The first ever edition of the promotional playoffs is due to take place this weekend! Today we look at the teams involved and put our necks on the line! We’ll start off in the HNC!
Clyde Comets vs Grangemouth Colts
We see this as probably the most straightforward clash, with there being a clear divide in quality between the two teams. The Colts have had a banner year in the first ever Division One season, however their lack of depth showed at the playoffs, where they scored zero points. Andy Brown has been a revelation at QB for the Colts, but it’s likely that he’ll miss the trip. On top of being the life and soul of the offence, he’s also been a dab hand at safety, plugging any gaps in coverage with his speed and instincts.
The Comets on the other hand are in this fixture because of their inability to overcome the Edinburgh Outlaws. They fell twice to the plate-bound side, despite the Comets punching above their weight with a huge upset win over the Oilcats. The Comets have been excellent when at full strength this season, as they have enough flag savvy and speed to keep games interesting. They can rely on Bud McFerren to put fear into opposition defences, and work underneath routes towards the endzone.
There’s just no-one in the Colts’ stable who matches up with the GB Lion, and we anticipate the Comets will win in comfortable fashion to secure their place at the HNC’s top table.
Leeds Samurai vs Warrington Revolution
Now things start to get interesting. Let’s start with Leeds.
The Samurai have had a rough time of it in the MEC Premier Division. We always figured they’d struggle, and they’ve wound up pretty much where we expected – in the relegation playoff. They managed to doom the Newcastle Blackhawks with a ballsy run on the last play from scrimmage to take the win. All in all though, they lacked the players to keep afloat, and are now playing for their survival.
Meanwhile, in Division One, the Warrington Revolution came into the season as an early favourite to go up. We had them going up automatically, but the strong Nottingham Honey Badgers upset the apple cart with a smash-and-grab win over the Revolution to snatch that place. That would be the only loss the Revolution would suffer in the regular season, as they had the pedal to the metal all season.
The matchup between these two sides is an interesting one. They met only last weekend in the Outlaw Flag League, with the Revolution taking a slender 1 point win, 13-12. The Samurai have plenty of nous with Kyle Taylor steering the ship. He puts resident speedster Jonny Dudley to good use, deploying him in a variety of positions to take advantages of matchups. The momentum you get from a victory like the one against the Blackhawks is immeasurable, so the Samurai could ride that wave to a victory. However we feel they’ll lack the raw firepower to overcome the Revolution. Jake Shaw is coming off arguably the best individual season in Division One, finishing on the podium for Defensive Player of the Year, while taking home the Offensive Player of the Year award.
Birmingham Lions vs Bedford Blackhawks
How the mighty have fallen – the Birmingham Lions finished second in the UK last season. Now they’re in a tight match for their Premier Division survival.
We pegged them to struggle this year. In fact, there were some laughs heard in Birmingham after we had them 7th in our first Power Rankings of the season. We figured they’d have enough talent to keep things interesting, but the lack of actual talent in attendance has hurt them greatly on some key game-days.
That being said, when the pressure was arguably off, the Lions managed to put in their strongest shift of the season, throwing a spanner in the works by beating the impressive Aylesbury Vale Spartans and Northants Titans Blue on the last game-day of the year. They also came agonisingly close to upsetting the Hurricanes, showing that when they want to, they’re completely capable of working through the gears.
The Blackhawks on the other hand kept themselves in the hunt throughout the year in the Mid-South Division One. They had to settle for second best behind the Northants Titans White in the division, as they stuttered in some of the prime-time contests. They have the Leicester Huntsmen to thank for defeating the Coventry Panthers, handing the Blackhawks a chance at promotion. A 9-3 season is nothing to be scoffed at however, The Blackhawks previously plied their trade in the SEC, competing in the toughest division in BAFA football.
If the Lions don’t show up “in the mood”, then they’re doomed. Their lackadaisical attitude in some contests gets them into holes that their talent can’t dig them out of. If they’re switched on however, they could be safe for one more year. The Blackhawks showed at the Division One playoffs however that they’re not over-awed by the occasion, starting impressively against the Carnegie Flag Football side, before eventually losing.
Chichester Sharks vs Northants Titans White
The Sharks have known this was their fate for a good few months now. After a disappointing loss to the Reading Lions, the Sharks knew they were swimming against the current to stay alive. Thankfully for them, a 5 team divisional format meant automatic relegation wasn’t an option, but they’ve been handed a sticky test against the Titans White.
The best player on the field is going to be Corey Bedford. Absolutely no questions about that. The young phenom was impressive yet again this season. Neil Henderson has struggled with the rise in competition level, but that was probably expected, as the SEC defences are not to be trifled with. The Sharks have been busy in the OFL, with Corey taking snaps at QB.
Despite the Sharks having the best player on the field, the Titans White might have the more in-form QB, as the rookie Sam Tibbles has guided the Titans White to a 3rd place finish in the BAFA Division One championship, and this promotion opportunity. Sam shows immense patience in the pocket, and has continued his development from QBing the Titans to a Youth national title last year. The Titans White defence is nasty as well, as David Radford provides immense pressure to QBs with his blitzing, and Alex Towler seizes any opportunity to intercept wayward passes.
We’re going with momentum in this contest, and we see the Titans White securing a narrow victory to earn promotion. They were agonisingly close last year, but this year they will seal the deal against the struggling Sharks. There’s talk that the Titans White will be coming into the game slightly under-strength, but they might just have enough to emerge victorious.