2015 Chicago Men’s – Championship Night (August 10)

Updated: August 13, 2015

Monday saw the 5th edition of the Chicago Men’s League come to a conclusion and for the 5th time we Crowned NEW CHAMPS.  It was an incredible night with some special performances.. We’re going to go Game by Game to find out who took home the gold in 2015. The Final4 was Softball and then the Winners took to the gridiron for Championship Flag Football.  First, here’s the Weekly Highlight Video with plenty of clips from Championship Night.  OK Let’s Recap!

Final4 – Softball

1. Team Sternberg (Kelly Parker HC) v. 4. Team Fallows (Bekin’s Lake County) – 1. Team Sternberg Advances

Each Team still standing at this point truly deserves to be here at this point.. Look no further than the 2 squads in this Final4 battle.. 1. Team Sternberg had to rid themselves of the Dynasty Team Hakimian in the Sweet16 and followed up with a tough W against 8. Team Gross to get here.. Team Fallows took down 13. Team Palmer and 5. Team Bemoras in consecutive Hoops Games last week. Moreover, both Teams had incredible runs in the Regular Season to earn the #1 and #4 seeds respectively.. It was all setup for an epic clash to qualify for the Championship.

History tells us that this Final4 match-up should have been a defensive battle between two Teams who have excelled in Softball and particularly in the field.. That’s why we play the Games though folks.. From the jump both Teams’ bats came alive and it was clear that we were not in store for 4-2 Game..  Both Teams led at different points early and both were given opportunities to take this one.. As is the case in most of the All Sports Series Playoff Games — the Team that made the least mistakes came out on top — on Monday Night that was #1 Team Sternberg.  They took the W 12-9 and moved onto the Championship in their first full-season in the Chicago Men’s League!

For Team Fallows, they will undoubtedly think about this one in the off-season, as they came just a few plays away from taking to the football field for a chance to win the Crown.. 2015 has been a very successful, but at the same time heartbreaking, for much of the Fallows/Kozin/Glass core.. They finished as the Runners-Up in the Chicago Hoops League this past Spring and now followed-up with a tremendous run to the Final4 this Summer.. Two schools of thought.. 1) They are still trying to get over the hump, but their chances have come and gone.. 2) They’re improving with each passing season and while their great success in the past 18 months haven’t included a Championship, it’s just a matter of time.  The latter seems much more likely, from this vantage point.. When the Hoops League tips in October they once again be among the favorites of a stacked field and no one will want to lace ’em up when the Men’s League starts back up again next June.  Congrats on another great run and excited to see what’s ahead. Thanks for playing!

2. Team Zimmerman (AMPY) v. 6. Team Watts (VIP Express Limo) – 2. Team Zimmerman Advances

Over the course of the Playoffs we have been treated to many big time Rematches.  Many Teams have been in the League for years now, so their paths have crossed with many of the Teams and multiple times over.. Well, on Monday Night we were treated to THE Rematch of the Summer.. All Summer, both 2. Team Zimmerman and 6. Team Watts have been touted as favorites for the Crown and for good reason.. You see, these were the 2 Teams who competed for the Championship a year ago.. It was on the same field in 2014 where Team Watts won their first Crown after a 3OT thriller with Team Zimmerman.. Now, we are lucky enough to get THE Rematch and this year only one of them can move on to the Final Game..

No Team has ever gone Back2Back in the Chicago Men’s League.. Team Watts was obviously attempting to become the first.. Team Zimmerman on the other hand had been waiting a year to get true Redemption.. An interesting note.. 2011 was the first year of the Chicago Men’s League.. That season, Team Merar won the Championship and defeated the 2010 Suburbs Champs Team Dorfman/Hakimian on their road to the Championship.. Then in 2013, eventual Champs Team Maione would knock off the 2012 Champs – Team Hakimian – on their road to the Championship.. Last season, Team Watts would defeat 2013 Champs Team Maione on their road to the Championship.. We’ve always had a “passing of the torch” along the way.. So the question is, can Defending Champs Team Watts buck the trend?

The biggest difference from last year to this year was undoubtedly the sport these Teams were competing in.. Last season it was on the gridiron and this year they took to the Softball diamond where historically Team Zimmerman faired much better.. Monday Night was no exception.. The #2 seed got out to an early lead and then let Ace Pitcher Ross Neuman go to work.  Before too long Team Zimmerman had a sizable lead and the writing was on the wall. The Champs would not go away quietly as they did manage to tack on a few runs as the Game went on but they just didn’t have enough.. Team Zimmerman was heading to the Championship Game for the 2nd straight year and it would be a match-up with the Top 2 seeds!

For Team Watts, if you look at the past 2 Summers and all they have accomplished, you have to just give it up for them..  2014 Champs, Back2Back Final4 appearances, 2015 VBall Tourney Champs.. Wins over countless top contenders and did all of this with giant targets on their backs.  They are a truly special Team and no one will be ever able to take this stretch from them. They’ve cemented their legacy here.  They may look a bit different in 2016, but you can bet that Team Watts will be a contender for that Crown once again. Thanks for playing!

Championship – Flag Football

1. Team Sternberg (Kelly Parker HC) v. 2. Team Zimmerman (AMPY)

As the Top 2 Teams took to the gridiron for the Championship.. We knew a couple of things.. For the first time in Chicago Men’s League History, the Top 2 seeds would compete with each other for the Championship. We also were assured NEW Champs..

It’s extremely fitting that the final battle of 2015 would come down to these two titans.. Much of the Summer we’ve been building to this “changing of the guard” between the “new breed” of Teams and the veteran squads that the League has been the base of the Chicago Men’s League for years.. Groups such as Team Sternberg (and Gross and Lehrman and Cruse) are ushering in a new crop of talent and they made it known from the jump that they weren’t going to “wait their turn.” They wanted Championship gold and they wanted it now.. Team Sternberg established themselves as the leaders of that charge by grabbing the #1 seed in the Regular Season and disposing of the Dynasty Team Hakimian and mainstays Team Fallows in order to get to the Championship Game.   Representing the “old guard” in the Championship was Team Zimmerman, a group that longed for the first taste of a Men’s League Crown.. They had an extremely tough road to the Championship Game as well.. Facing Teams Apuli, Hadelman and Watts to get here..

The best two Teams this Summer were competing for the Championship and one of them were just 40 minutes away from holding the Crown. Both Teams knew hard they had to work to get here and knew how few real chances you have at winning Championships.. As a result, the start of the Game started a bit sloppy for both Offenses.. Both Teams were uncharacteristic with the ball in their hands.. A couple turnovers and drops really plagued the first half.. We would head to the break knotted at zero.  Both Teams now just 20 minutes away from a title.. Who would make THE play?

1. Team Sternberg elected to take the ball to start the 2nd half and they began that drive in the same fashion as the first half went.. They just didn’t look like themeslves. Obviously both Defenses deserve some credit, but nerves were evident for both Teams.. Shortly into that possession Team Sternberg swung the ball to the left side flat where Team Zimmerman QB/CB Jon Nickow was waiting.. He jumped the route and was headed the other way.. Shortly after Jickow found himself in the endzone and just like that Team Zimmerman had taken a 6-0 lead!  On the ensuing PAT Jickow tossed a lob to the corner where Colin Rice grabbed the ball with outstretched arms to complete the play. 7-0 Zimmerman.

There was still plenty of time left in this one.. As evidenced by the pick-6, things can change on a dime with Flag Football.. Team Sternberg would finally get something going on this drive but it would not end in them getting points. Team Zimmerman was allowing them to complete short passes and smothering them once the catch was made. Their flag-pulls were fantastic all night.  A Team Zimmerman turnover in their end of the field gave Team Sternberg a new lease on life with about 6 minutes to go.. A few plays later QB and Captain Sam Sternberg hit Tyler Max in the middle of the field.. He was able to skate through the D and get in the endzone!  7-6 Zimmerman now with the PAT coming.. Team Sternberg elected to go for 1 and tie it up.. This was shaping up as the biggest play of the Game as there was just minutes left to play at this point.. Unlike their counterparts, Team Sternberg couldn’t complete on their pass to the sideline on the PAT and Team Zimmerman would get the ball and hold their 7-6 lead.

With about 5 minutes to go Team Zimmerman was conservative on Offense trying to assure another turnover wouldn’t take place.. Team Sternberg started using their Timeouts and would force a punt with about 3 minutes left.. The punt was shanked and all of a sudden it was Team Sternberg’s ball with about 2 and a half minutes to go and about 20 yards from the Zimmerman endzone..

Team Sternberg got about 12 yards from the endzone.. They were trying to conserve clock and attempted for short passes that could get them out of bounds as well.. 2nd and 3rd downs came and went unsuccessfully and then they were faced with a Game-deciding 4th and Goal.. Team Zimmerman’s Defense buckled down one more time as it had done numerous times on the night and forced a turnover on downs. With a few knees, Team Zimmerman would finally grasp the Crown!  A year of waiting for retribution and in one night they had gotten their W vs. Team Watts back.. More importantly they were the CHAMPS!  More on them in a second..

For the Runners-Up, Team Sternberg.. This Franchize has been remarkably successful. With just about every person on the Team having an All Sports Championship of some kind to their name.. Some with multiple.. Their first run in the Chicago Men’s League has been the single most impressive debut season we’ve ever season down here. It’s the biggest and most talented League we offer and to come in during Year 1, grab the #1 seed and get the Championship Game is nothing short of remarkable. Knowing this group, they will take this loss, and learn from it.. Team Sternberg is the future of the League.  They just decided to escalate the process a great deal this Summer.. Congrats on a fantastic run and can’t wait to see what’s in store for them in 2016.  Thanks for playing!

To the CHAMPS — Finally! Truly years in the making for them and finally.. They are the last ones standing! In 2014, this group lost the most heartbreaking Championship Game we’ve ever had.. They had to endure a year of waiting after that 3OT Loss. Many Groups would never rebound from that.. Well, not only did they rebound from it.. They won the whole thing.  And what a road to the Crown.. Taking out the likes of Apuli, Hadelman, Watts and Sternberg.. The 2015 Champs truly deserve every bit of it.  They deserve their moment in the spotlight and should enjoy it.  In a short couple of months though they will turn their attention to the Chicago Hoops League where they’ll try to be the first time to ever win the Summer and Hoops Leagues consecutively.. They’ll be doing so with an even bigger bullseye on their back..

Congratulations to Team Zimmerman and Thank You to everyone for playing in the 2015 Season. It was a great year filled with awesome moments. Hopefully see you all again soon!

– Holden