2018 NFL Week 6 Picks & Previews: Expect Lots of High Scoring Games

Welcome to my Week 6 NFL pick’em and previews.  Last week I went 8-7, placing my overall record at 45-31-2, ahead of 7 of ESPN’s 10 experts, and 3 of CBS Sports’ 8 experts.  Some of the offense-heavy teams in the league take each other on this week. The Chiefs face off with the Patriots. The Raiders take on the Seahawks in London.  The Chargers will head to Cleveland to play the Browns. The Bucs and Falcons will play each other in an intriguing divisional match-up. Who will win in these likely shootouts?  Read below to find out what I think.

Lock of the Week (MNF)

With WR Randall Cobb likely back, expect this Packers passing offense to perform a lot better than they did in Detroit, especially since they are home this week.  But it’s the run game that I see leading the Pack. These running backs haven’t really had the chance to truly shine in Green Bay’s pass-first offense, but I could see it happening against an inexperienced 49ers run defense.  Without QB Jimmy Garoppolo, it will be extremely difficult for the Niners to match Green Bay’s offensive performance. I see the Packers winning easily.

Upset of the Week

This Broncos defense will make it difficult for the Rams to score as much as they usually do, but I think they manage to score 20+ points on Denver, led by RB Todd Gurley.  However, I expect Denver’s receivers to have a strong day as well, despite the fact that they are facing a stacked Rams secondary.  They have two dependable veterans in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, and a promising rookie, Courtland Sutton.  I think they can handle the Rams secondary, especially with ex-Bronco Aqib Talib on IR. Look for Denver to pull the upset in a game that’s surprisingly high scoring.

The Other Games

TNF (Posted on Twitter Thursday Night; Actual Score: 34-13 Eagles)

Expect the Eagles run game to struggle with RB Jay Ajayi on IR.  But I think QB Carson Wentz and his receivers will find a way to win it in New York.  The Giants offense will struggle once again without TE Evan Engram, but I think WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard will have strong games to make this close.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect Houston’s elite defense to shut down QB Josh Allen and his receivers.  I think they will hold the Bills to 1 TD or less in this game. Meanwhile, QB Deshaun Watson and the Texans offense will have a decent enough despite the banged-up run game and lack of WR depth.  I see the trio of Watson, RB Lamar Miller and WR DeAndre Hopkins leading them to victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Colts offense should look better than they did in New England.  Expect RB Nyheim Hines to step it up with the receivers banged up. However, I see the Colts D, which has struggled all season falling apart against a promising Jets passing game.  Look for both QB Sam Darnold and RB Isaiah Crowell to have big games as the Jets score at least 4 TDs. New York should win easily with the Colts defense regressively struggling.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

UPDATE: Ryan Tannehill is OUT, Brock Osweiler will start

Look for the Dolphins young D to have success against QB Mitch Trubisky and his offense.  Their promising group of receivers will not be enough here as the run game struggles. I also think that with the home-field advantage, the Dolphins will manage to score 30+ points despite facing Khalil Mack and the Bears D.  With QB Ryan Tannehill out, QB Brock Osweiler will rely on his receivers as Mack and the Bears front seven shuts down the Dolphins run game.  In the end, I have the Dolphins pulling a surprising upset at home, thanks to an all-around elite performance.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for Cincy’s receivers to step it up against a struggling Steelers secondary. But the Steelers will make this a close shootout. QB Ben Roethlisberger and his receivers will thrive as well against a rebuilding Bengals secondary.  But without RB Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers run game will be easily shut down. The Bengals will manage to win thanks to the strong run defense and strong game by their receivers.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for QB Baker Mayfield and the Browns to make this close in Cleveland.  But this Chargers offense has dominated and led the team to victory against every below average defense they’ve played.  Look for QB Philip Rivers, RB Melvin Gordon, WR Keenan Allen and company to do the same in Cleveland as they take on an inexperienced Browns D.  This stellar offensive performance will lead LA to victory for the fourth time this season.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect a shootout in this London game.  Both these defenses have struggled regressively all season.  Look for Oakland’s offense to dominate against the young Seattle D, and expect QB Russell Wilson and his receivers to have a field day against the Khalil Mack-less Raiders defense.  I think the Raiders, who will have more success running the ball, will outscore the Seahawks to win it.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect the Panthers offense to be back at full speed with TE Greg Olsen back.  They will be able to take advantage of a below average Redskins secondary with QB Cam Newton’s favorite target healthy.  QB Alex Smith and his receivers will put up a fight with a 3 TD game of their own.  But look for the Panthers strong front seven to be successful in pressuring Smith and shutting down Washington’s RBs, allowing Carolina to hold on for a victory.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

I think Arizona’s D will step it up this weekend, allowing them to come close in Minnesota.  But the Vikings WR duo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs is just too much for this Cardinals secondary to handle, and their success will lead to an overtime Vikings win, despite the run game’s continuing struggles.  The Vikings defense will also have a nice game, holding the Cardinals to just 1 TD and overwhelming rookie QB Josh Rosen.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

With RB Devonta Freeman out, both defenses struggling, and both offenses dominating, expect a lot of passing in this game.  QB Matt Ryan and his receivers should have a field day against the weakening Bucs secondary, while Tampa’s underrated front seven shuts down RB Tevin Coleman.  Meanwhile, QB Jameis Winston and his receivers will prove that the Bucs can succeed on offense without QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Expect them to pull the upset in a shootout, as Atlanta begins to lose hope after another embarrassingly bad defensive game.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

This Titans roster is filled with young talent on both sides of the ball.  Look for their younger players to step it up and lead Tennessee to victory at home.  The Ravens should continue their strong season by getting out to an early lead thanks to shut down defense.  But Tennessee’s young core will lead to a comeback as they outplay Baltimore.  After two straight losses, the Ravens will begin to regress. 
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

Expect QB Dak Prescott and his receivers to be shut down by a top notch Jags defense.  Prescott looked pretty bad against the Texans D. I can’t see him doing any better against Sacksonville.  Meanwhile, the Jaguars will manage to get by on offense, bouncing back from last week’s putrid offensive performance.  The combination of these two things will lead to a Jaguars victory, despite run game struggles without RB Leonard Fournette.
Sunday, 8:20 PM EST

Check back closer to gametime for a video preview!

Look for QB Tom Brady and his receivers to thrive, overwhelming the Chiefs secondary without S Eric Berry.  Kansas City’s offense should make this close, but expect the Chiefs defense to blow it despite a 30-point, multi-TD game for QB Patrick Mahomes II and his offense.  

That’s all for my picks this week.  Feel free to comment with your thoughts, and stay tuned for more posts soon.

 

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2018 NFL Week 4 Picks & Previews: Which Surprise Teams Come Back Down to Earth?

Welcome to my Week 4 NFL picks and previews.  It was a rough week for me last week, as I finished 6-10.  But luckily, I’m still 27-19-2 (28-19-2 including TNF Week 4) due to my strong week in Week 2.  I’m still ahead of 9 of ESPN’s 10 experts, and half of CBS Sports’ 8 experts. There have been a lot of surprises in the NFL so far this year.  Unexpected contenders have emerged, and what were perceived as some of the NFL’s best teams are struggling to keep up.  I definitely think this week will set some things straight.  Some of the expected contenders will start to surpass the surprise teams.  The question is, which surprise teams come down to earth first?  Keep reading to find out what I think.

Lock of the Week

QB Sam Darnold and the Jets offense looked good in the first couple weeks.  But this offense is still very young and has things to learn. I expect this dominant Jaguars defense to tear apart New York’s offensive game plan.  The pressure of Sacksonville will get to Darnold, which will mess up the entire offensive scheme for the Jets. The Jaguars offense doesn’t have to have a field day to win a game, and they’ve made that very clear.  RB Leonard Fournette will likely return this week.  They had been fine without him, at home against the Patriots!  Given that, this home game against the Jets with Fournette back should be a clinic in Jacksonville’s favor.  

Upset of the Week

QB Sam Bradford had clearly declined, and after two weeks, all Cardinals fans knew Bradford wasn’t the answer.  But Steve Wilks has finally put QB Josh Rosen in as the starter!  Rosen was my favorite QB of this year’s draft, and I expect him to completely turn around the Cardinals offense this week.  I don’t expect this kind of consistency throughout the year in 2018.  But this will give us a glimpse at what the Cardinals invested in down the road, kind of like what the Jets received from QB Sam Darnold in his first game.  I think Rosen can handle the rebuilding Seattle defense on his home turf. Look for Arizona’s tight ends to have an especially strong game as well.  Meanwhile, the Seattle defense will struggle to contain Rosen and RB David Johnson.  Their offense will see slight improvement with WR Doug Baldwin likely to return, but nothing significant as Arizona pulls off the upset at home.

The Other Games

TNF (Posted on Twitter Thursday Night, Actual Score: 38-31 Rams)

Don’t expect an especially strong game from WRs Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs.  This Rams secondary is one of the league’s best.  However, the ground game will lead the way for the Vikes and make this close.  Look for QB Jared Goff and RB Todd Gurley to lead the Rams to victory with the help of strong defense.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for Miami’s receivers to thrive against a New England secondary that lacks a #2 corner.  #1 CB Stephon Gilmore will shut down WR DeVante Parker though.  However, this Dolphins run game is not the greatest, and if the Pats can shut them down, there is hope for the New England D.  I don’t think the Pats suck. Their last two Super Bowl-winning seasons started with 2 wins and 2 losses. Plus, they lost to a coach who knows them really well and their toughest opponent.  I think QB Tom Brady will find open men to lead New England to victory here.  This victory that will begin a long winning streak for the Pats.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

The Packers are a pass-first offense, and I don’t think the Bills will be able to keep them under control without CB Vontae Davis.  I don’t see this as a blowout though.  QB Josh Allen and the Bills offense will make it close.  But Green Bay will win at home by a comfortable margin, led by a dominant passing game.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Look for QB Matt Ryan and his newfound WR duo to overwhelm the Bengals secondary and score multiple TDs.  I don’t think the Bengals will be as strong on offense here without RB Joe Mixon. They will lose this one thanks to surprisingly strong defense by Atlanta.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

I think the Texans will do alright against the weak Colts defense in an effort for their first win.  But depth has been a problem for this team from the start, and that will hinder their success.  The Colts will give the Texans a scare.  This will be thanks to a pretty good week by QB Andrew Luck and his offense, even against the fierce Houston D.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

WR Rishard Matthews was released by the Titans this week.  Now, the Titans lack a healthy QB and lack WR depth.  That will cause the offense regressive struggles.  The Eagles defense will also do their job in shutting down Tennessee’s RB duo.  QB Carson Wentz and the Eagles offense will cruise to victory, especially if WR Alshon Jeffery plays.  
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

Expect an offensive shootout here. Both these defenses are some of the league’s worst, and I think both these offenses are underrated.  The Cowboys pass defense will struggle excessively against the LIons strong WR corps.  However, I think QB Dak Prescott will finally turn it around against the struggling Detroit D.  This will lead them to a home win.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST

 

I think the Bucs will start QB Ryan Fitzpatrick in this game.  Look for the Fitzmagic to continue, but will it be enough for the Bucs in Chicago?  I’m concerned that Tampa’s secondary will blow it for them against QB Mitch Trubisky and the Bears underrated WR corps.  I also feel that the Bucs young run game will struggle against Khalil Mack and the Bears run defense. These two things will lead Chicago to victory at home.
Sunday, 4:05 PM EST

QB Baker Mayfield will lead the Browns to another strong offensive game here against a declining Raiders D.  But you cannot sleep on these Raiders receivers. Against a young Cleveland defense, expect QB Derek Carr and the Raiders deep WR corps to dominate.  I also expect a strong game from Oakland’s running backs that assist Carr in an offensive shootout victory.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

The 49ers will miss QB Jimmy Garoppolo here.  QB C.J. Beathard will do alright in LA, but he will be nowhere near Garoppolo’s level.  I don’t see him finishing the job for the Niners. Meanwhile, the Chargers offense will have a strong day against the 49ers young D.  QB Philip Rivers, RB Melvin Gordon, and the strong offense will lead LA to victory.
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST

QB Eli Manning and his receivers should do alright against a Saints defense that has significantly declined since last year.  But they will miss TE Evan Engram. Meanwhile, RB Alvin Kamara and WR Michael Thomas will have dominant games that lead the Saints to victory despite an underwhelming game by QB Drew Brees.
SNF (Sunday, 8:20 PM EST)

The Steelers may be declining without RB Le’Veon Bell, but they are still an average team that can win some games without him.  I think the Steelers defense will be able to shut down the Ravens attack. Plus, QB Ben Roethlisberger will find plenty of weapons to lead Pittsburgh to victory, even without Bell.
MNF (Monday, 8:15 PM EST) (OT)

This will be a very close game.  QB Patrick Mahomes II will lead a strong Chiefs offense to a big game.  But the Chiefs are all offense, no defense, and they will struggle to contain Denver’s receivers.  I could see this going to overtime, but I don’t see the Chiefs winning with their run game struggling against the unstoppable Denver front seven.

That’s all for my Week 4 picks and previews.  Feel free to comment with your thoughts.

 

Massachusetts Pirates Blowout Steelhawks in Final Regular Season Game, Playoff Bound

Yesterday I attended the final Massachusetts Pirates game of the regular season.   I won the tickets in a Mark Fidrych Foundation raffle at the 2018 Make Your Mark Kickoff Event.  (NOTE: the Make Your Mark softball tournament will be held on August 18th at Casey & Memorial Field in Northborough).  I went to the game with my dad, my longtime friend Paul Alfonso, and his dad Tony.

The Pirates play in the National Arena League (NAL), one of many Arena Football leagues across the country.  The season takes place between April and August, ending right around the start of the NFL season.  I’ve been to one Pirates game earlier this year when they played the Maine Mammoths back in May, so I knew that although Arena Football has many differences from NFL football, it was still very exciting.

Arena football is an 8 on 8 game.  There are no designated running backs, but offensive linemen will sometimes run the ball.  Typically, the starting offense is made up of a QB, three wide receivers, and four offensive linemen.  The defense typically has three defensive linemen, two linebackers, and three defensive backs on the field.  The Pirates fans are often called the 9th man, because like the Seahawks in the NFL, they are the league’s loudest fans.  The game is played on a 50-yard field rather than a 100-yard field and is often played in hockey stadiums.  Players will often be pushed into the boards which is considered out of bounds, but sometimes wide receivers dive over the boards to make catches and if they do, it’s considered a completion.  The downsized field makes for much higher scoring.  Although the uprights are narrower, kickers can often make it through the uprights on a kickoff from the opposite end zone, scoring what is often called a “deuce”, worth two points.  The smaller field also makes it so nobody ever punts.  On fourth down, teams will either go for it or go for a field goal.

The 10-5 Pirates were scheduled to play the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks, the worst team by win-loss record in the NAL.  They had not won a game all season long, and they were 0-14 going into this game, their final game of the regular season.  The game was held at the DCU Center in Worcester, the home of the Massachusetts Pirates.  The stadium also currently hosts the Worcester Railers, the ECHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, and was formerly home to the Worcester Sharks (now the San Jose Barracuda), the San Jose Sharks’ AHL affiliate.

We all made score predictions on our way to the game:

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We arrived at the game, bought some pizza, popcorn, and soft drinks, and took our seats.  Before the game, the Pirates welcomed members of the Special Olympics of Massachusetts team, who were attending the game.

The game began and the Pirates got off to a fast start after the Steelhawks won the toss and deferred.  Pirates QB Sean Brackett was out with a sprained ankle but QB Darron Thomas was doing a good job filling in.  He completed a deep pass to WR Lavon Pearson to get the Pirates close to the end zone.  A Pirates o-lineman ran in the TD to put the Pirates up 7-0.  Steelhawks kicker Spencer Hotaling was off to a rough start.  He attempted a “deuce” on the opening kickoff and missed.  He also missed in a Steelhawks FG attempt, but the Pirates defense had shut down Lehigh Valley quickly in their first drive, making for a difficult kick.  Despite a nice catch by WR Charles McClain, the Steelhawks were shut down again in their next drive, and Spencer Hotaling’s field goal attempt was blocked.

The Pirates scored another TD on a huge catch by WR Mardy Gilyard.  He was being covered very closely by the defense, yet he still scored.  Although Pirates K Ali Mourtada missed the extra point, he scored a “deuce” on the kickoff, making it 15-0 Massachusetts.

To start the 2nd quarter, Lavon Pearson made a catch that set the Pirates up to score another touchdown.

The Pirates scored another one soon after on a one-handed catch by Lavon Pearson.  The Steelhawks did not make much progress offensively in the 2nd quarter, and they were so far behind that they had to start going for it every time on 4th down.  With little time left in the half, the Pirates had one more scoring opportunity.  Darron Thomas had one long pass that was deflected into the stands but completed a long pass on the next down to make it 1st and goal for the Pirates.  The Pirates tried to eat some clock before scoring in order to make sure the Steelhawks did not get another chance before the half.  But they lost the ball in a fumble, losing the opportunity to score.  However, they were up 29-0 at halftime.  The Steelhawks nearly scored on a nice pass just before the half but failed.

During the half, I enjoyed a mini football game between the Worcester Police Department and the Worcester Fire Department.  More fans were rooting for the fire department but it ended in 14-14 tie.  Here is some video I took of this mini-game:

The Pirates scored another pair of touchdowns in the third quarter.  They scored one on a fumble by Steelhawks QB Patrick Ryan that was recovered for a TD by RJ Roberts, and the other on a deep pass to Lavon Pearson.  Ali Mourtada scored a deuce after that one to make it 44-0 Pirates.  Mardy Gilyard scored another TD just minutes into the 4th.  Here is Gilyard’s TD:

The Steelhawks scored their only TD of the game by recovering their own fumble. The ball was nearly recovered by two Pirates players but found its way into the end zone, where Jason Johnson recovered it for the TD.  The Pirates scored 2 more touchdowns before the end of the game.  Lavon Pearson scored on a long ball to make it 58-7 Pirates, and another Pirates TD was scored when Spencer Hotaling missed a long field goal that Pirates DB John Hardy-Tulieau returned for the touchdown.  Mourtada made one more deuce to make the final score Pirates, 67, Steelhawks, 7.  My dad came the closest to predicting the score but we all overestimated the Steelhawks offense.

During the game, I noticed a man with a laptop sitting near us.  I gave him my business card and it turns out that he was writing a recap on the game for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.  His name was Bill Gilman.

The Pirates, who finished the season 11-5, will play at home in the NAL semifinals next week.  They will host either the #3 seed, the Carolina Cobras, or the #4 seed, the Columbus Lions.  It all depends on whether the Jacksonville Sharks beat the Maine Mammoths tonight.  If the Sharks win, the Pirates are the #2 seed and play Carolina.  Otherwise, the Pirates are the #1 seed and host Columbus.  The Steelhawks missed the playoffs after a 0-15 finish.

After the game, they allowed fans to walk onto the field for an autograph and photo session.  Paul and I took plenty of pictures on the field, some of them with Pirates players.  I gave the players and a couple fans my business card as well.  Paul got his Pirates football signed by all the players we took photos with.

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Me and Paul in the end zone
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With OL Cornelius Lewis
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With WR Mardy Gilyard
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With OL Bill Vavau
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With DL Kaelin Burnett
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With DB Cheatham Norrils
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With OL Thomas Claiborne

I even met Special Olympic powerlifter Joe Morrill, Team Massachusetts’ only powerlifter at the USA Games, on the field.  He had his USA Games medals with him.  He won two golds (combo and deadlift) and two silvers (bench press and squat).  He had roomed with Tyler Lagasse in Marlborough before.  Speaking of Tyler, I am meeting with him and his family at APEX tomorrow to celebrate his silver medal win at the USA Games, where I will go live on Facebook with Tyler and compete with him in simulation golf, go-kart races, Olympic bubble hockey, candlepin bowling, and other games.

I had a great time at the Pirates’ final game of the season.  Arena football is fast-paced and very exciting.  The rule differences from the NFL give football fans a nice indoor viewing experience during the NFL offseason.  I’d like to thank Ann Fidrych, Jessica Fidrych, and the Mark Fidrych Foundation for making this amazing experience possible.

Day 5 in Seattle: Final Round/Week Recap for 2018 Special Olympics USA Games Level V Golf Tournament

1-Top Golfers together
Scott Rohrer (right) with the other top 5 golfers: Brock Aoki (far left), Peter Condon (left), Thomas Cleek (middle), and Tyler Lagasse (far right)

For the 3rd and final round on the 4th of July, Scott Rohrer started the day with a solid lead.  His playing partners for the day, Peter Condon of Washington was 7 strokes back and Thomas Cleek of Missouri was 8 strokes back.  Tyler Lagasse was also 8 strokes back and started on hole 2, just 1 hole in front of Scott in the shotgun start.

All the golfers were strong off the tee from the beginning and early on it was Scott’s strength as it had been for most of the 3-day tournament.

The greens seemed to be playing even tougher on this final day as it had been mostly dry and sunny on day 2 and it was a very clear and sunny day right from the start of the day 3.  It showed, as Scott and his partners struggled with putting on the 1st green and it continued for Scott for the first 8 holes.  It showed in his scores as he started double bogey, bogey, bogey on the first 3 holes and was 5 over as he waited to tee off on the Par 3 9th hole with Tyler putting for birdie on the green of the same hole.

Tyler came out on fire, playing aggressive and with confidence and was even par through his first 7 holes with a birdie on 4 to offset his bogey on 2, his first hole of the day.  Since the tee box was moved closer on the 8th hole to make it a par 3 hole for the tournament, holes 7, 8, and 9 were all par 3’s so Scott’s group had caught up to Tyler’s and Scott was waiting for them on the 9th tee box as Tyler sunk his birdie, making him one under.

At this point in the round, Scott knew he was not playing his best and seeing Tyler’s birdie probably got his competitive juices flowing, especially after he had just bogeyed hole 8.

Scott then hit his tee shot on the 9th green landing his ball about 5 feet away from the hole.  Scott let himself know and everybody in the crowd know that he was still fighting for gold as he fist pumped and yelled “boom” as he did on all of his big successful putts in this tournament.

That was the start of a tournament clinching stretch of holes from 9 through 16.  On the 10th hole, Scott pitched in for eagle from deep rough over the high mound of the back of the green.  Scott was so far away from the hole that we could only capture the ball popping up in the air and rolling into the hole as you heard Scott and then the crowd, roar.

At that point it was clear it was going to be Scott’s day to win Gold for the 3rd straight Special Olympics USA Games.  After the very exciting and momentum changing 9th and 10th holes, Scott had only 2 bogeys for the rest of the day.  He finished the last 4 holes with birdies on 15 and 16.  As he approached his putt on 18, he walked with confidence knowing he had the lead on his two playing partners for the day and that his par putt on 18 was likely for the win.

2a - Scott Beaming with scorecard.JPG

I watched Scott beam with pride as he spoke to Jen Lada of ESPN first.  He wanted to give me the first interview but I was happy to wait, watch, and learn as Jen with her producer Josh Vorensky and the ESPN camera crew conducted their interview for the station’s Special Olympic coverage.  Jen pointed Scott in my direction after her interview was finished and he was happy to speak to me.

Tyler Lagasse had won silver for the 3rd straight Special Olympic USA games, 6 strokes behind his friend and first round partner Scott Rohrer.  Scott’s finish was too strong for Tyler to catch up.  Tyler was still all smiles because he loves the game and he gave it his best effort to go for Gold.  I met with him after his round was over.

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I had an unbelievable week with Scott and Tyler.  Without them and the Doug Flutie Jr Foundation for Autism who sponsored all 3 of us, none of the experiences I had would have been possible.

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I started my journey in Seattle with a tour of Eagle’s Talon where Tyler and Scott would battle it out with the other Olympians for 3 straight days.  My tour included the Hole 3 green known for its beautiful view of Mount Rainier.  It was too overcast to see the mountain that first day but over the next several days while following the games, the sky cleared up and Mount Rainier slowly came into view.

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Me at Hole 3 of Eagles Talon during my Day 1 tour.  It was overcast, so I could not see Mount Rainier.

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Me at Eagles Talon on my final day in Seattle with Mount Rainier behind to my right

My week kind of went the same way as I came into the week unclear on what I would do and how it would come together.

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But in the end, each day I grew as a reporter and as a person looking up to Tyler and Scott as I learned of their stories and how they have achieved so much by working so hard.  Over the week I had time with Deborah Horne of KIRO 7 news who put my dad and I on the air.  I got to cheer the athletes at Husky Stadium for an unbelievable Opening Ceremony.  That same day, I had the chance to visit the Space Needle in Seattle Center.  On my last day I met and interviewed with Podcaster Colin Weston of ModGolf.  I also even learned a few tips directly from Jen Lada of ESPN.

But this trip was about all the inspirational athletes I saw at the Opening Ceremonies and especially about Tyler and Scott because they were why I was in Seattle.  To me it was fitting that on the last day as Scott and I reached the 3rd hole for the last time that Mount Rainier was visible for the first time all week.  These golfers had reached yet another summit and I got to share the experience with them.  They have inspired me and many others to keep pushing to be the best you can be.

Behind the scenes, this trip was not easy for me and at times I got very frustrated when things did not go as I expected.  However, just like for Tyler and Scott on the golf course, I was able to find focus on camera.  Now I know I have to keep working to improve my skills to be the best me I can be.  With this life changing opportunity to be a Flutie Fellow covering such an exciting national event and travel to Seattle for the first time, I am one step closer to reaching my goal to become a Professional Sports Broadcaster.

Below are the final results of the Special Olympics USA Games Level V Golf Tournament:

Note: Divisions M01-M03 are High Performance (Blue Tees), the rest of the golfers (M04-M07) teed off from the White Tees.

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This post is also available on the Flutie Foundation Blog 

Day 4 in Seattle: Round 2 Recap from the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games Level V Golf Tournament

If there was only one thing I could say to describe the current state of the USA Games Level V Golf Tournament, it would be that this is still anybody’s game.  The Flutie Foundation sponsored golfers, Tyler Lagasse and Scott Rohrer, came to Seattle as the heavy favorites to win gold and silver medals, and Scott is currently leading the tournament by seven strokes.  But Peter Condon of Washington, Brock Aoki of Utah, and Thomas Cleek of Missouri among other golfers have challenged Tyler and Scott through 2 days on a course with greens playing very fast causing many 3-putts and few 4-putts.

Round 2 Total Scores.png

Peter Condon is currently in 2nd (+22) after shooting an 82 (+11) in both rounds.  Tyler Lagasse is tied for 3rd with Thomas Cleek, and Brock Aoki is in 5th after starting Round 2 as the leader.  However, Cleek, Lagasse, and Aoki are all within two strokes of 2nd place.

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Scott Rohrer (middle) with his Round 2 tee-off group, including Thomas Cleek (left) and Chris Lussier (right)

Unlike Day 1, Tyler and Scott were not paired up.  Tyler was paired with Tony Marino, and they started on Hole 3.  Scott started on Hole 2 with Chris Lussier and Thomas Cleek.

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Despite facing more putting challenges than yesterday, Tyler Lagasse did well again today, shooting an 86.  “There were some putts that just didn’t break the way I wanted them to and other times it was just a case of the yips” (Tyler Lagasse).  He had some very strong moments, like his birdie on the par 5 hole 11, and an excellent par save on Hole 18, which he said was his best hole.

On hole 18, his drive did not reach the fairway but he made 2 great shots to reach the green in 3 shots despite the long yardage he had to make up on the long and difficult 566 yard par 5 hole.

Hole 18
Tyler’s 2nd shot on 18 after failing to reach the fairway with his tee shot

Tyler did have some very nice drives and had little difficulty sticking the green when he needed to.  He pulled out the driver more often, trying to play more aggressively than yesterday.   I asked him why he used his driver more and he said, “I just had to be aggressive, I was getting a little bit emotional, I just wanted to push myself to be the best I can possibly be.”

Scott Rohrer played even better than he did in round 1, shooting a 76 (+5) to take the tournament lead.  In response to my question about how he thinks he did today vs. yesterday, he said, “I played a lot better than yesterday, I’ve improved somehow over the past day.”  He was very consistent, making par on each of the first three holes.  Like Tyler, he birdied the 11th.  However, he has no doubt in his mind that his best hole was hole 1, which due to the shotgun start on hole 2, he actually ended his round on hole 1.  He had a huge drive on the 386 yard par 4 that nearly landed the green in one.  He says it was his longest drive in the two tournaments he has played at Willows Run.

For some video footage from the day, including my stand-up live from Willows Run and my interviews with Tyler Lagasse and Scott Rohrer, see below:

Although Scott Rohrer has a 7-stroke lead, we have learned from this week to expect the unexpected and that the leaderboard can shuffle around very quickly.  Someone who is in 4th or 5th right now could be the leader in their division by the end of the final round on the 4th of July.  Who will take home the gold?  Will Scott hold on to the lead for his third straight gold medal at the USA Games, or will Tyler or someone else catch him?

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This post is also available on the Flutie Foundation blog.

 

 

 

Day 3 in Seattle: Round 1 Recap from 2018 Special Olympics USA Games Level V Golf Tournament

Immediately following round 1, I reported via Facebook Live.  See video below.

Also, after the round, Flutie sponsored golfer and 2nd after round 1 golfer, Tyler Lagasse, had his article featured on ESPN.

Late last night (July 2nd) I created a more detailed round 1 recap as a video report that focuses on Flutie Foundation-supported Tyler Lagasse of Special Olympics Massachusetts and Scott Rohrer of Special Olympics South Carolina.

The voiceover text and video are below.

It was cold and damp as the golfers waited in their carts to begin.  The carts were used to speed up pace of play.  Tyler won the toss to tee off first.

Both Tyler and Scott bogied on the first hole as their nerves seemed still high for the start of the tournament.  They both bounced back in Hole 2, with Tyler just missing a birdie and Scott making one from a couple feet away.

One of Scott’s most challenging holes was the Par 4 3rd hole.  He took a penalty stroke for hitting out of bounds but recovered with a solid 2-putt to finish the hole.

Both parred the 4th hole with each of them coming within a foot of a birdie on 10 foot or more putts.

On hole 5, Tyler just missed par but still gained a stroke on Scott, who just missed his bogey putt.

On the 7th hole par 3, Scott came within inches of a birdie off a putt of over 20 feet and then Tyler’s par putt almost rimmed out but went in.

Hole 8 was shortened to Par 3 and they both parred, but it was their partner, Travis Curtis from Maine that dazzled on the Par 3 9th with a near hole in one.

On hole 11, both Tyler and Scott had chances for eagles with very long drives and solid shots with Scott landing on the green in 2 and Tyler on the back fringe.  Tyler’s eagle shot got him within 10 feet but on his birdie attempt he rolled past the hole by a few inches.  Scott’s birdie attempt reached the lip of the hole.  A good hole for both golfers and the start of a strong back 9 stretch for Scott as he played 1 over for the final 8 holes.

Hole 12 was a very strange hole as Travis Curtis called for a rules official as his ball appeared to land in a divot-like hole on the green.  Then there was a loud plane soaring over us as well.  Tyler 4 putted the hole for a double bogey but then picked up his play and went 2 over on the last 6 holes.

On 13, all three golfers hit strong off the tee and landed within feet of each other.  On Tyler’s second shot he landed at the very back of the green.  Tyler’s putting came back strong when he hit a 50 foot putt within inches of the hole almost making a birdie and tapped in for par as did Scott.

On 14, Scott made a very exciting 20 foot putt for birdie, pumping his fist as the ball dropped in the hole.  Tyler had a 3 foot birdie putt lip out of the hole after a tremendous tee shot but had to settle for a par tap in.

On 15 and 16, the tee shots of Tyler and Scott landed really close like they had on 13.  Their scores were close too, as Scott had par and a bogey and Tyler was close to matching it, just missing a par putt on 16 to go bogey and par.

Hole 17 is Eagle’s Talon signature hole.  It’s a par 3 over a lot of water and the tee was moved up.  The green has 3 levels making putting difficult.  Travis Curtis had his birdie putt just missed from 10 feet go in and out of the hole.  Scott and Tyler each had very long putts for birdie and left themselves about 3 feet on either side of the hole.  All 3 golfers got par.

The long par 5 18th hole was an adventure for all 3 golfers starting with Tyler’s tee shot got a lucky bounce off the cart path to avoid landing in a hazard area.  Travis Curtis ended up with a 9 after getting in trouble with the water.  In the end, both Tyler and Scott had 1 foot putts to end the round with a par but Scott’s putt just lipped out.  Still, both golfers finished strong and within 2 strokes of each other.  They hope to carry their momentum into tomorrow.

After the first round, Tyler Lagasse and Scott Rohrer are 2nd and 3rd on the Special Olympics USA Level V Golfer leaderboard.  I had the chance to talk to both Tyler and Scott moments after they signed their scorecard.  Even though my cameraman (my dad Ken) had his first technical difficulty with one of my interviews, the audio came through for you to enjoy.  I also had the chance to quickly speak to the Round 1 Leader, Brock Aoki.

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This post can also be seen on the Flutie Foundation blog.

 

Day 1 in Seattle: Touring Willows Run Golf Course

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I landed this afternoon in Seattle and after settling into the hotel, I decided to check out the Willows Run Eagles Talon golf course ahead of the level 5 Special Olympics USA golf tournament.  When I arrived, I received a warm welcome from the staff.  They gave my father the keys to a golf cart so we could tour the 6,800 yard 18-hole golf course that the Level 5 golfers will be competing on from July 2nd through July 4th.  We made several stops along the course to take pictures and make a video (see below):

This post is also featured on the Flutie Foundation blog