Started from the bottom, now we’re here.
For the Zappers, that meant going from the bottom of the league to the top. From worst to first. From winless to champion.
They put the finishing touches on their miracle turnaround Saturday after starting the season 0-4 in Fan Controlled Football, upsetting the Bored Ape FC by a score of 42-24 in the People’s Championship.
“Really just getting over the hump, just getting that first win, that was the biggest thing for us,” said quarterback Kelly Bryant, the former Clemson QB who was named MVP of the game after completing 11 of 13 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown and also rushing for 58 yards and three touchdowns. “Once we got that, we got on a run. We knew we had the right guys on the offensive side, we had a chance to be really explosive. We put together a great week and you see what happens when a team puts all that together.”
It orchestrates a Cinderella run en route to a championship.
The Zappers began the season with both Terrell Owens and Johnny Manziel but had neither in uniform on the field Saturday, with T.O. having been traded and Manziel shifting into more of a mentor and general manager role.
Still, they managed to overcome one final challenge in a season full of them.
"I’m gonna treat the guys to something nice tonight,” Manziel said after the win. “I’ll make sure they get their money worth for sure.”
The Zappers took a very different path to the People’s Championship compared to that of the Bored Apes, which quickly established itself as the league’s best team by starting 5-0 with its balanced rushing attack of dual-threat quarterback Deondre Francois and superback tandem of Jakobie Baker and Darren Woods.
As the top team during the regular season, the Apes were awarded the top pick in the final weekly draft of the season before the semifinals. They used it on the top-ranked defense, the Heavy Hitters, which included two Defensive Player of the Year candidates in Cecil Cherry and Qwan'tez Stiggers.
With Francois returning from a Week 6 injury, the Apes entered the postseason with the top offensive and defensive units. That presented one last obstacle for the Zappers to navigate.
After cycling through quarterbacks during their 0-4 start, capped with a 28-0 loss in which they were the first team in FCF history to get shut out, the Zappers dealt Owens in the league’s first trade. They lost the quarterback they acquired in the deal after he was cut for celebrating a touchdown by smoking marijuana on the field. They got Bryant back from a Week 3 injury in the regular season finale and won their third straight game with an epic comeback and controversial fan ruling in the regular season finale. They won the ensuing "Man Up Showdown" tiebreaker to clinch a playoff spot. They then routed the defending league champion, the Shoulda Been Stars, with a 50-24 victory in the semifinals, putting them one victory away from a worst-to-first turnaround season on Saturday.
The championship game began with a rock, paper, scissors matchup between celebrity guest and Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin and Zappers owner and Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, who won and deferred opening possession.
It took the Apes just three plays to find the end zone as Maurice Thomas took a pass 32 yards and then capped the drive with a five-yard touchdown to help open an 8-0 lead just 2:11 into the game. The Zappers responded immediately, with Bryant connecting with former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrance Williams for 32 yards. Bryant then found a hole up the middle and ran seven yards for the touchdown as the Zappers evened the score at 8-8.
The Zappers defense came up with a big play, stopping Deondre Francois at the goal line on fourth down. With the Apes using their fifth down power up, the Zappers’ Donald Cherry tackled Darren Woods for a loss of nine yards for a turnover on downs.
ShunCee Thomas then broke free up the idle for a 31-yard touchdown, and Isaiah King created space to get wide open for his catch on the ensuing two-point conversion to give the Zappers a 16-8 lead with 9:29 left in the half.
Thomas answered with a one-yard touchdown and a catch on the two-point conversion as the Apes tied it at 16-16 with 1:44 left before the break.
An interception by Qwan’tez Stiggers gave the Apes the ball back with a chance to take the lead. Francois’ pass into the end zone was then intercepted by Styvis Latham, giving the ball back to the Zappers with 13 seconds left in the half.
Bryant then launched a pass downfield to Joshua Johnson, who made a leaping grab at the goal line and fell into the end zone for the touchdown with six seconds left to send the Zappers into the half with a 22-16 lead.
The Zappers got the ball back to open the second half, with Bryant keeping the play alive, scrambling and rushing for a nine-yard touchdown that helped increase the lead to 30-16.
A touchdown run by Jakobie Baker cut the Zappers’ lead to 30-24.
With the Zappers facing fifth-and-3 from their own 17-yard line, Williams made a catch on a ball thrown behind him for a five-yard gain to keep the drive going. Bryant later faked a handoff and ran in for a five-yard touchdown to increase the Zappers’ lead to 36-24 with 7:06 left.
With the Apes driving down field, Justin Foster made a tackle on third down for a six-yard loss, creating a fourth-and-11 situation for the Apes. With Francois dropping back in shotgun formation, Armond Lloyd then broke free for the sack with 30 seconds remaining, all but sealing the championship for the Zappers.
"Looking back it was awesome and I credit all my teammates and the linebackers for sealing the running back and allowing me to get through there and make that sack," said Lloyd, who joined the Zappers three weeks ago. "We just started to click and became one well-oiled machine."
Thomas capped it with a 29-yard touchdown run, officially setting off the title celebration.
Streamers and cash dropped from the ceiling during the postgame trophy presentation. Members of the Zappers celebrated their journey from starting at the bottom and ending here, at midfield with a championship trophy and glasses of champagne.
"We got the champagne right now, which is just a little warmup," Lloyd said. "Stay tuned for later."