The penultimate week of the regular season is upon us, and there is a feast of football across the BAFA National Leagues, though we’ve also seen another forfeiture due to lack of players. It’s prediction time!
Gateshead Senators vs Morecambe Bay Storm
With the Leeds Bobcats receiving a 1-0 win at the hands of the Knottingley Raiders, it means they go into the final week of the NFC 2 Central season with a 9-0 record, and the Gateshead Senators will be looking to join them with same record as the two lock horns for the Division title in Week 18. It will have been almost a month since the Senators donned their helmets in anger, having received their own walkover at the hands of Northumberland in Week 13. Their last outing was arguably their least impressive victory of the season, beating a rejuvenated Walney Terriers by a mere 13 points. Scoring exactly 50 points per game this season, the Senators offense dominated by their ground game has enjoyed life in Division Two, with offensive weapons Gavin Barr and Darren Mould notching multiple touchdowns week on week. Defensively they have been extremely stout, they look likely for a return to Division One ball.
Morecambe Bay Storm, meanwhile, have had a stellar rookie season and are currently the #8 seed in the play-offs, they’ll be looking for a bit of revenge after the Senators handed the Storm their first National League loss in a 74-6 drubbing back in April. Since then they have arrived at a fantastic 5-3 record, but those three defeats have come at the hands of the two division leaders, Leeds and Gateshead. A heavy defeat to the Leeds Bobcats, 66-8, last time out does not bode well from the West Coast side, but they’ll have nothing to lose in this one, knowing a win over Knottingley in Week 17 will bring a winning season in their first year, an achievement not to be sniffed at.
But this one sees Gateshead romp home by a lot of scores, setting up arguably the matchup of the season in Week 18 between the Bobcats and the Senators.
Leeds Bobcats vs Knottingley Raiders
This game was called off and awarded to Leeds earlier in the week when Knottingley informed the Bobcats they did not have sufficient players for the game.
Halton Spartans vs Chester Romans
Halton have had a slight turn around in fortunes this season winning their last two games. The Romans are pressing on to get as many wins under their belts to secure playoff football after the division crown was wrenched from them in Week 14. Now the two teams clash in one of Britballs best venues.
The Chester Romans have playoff football in their sights and they need to keep pedal to the metal to attain that goal. With five wins under their belt, they’ll be looking to go undefeated for the remainder of the season to secure their playoff spot. Seven wins should see them ease into the post season as one of the third best teams. To get in as the second best team in the conference is no longer in their hands. After losing to the Surge in Week 11 the Romans are relying on one of the Bombers, Spartans or Warhawks to upset the Surge so the Romans can steal the number two spot in the division. All they can do is keep winning and hope the Surge slip up.
The Spartans can no longer make the playoffs, however they will want to end their season on a high. A .500 record is still within their grasp, but they too must win all games from here till the end of the season. Past meetings in both the Classical sense and footballing sense don’t bode well for the Spartans. Sparta was defeated by the Romans at the Battle of Gythium due to overwhelming Roman numbers in 195BC. Earlier this season when the Spartans traveled to Chester they lost 34-9.
They will be buoyed by two recent wins as well as playing at home, but the Romans may be a difficult foe to conquer. Chester to win.
Shropshire Revolution vs Crewe Railroaders
Poor old Crewe. They have a single opportunity to get a second win left this season. Unfortunately for them they have to travel to the undefeated division winners.
I feel bad for Crewe and having to write about their season every week. It hasn’t been great. You know its been a bad season that one of the best things you can say about it is “Well, atleast they for filled all their fixtures”. It hasn’t been a great seasons by any means. I hope Crewe will be preparing for their 2018 season now. Crewe have been through a lot this season including some off the field issues. I’m sure they’ll want to put the whole thing behind them and get on with rebuilding their club.
Shropshire have gone from strength to strength this season. They’ve got better and better as each game has been played and now their gunning for playoff glory. I don’t expect them to take their foot off the pedal for this game. They’ll want to keep winning and will be looking to the Leeds Bobcats to put one over on the Gateshead Senators so they can take the number 1 spot in the playoffs and secure a home field advantage. All the revolution have to do is keep winning and let the chips fall where they may.
I think its going to be tough sledding for the Railroaders as they ultimately fall to the Revolution in their last game of the season.
Lincolnshire Bombers vs Staffordshire Surge
Both these teams have a shot at making the playoffs. The Surge currently sit in playoff contention being the number 2 team in their division. The Bombers have an outside chance at making the playoffs but if they keep winning then they could squeak in.
The Staffordshire Surge control their own destiny. Win the next three games on their schedule and they’ll make the playoffs as the second ranked team in the division. No team below them has the ability to win 8 games. At the beginning of the season it wasn’t clear what sort of team the Surge would be able to field. They had lost key members of their playing and coaching staff from 2016. However they have been able to overcome these setbacks from their offseason to control their own destiny and get into the playoffs. Kudos Surge, I certainly didn’t think they’d do as well as they have so I’ve got plenty of egg on my face.
The Bombers have had a pretty decent season. Considering last year they didn’t win a single game, the opportunity to have a winning season is quiet the turn around. I’ve been saying it all season and I’m going to say it again, the Bombers appear to be doing things the right way. They have a youth team to feed into their adult team and a strong recruitment policy. They have done great things and only look to be getting stronger as the years go by. Kudos Bombers, its good to see teams build in the ‘correct’ David Saul approved way.
This game is going to be pretty close and I expect the Bombers to push the Surge pretty closely at home. That said I think the Surge have what it takes to get past the Bombers.
Torbay Trojans vs Jurassic Coast Raptors
Despite a 28-22 loss the last time they played, the Trojans would have been incredibly proud at the way they played the now, SFC 2 West champions, Bristol. Torbay managed to quieten the Apache sidelines in their first drive of the game with a touchdown from Kieran Calvert. Despite being heavily outnumbered, they were able to keep up with Bristol and looked like a very different team that I watched play Swindon. Their defensive line was being a nuisance in the backfield, while they had more flare and variation in their run game. A further two touchdowns from Mike Boraston and Tim Rogers helped an offence which has struggled to find the endzone a lot this season. Torbay throwing game did take an obvious hit when quarterback Aaron Butler had to come off the field. The biggest weakness was Torbay’s pass defence, which let in two easy passes. Torbay learnt their lesson and eventually stopped their rotation by rightfully choosing to keep Kieran Calvert and James Cunningham in at cornerback who both managed to make Apache think twice about passing. At the end of the day, Torbay did lose – they need think about how they’re going to execute in the redzone in order to change the result of games. With a 22-22 tie against an associate team, it does make one wonder at what cost the Apache game came at and with their right tackle, Richard Christian now out with a broken arm as a result of playing Somerset – was it worth playing them part way through the season?
In the first leg of the the Raptors-Sharks series, the Raptors held their own well in the first half and even managed a touchdown. The second leg seemed a bit more one sided, with the Sharks piling on 34 points throughout the game. The Raptors’ offence has been improving steadily and managed to find the end zone again with a 12 yard pass to Jack Phipps from Tom Davis. The Raptors will be optimistic that they can add more to their score sheet against the Trojans. If their defence rises to the challenge, like it has against the Sharks at times, then this game could be a great fixture.
This game depends on which Torbay Trojans team the Raptors face. Will they get the same side that stood toe-to-toe with Apache? Or will they face the side that drew against an associate side? I think that Trojans will be gunning for that third win and will come away with it! Trojans to win.
Berkshire Renegades vs Hertfordshire Cheetahs
This weekends game between the Berkshire Renegades and the Hertfordshire Cheetahs will decide who takes first place in the conference going into week 17. This weekend is the penultimate game of the season for both teams and will be a defining moment, especially with a Portsmouth loss. Coming off of a comfortable almost Double-Burger win over the Pumas, the Berkshire Renegades are now seven games deep into a winning streak that is getting stronger and stronger. Facing off against the Hertfordshire Cheetahs this weekend The Renegades will look to pull away as the conference leaders and set their place at the table ready to go to the Division Two South playoffs.
I go away for one week. One week and what happens? The empire falls! In a 7-16 loss, the Portsmouth Dreadnoughts took down the undefeated Cheetahs to bring the conference into turmoil. The conference now sits only one game apart going into the last two games of the season. A win here will likely lock the Cheetahs into the playoffs with their 6.38 PAPG. The loss won’t have hurt the Cheetahs but it will have added pressure on the team to perform this Sunday and come away with the needed win, especially with the Dreadnoughts rematch in the last week of the season.
This is a hard decision this week, with the Cheetahs record until this last weekend they looked to go easily undefeated, but the powerhouses of the Dreadnoughts and Renegades appearing stronger and stronger in the last few weeks the Cheetahs reign of the NFC2 South Conference may be over.
I’m going to go against my decisions so far this season and predict the win to the Renegades.
Portsmouth Dreadnoughts vs Hastings Conquerors
One week on from breaking the streak the Portsmouth Dreadnoughts face off against the Hastings Conquerors. At 6-2 in third place in the conference, the Dreadnoughts are currently seeded seventh in the NFC2 South and in the playoffs, just ahead of the Swindon Storm. A win this weekend will tie the team in second place in the conference with whoever loses the Renegades-Cheetahs game. This opens up a chance to take second place in the conference and even challenge for first with a Cheetahs win this weekend and a win in week 18 over the Cheetahs.
Winning 34-26 this weekend against the Bournemouth Bobcats the Hasting Conquerors took their first win of the season comfortably. The team is out of making it to the playoffs but a win will have made the team more comfortable with at least 1 in the W column.
This weekend will be hard for the Conquerors, a win here would potentially ruin the Dreadnoughts season. I’m going to take the Dreadnoughts this week.
Essex Spartans vs East Kent Mavericks
So here we go. We are running into the last few weeks of the season and this is where things get interesting.
The Mavs seem set on a collision course with the Stallions in week 17 which could decide the conference. With the excitement shown in the South, anything can happen and the table is far from a done deal.
The Spartans sit third but with a sub 500 record. It would take some horrendous results for them to make the postseason but they aren’t mathematically out yet.
When these teams met in week 9 East Kent trotted out to a 26-6 win. Lack of offence from the Spartans seems to be their Achilles heel (tenuous pun, I know) and I don’t think this week will be any different. Mavs keep the pressure on the Stallions.
East Essex Sabres vs London Blitz B
The Blitz have been a refreshing change this year for a young team. Playing competitive football and keeping more points scored than conceded. If they keep this up I can see the post season in their near future.
The Sabres have had a tough run of their first year but many rookie teams have to wait a lot longer for their first win. If they follow the footsteps of this week’s opponent we could be looking at a very competitive conference in the coming years.
Realistically I think Blitz continue the quest to .500 and keep building.