A Midlands derby sets the stage for this years’ plate final, as the Birmingham Lions face off against the Nottingham Caesars. Both teams experienced their first loss of the season in the semi-finals, and will be looking to bounce back in this match, to secure themselves some silverware.
On the Caesars side, this game means more to some players than any other fixture could. With two current University of Birmingham enrolees, and one further about to enrol, this matchup is both an opportunity to display talent to coaches ahead of the Uni season, as well as potentially getting one over on teammates. Furthermore, for head coach George Lees, Birmingham have existed as a bogey-team of sorts. A third of the young Head Coach’s losses have come against the Lions, and as such he will certainly be looking to get that particular monkey off his back.
Aiding him in doing so will be the Caesars pass rush. The only apparent chink in the Lions’ otherwise impenetrable armour this season appears to have been heavy blitzing, as the London Blitz game showed. To this end, outside linebackers Ben Diallo and Jarrod Francis-Duddy will likely be asked to pin their ears back and try to apply pressure to Lions Quarterback Rohan Sandhu whenever possible.
On offence, the Caesars will be in two minds: do they stick with the run game that got them to 6-0, but was shut down against East Kilbride, or do they test out their unproven passing game? Irrespective of choice, the offensive line, led by the monstrous Rees Britt, will have a huge role to play in making the unit successful.
For the Lions, this season has been one of mixed emotions. A perfect regular season is nothing to be sniffed at, however this has become an expectation now for the Lions. Meanwhile, the semi-final defeat to the London Blitz will have smarted, given their success against the same team earlier in the season. Despite this, Coach Cross has noted significant improvement amongst his young ‘ballers throughout the season, which is reason to celebrate alone!
On offence, the Lions will be looking to captain and quarterback Sandhu, as well as dynamic playmakers in Emmanuel Bawa and James Stanley, to provide a spark to get through the stingy Caesars defence, that has conceded no more than two touchdowns in a single game this season! This unit is more than capable of changing that statistic, however, as scoring a table-topping 227 points in the regular season shows.
On defence, the Lions are led by a ‘young and old’ combination at the linebacker position. On one side is stalwart defensive captain Cam Dean, a feature of the team for three years. Next to him is rookie standout Michael Wathen, and together the two form an imposing duo that will look to limit to Caesars ground game.
There is likely to be little love lost in this game, as both teams work to avenge their previous losses. Having friends across the dividing line will only increase competitiveness, and so look for titillating offence and hard hitting defence this Sunday.