Our third conference preview takes us to the SFC2 South, where the cream of the conference could rise to the top quickly when taking a quick glance at the 2017 schedule.
After an 0-10 season, the Hertfordshire Cheetahs finished 2016 in high spirits despite relegation to the SFC II South. Speaking with #TeamDC, the Cheetahs pointed to the large number of on-field changes prior to the start of the campaign;
“Given the huge influx of rookies into the club and an off-season with a lot of coaching changes, it was a relative success to see the team genuinely play quite well against some ridiculously good opposition (Bury Saints in particular). If team morale had dipped, it really would have been a terrible season, but it didn’t, and we came out feeling disappointed but hopeful.”
Eager to hit the ground running in 2017, the Cheetahs organised two pre-season friendlies against Essex Spartans and Ipswich Cardinals, and were positive about all three units. Although the club have seen Conor Elliot step down as Head Coach for personal reasons, replaced by Roger Brown (Offensive Coordinator) on an initial interim basis, a sigh of relief echoed around camp as QB1 Jason Scurfield – entering his second full season following his transition from defensive back – will be available.
With a core of returning key players including Adam Adeniji, the “face of the franchise”, and Conor Wilson, who has been called the team’s “Christian McCafferey”, the Cheetahs are hoping to see an improvement on last season – first and foremost, getting a win under their belts.
“Everything else stems from the confidence the first win will give to the team after last season”.
Making it through to the quarter-finals last season, Berkshire Renegades will be looking to improve further on their 2016 season and head on to the Division Two South Final. The 9-1 record was made all the more impressive as it was the Renegades’ first year back in the league following a brief hiatus.
Taking three shutout wins, one against the Pumas and twice against the Dreadnaughts the team went 9-1 in 2016. Working hard in their off-season to improve the team – including a number of transfers from the likes of Bristol Apache, Farnham Knights and London Warriors – the Renegades now boast a roster of 70 players heading in to the new campaign.
Offensive MVP from 2016, QB Dan Storey has a new Quarterbacks Coach to work with following the return to the club of Paul Waddington. Defensive coaches Pat Joseph and Neal Kent will be buoyed by the return of standout stars Stuart Burrows (LB), 2016 Rookie of the Year Darren Starr (DE) and Pete Simmons (DE) who lead the unit in giving up just 6.1 points per game last year.
Going 7-3 in the 2016 season, including a walkover over the Pumas, Bournemouth Bobcats narrowly missed out on the playoffs being one game behind the East Kent Mavericks who now find themselves realigned to the SFC2 East.
Having come so close to the post-season, the Bobcats were eager to build momentum heading in to the 2017 season, and did so with a 22-0 win over Jurassic Coast Raptors in a pre-season friendly dubbed the ‘Dorset Bowl’, featuring a 70-yard first half rushing touchdown for David Isaacs. They have a good opportunity to get off to a quick start with winnable home games against Portsmouth and Hastings – who combined for a 6-14 record in 2016.
With a 0.400 record in the 2016 season, the Portsmouth Dreadnoughts only conceded 21 more points than they scored. With such a close season record, Head Coach (and Defensive Coordinator) Luke Head-Rapson will hope to control their polar game results seen in 2016.
They’ll need to do so without standout free safety and team captain, Joe Perry, who retired in the offseason. In Perry’s absence, Portsmouth will likely lean heavily on the talents of Aldo Navarro and Jake Hancock (named Team MVP in 2016) on the defensive line. Offensive standouts Tom Davies (RB), Arland Craik (RB) and John Cowen (WR) will be working under a new Offensive Coordinator in Michael Hogan, who joined the club in the offseason and brings a wealth of experience to the coaching staff.
In five of their ten games last season, one of the teams involved scored 0 points. This type of unbalanced play will need to be controlled if the Dreadnoughts hope to improve for 2017. The club spoke of their 2017 aspirations with #TeamDC prior to the big kick-off;
“Our hopes and expectations for this year are to finally have a winning season, hopefully be in the playoff race and to beat Bournemouth. We’ve played them every season, but not yet beaten them.”
When the team did win in 2016 they won, mostly, comfortably. If they can find a way to control games more, they stand a good chance of wrangling a better record this season.
The penultimate team in the SFC2 South last season, Hastings Conquerors will plan to improve on their 2-8 record in 2017. One of the issues last season for the Conquerors was allowing an average 29 points per game, only three less than the Pumas in the last place.
In seven of the Conquerors’ games last season the team failed to score more than six points, including two shutouts and two safety-only games. They host the Cheetahs this coming weekend, before a brutal opening to the schedule sees them travel to Bournemouth and Berkshire before a return fixture against Hertfordshire. We’ve not heard much coming out of Hastings this off-season, but fully expect them to post a similar record to their 2016 campaign (as always though, we love to be proved wrong!).
Finally, with two walkover losses and five shutout losses contributing to the team’s 0-10 record, it’s fair to say Maidstone Pumas didn’t have the best of times in 2016. Conceding an average of 31 points per game – brought up by three 50-burgers to the Berkshire Renegades and the East Kent Mavericks (twice) – the Pumas struggled from the off.
As with Hastings, we received no response from Maidstone when enquiring about their pre-season activity. Certain;y, the team will want to reduce their number of points allowed this season and hope to place some positive numbers in the win column. Look for some changes this year from the team, as if they want to improve their performance and avoid quite so many scathing quips from our friends at Daily Britball? Somethings got to shift for the Kent side.