Division Two has seen the most significant reshaping during the off season, with the number of conferences reduced from eight down to six. Each new conference sees an increased number of competitors, but a reduced number of fixtures – with five of the six new conferences scheduled to play six game seasons (and the eight team 2A South East getting an extra game each as a freebie.)
The Southern half of Division Two sees many of the hotly-favoured teams in the tier begin their campaigns!
Southampton Stags v City Sentinels
Having spent the 2015-16 season rebuilding, the Stags look to be back in the mood to compete for the powerhouse role in the 2A South. Head Coach Graham Thorpe has the motivation, knowledge, and experience to take this talented group of players, which only lost 10 and recruited 30, all the way.
Head Coach Thorpe said, “Whilst we continue to recruit and develop, the emphasis of the 2016-17 season is to get promoted. “The overall goal is to get themselves to 1A South. The extra week without games will only assist the Stags in their preparation towards dominating the division this season.
Coming off of a 6-2 season the City Sentinels lost a number of key players this off-season that were picked up as rookies in their affiliation season in the league. The recruitment has been strong though and the Sentinels are hoping to use their new talent to continue their winning ways to progress up towards 1A South. A key player joining the team this season is Evan Hargrove who has scholarship offers from FAU (Florida Atlantic University). Along with Evan a number of North American players have joined the team this year and are looking to be a strong contender for the division.
It’s going to be an interesting game in terms of the implications for the rest of the conference – and against the preseason Power Rankings I’m going to back the Sentinels to take it in a tight game.
UCL Emperors V BNU Buccaneers
With a boost in their coaching staff and only seven players leaving the side the Emperors look to develop upon their inaugural season in the league last year. During their affiliation season last year the Emperors faced their now divisional competition the Southampton Stags.
The president of the Emperors, Daniel Anandie, said “Our goal is to finally start competing. Some of us have been waiting for at least a year. But we also plan to rock our division.” With a comfortable set up including a designated training field for the team. This will help the fresh-faced side to develop some of the talent hidden in the deep roster they have including a few wide receivers who are running around the 11-second mark for the 100m sprint.
Boasting a coaching staff with over 100 combined years in the game the BNU Buccaneers are hoping to improve on their 1-7 season last year. With the goal of a winning season, the Buccaneers will have to work hard with a small starting roster of only 25 players.
The president of the team, Matt Draper, during the pre-season said “although it would have been easy to quit after our early heavy losses the players worked hard on and off the field and their efforts were finally rewarded” With a change in Head Coach to Lawrence Cap the team will be re-building and developing towards preforming better this season and look to come away over .500
The Emperors might be the new kids on the block, but so were the Vipers last week – I’m backing them to get out of the block fast with a win!
Aberystwyth Tarannau vs Bristol Barracuda
Aber start their season off with a tough test for their new regime.
After some coaching staff changes from last year Tarranau are now a “Player led coaching team ” with Ciaran Campbell taking over as HC and OC as well as playing (from personal experience,not easy!)
Losing players such as Bevan Murphy and Connor Feeney has left Aber with a small squad, although they have picked up a few players such as mature student Craig Amos a few injuries in key positions could make this season a struggle.
Cuda will be smarting from a home loss to the Blitz on their new snazzy pitch in a game that could have already decided the confrence.
Look for the Cuda to get back on track as Coach Cooper looks to right the ship with a 1 in the W column.
Cuda to win.
Plymouth Blitz vs Oxford Brookes Panthers
The Blitz will be riding high from an opening day rumble over Cuda, new OC Stephen Jones working his mojo to get Coach Ogier off to a 100% win record, but can it continue ?
Plymouth face a team they haven’t squared off against before in the OBU panthers but there will be some familiar faces on the opposite sideline.
The Nick Wykes led OBU coaching staff includes former long time Blitz player/coach Matheus “Denver” Paixao and “Nudey” Mike Bearman.
Also add into the mix previous Blitz WR Rich “Scoob” Bloomer, now enlarged to a TE and coming off the back of a Division Two title with the Saints.
OBU have also obtained the skills of long time Uniball coach Phil De Monte, with stints at many different programmes will the addition of experience pay dividends?
Although the Panthers have lost FB Ryan Kingshott they have great faith in their O line to make any backfield succeed.
Plymouth haven’t lost to an Oxford team before and I dont expect that to start this week but Plymouth need to step up on defence as they have been in quite a few shootouts in recent years and points conceded could come back to haunt them.
Blitz to take it.
Gloucester vs Bournemouth.
Gloucester pushed hard for the conference title last year before losing out to the Blitz.
The Gladiators have consolidated their position by establishing a coaching staff full of Bristol Senior football players and coaches.
Coach Wilford coming off a successful season as Aztecs DC will be coaching some familiar faces on D but it’s on the other side of the ball where the Glads have been hit hard. Losing both QBS, Morrison and Vickery, will hurt but it seems a strong backfield including Matheson could see them through.
James Speck takes the step up to DC after coaching LBS the year before.
Bournemouth come in for another season under Charlie Anderson. The Bobcats have become more solid as the seasons have gone on for this newer programme but have yet to crack the top tier of the conference.
Look for Bournemouth to take steps forward again but I think Gloucester will just be too strong for them .
Gloucester to win.
Charlie Coë, 2A South East Correspondent
Greenwich Mariners v Canterbury Chargers
The Mariners took the default W last week, as LSBU’s powers-that-be took the unenviable decision to remove their side from BUCS play altogether this season. The Chargers, meanwhile, were able to make some hits in anger and more importantly get off the mark with a 14-6 victory over the Essex Blades. This will be a tough one to call, as the once again rejigged conferences mean we have a lack of head-to-head data on these two teams. The Mariners went 7-0 but in a very poor decision, and were defeated by Oxford in the win-and-in playoff game. Expect the Chargers to take this one based on the superior competition they have faced in recent years.
Chargers to win.
What do you think of our Week Two predictions? Think one of our new #TeamDC members still has some swotting up to do? Get in touch in the comments down below and let us know!