Our Prem South Correspondent, Rose Wilford, caught up with some of the big names on the London Blitz roster this week, as the programme prepare for their record-breaking twelfth Britbowl final!
JOSE VAN OOSTEN #32
Summary of the Season: We have grown throughout the season, and are peaking at the right time
Highlight of the Season? Be ating the Warriors, I was injured in the first game so I’d never beaten them before. The whole build up with it being the third game, the conference decider etc and that we beat them so comfortably made it an amazing memory
Outstanding Play this Season? First interception of the season in the first game against the Aztecs. Just before the season started my friend and old housemate Troy Shoate III passed away due to unknowingly having HbH disease. I promised his Mum I’d dedicate the season to him and I’ve had his name on my helmet all season. I knew he was looking down on me that first game and it was a beautiful moment to be able to dedicate the interception to him. I tried my very best to return the interception to the house because I wanted to get a pick 6 for him, but sadly (after one reverse field and dubious spin move) I was brought down short. I got another pick late in the fourth and during the return the entire sideline was shouting at me to go down so we could kneel out the game, but I was so desperate to get a pick 6 for Troy that I didn’t hear them. The ensuing commentary on Hudl was hilarious to list back to though. (http://www.hudl.com/video/3/235231/5908e9e7bee0b53a002c5ee3)
Expectations coming into this season, have these been met? We came into the season knowing we’d lost a lot of players to retirement and Europe, our defence was hard struck. We have a young team led by young captiains, combine that with our four year drought meant that I didn’t want to dream the ‘bigger picture’ throughout the season. As the cliché goes, we took it day by day, week by week, game by game. We were confident but focused on improving every week. The team has grown throughout the season, our confidence growing with it. The transformation has been amazing and I believe we can cap it off with our first Britbowl victory in 5 years.
Playmakers on and off the field? Coach Burford has impressed me. Last year I saw him as an amazing coach but what he has done with D this year is impressive. At the start of the season we’d lost 9 of the 11 starters from last years Britbowl. Duncan has been able to grow everyone’s potential and helped us excel. Players that stand out on O – Jack Daley and Sam Rodgers are uncoverable, our stable of RB’s is unreal, from Temi Oduyemi, to Glen Toonga, to Gabriel Quartey, to Dwight Caulker, they will either run you over or juke you out of your socks. Our experience OL Alex Davies, Matt Meyer and Olly Sunmola will wear down any defence. On D, the DL is stacked, Ronel Daley-Thomas, Jamie Charles and Deejay Ogunkolati are game wreckers. Eddie Cheadle is an amazing leader at LB. Myself and Tom Wilkinson provide experience as Safeties. CB’s Dotun Ademiju and Enoch Hankombo are game changing athletes. You just can’t pass on us.
Preparation for the final? We’ve peaked at just the right time and come into the game very confident. We’ve scouted Tamworth heavily and I[‘ve got a lot of respect for them. I went to Birmingham Uni and played for Tamworth previously so I know some coaches and players. Huge credit to them for what they’ve achieved this year. That said, I think we can match them well enough and will come out victorious.
Stats! Don’t know stats but we haven’t shut a team out this season yet so that’s what we aim to do.
Something to tell the Britball Nation
I’m ridiculously excited for Britbowl XXXI. A number of good friends play for Tamworth and I have a lot of respect them. That just means I’m more excited to hit them hard and send them home empty handed.
TOM WILKINSON #33
Summary of the Season: Team. Pride. Blitz. Family.
Previous game? We were focused vs Merseyside and got the job done, but we weren’t perfect. Some concentration lapses meant we gave up more plays on D that we should have. We can’t afford that this week. Offense were awesome and have been unstoppable the past few games. Glen in particular at RB has been killing it.
Outstanding Play this season? Josh Amis’ kick-off return TD against us in 1st Warriors game. We scored to take the lead with 5 minutes left, started celebrating, then the Warriors took the kick-off back the other way for a score. Should be a reminder to everyone not to celebrate until the job is done. If it wasn’t for another great clutch play we wouldn’t have won that game and our season could have been completely different.
Expectations coming into this season, have these been met? Everyone doubted us before the season, wondered if we were in the middle of the Prem South pack. We don’t have superstars necessarily on D but we play as a unit and coaches have us prepped to succeed.
Playmakers on and off the field? Coach Burford has done an amazing job with D overall, bringing together a mostly new group of started and getting us to play as a unit. He’s been really well supported by Coach Raph who has acted as a mentor to the DB’s and pulled the pads back on when needed to. On the field, Dotun Ademiju obviously gets all the DblCoverage praise, but we’ve been brilliant across the board. Eddie Cheadle (MLB) is the heart of the D, Bish has been our spark at 2nd level (SLB) and our D Line with Jamie Charles (DT), Deejay (DT) Ronel (DE) and others has been monster. We’ve had a great group of DBs too with experienced guys like Jose van Oosten (SS) and Kodjo (CB/SS) meshed in with rookies like Dot (CB) and Sam Jeater (CB/S). On O they are all superstars and with that stable of backs and our receivers it’s always going to be hard to slow us down.
Preparation for the final? We feel great and have been getting loads of prep in. Tamworth are a great team and unlike some outsiders assuming London supremacy, we certainly won’t be expecting anything but a war. They beat a team who beat us earlier in the year, so we will have to be at our best. They’ve got a strong vertical passing attack, but I think that matches up well with us and personally as a FS I’m looking forward to someone trying to throw deep against us.
Stats! The most important fact is we have 10 W’s this year and 1 more left. I missed the 2nd Warriors game so I’m still undefeated this year, and I plan to still be by the end of Saturday. Personally I’ve had 3 picks this year from Free Safety and I’m yet to give us a TD. I’m most proud of making red zone plays for the team, whether picks, PBU’s or goal line tackles. But it’s really about what we have done as a unit. We’ve made lots of plays in the red zone as a group and got lots of stops when needed. It’s not about individual stats but making sure we do our job as a team. Think it’s a testament to our unit in general that no team has been able to consistently pass on our first string set.
Something to tell the Britball Nation
I don’t expect the Blitz DBs to get MVP or steal the headlines (maybe Dot!) but if you watch the tape I promise you we will be making life hell for that QB. Defence wins championships. TPBF.
JAMIE CHARLES #98
Summary of the Season: Incredible
Highlight of the season? The second Warriors game, there was so much passion from both sides and we took it to each other. Being involved in games like that is what makes Sundays.
Previous game? :- It’s playoff football, every team deserves their spot and Merseyside were no different. They worked hard and had a game plan which they were looking to execute against us. As a D we had a few mental mind lapses which allowed them to gain yards and score points. There are the mind lapses which we are refining for the final. Our D as a whole were firing first Q and it was great to be on the field causing havoc.
Outstanding Play this season? Charlie Cohen getting the sack against Jerome Allen at the Warriors home ground second time around. It got spicy after that play but he worked through the tackle and made a huge game changing play.
Expectations coming into this season, have these been met? As a team our expectations were to always compete and work hard to make the playoffs. This was always going to be a challenge whilst losing so many players to Europe. The young athletes stepped up and played hungry all season, every game was played like it was playoffs.
Playmakers on and off the field? The whole Blitz family have worked relentlessly on and off the field. The coaches have prepped hard as they always do allowing us just to play and work hard on the field come game day. There are a few players who go above and beyond. Joe Thompson – this young man has a wee bit of a point to make, many people have written him off and he has rallied the offence this season. The Big O are playing like they owe him lunch money… it’s great to see but hard as a defensive player. Dwight Caulker – This kid has all the makings of a super star. Illusive in the backfield and has lightning speed. Under Temi’s watchful eye he is becoming a great RB in a group of talented players. Duncan Burford – This guy is up there with the best of them. As a coach all you can ask is they correct you when you are wrong, provide pointers to enhance your game and scout and provide the correct preparation for the opposition come game day. Well Duncan has all that and more, such an influence and had the full D working hard for him and his philosophy. It was always going to be a tough job after Damien focused more on the HC role, but what a turn out and it’s evident to see.
Preparation for the final? The prep for the Bowl has been just as you would expect. Repetition of our plays and an understanding of our opposition. This will make us sharper and prevent the errors creeping in on game day. Injuries, we have been fortunate to have the squad healthy towards the later end of the season and everyone is looking fresh and hungry.
Something to tell the Britball Nation
This is my 5th Britbowl (although been to numerous Div 1 Finals with EKP) and I have been so close on many occasions. Normally people treat the build-up differently and this can alter the way you play. I am going in with my normal routine taking it in my stride. This year has a different feel, I’ll respect my opponent and look forward to knocking heads every snap, every quarter. The Pheonix have worked hard and have a great programme with a long term goal. They have earnt the right to be here and it will be brilliant showing from both sides.
The Blitz look great and we have surprised people all year, this young team will continue to do so.
GLEN TOONGA #21
Summary of the Season It’s been calm still, could be better though
Previous game? It was a good game for us, intensity was high, O moved the ball. D was flying around the field making plays. Everyone played well that game, I got another 100+ yard game with two TD’s and a PAT. Just want to take that same intensity into the finals and dominate like I know we can. There's always room for improvement so we’ll be sure to bring those improvements to the final.
Outstanding Play this season? Dwight Caulker's TD against the Warriors in our first game against them this season. I believe it was a Screen, he obviously ended up in the end zone. But he took a lot of ankles with him on his way there. Pretty sure he broke like 3 ankles on his way to the end zone.
Expectations coming into this season, have these been met? Initially I was slightly concerned because we lost a few of our play makers, on both sides of the ball. Some went to Europe and are balling out there and a few decided it was time to retire after balling out for us for so long. But that just opened up opportunities for people to come and join the Blitz family and for current members of the family to step up, which I think they definitely have.
Playmakers on and off the field? Obviously it goes without saying that the big boys upfront have done an amazing job. You can ask any other RB on the field and they’ll tell you how good it feels to have guys like that blocking for you, even heading down field to make more blocks for you so they get a shout out first. Our entire running back legion. On the other side of the ball, off the top of my head Oliver Bishop LB, Germain Pelie LB, Gabriel Quartey on Specials. Too many players to name if I’m honest. Off the field I’d say the Physio team provided by Fitfab Therapy has been great this year.
Preparation for the final? For me personally, I’ve just been making sure I’m 100% healthy to play, I don’t want to go into the game feeling tight or with any issues. Other than that, I’ve been watching loads of tape, keeping hydrated. As a team I think everyone else has been doing more or less the same thing.
Stats! There’s been plenty of rushing yards. I know I have had roughly 6 100+ rushing yard games. Gabriel Quartey RB has had the same, if not more. Dotun Ademiju has had around like 8 picks
Something to tell the Britball Nation
JOE THOMPSON #5
Summary of the Season It will mean nothing if we don’t win the Britbowl.
Highlight of the season? I think the highlight of the year so far from a team perspective was getting that second win over the Warriors to win the Prem South. After scraping by them by a single point in the first meeting of the year and them then beating us by a much larger margin in game 2 many people had them down as Prem South Conference Champions before we even took to the field in the 3rd game. To put in such an incredible team performance to come away with a convincing win has easily been the best moment of the year so far.
Previous game? The Semi-final against Merseyside was a really good game for us. We executed well in all 3 phases and were able to keep momentum going from our Southern Conference win into the Britbowl this weekend.
Outstanding Play this Season? The first Warriors game, late in the 4th Q we’d just lost the lead to a long kickoff return TD and were driving with less than 2 mins left in the game. We converted a number of 3rd and 4th downs on the drive, but the play that sticks out in my mind was the TD pass to Mike Aboujaoude that ended up being the difference in the game. It gave me (personally) my first win as a starting QB for the Blitz over the Warriors, and showed the Britball Community we are still to be reckoned with in the Prem.
Expectations coming into this season, have these been met? With talk from outside the club questioning whether we were even going to make the playoffs this year, everyone within the team setup has been expecting to get back to the Britbowl this season, with absolutely no exceptions. Right now, we have made the Championship game, but the season will be a complete waste in my eyes if we don’t now go and finish the job against Tamworth on Saturday.
Playmakers on and off the field? From an offensive standpoint it has made my job so much easier being surrounded by game-changing playmakers in the backfield and out on the perimeter, in addition to the stout OL of Meyer, Sochart, Davies, Cherry, Sbaiti and Sunmola, who have given me plenty of time all year. The addition of guys like Aaron Linley and Gabriel Quartey to an already potent offence including names such as Sam Rogers, Temi Oduyemi, Glen Toonga and Alex Laird has allowed us to hit the ground running and put point on the board in bunches against the best defences in the country.
Preparation for the final? I’ve been treating the Britbowl like I would any other game. Getting to practice, taking extra reps with the wideouts afterwards, and getting myself on Hudl to make sure I am caught up with the gameplay, which will be especially important against a defence such as Tamworth, who like to mix things up with coverages and pressures.
Something to tell the Britball Nation
Everyone member of this squad has shown their commitment with extra film sessions on top of our regular practice schedule. The coaches have put in a lot of effort to make sure we are ready and we have given the same back. Tamworth are a really tough opponent and we are looking forward to an awesome Britbowl on Saturday afternoon!