BAFA National Leagues Predictions – Division One: Semi Finals

Just two games remain to crown the champions in the top two tiers of Britball…

In Division One, we have our semi-finalists competing in the North and South finals. Much more than a place in the Division One final is at stake, though. The winner of each game is guaranteed Premier football in 2018 as both Division One title game teams are promoted in the off-season.

In the North, we have both conference champions squaring off, having seen off the challenge from Yorkshire Rams and Sandwell Steelers, whilst in the South, the SFC1 East took home the spoils and eliminated their SFC1 Central counterparts from the post-season.

Without further ado…

 

Leicester Falcons vs Manchester Titans

Leicester Falcons moved into the semi-finals following a hard-fought victory over Yorkshire Rams on Sunday. In what was an evenly matched up battle on offense, it proved to be turnovers that made the difference for the Falcons.

Both offenses exchanged punts following a catch and run for a score from Taylor Brown for Leicester. Entering the second quarter, Rams QB Taylor Umland connected with Spencer Whybrow in the corner of the end zone. RB Keimar Stuart added the two-point conversion to take an 8-7 lead. The Falcons hit straight back however with Brown added his second touchdown, this time an 8 yard run.

Leicester began the second half well, with QB Troy Lee Jackson completing a deep ball to Jack Verling who dived over the line for a touchdown and a 21-8 lead. Dom Olney bagged an interception in his fourth straight game for the Falcons on the ensuing Rams drive. Entering the fourth quarter, Brown bagged his third score of the game to propel the Falcons in to the next round.

Looking ahead to the weekend, Falcons’ HC Noel Cassar commented;

We’re approaching this game like any other. Am I confident? No, but I never am! If the players go out and perform as we know they can, and do their jobs then we stand a good chance of winning.

The game should be a good game for neutral but a nightmare for the coaches with all the talent that both teams have!

On another note I know that the great #BritballNation does not want the Falcons to go up in to the Premier, which is all the fire that the team needs.

Manchester roll in to Leicester on the back of a strong showing against Sandwell Steelers in the quarter-finals. Despite falling behind twice early on to Sandwell’s depleted offense, the Titans rallied back from 6-12 down to run out 29-12 winners with a heavy dose of pounding the rock. The game was delicately balanced at 21-12 coming out for the second half, before a single score from Ryan Newton and a hurdled 2PAT attempt from QB Sam Bloomfield (this game was FULL of hurdling would be tacklers…) closed the game out for the hosts.

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Image courtesy of manchestertitans.co.uk

The 29 points scored last weekend was far lower than the average output for Manchester this season, but Offensive Coordinator Luke Carlton was still happy with his units performance, and expects more of the same against the Falcons;

Nothing really changes our approach, regardless of how good our opponents are. We have faith in our offense to play smart, decisively football to pressure defenses mentally and physically. We trust our defense can frustrates teams and capitalises on their mistakes. We believe in our Special Teams, that they can keep swinging momentum back in our favour.

We’re confident, but not complacent, and certainly aren’t underestimate the quality Leicester has. It’s #1 vs #2 and we’ll feed off any underdog tag people think we deserve.

Falcons vs Titans

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A resounding 10-2 in favour of the Falcons across #TeamDC. Nathan and Rob vote for the representatives from their conferences, though the latter originally went with the visitors before an eleventh hour change of heart. With the true top two seed in the Northern conferences battling it out for a place in the Premier, this should be a barnstorming affair.

 

London Olympians vs Kent Exiles

The O’s enter the semi-final clash against Kent Exiles following a resounding victory over the SFC1 East’s Solent Thrashers.

Jordon McKenzie opened the scoring for the hosts with a 28-yard TD before RB Andy Owusu added a second on the ground. Kevin Boatey grabbed the third score for the hosts – increasing his already impressive points tally on the season – just before the half as the Olympians found themselves 21-0 up.

Opening a wild second half, the O’s leading receiver Stephen Kimmins – who finished the game with 11 receptions for 154 yards – grabbed the hosts fourth score of the game before the two sides traded kick-off return touchdowns. QB Aaron Griffiths added a score on the ground before big runs to pay dirt for Bami Falana and Ben Amoako pushed the London outfit past 50 points.

Speaking with facebook.com/London.Olympians, Head Coach Neil Edwards praised the offensive unit and their performance;

That was a truly amazing offensive performance today, and a true testament to how much effort the guys have been putting in.

I hope today’s results also highlight to everyone around the league how tough a division the SFC1 East was this season. A big thank you to the Thrashers for giving us an exciting game, and for not giving up till the final whistle. We now set our sights on the Exiles, and I expect that to be another fireworks bonanza!

Kent meanwhile, overcame the odds as they took down the previously undefeated Sussex Thunder on the road to set up a fourth meeting with the Olympians in 2017.

A low scoring affair, the game entered overtime with the two sides tied at 15-15. Kent opened the scoring in overtime to extend the lead to 22-15, before Sussex pulled the game back. However, the PAT was wide left to give the visitors an unlikely victory.

The win came at a cost, however, as Head Coach John Moore was ejected following two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. When speaking with Coach Moore on Wednesday, he informed us that it is not yet confirmed whether or not he is suspended for the game at the weekend, though BAFA rules and regulations state that he would be.

Regardless, Coach Moore is looking forward to the game;

This will be the fourth meeting this season between us and the Olympians. A win each and a draw. There is little between the teams. The winner I expect will be the team who holds their nerve and executes better on the day.

The Exiles will be expecting another tough physical battle with the Olympians, who Coach Moore described as a “mix of grizzled veterans and exciting young talent.”

Our group is toughened by our recent experiences. Our division has been very competitive all year. We have been behind and come back to win and we have been ahead and lost. That coupled with others writing us off as just making up the numbers has created a bunch who I think are able to deal with the pressure a game like this brings. Veteran QB Zac Ritchie led the team on an amazing two minute drive last Sunday to claw back the 8 points we needed to force overtime and ultimately go on to win. His leadership and MLB Joe Alexis leading the defense gives us a great chance. As ever we will expect nothing and go into the game knowing we will have to earn the win.

Olympians vs Exiles

Another 10-2 split across #TeamDC. Although the games between the two sides this season have been closely fought affairs, it looks like the O’s thrashing of the Thrashers (sorry…) is weighing heavily on the mind of our writers, despite the Exiles’ knocking out the only side to claim a perfect regular season.

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Rob Amor

Rob somehow fits Britball around a hectic life of work, newborns, and rare, blissful, moments of quiet in which to nap. Rob stepped down from the Birmingham Bulls committee at the end of 2016 and walked away after 10 years at the club. He leads DC’s Adult league coverage and dabbles in a bit of BUCS. Follow him on Twitter – @RobAmorDC