by Matt Duda - XFL.com Reporter
Sometimes the simplest answers are the best. That’s the philosophy of San Francisco Demons quarterback Mike Pawlawski.
When confronted with a rather straightforward question about what his Demons must do to upend the Los Angeles Xtreme and take a million bucks back to the Bay after Saturday’s 8 p.m. ET Million Dollar Game, Pawlawski uttered an uncomplicated response. “We have to score more points than they do,” he deadpanned.
One can’t blame the Demons starter for not delving into a more detailed game plan off the cuff. This third week of April may very well establish itself as the most monumental in his 31-year-old existence. Tracy Pawlawski delivered the couple’s first child, Casey Eric, on Monday. This Saturday, Mike may become the first quarterback to lead his team to an XFL Championship game win. But in between these monumental events surely comes a fair amount of scheme studying, diaper changing, football throwing and sleepless nights. So please excuse dad Pawlawski for being a bit on the trite side.
There may be no clear answer in just how the Demons will go about scoring points on the Xtreme. San Fran couldn’t find any last time these teams met when the Western Division Championship hung within reach. LA allowed the Southern California rival 265 yards of total offense but neutralized all scoring opportunities and took the ball away three times.
“We made a lot of mistakes and a lot of mental errors,” Pawlawski admitted about the 24-0 loss. “You can’t win playing against a good team making mental errors. They were in playoff form and at that point, we weren’t. “
The Demons snapped into playoff form five minutes into their game against Orlando last Saturday. The Rage blasted out 16 quick points but then fell silent to a tightened Demons defense that coach Jim Skipper credits as the team’s mainstay.
“Our defense has been playing consistent defense throughout the year,” Skipper said. “We were ranked number one most of the year, then we had trouble stopping the run, but guys stepped it up real big last week. Now we are playing rock solid defense.”
Skipper better hope that the defense turns to solid granite on Saturday. The Xtreme bring the league’s best passing game with Player of the Year Tommy Maddox slinging the leather. Saladin McCullough rapidly gained attention for his prowess in running the ball, which gives LA a serrated double-edged blade soaked in arsenic.
What the Xtreme defense lacks in stability it makes up for with spurts of brilliant play. Chicago embarked on a comeback drive late in the semifinals but an 87-yard interception return for a touchdown by Clifton Abraham sent John Avery and Kevin McDougal on their way to the off season.
Xtreme coach Al Luginbill has every confidence that the team he saw rip Chicago – and not the one that bumbled to a 27-12 Week 9 loss at Memphis - is the one that will emerge from the Coliseum tunnel this weekend.
“This group of individuals will do something special, they don’t get these opportunities every day,” he said. “When you do get them you extend the effort so that when you walk away you gave everything that you have to accomplish what you want on that particular day. You only have three hours to get this done.”
But that doesn’t faze Pawlawski, who draws assurance from his team’s grit and mettle. “The team has always found a way to win games and they showed it last week when we got up for the Orlando game and won that one. This team finds a way to win when it is really focused.”
The Demons focus now rests on finding an answer to the questions presented with the Xtreme. The Million Dollar Game’s jackpot should provide enough incentive for the Demons and Pawlawski to search for the simplest effective answer. After all, diapers aren’t cheap and little Casey should be ready for his first football any day now.