards receiver. With Springer out of the picture, Thomason improved to 80 catches per season and had 4 1,000-yard performances, but never managed to match Springer's production. Thomason ranks 4th all-time in receptions for the Merchantmen, 5th in receiving yards and 4th in receiving touchdowns.
RB #20 Stanley Givens 2023-2026
In 2023, after two disappointing season of each barely over 1,000 yards and just 1 rushing touchdown, former #1 overall pick Stanley Givens was no longer considered capable of carrying the Neverland Ranch Hands. The Maassluis Merchantmen jumped into the opportunity, sending their 2025 1st and 2nd round picks for the 30-year old running back. A steep price for a player of his age and position, but Givens became part of a sensational 2023 offense in Maassluis. Givens ran for 1,319 yards and 12 touchdowns, while catching 55 passes for 574 yards and 7 touchdowns, all enough for All-IHOF second team honors. He followed up with 180 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns in the ensuing playoff game. It all proved worthless, the Merchantmen went one and done and were unable to continue their 2023 magic. Givens missed half the 2024 season due to injury, but returned with 1,206 rushing yards and retired after a 1,530-yard season and his first and only season with a playoff victory. In 2031 Givens was elected into the Hall of Fame, being mentioned as a Maassluis Merchantmen.
RB #29 Mark McConnell 2027-2035
23-year old Mark McConnell was the Merchantmen's 5th round pick in the 2027 draft. After the retirement of Stanley Givens, the Merchantmen still needed a fast change of pace back and backup behind recently acquired veteran Jimmie Burns. McConnell was that, with his speed and hole recognition. McConnell remained in that RB2 role for three seasons, but after Burns' retirement in 2030 improved to the starting role. It turned out to be his breakout season with 1,067 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns, with a 5.1 yards per carry average. Lack of endurance and power to run up the middle kept McConnell in a time sharing role. In 2032 he had one exceptional day, running for 277 yards on 35 carries in a losing effort against the Tucker Tigers. He ran for 134 yards in the next game, but his legs soon after fell off. In 2036, McConnell didn't survive the post training camp cuts. He hung around for a while, hoping to get one more phone call from another IHOF team, but it never came.
2078 Regular season, week 4
Bye week. Annoying how we always have these this early in the season. With 28 other teams active, we improved to 2nd in total yards on offense and also 2nd in total yards on defense. We're 3rd and 6th in scoring. Walt Blair is still 2nd in rushing yards, J.R. Mills ties for 4th in receiving yards.
Paris and Gothenburg won (ugh!), but Bordeaux lost (yay?).
1 Paris 4-0
2 Maassluis 2-1
3 Gothenburg 2-2
4 Bordeaux 1-3
Next up is a trap game at the winless North Plainfield Plague. Last time they were 0-3, in 2075 they beat us 44-37 in our own place. When they sucked even worse in 2072, they humiliated us 21-9 (they lost 10 straight afterwards) in their place. Last time we actually beat them was in 2070.
2078 Regular season, week 5
Yup, we lost. Against the Plague. Somehow, they find ways to beat us when they're down. We raced to a 14-0 lead, but from there on it was all done, over, gone, nothing to be happy about. Granted, we scored 10 more points, but found a way to play opposite from what we did in the first three games. We lost 25-24 and actually deserved to lose by more. Bennett Morris somehow completed 17 of 25 passes for only 153 yards. The defense gave up 399 yards for 7.0 yards per play. Nope, that wasn't the second ranked defense that we feigned to be.
Gothenburg also lost, the French teams were on their bye week.
1 Paris 4-0
2 Maassluis 2-2
3 Gothenburg 2-3
4 Bordeaux 1-3
After three straight road games, we're getting three home games. Nothing to get too excited about as of yet, we're hosting the 3-2 Rochester Razorbacks first. We can only hope their 28th ranked defense continues to struggle.
2078 Regular season, week 6
The Maassluis Merchantmen continue to flip flop, posting win number three of the season, beating the Rochester Razorbacks 20-10 in a sold out Oranje Haven. Rookie Walt Blair continues to impress as he ran 25 times for 163 yards and 1 touchdown. Merchantmen fans are getting flashbacks from the days Norbert Talley wore orange-white-and-blue, the only player with 8 or more 100-yard games in a single season for Maassluis.
J.R. Mills isn't completely out of the picture, he was crucial in the Merchantmen passing game with 7 catches for 108 yards. Bennett Morris completed 18 of 26 passes for 215 yards, 1 touchdown and his 2nd interception of the season. On the other side of the ball, the Merchantmen defense sacked Rochester quarterback Brian Sams 5 times, yet at times struggled to disrupt that passing game.
Elsewhere, the Paris Musketeers ran into their first deficit, getting clobbered 38-10 in Toronto. The Gothenburg Giants didn't trip over the North Plainfield Plague and posted a 16-13 road victory to stay in pursuit of the Merchantmen. The Bordeaux Vineyards stumbled into a 16-16 tie with the also 1-win Harlem Apollos.
1 Paris 4-1
2 Maassluis 3-2
3 Gothenburg 3-3
4 Bordeaux 1-3-1
Morris has dropped to 4th in passer rating at 104.0. Blair moved back into the rushing yards lead, despite having a played a game less than the six next best. Mills has dropped to 6th in receiving yards.
Injury of the game came on the game clinching field goal with 31 seconds left. Holder Jamie Holmes hurt his elbow and is expected to miss at least the next game at home against the undefeated Toronto Lake Monsters.
Those Lake Monsters are the only team with a perfect record at this point. Their throw on first, on second and on third approach has done well in recent seasons. Clay Andrews has thrown for 6,731, 5,987 and 6,081 yards with 48, 47 and 62 touchdowns in the last three seasons. It got them the IHOF Bowl victory last season. It will be hard to stop them, but the Merchantmen staff is locked up in the film room, with one task only: to figure out a game plan that can stop that seemingly unstoppable passing game.
2078 Regular season, week 7
Bennett Morris has won the hearts of the Maassluis Merchantmen fans in Oranje Haven. With a near perfect performance, Morris lead the Merchantmen to comeback from 13-0 to a 24-16 victory of the previously undefeated Toronto Lake Monsters.
After a three and out by the Lake Monsters defense, the Merchantmen defense struggled with the Lake Monsters passing game, until they held them a couple of yards short from the end zone to force a 19-yard field goal. A Merchantmen drive stalled at midfield was then followed by long Lake Monsters drive, this time held outside the end zone by the Merchantmen pass rush to force a 29-yard field goal scored early in the second quarter.
After two short drives, the Merchantmen saw their star player J.R. Mills fumble near the Toronto 30-yard line. This fumble remained without troubles, but on the next Merchantmen drive, a strip sack of Bennett Morris set the Lake Monsters up for a very short field and they put the first touchdown on the board for a 13-0 lead with 24 seconds to go. A 37-yard run from Walt Blair then set up Dave Eiermann's 49-yard field goal for a 13-3 half time score in Toronto favor.
Toronto started the second half with a 32-yard pass from Clayton Andrews to O.J. Baker, but despite a missed 46-yard field goal, they improved to 16-3 on their next drive with a 30-yard field goal. Walt Blair struggled, but a huge 22-yard run from Raul Curie kept the drive alive on 3rd and 4 to shift momentum. Bennett Morris went from big throw to big throw and with just over 2 minutes to go in the third quarter he found J.R. Mills for 28 yards to trim the deficit to 16-10.
Pinned deep at their own 6-yard line, the Merchantmen saw Morris orchestrate a strong comeback. He completed passes to Mills for 18 and 24 yards to bring his team to midfield and then found Monty Elliott for crucial 3rd down and a 24-yard pass. Morris then ran on 3rd and 6 into the end zone to give Maassluis a 17-16 lead. Rookie Chandler Posante made a crucial third down sack to force three and out. Morris then continued his unstoppable passing, finding Mills for 17 yards, Dennis Nadell for 16 yards, Brody Stevens for 10 yards and Randall Curtis for the last 10 yards. With just over 2 minute to go, a 24-16 lead was Maassluis' game to lose. Toronto punted on 4th and 7, not realizing they would come a time out short to keep the Merchantmen from knee dropping to victory.
Bennett Morris completed 23 of 26 passes for 290 yards and 2 touchdowns, while running for a crucial 6-yard touchdown as well to overcome his fumble. Walt Blair was held to just 69 yards on 20 carries, the first time he failed to get over 100 yards. J.R. Mills overcame his fumble with 7 catches for 114 yards and 1 touchdown.
Elsewhere in Europe, the Paris Musketeers crushed the North Plainfield Plague 39-14, while the Bordeaux Vineyards won 21-20 at the Gothenburg Giants.
1 Paris 5-1
2 Maassluis 4-2
3 Gothenburg 3-4
4 Bordeaux 2-3-1
Next up an early all or nothing game as the Paris Musketeers will visit Maassluis in week 8.
2078 Regular season, week 8
Maassluis ise on fire. With a convincing 57-25 victory, the Merchantmen crushed the Paris Musketeers to take the lead in the European division. The Merchantmen offense had a records breaking day, setting new franchise records in passing yards (473), total yards on offense (650) and seeing J.R. Mills tie the league record singe game receiving touchdowns with 5 scores.
The pieces are quickly falling together in Maassluis. The additions of Bennett Morris and Walt Blair to the offense are becoming more than just a good move. Veteran quarterback Morris has improved the passing game from respectable to impressive and so far is exceeding his own previous bests. Rookie running back Walt Blair notched his sixth 100-yard game takes advantage of a cohesive line and a balanced game plan. J.R. Mills today came back from the shadows of the two off-season acquisitions and needed just 9 catches to tie the legendary Terry Haskell (and a quartet of players without Merchantmen ties) with a 5-touchdown game.
1 Maassluis 5-2
2 Paris 5-2
3 Gothenburg 4-4
4 Bordeaux 2-4-1
The Merchantmen season now continues with trio of road games. Despite their 1-5-1 record, the Harlem Apollos are not to underestimated. Especially their ability to force turnovers is something to be wary about...
2078 Regular Season, roster moves
Shortly before the home game series against the Toronto Lake Monsters and Paris Musketeers, the Maassluis Merchantmen put quarterback Jamie Holmes on injured reserve. Holmes hurt his elbow on a field goal attempt while holding the ball. Dave Eiermann converted the kick, but Holmes was unable to play in the crucial games against the then top two teams in the conference. The Merchantmen signed undrafted rookie punter Santiago Hitchcock from South Carolina as his replacement and placed Holmes on injured reserve to make a roster spot available.
2078 GM Notes, week 8
Wow. Morris to Mills and Blair as the diversion. I think I haven't been this enthusiastic about our offense since the 2023 season (when we had that spectacular collective with Harrison/McDonnell, Givens, Springer and Thomason) and more recently the 2059 season (when we were light years ahead of the rest of the league in every aspect of the game, purely on cohesion). It also makes me skeptic, because both times the team fell apart in the playoffs and went one-and-done. Heck, we are barely over 30 points per game, on pace to come short of the 500+ points those teams scored.
In the off-season leading up to this regular season, Morris to my surprise was unprotected by the Orlando Talons. When I saw him available on the open market, listed at the top of the "grey sheet", I knew I wanted to take a stab at it. It wasn't easy though, we went into the off-season $25 over the cap. Despite having Erickson (3rd in passing yards last season), Loera (still skilled enough to play) and McAlister (in that range of being 30-35th best QB in the league), I figured Morris could improve the offense to a higher level.
First, we released Loera, saving close to $20M, and renegotiated with a bunch of expensive players to get more space: $4.75M on QB Erickson, over $13.5M on J.R. Mills, almost $7M on OT Oscar Meadows and $17.5M on linebacker Antonio Battle. Then we offered Morris a massive, yet respectable, 4-year deal, with a $25M salary this season, $55M in the following 3 seasons and a $75M signing bonus. And he took it, right at the stage he wanted to sign in.
It gives Morris cap figures of $43.75M this season and $73.75M in each of the next three seasons. The salary cap is $433.8M. It's huge. But I think we'll manage. I fully expect to be able to get him to sign for much less next season, worst case having to go the Cap Out route, to trim his figure to $39M next season (-$34M to what it is scheduled to be). Heck, if we win a title, it'll all be worth it. With Erickson and McAlister as the backup plans, we're not quite a team that should immediately drop from first to worst.
Still, I didn't expect to sign Morris. I hoped we would (and we did), but I fully expected somebody else to make an even better, maybe shorter, offer. Other quarterbacks around the league aren't that far away from $43.75M though, Morris' cap figure is only 9th overall amongst quarterbacks:
65.08M Ashton Turnbull (North Plainfield, 55-rated overall)
57.82M Cesar Small (Iowa, 65-rated)
56.57M Brian Sams (Rochester, 82-rated)
53.62M Clayton Andrews (Toronto, 61-rated)
49.59M Brandon Riley (Augusta, 73-rated)
48.65M Ike Woodhouse (Bordeaux, 67-rated)
46.19M Derek Barge (Moontown, 83 rated)
45.94M Logan Bradford (Fairbanks, 76-rated)
43.75M Bennett Morris (Maassluis, 74-rated)
40.03M Gerald Matthews (Snapfinger, 65-rated)
What about Blair? It was quite uncharacteristic for me to take a running back in the first round of the draft. Before Blair, we picked 9 running backs in the top 100 picks of the draft:
2008 #51 Scott Bagley
2013 #99 Brenden Boone
2030 #85 Courtney McCormick
2032 #20 Darrin Keegan
2042 #29 Harold Riley
2056 #78 Dakota Giles
2058 #64 Scottie Buckner
2066 #91 Nicky Hayes
2069 #82 Lucas Blackwell
2078 #13 Walt Blair
Keegan, Riley and Blackwell, so far, were the only ones that became full time starters. We actually cut Blackwell this off-season. He played well, but I didn't have faith in him carrying the ball 25 times a game or still be useful as a 3rd down back. With Blair, we have a guy that can carry 25 times and do it well. Raul Curie is good enough as a 3rd down back, with the endurance and special teams skills to not have to worry about him not contributing. But Blair so far is actually exceeding expectations. Having the #1 ranked OL in cohesion might help there, which for a great deal will be on our 14th year center Tom Anaya. Re-signing guard Carlos Webb to a 5-year deal with very cap out friendly terms was also important. Right tackle Oscar Meadows is on less cap friendly 3-year deal, but a cap out next season is still possible.
All in all, we're projecting to be $64M over the cap going into the 2079 off-season, with 47 players signed. But a lot of that is on the 9 players with a base salary of 10M+, they combined for $188M of cap costs, just on those base salaries. As mentioned already, we can save $34M on Morris alone, we should be able to save $18M on linebacker Antonio Battle, $10M on defensive tackle Glen Stiegler, $9M on Carlos Webb, $6M on wide receiver J.R. Mills, $8M on wide receiver Brody Stevens and $6M on cornerback Alonzo Hitchcock, that's roughly $100M, a lot more than we will need.
On the bad side of things, we've actually collected an excess of draft picks for the next off-season. We've got the 2nd round picks of Chicago, Texas and Williamsburg, as well as a 5th from Chicago, on top of our own 7 picks. The cap cost of those picks might be trickier than the contract renegotiations of those mentioned above and extending a majority of the 31 players that will be in their last year of contract...
2078 GM Notes, week 9-11
Against all odds, we continued our season with 3 road victories, making us the hottest team in football with 6 straight victories. Harlem (currently 1-8-1), Bordeaux (2-7-1) and Gothenburg (5-5) were the opponents beaten. We've successfully maintained the division lead with a decent tie-breakers lead on Paris and slowly moved into second place in the conference, 1 win behind the Toronto Lake Monsters. Paris is currently in the second wild card slot.
1. Maassluis 8-2
2. Paris 7-3
3. Gothenburg 5-5
4. Bordeaux 2-7-1
Bennett Morris struggled a bit in Harlem, completing just 47 percent of his passes, but he continues to lead the league with the best passer rating, result of second best yards per pass attempt and arguably the best touchdown to interception ration (24:5). He needs 208 yards per game in the last six to get 4,000 yards passing for the season. Interestingly, Morris leads all quarterbacks in rushing touchdowns (4), despite being only 15th in yardage.
J.R. Mills is already at 1,155 yards receiving, making him 3rd in the league, with 11 touchdowns (2nd in the league).
Walt Blair's awesome season came to a painful halt, suffering a concussion in Gothenburg to most likely end his season early. With some luck, he might be recovered in time for the IHOF Bowl... His rookie of the season worthy performance has ended at 1,213 yards rushing (4.97 per carry) with 6 rushing touchdowns and 1 receiving touchdown.
To replace Blair, all eyes will be on third down back Raul Curie (112 yards and 1 touchdown in Gothenburg) and Ronald Graham (inactive in the first 10 games, 30 yards on 11 carries in pre-season action) to carry the ball. Graham's endurance isn't sufficient to take over Blair's number of carries, while Curie's respectable performance means he deserves a shot at playing in an increased role.
In response to the sad news about Buccaneer (Brother Buccaneer- fuck cancer - Front Office Football Central), I'd like to add here that he was one of the 32 owners in IHOF's first season. Leading up to the kickoff of IHOF, I remember how Steve's suggestion for a logo inspired my decision making towards picking Merchantmen for the team mascot.
2078 Regular season, week 12
The Maassluis Merchantmen rock on. With a convincing 46-6 victory over the Oakland Black Panthers, they maintained the division lead and second place in the Atlantic Ocean Conference. J.R. Mills (2 catches for 22 yards, 1 touchdown) had a rare off day, but Bennett Morris (throwing for 255 yards and 3 touchdowns) picked up the Merchantmen offense, the team scored on seven straight drives. In the absence of Walt Blair, fellow rookie Ronald Graham ran for 78 yards and a score on 17 carries. Brody Stevens was the leading receiver with 6 receptions for 71 yards. The defense forced 5 turnovers while holding the Black Panthers to field goal in their two red zone visits. With their 9th win, Maassluis is guaranteed to have their first winning season after a 4-season stretch of 8-8 and 7-9 records.
The Paris Musketeers all passing approach got them to a 23-20 victory at Fairbanks Northstars on a field goal in overtime, after late game field goals went them from winning to tie game to winning after all. The Gothenburg Giants snuck into beating the Colorado Cutthroats 31-20 on a fourth quarter comeback. The Bordeaux Vineyards lost 26-23 in overtime at the Hanalei Dragons on a 62-yard field goal. This eliminated the Vineyards from contention for the playoffs.
1. Maassluis 9-2
2. Paris 8-3
3. Gothenburg 6-5
4. Bordeaux 2-8-1
Maassluis and Paris current hold the 2nd and 5th seed spots. 8th ranked Gothenburg trails the 6th ranked Tucker Tigers by 1.5 victories. Those Tigers will be visiting Maassluis in week 13, while Gothenburg will host the 7th ranked Orlando Talons, putting them in a must-win situation. Paris will visit the already eliminated Houston Mustangs. Bordeaux will visits the 3rd ranked Atlanta Vipers. The top ranked Toronto Lake Monsters, 1 win ahead of Maassluis with inferior tie-breakers, will visit the Snapfinger Jazz, who at 5-6 are in a must-win situation I they want to keep any hopes for the playoffs going.
2078 GM Notes, week 13-17
We're limping, but we're still in the race for IHOF Bowl LXXV. We've lost three of the last five games, two of those losses came in our own Oranje Haven. Bennett Morris was having an MVP worthy season, but Walt Blair may have made an even stronger case in his absence. These last five games haven't been cut and dry though, it's been quite the rollercoaster.
Week 13, at home versus Tucker Tigers
We lead 21-10 at half time and improved to 28-10 on our first possession after the break. Then a couple of interceptions help Tucker back into the game, setting them up for a 32-28 lead. In the last 4 minutes, we drive all the way to the Tucker 6-yard line and get stopped on fourth and goal from the 2-yard line. Tucker 32, Maassluis 28
Week 14, at home versus Fairbanks Northstars
We trail 16-7 at the break as Morris tossed an early pick and we missed a 49-yard field goal in the first quarter. Fairbanks improved to 23-7, but on the touchdown pass we take down their quarterback Logan Bradford. Our defense finally shows up, forces and recovers 2 fumbles to help us into a 24-23 lead. With only 9 second left, they go for the hail mary from our 49-yard line and succeed (the 2-point conversion was moot as time had ran out). Fairbanks 31, Maassluis 24
Week 15, on the road at the Paris Musketeers
In the crucial game for the division title, we storm to a 9-0 lead. Paris scored on an 80-yard pass play from Neil Poling to Raul Marsh, but we quickly reply with a 47-yarder from Bennett Morris to J.R. Mills. Paris gets the ball back and manages to go into the half time break leading 21-15. On their first possession after the break they improve to 28-15 and we reply with a 34-yard field goal. An interception in our red zone keeps Paris from scoring and the comeback is initiated. Dave Eiermann finally converts a crucial kick after several bad misses in back to back games and a fumble recovery in Paris' red zone sets us up to tie it at 28-28 early in the fourth quarter. Paris goes ahead 35-28 on their next drive, we both get stopped and in the last two minutes we somehow manage to advance just enough to see Morris connect with Mills (who had a career day with 265 yards receiving) for 36 yards and the game tying touchdown as regulation expires. In the overtime, Paris stops us early, but linebacker Antonio Battle saves the day with a pick at our 33-yard line, which eventually is followed up with Morris finding Dennis Nadell for the game winning 23-yard touchdown pass. Maassluis 41, Paris 35 (OT)
Week 16 on the road at Colorado Cutthroats
After the rollercoaster games, confidence was supposed to be back, but instead we have a complete meltdown in Colorado. We allow three touchdown passes from Benjamin Kolodziej to Emmett Schwartz for 58 or more yards to put us down 21-3 after just 19 minutes. A characteristic, yet in this game rare, Bennett Morris to J.R. Mills long touchdown pass, followed by a pick six for both teams put us 28-17 down at half time. The second half was hideous, with Morris throwing two more interceptions and Colorado converting a field goal more to hand us our only loss by more than 1 score. Colorado 34, Maassluis 20
Week 17 at home against Gothenburg Giants
With the offense somewhat back in swing, even a couple of Morris interceptions couldn't stop them, we go ahead 24-3 quickly enough to make Gothenburg pull their star quarterback Tre Lynn halfway the third quarter. We actually struggle to keep up, but do stumble into the victory. Maassluis 26, Gothenburg 14
1. Maassluis 11-5
2. Paris 10-6
3. Gothenburg 9-7
4. Bordeaux 5-10-1
Next up: Paris at Maassluis in the wild card round. Elsewhere in the AOC, Tucker (12-3-1) will visit Atlanta (9-6-1). Toronto (14-2) and Augusta (13-3) picked up the byes.
The NAC saw Moontown (14-2) and Hanalei (12-3-1) pick up the byes. Capital City (9-7) will visit Williamsburg (12-4), while Outer Banks (8-8) will visit Iowa (12-4).
After the late struggles, we finished the regular season with 490 points scored (2nd in the league) keeping us from the magical, but cursed 500-point mark. We gained 420 yards per game (3rd in the league) on offense, defensively we ranked 11th with 346 yards per game and 349 points allowed.
Looking across the league, we should be considered amongst the second tier teams. Eight teams outscored their opponents by 100+ points: Augusta +210, Williamsburg +158, Toronto +152, Maassluis +141, Iowa +140, Moontown +138, Tucker +130 and Hanalei +124. Remaining playoffs teams: Atlanta +70, Capital City +44, Paris +41 and Outer Banks -9. Gothenburg at +47 is the only team that really deserved to be here, but will miss the party.
Bennett Morris' bad form in the last 6 games dropped him to 3rd in passer rating at 101.9, far away from the 110-mark he was on pace for. He completed 335 of 535 passes for 4,459 yards and 37 touchdowns versus 13 interceptions. The 37 touchdowns is 2 behind the franchise record of 39 by Lester Lowe.
Walt Blair finished 11th in rushing yards with a 1,213 figure, despite playing 6 1/2 games less than everybody in the top 10. Blair will likely lose Offensive Rookie of the Year to Atlanta quarterback Santiago Lester. Blair had 8 100-yard games, only 4 other players managed to have 8 or more, all being at 9 or 10 centuries.
J.R. Mills scored 17 receiving touchdowns, making him 1st in the league ahead of a duo with 15. He finished 3rd in the league in total touchdown, behind a couple of dual threat running backs. Mills finished at 98 catches for 1,756 yards (4th in the league). The 17 receiving touchdowns is 1 behind the franchise record of 18 set by Terry Haskell.
Brody Stevens behind Mills had 78 catches for 1,037 yards and 8 touchdowns.
Dave Eiermann missed a league high 5 extra points. Combined with the 4 missed field goals, with 138 points scored, he came short of the franchise record of 150.
Linebackers Antonio Battle and Glenn Brewer, defensive tackle Glen Stiegler and cornerback Alonzo Hitchcock collected enough numbers to be potential All-IHOF selections.
But enough about the individual stuff already, it isn't worth a thing without a ring. The loss of Walt Blair felt like a disaster and I'm worried it was the crucial element in these last 6 games where we stumbled in all kinds of weird results. Before losing him, we shockingly stopped Toronto and rolled up Paris in back to back games, ran into a freak loss at North Plainfield, lost a nail biter at Hanalei but otherwise played solid football. It isn't the same thing with Raul Curie and Ronald Graham sharing the carries.
75th season anniversary: 50 Legends, Jay McGee period
To celebrate the 75th season of the Maassluis Merchantmen, I selected 50 players that I consider the legends of that time span from 2004 until the start of the 2078 season. I split the list of players into 5 groups, each being a time period of roughly 15 seasons. We'll continue with episode 3: the Jay McGee period.
FB #20 Albert "The Shovel" Shalon 2029-2039
Albert Shalon, fullback out of Oklahoma State. In the middle of the 4th round of the 2029 draft, the Merchantmen decided to make that name announced. Shalon was a big backfield player, who was scouted to be a top-notch power inside and the mentality to jump into the third and short situations. At the same time, he was fierce enough to support the run blocking on first and second down. As a rookie, Shalon immediately was thrown into the 2-back and short yardage situations. A couple of times per game, the Merchantmen would be in a short yardage situation and about once per game, they needed a big bulldozing player to breakthrough the melee of offensive and defensive linemen. Shalon turned out to be exactly that and quickly got nicknamed "The Shovel". For 10 seasons, Shalon played that role. After perhaps his best season, the Merchantmen decided to dismiss Shalon and promote second-year fullback Greg Brass into that role. Brass was a better blocker, but was unable to reach Shalon's 68 percentage conversion rate, the best in Merchantmen history.
QB #7 Jay McGee 2030-2039
Jay McGee was the 2030's surprise trade addition for the Merchantmen. When they were finalizing the blockbuster deal that would send Russell Harrison to the Rochester Lake Monsters, the Merchantmen rang the Fort Worth Furty, whom had put fourth year McGee on the trade block. The former first round pick had lost the starting role in 2029. McGee turned out to be a dependable and safe quarterback. In his first three seasons, McGee threw for 65 touchdowns with only 29 interceptions, but failed to guided them to the playoffs once, twice missing out with a 9-7 record. On Harrison's return to Maassluis, McGee was demoted to a backup role for 2 seasons, but after the man of glass retired, McGee upped his game and quarterbacked the Merchantmen to the playoffs for 5 straight seasons, with at least 10 wins each season and 4 division titles. Despite having a reputation of played bad in the post season, McGee has a 5-5 record in the playoffs, leading the Merchantmen to the 2038 and 2039 AOC Championship game. In 2039 he threw 4 touchdown passes there to lead the Merchantmen past the Tucker Tigers into IHOF Bowl XXXVI. After throwing for just 159 yards in the 23-10 loss against the Chesapeake Chitterlings, the Merchantmen decided that cutting McGee was the best move to get out of cap hell. McGee ranks fourth all-time for the Merchantmen with 31,422 passing yards, 255 touchdowns and 106 interceptions in 139 regular season games. Curiously, despite not making it into the Hall of Fame, with a 92.5 figure, McGee has a highest passer rating than the three Merchantmen quarterbacks who did get elected. McGee saw limited action from the Iowa Cobbers' bench in 2040 and after spending the entire 2041 season on the Paris Musketeers' bench he decided to retire.
S #42 Perry Walker 2030-2043
Perry Walker from West Viriginia was the Merchantmen's fifth round pick in the 2030 draft. In Merchantmen tradition, as a rookie Walker played mostly in a dime back role and promoted to nickel back in his second season. Things got really interesting in his third season, when he was promoted to strong safety as the reign of Hopper & Walker began. Walker was a hard hitting safety, able to walk all over the field. As a result, in 14 seasons, Walker made 895 tackles, 333 assists and forced 19 fumbles, more than any other safety in Merchantmen history. With 23 interceptions and 88 defended passes, he's managed a 81.1 pass defense score.
LT #60 Kerry Zumdahl 2031-2038
Kerry Zumdahl was one of three first round picks for the Merchantmen in 2031. Coming off a disastrous 5-11 season, the Merchantmen held the 6th overall pick and decided to grab Zumdahl as the new left tackle for quarterback Jay McGee. As a rookie, he was throwing into that role from the start. It turned out to be a tremendous decision. Zumdahl would never allow more than 5 sacks in a season while wearing the orange-white-and-blue uniform. Moreover, Zumdahl also turned out to be a contributor to the running blocking duties of the offensive line and was an All-IHOF first team selection for 3 straight seasons from 2032 to 2034. In the 2039 off-season, to get out of cap hell, the Merchantmen decided to trade Zumdahl after 8 seasons to the Tucker Tigers, the team that held the Merchantmen out of the IHOF Bowl in 2038. His first encounter with the Merchantmen was a 47-7 victory, but in the rematch in the 2039 AOC Championship game, Zumdahl saw his previous quarterback torch the Tigers' secondary. Zumdahl would continue his stellar play for 6 seasons in Tucker, winning 3 IHOF Bowls and eventually getting elected into the Hall of Fame.
S #49 Thurman Hopper 2031-2044
Thurman Hopper was one of three first round picks for the Merchantmen in 2031. They gave up a second round pick to trade up from 24th overall to 15th to be able to pick Hopper. The Merchantmen defense ranked 26th in yards allowed the season prior. Hopper had to work himself up in the pecking order, despite being a first round pick. Hopper became a fulltime starter late in his second season, establishing the Hopper & Walker partnership at safety, which would stick together until Walker's retirement in the 2044 off-season. Hopper was the ball hawker of the two. With 42 interceptions and 105 defended passes, he has a 82.5 pass defense rating. He ranks in Merchantmen history in interceptions. An injury kept Hopper sidelined for basically the entire 2039 season, also meaning he had to miss the Merchantmen's first participation in the IHOF Bowl, but otherwise he appeared to be near unbreakable in an era where safeties played the most injury prone position in football.
G #71 Ricky Castillo 2032-2038
Ricky Castillo became the Maassluis Merchantmen's 2032 first round pick. The guard out of Ohio State was immediately thrown into the starting lineup, to play side by side with second-year pro Kerry Zumdahl and became the primary run blocker of the line for Darrin Keegan. For 7 straight season, Castillo was a building block of the Merchantmen offense. Castillo earned All-IHOF first team honors in 2032 and 2034, while being a second teamer in 2033. In the 2039 off-season, the Merchantmen put Castillo on the trade block to get out of cap troubles. Castillo was traded to the Tucker Tigers, the team that beat the Merchantmen in the 2038 AOC Championship game. Castillo was on the losing end in 2039 again, this time against Maassluis. After 5 decent seasons in Tucker, he was a cap casualty there and played his final IHOF season for the Moontown Darksiders. Despite petitions from the Merchantmen fans, Castillo hasn't been elected into the Hall of Fame.
WR #83 Adam Brautlacht 2034-2044
Adam Brautlacht was drafted in 2034 by the Merchantmen high in the third round. He came in with high expectations, as the Merchantmen thought they had acquired a fast, agile receiver who could also be used as a punt returner and special teamer. Notoriously, the Merchantmen stadium announcer would by pronouncing his last name as if it was Dutch, making it sound very similar to how his German ancestors would pronounce it. In his second season, Brautlacht maneuvered himself into the WR2 role, ahead of the underperforming veteran Travis May. After the arrival of Terry Haskell, Brautlacht bounced around on the depth chart, but still managed to total 207 catches for 2,702 yards and 29 touchdowns in his first six seasons. The highlight came as he was a starter in the IHOF Bowl XXXVI loss. In the 2040, he got buried deep on the depth chart, spending most of the season inactive. Albeit getting a bit more action in the next 4 seasons, his role in the offense was limited to 4th or 5th receiver. After being the primary punt returner in the 2044 season, and occasionally getting the "Brautlacht!" chants going around in Oranje Haven, he retired in the 2045 off-season.
WR #89 Terry "The Gasket" Haskell 2036-2048
Terry Haskell was the main acquisition of the 2036 off-season for the Maassluis Merchantmen. As the incredibly talented receiver fell outside the top 5 picks, the Merchantmen picked up the phone and struck a deal with the Neverland Ranch Hands, sending them the 20th and 26th overall picks, as well as a couple of third round picks. The Merchantmen management and coaching staff were ecstatic, they finally got a successor to Hall of Famers Gabe Springer. Haskell broke into the scene with Offensive Rookie of the Year numbers, starting a stretch of 11 seasons in which he missed the 1,000-yard figure just once (the injury plagued 2041 season). Unlike Springer, Haskell remained to be in a starting role through his final season (2048), in which he barely broke the 15,000-yard career mark by a single yard. Haskell received the nickname "The Gasket", suggesting he was a safety measure to keep the Merchantmen from turning over the ball, by making crucial third down catches and remarkable catches that were about to be intercepted. Haskell is the all-time Merchantmen leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, as well as receiving touchdowns in a single season. Unsurprisingly, he was elected into the Hall of Fame.
LB #55 Wesley Devine 2036-2048
Wesley Devine made the 2036 draft even more awesome after the selection of Terry Haskell. The Merchantmen into the 34th overall, sacrificing their first round pick in 2038 to make the move. Devine was expected to, and turned out to be, a complete linebacker. The three-time All-IHOF selection was a key part to the Merchantmen pass defense and run defense for 13 straight seasons. Devine became the second Merchantmen player to get 1,000 tackles, then ranking second behind Cody Cluff (with inflated number due to special teams tackles being included) on the all-time list. Devine started 200 regular season games for the Merchantmen, still ranks third in tackles and in defended passes amongst all Merchantmen players, and tied for first with 28 forced fumbles. To the pleasure of Merchantmen fans, he was the first Merchantmen linebacker elected into the Hall of Fame.
WR #87 Jack Money 2037-2046
Jack Money was a late seventh round pick in the 2037 draft. The Merchantmen decided to take a shot at the possible dual threat return specialist. It turned out to be a great pick. Already in his rookie season, he leads the league in kickoff return average and ranked third in punt return average, despite boosting his numbers with any touchdowns. In fact, his first touchdown came in his 92nd game for the Merchantmen. It didn't turn out to be a single season miracle though, Money would continue to impress as a return specialist for 7 straight seasons. He lead the league in kickoff return average 6 times and ranked 2nd in 2041, while being in the top five punt returners 6 times. The downfall came hard in the 2044 season, when it became apparent Money had lost some of his speed and agility to make big plays, seeing him get demoted to second in line in both return specialties. Despite that some called him that, he wasn't a Jack-of-all-traits. Money had only 5 receptions in 160 games for the Merchantmen, as he wasn't very useful on the offense. Money retired after 10 seasons, ranking 1st all-time with 33.8 yards per kickoff return, more than 2 yards per return ahead of the second highest figure.
RB #29 Donald Terry 2037-2044
Donald Terry was yet another fifth round product of the Merchantmen. Grabbed in the 2037 draft, the Merchantmen saw a lot of promise from the fast and smart running back. In the change of pace role, Terry saw his first action from the get go. In 2039 he took over from Darrin Keegan, who was traded to the North Plainfield Plague in the off-season. Terry ran for 106 yards and a 5.0 average, setting the tone for the rest of the season. Despite a couple of stinkers, Terry proved to be a worthy replacement, even with the two best linemen (Ricky Castillo and Kerry Zumdahl) from recent seasons also traded away. Terry finished the season running for 1,489 yards and 12 touchdowns, leading the yardage and an impressive 5.6 yards per carry. He was a rare bright light in the IHOF Bowl XXXVI loss, running for 102 yards and the team's only touchdown. Terry remained the starter for two more season, racking up two more 1,000-yard seasons. In 2042 he was demoted to the change of pace role and in 2043 to third string. After just 7 carries in 2044, it was all over. Terry ranks 10th all-time in rushing yards for the Merchantmen and tied for 8th in rushing touchdowns.
2078 Wild Card Round
"Maassluis is surely providing us with the most entertaining games of the season," said the owner of the Toronto Lake Monsters after the hail mary pass loss in week 14. Today the Maassluis Merchantmen hosted the Paris Musketeers in an all-European wild card round game. And boy, was it an entertaining game, especially for the neutral football fans.
The first quarter started with a run heavy drive from the Merchantmen. Raul Curie ran for 12 yards, which was followed up by Ronald Graham for 16 yards from around midfield and then a 35-yarder for the 7-0 lead. Paris' first drive ended at the Merchantmen 27-yard line, where Maurice Harkleroad intercepted a deep pass from Neil Poling. On the ensuing drive, Bennett Morris found J.R. Mills deep for a 52-yard gain and a couple of plays later Branden Schwirzke in the end zone for the 14-0 lead. Paris did something back on their next drive, leaning heavily on their passing game to see Poling find Arnie Janis for an 11-yard touchdown pass. Morris then found Brody Stevens for 53 yards (with a long run after catch) to set up a 39-yard field goal for the 16-7 lead after the first quarter.
A field position battle began in the second quarter. Paris pinned Maassluis at their 4-yard line, only to get pinned back at their own 3-yard line as a reply. Maassluis thought they got the better of it, but a holding penalty kept them outside the red zone. Neil Poling then found Corbin Houston for 35 yards to guide the Musketeers into Merchantmen territory to setup a 43-yad field goal. Paris three-and-outted the Merchantmen and gained just enough ground to be able to kick a 53-yard field goal to go into the break with Maassluis leading 16-13.
Paris started the second half with a 41-yard pass from Neil Poling to Corbin Houston, but a strip sack inside the Merchantmen red zone saved the Merchantmen. Maassluis advanced to midfield and pinned Paris back at their 4-yard line. Anchored by a 38-yard catch and run from Poling to Horace Pickett, the Musketeers marched into the red zone and kicked a 29-yarder to tie the score at 16-16. Bennett Morris saw his pass intercepted on the first play of the drive and brought Paris back into the red zone. The Merchantmen pass rush forced a three and out, but could not stop Shaun Dole from scoring his fourth field goal of the day, putting Paris 19-16 up. But just before the third quarter ended, Bennett Morris found Monty Elliott for 29-yard and 24-yard passes to give Maassluis a 23-19 lead going into the fourth quarter.
The Musketeers drove all the way to the Merchantmen 36-yard line, but were forced to punt, pushing Maassluis back to their 3-yard line. Three short Raul Curie runs later, Maassluis had to punt and Paris took full advantaged of the field position battle. A big 35-yard pass from Poling to Raul Marsh put Paris 26-23 up, with 8 minutes to go. Bennett Morris found Brody Stevens (24 yards) and Ronald Graham (25 yards) to march into the red zone, but Paris held ground there and a 25-yard field goal scored by Dave Eiermann brought it to 26-26 with just over 3 minutes remaining. Paris went three and out, Maassluis got the ball back at their own 6-yard line. Raul Curie converted a crucial third and short to maintain possession at the two-minute warning. Bennett Morris used his legs to convert on third and 7 to keep the ball. With 18 ticks on the clock, Morris then found J.R. Mills for a 17-yard catch at the Paris 38-yard line and time out was called with 3 seconds to go. A 55-yarder was by no means a gimme, but Dave Eiermann pulled it through: Merchantmen win 29-26!
Oranje Haven exploded: the 7-game losing streak in the playoffs finally ended after 11 years.
Bennett Morris completed 19 of 33 passes for 336 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception, while also running for 29 yards.
Ronald Graham ran for 114 yards and a score, becoming the third Merchantmen running back with a century this season (after Walt Blair and Raul Curie).
J.R. Mills caught 5 passes for 100 yards, Brody Stevens caught 5 for 93 yards and Monty Elliott caught 4 for 73 yards and a touchdown.
J.R. Mills picked up a nasty groin injury, it's doubtful he'll be able to play in the next round. Monty Elliott played through a deep thigh bruise. Walt Blair is still out with a concussion, the medical staff is still unsure if Blair will be recovered in time for IHOF Bowl LXXV, if the Merchantmen actually make it that far.
Next up the Augusta Greenjackets, on the road. Augusta went 13-3 in the regular season, this ought to be a challenge for the Merchantmen. The Toronto Lake Monsters will host the Tucker Tigers. In the NAC the Moontown Darksiders host the Williamsburg Colonials, while the Iowa Cobbers visit the Hanalei Dragons. These are the 8 teams with the best regular season records, the Merchantmen actually have the worst record of these remaining teams.
2078 Divisional Round
And then the Merchantmen were where they wanted to be: the elite eight. The trip to Augusta was all worth it, because the Merchantmen had show in the regular season they can play with the best and beat some of the best: up next the 13-3 Greenjackets. Walt Blair still missing and J.R. Mills limping. It was all on Bennett Morris.
The Merchantmen drew first blood, kicking a 42-yard field goal set up by a drive with Morris finding Mills for 21 yards followed by rookie Ronald Graham running for 15- and 10-yard gains. Neither team scored on their next drive, but Augusta finally did on a long time consuming 80-yard drive that ended in a short pass from Brandon Riley to George Hayes for a 7-3 lead and the end of the first quarter.
The Merchantmen struggled on their next drive, but pinned the Greenjackets at their 9-yard line. Riley immediately replied with a short pass to Bo Charron, that turned into a 42-yard gain. A couple of plays later Isaiah Hickman missed a 48-yard field goal attempt. The Merchantmen still struggled and Riley connected for 23 yards with Greg Kudo on the second play of the Augusta drive. Slowly, but firmly, the Greenjackets gained ground and eventually Riley found Hayes from 12 yards out for the 13-3 lead after the misses extra point. With the final 2 minutes of the first half to go, Maassluis was stopped quickly and Augusta saw Riley throw to Frankie Knispel for another catch and run play with good yardage. Hickman got a chance to make it 16-3 in the final seconds, but 54 yards was too much to ask. Augusta did lead 13-3 to finish the half.
The second half was barely started and Augusta already found themselves in good field position as Riley found Hayes for a couple of 27-yard gains. Few minutes later, Riley connected with Charron on 3rd and 25 for a 35-yard touchdown. Hickman stood up and made it 20-3 for the home team. Maassluis responded with a couple of strong plays, Raul Curie ran for 21 yards and Morris found Mills for 22 yards, but eventually they had to punt, Tito Hornsby nailed the Greenjackets at their own 1-yard line. Augusta seemed to get out of that hole, until Riley got hurt and was replaced by Mason Ruiter. On his first pass attempt, he got picked off by Maurice Harkleroad, who ran it back for 91 yards and a stadium silencing touchdown. 20-10 Augusta, but Maassluis was back in business, sort of. Riley regrouped and connected with Scott Dembek for 19 yards, then Hayes for 16 yards and eventually Hickman kicked the 42-yard field goal to give Augusta a 23-10 lead with a minute to go in the third quarter.
Maassluis was stopped quickly on the first drive of the fourth quarter, while Augusta thought they were drive for a game winner. Instead, Alonzo Hitchcock intercepted a short pass of Ruiter near midfield and Maassluis got the momentum they needed. Morris ran and threw, the red zone was reached. A crucial third down conversation was followed up by a sneaking 7-yard run by Curie to trim the deficit to 23-17. Missing their quarterback, the Augusta offense struggled, but still got into field goal position with 3:33 on the clock. Hickman missed the 51-yarder and Maassluis quickly marched into Augusta territory. Just after the two-minute warning, the inevitable Morris to Mills big play finally took place: Mills grabbed a long pass and had to gain the last 3 yards to give Maassluis the 24-23 lead. Augusta had to go for it, on fourth and 6 at around midfield, Ruiter was unable to complete the pass to Hayes. Morris knee dropped for the 24-23 Merchantmen victory!
Morris completed 16 of 26 for 220 yards and 1 touchdown.
Curie ran for 66 yards (6.0 per carry) and 1 touchdown, Graham for 48 yards (4.8 per carry).
Mills had 5 catches for 130 yards and 1 touchdown.
Walt Blair is still out, J.R. Mills will continue to limp and Antonio Battle picked up an injury, but was said to be ready in time to play at and against the Toronto Lake Monsters in the upcoming big challenge in the AOC Championship game!
2078 Atlantic Ocean Conference Championship Game
After the arguably lucky victory in Augusta, the Merchantmen found themselves amongst the last four teams standing, interestingly enough the four teams with the most points scored in the regular season. Second best the Merchantmen, fourth best the Toronto Lake Monsters, the AOC's top seeded 14-2 juggernauts, the hosts of the AOC Championship Game.
After a quick three and out for the Merchantmen offense, the first Lake Monsters drive turned into a dragging, yet advancing experience, resulting in a 39-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead. Bennett Morris found Monty Elliott for 32-yards on a third and seven play on the next drive, but all it did was keep Clay Andrews and his gazelles off the field for about 3 minutes. Andrews and his gazelles stayed on the field for more than 5 minutes, getting first downs one anoter another to eventually see Andrews find Jamal Meteer for a short throw wide open to run into the end zone and a 10-0 lead.
"Morris deep to Mills, 15, 10, 5 touchdown!" The first play of the second quarter saw Morris find his man J.R. Mills for a 61-yard touchdown pass, still trailing 10-7, but Maassluis was back in business. After another steady, but not sturdy drive, Toronto kicked a 27-yard field goal to improve to a 13-7 lead. The Merchantmen responded with their own slow but solid drive, eventually seeing Morris find Randal Curtis in the end zone for a touchdown and taking a 14-13 lead. The Lake Monsters were a bit overwhelmed, yet pinned Maassluis back at the 6-yard line for their next drive with 3 minutes to go in the first half. Morris found Brnaden Schwirzke for 25 yards on second and long, but eventually the drive was halted at midfield. Toronto then came time short to get deep enough in Maassluis territory to score, giving Maassluis the 14-13 lead at half time.
On their first drive of the second half, it were a bunch of unusual running plays that gave the pass happy Lake Monsters their big gains. After 4 minutes of decent gains, Andrews once again found Meteer for a touchdown, this time to put Toronto 20-14 up. The Merchantmen got three and outed and things seemed to be going downhill fast for the orange-white-and-blue. Andrews kept throwing and running, until a throw in the red zone got disruptingly picked off by Giovanni Morton. Morris got him team moving, but a holding penalty got a crucial first down taken back. Toronto got the ball back to end the third quarter.
The Lake Monsters then got stalled quickly, with a crucial strip sack on third down, yet the fumble was recovered by one of Andrews' bodyguards. Maassluis got the ball back at their 41-yard line, but their faith quickly turned as Morris was tackled on a scramble, lost the ball and Dashawn Kaminski ran it all the way for a Toronto touchdown and a 27-14 lead. On the next drive, Raul Curie fumbled and it gave Toronto the ball at the Merchantmen 45-yard line. 3 plays later, Avery England ran it in from 20 yards out. 34-14 Toronto, that got ugly fast for the Merchantmen. Another quick three and out gave Toronto the ball back. A time consuming drive finished by a goal line stand and a 19-yard field goal gave Toronto a 37-14 lead with 3:28 to go. The Merchantmen waived the white flag, pulling their man of the year Morris and giving Sammy Erickson some playing time. Promtply Erickson threw a 41-yard bomb to Dennis Nadell on third and 10, but 4 plays later, Erickson was rushed and his pass was uncatchable for Brody Stevens. Toronto let England run and after converting third and one, knee drops wiped away the last minute of game time. A 37-14 defeat ended the Merchantmen season.
All eyes are on the 2079 off-season. Maassluis expects to get Walt Blair back safe and sound, but moreover will have to hope Bennett Morris is inspired just enough to not quite hang up his helmet and return for a second season teaming up with J.R. Mills. With the offense sniffing at 500 points for the 16-game schedule, the Merchantmen defense will be the unit needing some work, back to back 500-yard games to end the season don't bode well...
2079 Off-Season: Morris and Anaya retire
Tears aplenty amongst Merchantmen fans, two big men announced their retirement from football: Bennett Morris and Tom Anaya.
Quarterback Bennett Morris played just one season in Maassluis, but without doubt was he the right man at the right place at the right time, almost. Signed in the 2078 off-season, Morris quarterbacked the Merchantmen back into business. 11-5 in the regular season, 490 points scored, two wins in the playoffs, the Merchantmen are back in the picture of the premier IHOF franchises after 11 long seasons without a victory in the post-season. Morris threw for 4,459 yards and 37 touchdowns versus 13 interceptions, with 4 rushing touchdown to add. Morris walks away with $100M for his single season in Maassluis...
Center Tom Anaya was the Merchantmen's 2065 first round pick. He played 14 seasons in Maassluis, playing in 213 regular season and 18 post-season games. Anaya made 487 key run blocks and allowed just 54 sacks. He ranked 8th all-time in the history of the IHOF in key run blocks in the regular season. He was the leading run blocker for the Merchantmen 12 times, including his rookie season, twice earning All-IHOF First team honors. Unsurprisingly, he's the all-time leader for the Merchantmen, 92 key run blocks ahead of Cristian Sampson, a starter for the Merchantmen in the '50s.
2079 Off-Season: Shaun Hartman inducted into IHOF Hall of Fame
Defensive tackle Shaun Hartman has been inducted into the IHOF's Hall of Fame. He was one of seven players inducted, getting the highest voting percentage. Hartman was an 11-time All-IHOF selection, 7 times a first teamer and was the IHOF Bowl LXIII MVP anchoring the Merchantmen's sole league title. Hartman played 13 seasons for the Merchantmen, made 577 tackles, 252 assists, 116.5 sacks and forced 22 fumbles. He ranks 2nd for the Merchantmen in sacks, behind his long-time sidekick Daquan Strugielski and 16th in IHOF history, being 1st amongst defensive tackles.
2079 GM Notes, start of the off-season
Well, things haven't gone exactly as hoped, some kid named Morris decided to quit playing football. The man of $100M for 19 games. Let's take a look at my notes from mid-season last season.
* Sammy Erickson
* Ellis McAlister
* get yet another new quarterback
The ne result of the retirement sadly costs us more money that anticipated. We're currently at $45.28M lost cap space, of which only $4.24M is left over from last season. There's also Anaya's retirement costing us 3.54M, which means Morris is counting for $37.5M towards the cap. The fourth season of signing bonus apparently doesn't count towards the cap.
75th season anniversary: 50 Legends, Bryson Chow era
To celebrate the 75th season of the Maassluis Merchantmen, I selected 50 players that I consider the legends of that time span from 2004 until the start of the 2078 season. I split the list of players into 5 groups, each being a time period of roughly 15 seasons. We'll continue with episode 4: the Bryson Chow period.
LB #54 Daniel "Double D" Duncan 2040-2049
Daniel Duncan, linebacker out of Penn State, was the Merchantmen's first round pick in the 2040 draft. Technically the second one that draft, taken one pick behind cornerback Mark Crum, but Duncan was taken with the pick corresponding to the IHOF Bowl losing team. Duncan was part of the rebuild of the defense, stepping in as the successor of still playing Fred McCorkle. Teaming op with Wesley Devine, for an exceptional all-around linebacker tandem. Duncan was the second linebacker on team with a last name starting with a D, which combined with his initials were an easy step to his nickname "Double D". His career began with a false start, missing most of his rookie campaign due to injuries. The trend continued, as he missed a total of 20 regular season games in the first 3 years, but in his first full year he broke out with a bang, becoming the 2043 Defensive Player of the Year. Duncan made 101 tackles, 7.0 sacks, 3 interceptions and defended 15 passes. In 2046 he co-lead the league with 8 interceptions. Battling injuries more often, Duncan decided to call it a game after 10 seasons. Despite that, he ranks 9th in tackles, 5th in interceptions and in defended passes for the Merchantmen.
DL #56 Dennis Lucas 2041-2050
Dennis Lucas was a free agent signing in the 2041 off-season. The Oakland Black Panthers decided to let him walk after his 3-year rookie contract, being unable to afford an extension in the final year. The Merchantmen snagged him up and made him their pass rush specialist extraordinary. Lucas played all over the defensive line, rarely listed as a starter, but usually playing his fair share of downs in relief of the tired starters. He was the Merchantmen sacks leader 5 times and earned an equal number of All-IHOF selections, albeit mostly from being listed as a defensive tackle, while seeing a good portion of his playing time at defensive end. Lucas couldn't be bothered and kept making sack after sack, retiring in the 2051 off-season with 100.0 sacks exactly, of which 85.0 were for the Merchantmen, at that time the highest figure in franchise history, surpassing the legendary Charles Gomez. Lucas' pass rush excellence impressed the pundits enough to get him inducted into the Hall of Fame.
WR #84 Scott Dupuis 2043-2053
Wide receiver Scott Dupuis joined the Merchantmen in the 2043 as a trade acquisition from the Texas Sharks for a future third round pick. Dupuis was seen as a backup in a crowded receivers corps, but also as the successor to kickoff return legend Jack Money. Dupuis was active, but barely on the field that first season in Maassluis. But from his second season and onwards, Dupuis was a key figure. Dupuis moved up to the WR3 role, but more importantly lived up to the expectations of becoming an elite kickoff return specialist. In 11 seasons with the Merchantmen, Dupuis scored a franchise high 7 kickoff return touchdowns and ranked first in kickoff return average 4 times, and 5 more times in the league's top three. With 32.0 yards per kickoff return, he ranks second for the Merchantmen and would have ranked equally high in league history if his Texas' numbers weren't included. With those added, he ranks 6th all-time in kickoff return average and tied for 11th in most kickoff return touchdowns.
QB #1 Bryson Chow 2045-2058
"With the first overall pick of the 2045 draft the Maassluis Merchantmen select quarterback Bryson Chow out of Illinois." He was listed at the top of the mock drafts all around, Chow was going to be a franchise quarterback, going to challenge Jackie Collier as the all-time best player in league history. The Merchantmen traded up from the #12 overall slot to get Chow. It quickly became apparent that Chow was a talented player, with the legs to potentially be a dual-threat quarterback, but not quite the all-time best player. He made good progress, but didn't have the talent Collier had. It didn't stop Chow from becoming the Merchantmen starter and remaining that for 12 seasons, leading them to the AOC Championship game twice. In 2057 he lost the starting role despite guiding his team to a 3-2 start. His last pass attempt for the Merchantmen came in garbage time. Chow retired with 192 starts for a 116-86-1 record, throwing for 43,006 yards and 321 touchdowns versus 184 interceptions, ranking second in yardage and touchdowns for the Merchantmen. The cream on the pie came in the 2063 off-season, when Chow against all odds was elected into the Hall of Fame.
C #79 Cristian Sampson 2047-2059
Center Cristian Sampson was just a fourth round draft pick for the Merchantmen in the 2047 draft, but after a season on the bench, Sampson saw the arrival of Norbert Talley as the new running back. As a true center, Sampson became the anchor of the run blocking unit. For 10 seasons straight, 30 key run blocks was his minimum, getting to 40+ six times. He peaked in 2053 with 52 key run blocks to co-lead the league, including 10 in a single game versus the Snapfinger Jazz, still a seemingly untouchable franchise record. Sampson was the All-IHOF center 3 times and with 395 key run blocks became the Merchantmen all-time leader, only recently being surpassed by Tom Anaya for second place. IHOF Bowl LIV was Sampson's last game as a starter, despite 6 key run blocks that day.
RB #25 Norbert Talley 2048-2055
Running back Norbert Talley was the #12 overall pick in the 2045 draft, originally the Maassluis Merchantmen's pick. The Merchantmen had traded the pick to the Snapfinger Jazz to be able to get quarterback Bryson Chow. In the 2048 off-season, Talley at last joined the Merchantmen after three decent, but non-spectacular seasons, sending the Jazz the Merchantmen 2049 first round pick. Talley joined a team of lowly drafted, yet coherent and talented guys, with a hard to guess game plan, but more importantly brought his own talent. Talley ran for 1,622 yards in his first season in Maassluis, but things only went up after that. In 2051 and 2053 he topped the 2,000-yard mark, scoring 15 and 17 touchdowns in the process. After just 1,249 in the 2055 season, Talley retired. For years he had battled with Oakland Black Panthers' Nolan Money for the rushing title: he finished second in 2049, 2050, first in 2051, second in 2052 behind Snapfinger's Fred Kwan, first in 2053 and fourth in 2054. Talley broke the all-time carries record with 3,882 and ranks second all-time with 17,399 rushing yards. Talley ranks first for the Merchantmen with 14,027 yards and 76 touchdowns rushing. He ranks fifth with 86 total touchdowns. Talley was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2060, whilst his jersey number 25 got retired by the Maassluis Merchantmen.
LT #64 Roman Torrez 2051-2063
Left tackle Roman Torrez was the Merchantmen's late second round pick in the 2051 draft. Joining an established line with Norbert Talley running from behind it, he had to work himself up in the ranks. He was a starter in his second season filling in for injured guard Sean Schwimmer, but finally became a full-time starter in his fourth season on team. Albeit being volatile in his performance, Torrez was usually a reliable body guard to the quarterbacks and also supported the running game. He peaked with 34 key run blocks and 3 sacks allowed in 2056, earning his only All-IHOF selection. He started at left tackle in IHOF Bowl LIV and LVII, being on the losing end both times.
CB #39 Everett Heiser 2052-2062
Cornerback Everett Heiser was the Merchantmen's second round pick in the 2052 draft. Without hesitation, the Merchantmen decided to throw Heiser into a starting role. It took him a couple of seasons to establish himself as the premier pass defender on the team, making 5 interceptions and 13 defended passes in the 2054 season. In 2057, a divisional round playoffs game at the Toronto Lake Monsters was his moment of fame, as Heiser intercepted 4 passes, being crucial in the 37-31 victory. In 2060 he returned an interception to seal a 34-17 victory against the Atlanta Vipers. He was a starter in IHOF Bowl LIV and LVII, combining for 0 catches allowed, but as the opposing teams threw away from him, the Merchantmen lost both times. After 11 seasons, Heiser retired with 36 interceptions and 112 defended passes on his resume, which rank him third (tied) and fourth respectively in Merchantmen history. With 7 interceptions in the playoffs, Heiser ranks tied for 5th in IHOF history.
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