Take some of the 2016 NFC2 West and a pinch of the NFC2 South. Munge them together and we have the current NFC2 South for the 2017 season. Three playoff teams are part of the newly aligned conference which should prove fairly competitive.
Based on the respective 2016 regular season records, Chester Romans should be favourites for the conference title. Scoring 48.3 points on average per game is no mean feat no matter what competition you’re facing. Having been pipped to the conference finals by the Leicester Falcons, the Romans will be looking to push for playoffs and promotion once again. We’d love to tell you more about the Romans this year, but #TeamDC didn’t receive a response when querying what they’ve been up to this offseason with the Romans.
After Chester, there are three teams who finished 2016 with the same record and two who made the playoffs last year. These teams make up the obvious contenders of this competitive conference and its going to be interesting to see which of these teams will give the Romans a run for their money. Both Shropshire and Staffordshire made the playoffs last year.
Shropshire Revolution bounced back from a very tough 2015. After going winless and getting demoted from Division One, the Revolution were happy with a 2016 campaign that saw them have a winning season and make the playoffs. Third year head coach Steve Tonks will be pleased with the off-season recruitment and the high retention of players from the previous season.
Many of the squad from last year has returned to the team along with a couple of prodigal sons. Alasdair Jarvis returns for the 2017 season after playing with Tamworth and gaining experience with the GB squad. QB Alex Wake has also returned to the team after playing for the Birmingham Bulls briefly in 2016. Although they are losing a founding member of the team in Rich ‘Noodles’ Mantle they are retaining a group of young veteran players who have already tasted playoff football and will be eager to improve on last season’s outing.
Narrowly missing out on a playoff berth last year, Halton Spartans will be looking to make amends in the upcoming campaign. Halton probably boast the nicest playing facilities in the conference. No other team is going to share their field with Elton John this season, however who will put on the better show on the field remains to be seen. The team has seen year on year improvements with the team’s first winning season coming last year. Halton will look to continue those improvements in the coming season and once again push for the playoffs. Will not being in the same conference as ‘best buds’ Leeds Bobcats mean that budding relationship is doomed to failure? Will they become pals with another side? (My money is on the Warhawks)
Staffordshire Surge round out the playoff teams from last year. However unlike the other two teams in the chasing pack, things don’t look particularly rosey for the Surge. Departures of coaching staff and star players alike have left a dark cloud over Stoke. Star running back Ryan Reid departed for the Phoenix. Reid accounted for 60% of the Surges offensive output last season and the team will have a difficult time replacing all that production. Offensive Lineman Nathe Owen has also left for a taste of tougher competition in the upper tiers, and Quarterback Stephen Ward has stepped away from the team.
Not only have the Surge lost key players, but they’ve lost members of the coaching staff as well. Head Coach Jason Smith and Offensive Coordinator Stephen Hindmarsh have also left the club. Anthony Charles has stepped up to take on the reins as both the head coach and the offensive playcaller. On paper it would seem that Charles has an uphill battle, however the veteran coach remains bullish on his teams chances. A preseason scrimmage against Sandwell, as well as one of the best rookie intakes of recent years have buoyed what looked to be a bit of a grim situation.
The next three teams had disappointing 2016 seasons and will be hoping that a winter of preparation of training will put them on the right path to a dominant 2017 season. Its more than possible that any one of these three teams will rise up and surprise us all
Humber Warhawks possess a cracking name, but not the 2016 result set to go with it, ultimately conceding far too many points to remain competitive last season. The loss of Head Coach Alex Robinson, who has stepped down to start a family, will weigh heavily on the Warhawks chances, though the appointment of veteran coach Pete Scorah as Head Coach should help fill the void. The Warhawks also have three rookie coaches making up the coaching staff up to six.
Will the lack of youth players coming up from a youth setup ultimately hurt the team or will the coaching staff additions and rookie additions give the team the push they need to make a splash in the conference? A preseason friendly against the Yorkshire Rams ended in a loss, but competition against a team in a higher division likely provided more of a test than the win over Northumberland Lightning.
And on to our ‘Hollywood’ team. Could they be the sleeper team on the conference? The Crewe Railroaders had a disappointing 2016 campaign. Head coach Mark Hamer had to step down from his position due to personal reasons, so script writer extraordinaire Gary Delaney (he’s not the quick witted one liner comedian… I checked) will embark as Head Coach. Preseason victory against the Walney Terriers fresh in their minds will spur the Railroaders on. Time will tell if the off season work will allow the railroaders to reach their ultimate destination or if the season will unfortunately become a replacement bus service.
Winless seasons sting and I’m certain Lincolnshire Bombers will have put in a winters worth of recruitment and hard work to wash away the stench of 2016. Lincolnshire have a fairly successful Youth (U17) team which made the playoffs last season. Unfortunately for the Bombers, the Adult team hasn’t had many players progress into the squad. 2017 might be a bridge too far for the Bombers to seriously contend for promotion, however after last seasons performance many on the squad will be happy with a couple of wins. Running Back Jack Paddison and Linebacker Matthew Benson will be hoping to lead the Bombers back to winning football this season.