Flashback to one month ago....
The Zappers had just suffered the first shutout in league history, dropping their record to 0-4. In the days that followed, the team orchestrated the first trade in league history, sending Hall of Fame wide receiver Terrell Owens to the Knights of Degen in what appeared to be a waiving-the-white-flag type of transaction for the Zappers.
Instead, the only flag that might be waived by the Zappers this season is one embroidered with the words "2022 FCF Champions."
The Zappers advanced to the People's Championship game after defeating the Shoulda Been Stars 50-24 in the semifinals Saturday at Pullman Yards in Atlanta. They'll play the top-ranked Bored Ape FC in the final on Saturday, with the game airing live on NBC LX at 8 p.m. ET.
Kelly Bryant powered the Zappers to their fourth consecutive win -- that's right, they are 4-0 in the post-T.O. era -- by throwing for 53 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 70 yards and two touchdowns. That included a seven-yard touchdown to Joe Tito with seconds remaining in the half to give the Zappers a 28-14 lead.
"We felt really great," Bryant said. "We had a really great week of practice, and it shows out there. We put it together on both sides of the ball. Defensively, only let up one touchdown before half and that's hard to do in this league. So, shout out to everybody."
Johnny Manziel also returned to the field for the first time since Week 5, throwing a five-yard touchdown pass to former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrance Williams in the second half.
ShunCee Thomas added a pair of touchdowns and 60 rushing yards on 16 carries, including a six-yard score on the Zappers' opening drive of the game.
The game was never in doubt for the Zappers, who dropped a season-high 50 points.
They move on to face the Bored Ape FC, which held on for a 38-32 victory over 8oki earlier in the evening. Quarterback Deondre Francois returned from an injury suffered in Week 6, completing 5 of 8 passes for 86 yards and two touchdowns and also rushing for 51 yards. That included a 41-yard touchdown pass to tight end Chris Bazile and then an 18-yard touchdown to Maurice Thomas as time expired in the first half.
That, along with some stifling defense from Cecil Cherry, Qwan’tez Stiggers and the “Heavy Hitters” defense, sent the Apes into the break with a 30-12 lead.
No team has staged more miraculous comebacks this season than 8oki, who nearly did so again Saturday despite trailing by 20 with under two minutes remaining. Mitch Kidd connected with Joseph Boykin for an eight-yard touchdown with 41 seconds left to cut the Apes' lead to 38-24, and then hit Patrick Smith for the two-point conversion to bring Aoki within 12. Using the Comeback Rule, Kidd found Malcolm Ballard for a 15-yard gain to retain possession for 8oki.
Kidd then capped the drive by faking a toss and running in for the touchdown to pull 8oki within 38-32 with 17 seconds remaining. After the two-point conversion was incomplete, 8oki again successfully converted on the Comeback Rule when Kidd scrambled, ran and dived for 10 yards with 11 seconds left to give 8oki the chance at a potential game-tying drive.
They advanced inside the 20-yard line and had one last opportunity with two seconds remaining, but Kidd's pass was intercepted by Sam Brown in the end zone to send the Apes to the People's Championship.
That sets the stage for Saturday's showdown between the league's best team and the league's hottest team for the FCF title.
"Bored Ape train is gonna keep rolling," said superback Darren Woods, who ran for two touchdowns. "The new slogan is "#ApeShip' baby. We're going to the 'Ape Ship.'"