Championship Preview: We've been here before

by Cameron Irvine

It's wild. They're here. Again. Without a controller in hand, the Florida Storm make their sixth Championship Game appearance in 14 seasons. The Baltimore Vultures make their sixth Championship Game appearance in 11 seasons and it goes down live from SFL Championship Field in Cincinnati, Ohio - Saturday night at 8 pm ET on SFL YouTube, presented by Zolnier Championship Rings. 

It's a rematch of the Season 17 title game, one of the classics, a 28-23 win for Baltimore on a late defensive stop in the closing seconds. It's a rematch of how the season started at the 2023 SFL Convention in Cincinnati - a 49-34 triumph for the Storm that featured a whole lot of running back Bullet Biletsky and a whole lot of new as the league's new game - SFL 4K23 - debuted live. 

Florida twice has ended Baltimore's season - once in the Season 12 semifinals when the Storm went on to cement their dynasty as the first team to ever three-peat and once in the Season 16 semifinals when the Storm went to face Denver in the Championship and lost for the first time in the big game. These two teams have met more times in the playoffs now (4) then they have in the last nine regular seasons combined (3).

Baltimore is the team no one can figure out because they do it all well. The Vultures can run, they can pass, they keep you on your toes and they hit you where it hurts on special teams, seemingly always when they need it the most. They expose your weaknesses, maximize their strengths and always throw in that one play you didn't see coming that keeps a drive alive or totally kills yours.

Florida is the team everyone thinks they've figured out, but no one can seem to stop. Halfback Bullet Biletsky appears to be on a mission. He, unlike other players on the Storm roster, has never won a title and while everyone knows he's getting the ball, the blocking schemes up front by the offensive line, tight ends and backs in front of him know where and how to be in the way. 

Both defenses have crashing linebackers and dangerous secondaries and both attacked the change in system completely differently. Yet, here they are, standing tall, again. The two teams are tied for the most playoff games all-time with 19. They're 1-2 in all-time win percentage, home and away. No matter how you look at it, there's wins and losses off this matchup:

  • Glass half empty: another dynasty won, when will someone else win? Running couldn't be stopped this season and that's how they got it done.
  • Glass half full: a dynasty just lost in the title game. Turns out the smartest can make the smartest look just as foolish as the rest of us. Everyone likes to watch smart guys look foolish and I'm here for that.

No matter how you look at it, Florida Owner Max Paul and Baltimore's Ownership group of Tim Johnston, Thomas Paterniti and T-Roy Gaines will always just take their cards and make a full house because they've always got full houses. Other teams may win and players still leave, that doesn't happen much around these parts. Once you're on these squads, you've got a chance against anybody. And right now, it's truly back to 50-50.

Welcome back to the Championship Game Florida and Baltimore, you know where everything is. At least most of ya. To the 11 players in this game who don't - soak up the moment. Most players don't make it back twice and more than that never make it at all. It's a special time and the new Championship Field is a special place.

No matter the road taken to get here, we got here. That's what we're thankful for this holiday week.