Under19s | Junior Season Incoming! Division One South Preview

It’s fair to say it’s been something of a bumpy road to the Under 19 and Under 17’s seasons – we’re still not able to share a full schedule or information about which teams are definitely in what conference/tier for either the ‘youth’ or ‘junior’ formats of the British game…

But what we DO know is that the U19’s season kicks off this Sunday, so we better get crack-a-lacking in previewing what lies ahead for the new top tier of the Under 19’s game!

Our new U19’s team will take a peek at each of the teams and players we should be keeping an eye out for this season:

London Blitz:
Photography (C) Samcrow Lee

In the South, all eyes will be on the reigning champions, the London Blitz. Despite the loss of key players, including Britbowl MVP and All-DC selection Aaron Mahoney-Jones, the Blitz retain a strong core of players.

The offensive and defensive lines, particularly, are likely to be a strength of the London outfit. Junior Football often suffers from a lack of size up front, but the Blitz have this in abundance. Moreover, their close association with DSA allows them to consistently produce supreme athletes, and this difference shows in the power they display in the trenches.

With Birmingham being realigned to the North, the South appears to be the Blitz’s to run away with. With Head Coach Jason Henry, the Blitz not only have the athletes, but also the football mind to tie it all together.

What will be interesting is whether the reforming of the London Warriors can draw some talent away from the young Blitz outfit, as this seems to be the only thing that could stand in the way of the Blitz’s return to the postseason.

Solent Seahawks:

By Bruin White

Photography (C) Hannah Elton-Dobbin, via facebook.com/SolentSeahawks

Solent come into 2018 following on from their most successful year at the Junior level yet, concluding the 2017 season with victory in the inaugural Southern Trophy. But, as is the nature of Under 19’s football, the entire climate of the league has changed in a matter of months.

Despite a shroud of mist surrounding the imminent season, following the emergence of new teams and the graduation of key players, long-term Head Coach Marc White believes that if Solent ‘play and coach to our potential there’s no reason why we can’t contend for the big one’.

Coach White takes pride in a strong core of young players, many of them youth team graduates, alongside the team’s impressive coaching staff. Alongside Coach White, Solent boast Russ Hewitt at Offensive Coordinator, OL Coach Rob Lowe and RB Coach Phil De Monte, all of whom have had Head Coaching experience.

A potentially potent defensive line combination could propel the Seahawks onto great things, with Filton teammates Toby Naylor (more on him later) and Louis Gallagher lining up on the same team for Summer also, after the latter’s transfer from the Black Country Vipers.

A reinvigorated Solent side are looking to take yet another step forward this season. This will be needed if they are to escape the Southern Division and make it to the postseason this year.

Hertfordshire Cheetahs:

By Jack Stodel

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After a great 2017 season, where they reached the Southern Trophy Final, the Hertfordshire Cheetahs will be battling it out with the best the South have to offer for the Britball crown this year.

Despite this, Coach of the Year nominee, Alex Halms, seems very optimistic and confident in his side, saying that ‘…Everything seems to be falling nicely into place’, whilst recognising that ‘an incredible the amount of work that has gone in to make that a reality’.

The Cheetahs’ goals for this season are simple, but a lot more work needs to be put in before it can be made possible. Put simply, Coach Halms is looking for his side to take the next step, eyeing up the Britbowl as their final destination.

The Cheetahs have benefited greatly from a recent influx of former Buckinghamshire Wolves players along with current Hertfordshire Hurricanes, who have ‘added ferocity and depth to an already talented roster’.

Of particular note are All-DC nominee James Abegglen and GB Under 19s Running Back Jack Stodel, who will not only showcase their talents on their respective sides of the ball, but will also add in the often overlooked facet of special teams. Abegglen has been described by Coach Halms as ‘the best kicker and punter’ in the league, whilst Stodel is a danger to take it to the house whenever he gets a chance to return the football.

London Warriors:

By Ryan Duff

The Warriors return to the Under-19 circuit in 2018 after a year out of the league, under the leadership of Britball Legend, Coach Gerry Anderson.

It will be interesting to see how successful the Warriors have been in recruiting talent given the range of options available in the capital, and how strong a roster Coach Anderson has managed to build. With a traditional rivalry with the London Blitz, the Warriors’ return to the U19 game should also set up a thrilling London derby to open the season and establish who is the King of the Capital.

Two years removed from a 4-2 record, the Warriors will strive to remind the Southern Division of their presence and echo the success their senior team has enjoyed over the past decade.

Thames Valley Tigers:

By Ryan Duff

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The Thames Valley Tigers should, at the very least prove an interesting experiment, with Swindon Storm and Berkshire Renegades combining to form one Under-19 side after both teams failed to secure enough players on their own last season. In what will most likely be a developmental season, due to most players making their first forays into the world of 9-man football, Thames Valley will look to quickly adjust to the competition at Junior level.

2018 is by no means a write off however, as CB Matty Jobling, DE Lewis Mees, and LBs Maciek Demidowicz & Shay Page lead a talented young Defense, whilst the Running Back tandem of Campbell du Sart-Murray and and Charlie Bennett should keep opposing LBs honest and open things up for the passing game featuring rookie receiver Chan Rock, who has stood out in training so far.

It should be interesting to see how this team fares as the season goes on.

Cobham Cougars:

By Jack Stodel

Cobham – an unproven team in the Junior league – are keen to show everyone that they still have the talent and work ethic of the team that won the Under 17s Britbowl Youth Championship last year.

It will be a completely new experience for the Cougars, as they’ll need to adapt to the larger sized field and more complex level of football. Cobham’s goals are simply to make sure that all of the kids in their area are given the opportunity to compete.

Head Coach Conan Jal has told us that it’s not just about this season, it’s about creating a roster that will be able to continue running for 2 or 3 seasons at a time. This will be vital, as many teams transitioning from youth to junior football struggle to stay afloat beyond their first season. Of great benefit to Cobham will be their pedigree, alongside the fact that most of their players are eligible to return for both the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

Of their roster of 25, three names that should be looked out for are: Cameron Sherriff, Jacob Barlow and Khaled Alayyan. These three shone in the Championship game last year but also in training sessions and are players to watch for this upcoming season.

Sussex Thunder:

By Jack Stodel

Sussex are somewhat of an unknown quantity, after taking a year out of a Junior league last year.

That being said, after a year of heavy recruiting and an offseason of intense work, Team Manager Tarron Hemsley is quietly optimistic. ‘Taz’ believes that their creation of a strong team ethic, stands the team in good stead for the upcoming 2018 campaign.

The Thunder have one main goal this season, and that is to maintain their effort, whilst gaining valuable experience, and, frankly, having fun.

Impact Players to look out for

Malachi Jameson, D-Line, London Blitz:

Coach Jason Henry was effusive in his praise of Jameson at the tail end of last season, and watching the Britbowl it was easy to see why. Despite it being his rookie season, Jameson’s rare combination of speed and size wrought havoc on oopposingoffences, disrupting passing lanes and crushing running games. He will look to build upon this in his second campaign, using his experience to become even more devastating.

Toby Naylor, Linebacker, Solent Seahawks:

Coming off a 47 tackle rookie season at the Junior level, Naylor’s aggressive approach to the Linebacker position should terrorise anyone brave, or perhaps foolish, enough to come across the middle. A Defensive End at the Bristol Academy PRIDE, the talented Solent Linebacker has added pass rushing to his growing repertoire, setting up Naylor to terrorise opposing backfields this upcoming season.

Jack Stodel, Running Back, Hertfordshire Cheetahs:

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Completing the trifecta of sophomore talent is Running Back Jack Stodel. Stodel will certainly be looking to prove that not all the top-tier talent in the division is defensive. Bringing a rare blend of size and speed, Stodel will certainly be able to contend with the best opposition defences can offer. At an imposing 6’2, 212 lbs, one could be forgiven for assuming that Stodel is a pure power back. However, the young Cheetahs playmaker actually prides himself on his speed, making him a threat in the return game also.

A matchup to remember

London Blitz vs London Warriors – Will it have the same excitement value as the senior fixture? If the Warriors truly have tempted away some of London’s best young talent, this matchup could prove a fiery affair, with ex-teammates squaring off, and pride on the line. Even if this is not the case, this matchup is bound to reignite the London rivalry at this level of the game.