Football Friday (8/23/19)

FF_todayLet’s take a look at American football being played around the world….

CANADIAN FOOTBALL LEAGUE
Friday night football kicks off Week 11 with the Blue Bombers in Edmonton playing for first place in the West Division. Edmonton is undefeated at home this season (4-0) and is looking to make it three straight wins following victories over Ottawa and Toronto. Winnipeg is similarly hoping to extend a three-game winning streak after defeating Calgary and BC. With Matt Nichols sidelined, the Blue Bombers turn to Chris Streveler to continue the momentum. Kick off is at 9 p.m. ET.

Saturday features a double-header with a pair of interdivision games. First at 7 p.m. ET, Ottawa travels to Regina to take on the Roughriders. The REDBLACKS are in pursuit of a season series sweep of Saskatchewan after a Week 2, 44-41 win, but the team is 1-6 since and have lost two in a row. The Roughriders however, are 5-1 over that same stretch and are riding a four-game winning streak.

The 10 p.m. ET game takes us to Vancouver where the Lions will host the East Division-leading Tiger-Cats. BC will look to avenge a one-point loss to Hamilton in Week 9, while collecting its first home victory this season. Dane Evans is in search of his third victory as a starter, which would push the Tiger-Cats’ win streak to three.

Sunday bring us to Moncton, N.B., for the 2019 edition of Touchdown Atlantic between the Montreal Alouettes and Toronto Argonauts. The game marks the fourth regular season contest game to take place in Moncton and the first since 2013. The surging Alouettes are coming off their first victory at McMahon Stadium since 2009 – a thrilling come-from-behind, double-overtime affair which is already garnering consideration as the Game of the Year. Toronto will be facing its first East Division since Week 2 when they played host to Hamilton. Kickoff is at 12 p.m. ET.

ELITE INDOOR FOOTBALL
The semi-pro EIF recently announced teams called the Texas Stealth, Texas Grim Reapers (Fort Worth) and Texas Takeover will be part of a new 2020 Texas Division. The Stealth and Grim Reapers will both play home games in Mansfield (TX). The EIF also announced a team called the Sarasota County (FL) Thunder will be part of the league’s 2020 season.

FINLAND MAPLE LEAGUE
The Helsinki Roosters (10-1) and Wasa Royals (3-8) racked up nearly 1,000 yards of offense and 100 points between them as the Roosters held on for a 49-41 road victory in Vaasa, Finland.

This was Helsinki’s 10th straight win and locked up first place in Finland Maple League.

Led by Adam Connette who was simply unstoppable on this night, Helsinki took a 24-13 halftime lead but had to keep scoring the rest of the way to stay ahead of the Royals.

Connette had 347 all purpose yards in the game, rushing for 170 yards and a touchdown while catching eight passes for 148 yards and another touchdown while scoring a third touchdown on a fumble recovery. Nnamdi Agude hauled in six passes for 65 yards and three touchdowns while Roosters quarterback Miro Kadmiry threw for 271 yards and four touchdowns. Defensive back Monteze Latimore added a 45 yard pick six for Helsinki.

For the Royals, quarterback Diondre Borel had another big night throwing the football, completing 24 of 50 passes for 395 yards and five touchdowns. His favorite target was Nicholas Peterson who caught 11 passes for 158 yards and one touchdown while Aymeric Nicault had six receptions for 141 yards and two touchdowns and Alpha Jalloh hauled in six for 83 yards and two touchdowns as well.

Helsinki opened the scoring when Connette jarred the ball loose from Jalloh’s arms on a punt return, pouncing on it in the end zone with just under nine minutes left in the first quarter.

The Royals responded on the ensuing kickoff with Zach Blair taking the ball all the way back to tie the game at 7-7.

Two series later, Borel hit Jalloh from 16 yards out and Wasa went ahead 13-7.

Kadmiry finally got the Roosters offense moving after the defense forced a Wasa safety to narrow the gap to 13-9. Seven plays later, Kadmiry hit Agude for a 10 yard score and with the two-point conversion, Helsinki went out in front 17-13 early in the second quarter.

The Roosters took a solid lead on their next possession when Kadmiry marched them 85 yards in eight plays, capping it with a 15 yard touchdown pass to Connette extending the lead to 24-13 going into the break.

Wasa came out on fire in the third as Borel hit Nicault for a 70 yard touchdown strike to reduce the lead to 24-20. Six minutes later, Kadmiry found Agude for a four yard touchdown pass to increase the lead to 31-20.

With the Royals defense struggling, Kadmiry engineered another touchdown drive, marching his team 78 yards in six plays culminating it with a 23 yard touchdown pass to Agude and Helsinki took a 37-20 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Borel responded, finding Jalloh on the next series, hitting him with a five yard touchdown pass to again reduce the lead, this time to 37-27.

It was the Wasa defense’s turn to get a stop and they did on the next drive, forcing an unsuccessful field goal attempt. Borel took over and hit Nicault with his third touchdown pass of the day, reducing the lead to 37-34 with five minutes to go in the game.

Connette put a dagger into the hearts of the Royals on the very next play from scrimmage, finding a gap and racing 65 yards to up the lead to 43-34.

Then Borel, forcing the issue, committed his first error of the game, throwing an interception which Monteze Latimore turned into a pick six to give Helsinki a 49-34 lead with four minutes left.

Still the Royals were not done. Borel took his team on an 80 yard drive and then hit Peterson from six yards out with just over two minutes left and the score was 49-41.

The onside kick attempt failed however and Helsinki managed to keep control of the ball and run the clock out.

With the win, Helsinki took a stranglehold on first place while the Royals find themselves next to last in the Maple League with one game left.

GERMAN FOOTBALL LEAGUE
The Braunschweig New Yorker Lions (11-0) took their game up another notch this past weekend and left the Hildesheim Invaders (9-2) in a cloud of dust, blanking them 37-0 and establishing themselves as a true contender for the 2019 German Football League title.

The first time these two teams met earlier in the season, Braunschweig got by the Invaders, 35-28. On this day, it wasn’t even close.

With the league’s top running game operating at full throttle, the Lions exploded for three first quarter touchdowns to take a 23-0 lead while smothering Hildesheim’s offense the rest of the way.

Running back Chris McClendon led the way for Braunschweig rushing for 135 yards and one touchdown on 12 carries with quarterback Brandon Connette scoring another two touchdowns carrying the ball 10 times for 45 yards. Connette completed 6 of 9 passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns with Christian Bollmann his top receiver with two receptions for 80 yards and one touchdown and Micky Kyei with two catches for 49 yards and the other passing touchdown.

For Hildesheim quarterback Casey Therriault it was a dismal afternoon and ended late in the second quarter when he was sidelined with an ankle injury. He finished with 68 yards passing and 26 yards receiving. His backup, Chris Andrew fared no better against the relentless pressure from the Braunschweig defense, throwing for just 38 yards.

The Lions asserted themselves on the opening drive as Connette took his team to the Hildesheim 39 and then hit Kyei for a touchdown pass.

The defense stuffed the Invaders on the next series, giving Connette and crew the ball at midfield. Mixing his plays up nicely, the Lions quarterback marched his team down to the two yard line and finished the drive by punching the ball in himself. He added the two-point conversion and Braunshweig took a 15-0 lead with just under three minutes left in the first quarter.

Braunschweig’s defense shut the door again on Therriault & company, as linebacker Roni Salonen forced a fumble, recovering the ball at the Hildesheim 46. Two plays later, Connette connected with Bollmann for a 35 yard touchdown strike and the score was 23-0 with over a minute to go in the first.

The shell-shocked Invaders could not get out of their own half of the field and two possessions later, early in the second quarter, Therriault was picked off at midfield.

Connette wasted no time. He found Bollmann again, this time for a 45 yard completion and then ran the ball in himself from the two and the score was 30-0 with seven minutes still left in the first half.

Disaster struck for the Invaders on the next series. With Therriault finally getting his offense into gear, marching them down to the Braunschweig 21 yard line, he twisted his ankle on a 20 yard run. Andrews came in and managed to take the Invaders down to the Braunsschweig five yard line, but was stopped on fourth down giving the Lions a 30-0 lead at the half.

The third quarter saw neither team able to get an edge until a Hildesheim punt trapped the Lions on their own 10 yard line.

That’s when McClendon really made his presence known.

On a first down from his own 10, he burst into the secondary and raced 90 yards for a touchdown, boosting the lead to 37-0, and squashing all hope for the Hildesheim faithful.

The rest of the game was a slow march to another Braunschweig win, their 11th straight, keeping them unbeaten so far in 2019.

Next up for the Lions are the winless Dusseldorf Panther in a home and home series. Hildesheim will face the Cologne Crocodiles.

GRIDIRON DEVELOPMENTAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE
The Oklahoma Thunder won a record-setting 4th consecutive GDFL National Title by defeating the top-seed Middle Tennessee 24-12 to win the 10th Annual Gridiron Bowl and its 4th consecutive national championship. The contest was a defensive struggle between two excellent teams, with a total of 12 forced turnovers and 6 sacks.Both offenses were held well below their season averages in total yardage as well.

Middle Tennessee threatened to score early on its first drive, using an eight-minute drive that spanned 12 plays and 55 yards. That drive ended in a goal-line stand, however, as Thunder CB #21 James Caligone tackled a Bulldawgs WR at the Thunder 1 yard line. Later in the 1st half, Middle Tennessee capitalized on a Thunder interception and threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to make the score 6-0.

That score would end up being the halftime margin. A couple of big defensive plays early in the 3rd quarter turned the game around and gave the Thunder a lead they would not relinquish:

• A 36-yard interception return for a touchdown by #26 DJ Wolfe during Middle Tennessee’s open drive of the third quarter, resulting in a 7-6 Thunder lead.

• A 26-yard interception return for a touchdown by #55 Shawn Jackson that extended the Thunder lead to 14-6. In all, the defense held Middle Tennessee to only 143 total yards while forcing 7 turnovers (6 interceptions), 3 sacks, 3 hurries, 2 blocked punts, and an average of only 2.1 yards per rush.

Thunder Defensive Coordinator Morgan Clements had this to say about his unit’s effort: “We have the #1 defense in the nation and have had the best for the last 4 years bar none. We made a few adjustments from the first time we played the Bulldawgs and our players bought in and made it happen.” “We never doubted we would win the game” explained OT Brandon Brown. “The defense shined brighter than ever. We knew we had to win by any means…” Offensively, QB Daniel Knighten came in during the second half and helped the Thunder produce key, time-consuming drives that controlled the clock and preserved the lead. His leadership and command of the offense landed him the league’s Most Valuable Player award. The drives he led resulted in points:

• #22 K David Goodson made a 28-yard field goal to extend the lead to 17-12 in the 4th quarter

• #15 RB/WR Winston Holder took a hand-off from Knighten and hit a wide-open #17 WR Trae Sterns for a touchdown, extending the lead to 24-12. The victory now extends the Thunder’s national/world title count to 8.

Hall of Fame Head Coach Rashid Lowe had this to say about the team’s accomplishments: “We faced a lot of adversity. Injuries had never plagued us like they did this year. Some of them were career ending and we sustained significant injuries to three separate QBs. Knighten’s contribution was so significant because of how he recovered from his own significant injury early in the year to lead us to victory in the second half. Perseverance the Thunder way!”

INDOOR FOOTBALL LEAGUE
The Albuquerque-based Duke City Gladiators, which played the past five seasons (2015 through 2019) as part of Champions Indoor Football, plan to announce next week its membership application has been accepted by the IFL and the team will be part of the 2020 IFL season.

NATIONAL ARENA LEAGUE
The Jacksonville Sharks (15-1) defeated the defending champions Carolina Cobras (10-6) 52-48 to claim their second NAL Championship Title.

Quarterback Mike Fafaul started the game for the Sharks tonight after leaving the first playoff game with an injury, yet, he was able to start and perform well for Jacksonville. He finished 15-of-24 for 146 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions. When Bane came in, he was 5-of-12 for 26 yards. Wide Receiver Durron Neal finished with the most touchdowns on the Sharks with two. He had eight receptions for 42 yards as well. Devin Wilson had six receptions for 89 yards and one touchdown. Brandon Behr was perfect on PAT’s (6-of-6) and had one deuce.

In the first half, the Sharks were off to a slow start, being down 0-14 early on. Bringing the Sharks back to life, Fafaul was able to air it out to Wilson on a 14-yard-pass. From there, the Sharks were able to score 16 more unanswered points on a blocked kick recovered by Game MVP Chris Gilchrist and a forced fumble from Defensive Lineman Damien Jacobs and the scoop and score from Jack Linebacker Chris Gilchrist. This brought the Sharks up to a 23-14 lead in the second quarter. With just under a minute to go in the first half, the Cobras were able to score a touchdown and was able to stop the Sharks’ offense from scoring. The halftime score was 23-28 with the Sharks trailing by five.

In the second half, the Sharks were down by multiple drives the entire time, but fought hard in the second half. With just 11 seconds left, Fafaul found Neal in the end-zone for the game-winning touchdown. On the Cobras final drive, with just seconds left, they traveled all the way down to the Jacksonville 6-yard-line before being stopped and the clock was at 0.

WOMEN’S EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS
Team Sweden set the tone from the opening kickoff and never let up earning a resounding 48-6 victory over Austria to capture a historic silver medal at the IFAF 2019 Women’s European Championships at John Charles Stadium in Leeds, England.

This was the first time a Swedish women’s American football team has won a medal of any kind in a major tournament.

Sweden needed to win by at least 35 points to have a chance at silver and they did that and more.

Karin Ullen returned the opening kickoff 73 yards for a touchdown and the rout was on. The Swedish defense did not surrender a point as Austria’s only points came from a fumble return.

Ullen added another touchdown in the first quarter, hauling in a 51 yard pass from quarterback Linda Johansson to extend the Swedish lead to 14-0. Austria got on the board when defensive back Teresa Müllebner scooped up a fumble and raced 62 yards to reduce the lead to 14-6.

The Swedes made no more mistakes.

In the second quarter, Anna Hedström and Minmin Zhao each ran for a touchdown to give Sweden a 28-6 halftime lead.

Fully aware of the urgent need for points, Sweden opened the second half with an onside kick. Johansson drove her team down to the three yard line and called her own number boosting the lead to 35-6. In the fourth quarter Sweden expanded the lead to 41-6, through a Sara Lidner touchdown, and then to 48-6 as Anna Hedström added a touchdown. Sabina Rydberg kicked all six extra points.

To earn silver, Sweden needed to win by 35 or more points in the event of a Finnish first place finish. Finland actually lost the final game of the tournament to Great Britain 18-14, creating a three-way tie for first between Finland, Sweden and the host nation.

The medals were decided first on points between the three and then on overall points which included each team’s win over Austria.

Finland took home the gold since Great Britain needed to beat them by six points or more.

XFL
The XFL revealed the names and logos of the league’s eight inaugural teams:

“The XFL is about football and fun, and our team identities are intended to signify just that,” said XFL President and COO, Jeffrey Pollack. “Now it’s up to our fans and players to help write the story. What happens on the field and in the community, in the years ahead, will determine the true spirit of each team.”

The XFL team identities were presented to fans today during a show that was streamed simultaneously across XFL.com, ESPN.com, FOXSports.com, and the league’s social channels. Eight short films were produced to share the origin story of each team name. Scripts of the films follow with a link for viewing:

DC Defenders: On the shoulders of giants, they stand tall. Unconquerable. Unyielding. Marching ever forward. A force united. One quest. One purpose. One resolve. Seeking glory through grit. Victory through valor. The DC Defenders. Taking their stand.

Dallas Renegades: Deep in the heart of Texas, beats a different kind of pulse. A spirit untamed. A swagger that can’t be denied. Where big meets bold meets badass. This is outlaw country, inside the lines. This is hell on wheels, between hash marks. This is their home on the range. The Dallas Renegades. Raising Hell.

Houston Roughnecks: Resolute. Rippling with heat. Railing against fatigue. Unceasing and often unseen, they labor deep in the trenches. Mercenaries in the muck. Brawlers in blackened dirt. Not just for three hours. Not just when the lights are bright. These are the scratching, grinding, never-bending few. The Houston Roughnecks. Going to work for you.

Los Angeles Wildcats: In the land of bright lights. Far from the flash and fame. They’ve already begun to prowl. Enter their den and be dominated. Run away and be ripped apart. This is prime time meets primal instinct. This is showtime with a snarl. This is our time to roar. The L.A. Wildcats. Unleashed.

New York Guardians: Sentries carved of stone. Watchdogs over the metropolis. A prehistoric predator. A beast evolves, turned loose in a new kind of jungle. All teeth and talons, eyes unblinking. They know fear because they feed off it. They are your first line of defense, and there is no need for a second. The New York Guardians. On duty.

St. Louis BattleHawks: Winged warriors. Preparing for flight. Preparing to fight. They await their orders. Then attack as one. Diving, dodging, swooping, striking. Their mission: create chaos. Their mandate: win at all costs. The St. Louis BattleHawks.

Seattle Dragons: Rising from the turbulent sea. Beneath the darkening skies of their weather-hardened home. Relentless, ruthless, ravenous. Not of mythology, but of muscle and might. Not of folklore, but of football. This is your darkest fantasy, in cleats. The Seattle Dragons. Breathing fire.

Tampa Bay Vipers: In the shadows they wait. Demons, born in darkness. Hunters by instinct. Cold-blooded by nature. Their bite, unavoidable. Their grip, inescapable. They slither and stalk their competition. Luring all who challenge them, into the jaws of defeat. The Tampa Bay Vipers. Ready to strike.

Football Friday (8/16/19)

Albany Empire rolls to ArenaBowl title

While our traditional American football season is approaching, there are still teams and leagues around the world playing the sport.  Here’s a recap of news from around the world:

ARENA FOOTBALL LEAGUE

The Albany Empire finished up its seasonal theme “unfinished business” with a dominating second half en route to a 45-27 victory over the Philadelphia Soul in the Arena­Bowl 32 Sunday night before a crowd of 12,042 at Times Union Center.

Game MVP Tommy Grady, who won the last two seasonal MVPs, tossed five touchdown passes, four of them to Quentin Sims, and the Empire defense came up big with numerous turnovers and possession stops for Albany, which went 10-2 in the regular season and then dominated its two-game semifinal series. Sunday was much the same in the second half against the third-seeded Soul.  Read more…

CANADA

Current Canadian Football League standings:

East Division

  1. Hamilton Tiger Cats (6-2)
  2. Montreal Alouettes (3-4)
  3. Ottawa RedBlacks (3-5)
  4. Toronto Argonauts (1-6)

West Division

  1. Winnipeg Bluebombers (7-2)
  2. Calgary Stampeders (5-3)
  3. Saskatchewan Roughriders (5-3)
  4. Edmonton Eskimos (5-3)
  5. British Columbia Lions (1-8)

GERMANY

The Allgäu Comets  withstood a furious late comeback by the Marburg Mercenaries to defeat their German Football League South rivals 22-19 and move closer to a playoff berth with four games to go in the season.

The Comets had taken a 22-7 lead with less than two minutes remaining when Marburg scored two late touchdowns to narrow the gap. But Allgäu’s Danny Wynne pounced on the second onside kick attempt to secure the win.

Marburg came into the game as winners of six of the last seven games with the best passing offense in the league. Read more…

NATIONAL ARENA LEAGUE

NALThe Jacksonville Sharks (14-1) will host the Carolina Cobras (10-5) this weekend in Jacksonville for the NAL Championship.

These two teams met last year in the playoffs. This was a game where tensions were high, as there were multiple ejections for unsportsmanlike conduct in the game. The Cobras blew this one open early, scoring the first 26 points and leading 39-7 at the half. The Sharks tried to fight back in the second half but could not get any closer than 21 as the Cobras won for the third time in a row 73-48, taking the series to 3-1 Cobras. This win not only dethroned the defending NAL Champions, it sent the Cobras to the NAL Championship where they destroyed the Columbus Lions 66-8 to become the 2018 NAL Champions.

WOMEN’S EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS

Team Finland scored a touchdown with under 10 seconds left on the clock to break a tie and defeat Sweden 27-20 in the second round of the IFAF 2019 Women’s European Championships inLeeds, England.

With the win, Finland now has a chance to capture their second straight European title.

This was a tale of two halves. The two teams combined for 40 points in the second half after Finland took a 7-0 halftime lead.

Running back Tytti Kuusinen was again outstanding scoring two touchdowns while Mari Jääskeläand Anne Rasilahti scored one apiece. Sanni Seppälä kicked three extra points. Read more…

(Thanks to American Football International and Our Sports Central for their stories)

Friday Flashback:  CFL in the United States


There has been discussion lately about St. Louis getting a franchise in the Canadian Football League (CFL) after losing two National Football League (NFL) teams (Cardinals and Rams).  A CFL franchise in a United States city?  Crazy right?   Oddly enough, it has been tried before when the CFL migrated south in 1993 by adding the Sacramento Gold Miners.  The following season, the CFL expanded to Baltimore, Las Vegas and Shreveport.  In 1995 the league added Birmingham, Memphis and San Antonio (relocated from Sacramento).  Although they expanded into cities without NFL teams (Baltimore had lost the Colts and before the Ravens), American fans were not as receptive to the Canadian version.   Most American football stadiums had problems adjusting to the larger Canadian football field dimensions.  

Personally, I thought the U.S. expansion would work, especially in cities that didn’t have NFL franchises.  The new teams had initial success but the different version and without a major television contract, the teams were not able to survive.  Another factor most think was that the CFL season runs from July to November which forced American teams to play the first half of the season in the heat – especially with most franchises located in the South – and the second half of the season competing with high school, college and the NFL.

Baltimore was the most successful US franchise and became the only American team to win the Grey Cup when they defeated the Calgary Stampeders 37-20 in the 1995 Grey Cup.  

Baltimore was an interesting story as they were initially known as the “CFL Colts” but the NFL went to court and successfully obtained a legal injunction against the team’s use of “Colts” in their name.  Their name was temporarily changed to “Baltimore Football Club” until they changed it to the “Stallions” before the 1995 season.

The “U.S. Experiment” ended when it was announced that the Cleveland Browns were moving to Baltimore to become the Ravens in 1996.  That effectively terminated the most successful franchise along with Memphis and Birmingham folding.  

Many experts think that the CFL could have made it had they expanded closer to the border instead of the locations such as Shreveport, Birmingham and Memphis.  Shreveport?  Really?

It is doubtful that a CFL franchise in St. Louis could work but perhaps in cities like Portland, Milwuakee, Anchorage and Rochester.  

CFL in America

1993 – Sacramento Gold Miners (6-12)

1994 – Baltimore CFLers (12-6), Sacramento Gold Miners (9-8-1), Las Vegas Posse (5-13), Shreveport Pirates (3-15)

Playoffs:  Baltimore 34, Toronto 15 (Division Semifinals); Baltimore 14, Winnipeg 12 (Division Finals); British Columbia Lions 26, Baltimore 23 (Grey Cup Final)

1995 – Baltimore Stallions (15-3), San Antonio Texans (12-6), Birmingham Barracudas (10-8), Memphis Mad Dogs (9-9), Shreveport Pirates (5-13)

Playoffs:  San Antonio 52, Birmingham 9; Baltimore 36, Winnipeg 21 (Division Semifinals); Baltimore 21, San Antonio 11 (Division Finals); Baltimore 37, Calgary 20 (Grey Cup Final)