Britbowl Preview

Britbowl is days away, and we can’t wait to see the teams take the field. The Glasgow Hornets, Sheffield Giants, Birmingham Lions and Baker St Buttonhookers will battle it out to see who takes home the title on the 19th of August at Sheffield Hallam University! We look at each team’s season so far, the players to look out for, how they stack up against the other Britbowl participants by position group, and talk about their chances of winning it all!

Glasgow Hornets (HNC)

Overall Record – 13-0 (1st seed from the North)

Offence – 1st (702 points scored)

Defence – 1st (124 points conceded, 34 takeaways)

How has their season been?

The Hornets are the final undefeated team left in the season, after the Blackhawks lost to the Giants. They’ve been on the warpath since losing by a point in the 2016 final to the Rebels. They’ve been as prolific as ever on offence, even with QB Alan Young out of action due to injury. Meanwhile, the defence has been statistically as stingy as ever, but has taken a slight drop off since last year. They walked their regular season, including two very comfortable wins over the other HNC Britbowl candidates, the Broncos and Oilcats. Their mettle was tested in the playoffs however as they faced the Oilcats for the second time. The Oilcats threw the kitchen sink at the Hornets, leading to a much closer game in Glasgow. The Hornets prevailed, just, with a 45-37 victory. Now, they’re back where they feel they belong – challenging for the Britbowl title on the final day of the season

Notable Players – Julian Holburn White (22 TDs), Grant McLennan (21 TDs), Nicky Farrell (58 passing TDs, 11 O TDs, 9 Interceptions), Cameron Shaw (12 Interceptions, 4 Defensive TDs)

Credit: Jimmy Thomson

Who should we look out for?

With Alan Young back in the line-up, the Hornets have been able to move the ever-versatile Nicky Farrell back to receiver, which had a telling impact against the Oilcats. This is really the first time we’ve seen the Hornets at near-full strength all year, and their offence did a fairly good job of controlling the game against a red-hot Aberdeen side. Their defence on the other hand struggled against an offence that was firing on all cylinders. They did however prove their quality, with two interceptions returned for scores. The Hornets boast one of the most complete set of receivers in the league, as it is a true “pick your poison” offence. They’ve thrived offensively since Young’s arrival, as they can attack teams in a number of different ways. Other offensive contributors such as Richie Moore and Callum Bell have contributed also.

Defensively, the Hornets had statistically their worst outing in the playoffs, conceding a season-high 37 points. They won’t be too disheartened though, as the Oilcats offence is an incredibly talented one, and pose a threat (Gary Elliott) that not many other teams can replicate. Their cast on defence has been consistent all year, but the blitzer position has been the only question mark for the majority of the year.

How do they measure up against the other contenders?

Quarterbacks – 4th

With Alan Young sidelined for most of the season, it fell on Nicholas Farrell to take the reins, which he did admirably, losing in the HNC QBOTY race by a single point. We put them 4th out of the 4 teams due to their inconsistency at the position.

Receivers – 3rd

Their starting receivers are arguably the most well rounded and best ensemble in the league. We mark them down however due to their perceived lack of depth, as they rely on a number of rookies at times to fill in the roles vacated by the starters. Losing David Pasnik in the middle of the season mean the Hornets lost an excellent replacement for their starters

Defence – 2nd

Their defence is a tight knit group, that displays strong tackling and positioning, rather than gambling on interceptions. They do lack some speed which can be exploited.

Blitzing – 4th

The Hornets don’t really have a designated blitzer, and have a rotating cast of players who fill in. Because of that inconsistency at the position, we make them 4th in this department.

What are their chances?

They’ve got the #1 ranked offence and defence statistically, and they’re the team in attendance with the most recent Britbowl experience, so they definitely have a shot. The Hornets prepare better than most team in the BAFA leagues, as evidenced by their 50 burger that they put up on the Victoria Park Panthers last year, and their comfortable wins over the Broncos and Oilcats during the regular season. They’ll suffer for the random draw that’s made on the day, but they have the potential to mix it up with all the other teams in attendance.

Sheffield Giants (MEC)

Overall Record – 16-1 (3rd seed from the North)

Offence – 2nd (642 points scored)

Defence – 3rd (154 points conceded)

How has their season been?

The Giants came into the season as the favourites to advance as the #1 seed from the MEC, and were expected to probably clinch homefield advantage for the second year in a row. This prediction did not come to furition, as they fell at the final hurdle to the Newcastle Blackhawks. This was their only loss of the year, and were rarely tested during regular season play. In the playoffs, they exacted a measure of revenge against the Blackhawks, defeating them 32-25 to clinch a spot at Britbowl. The Giants have a number of appearances in the final four, but have never lifted the trophy. They’re the only team at Britbowl who had to play 3 games in their playoff bracket, so they’re battle tested.

Notable Players – Dean Whittingslow (87 passing TDs, 7 interceptions), Josh Allen (34 TDs), Luka Fadrique (22 TDs, 14 XPs), Max Verlint (15 interceptions), Mike Webster (23 sacks)

Credit: Rob Connor

Who should we look out for?

The Giants lean heavily on Dean Whittingslow to lead the team, as he plays both QB and on defence for the Sheffield outfit. He won our inaugural MEC QBOTY award in comfortable fashion, and runs his offence like a well-oiled machine. While Josh Allen grabs the headlines with his MEC OPOTY award, it’s been the complimentary play of Luka Fadrique which has seemingly put the Giants into the realm of elite offences, when historically they relied on their incredible defence. Speaking of the defence, they have two of the best stat-accumulators in the league, as the ballhawking GB Silver Lion, Max Verlint has over an interception per game, while Mike Webster averages almost 2 sacks per game. They have other key contributors, as GB Lion Chris Winrow and Tim Darracott round out a loaded roster.

How do they measure up against the other contenders?

Quarterbacks – 3rd

Dean has had a prolific season under centre, so 3rd might seen a little unfair. However when you look at his competition, this isn’t the slap in the face it might seem.

Receivers – 4th

Similarly to the QB ranking, this really isn’t much of a slight, and the Giants do have a number of players who can attack the opposition in different ways. Josh Allen and Luka Fadrique have been an incredibly productive tandem all season, and that should continue at Britbowl.

Defence – 1st

Despite the defence being statistically worse than the Hornets, we feel the stacked starting lineup for the Giants just has more speed and ability to match-up with the strong receivers the other teams at Britbowl boast.

Blitzing – 1st

As mentioned previously, Mike Webster is one of the most effective blitzers in the game, and with his regular season performance, should be held in high regard by his opposition.

What are their chances?

They’re essentially the home team, so they can feel good about their odds of winning it all. They have GB experience throughout their ranks, and have been to the dance many times before. If we had any concerns its their lack of size in some areas, which could be exploited. If a game became a boat-race, which it could well do against the teams in attendance, we’re not sure their offence could keep up if their defence doesn’t perform to its usual high standards.

Birmingham Lions (SWC)

Overall Record – 15-1 (1st seed from the South)

Offence – 3rd (633 points scored)

Defence – T10th (266 points conceded)

How has their season been?

The Lions have the most regular season games under their belt, and have had their pedal to the metal all year. After essentially folding last season, they’ve come back with a bang, as Tristan Varney has reminded us why he’s considered in many circles as the best QB in the nation. He easily won our inaugural SWC QBOTY competition. Their only blemish this season came at the hands of the Cardiff Hurricanes, but that loss was avenged with a ridiculous 62-13 hammering to book their place at Britbowl for the second time in their history. Last time they made it, they ran the table, including a massive win over the Rebels where they put on an offensive masterclass. They come into Britbowl as the #1 seed from the South and figure to go blow for blow with any team they are drawn against.

Notable Players – Tristan Varney (92 passing TDs), Drew Newiss (35 TDs), Louis Clarke (9 interceptions), Callum Davidson (15 TDs)

Credit: Bec Edwards Photography

Who should we look out for?

It goes without saying, Tristan is the star man for the Lions. He’s engineered an incredible season, with just under 100 TDs. He’s helped out by an incredible receiving cast. Drew Newiss will get the headlines for his 35 TD season, but Callum Davidson, Louis Clarke and Andrew Dewar round out a dynamic corps. The defence on the other hand is cause for concern, as they’ve shipped a large number of points to the likes of the Coventry Cougars and Cardiff Hurricanes. Neither of those teams are easy offences to play by any means, but we’d expect a well rounded team to be more solid when tested.

How do they measure up against the other contenders?

Quarterbacks  – 1st

We’ll consider the QB rankings “1” and “1A”, but Tristan probably has the best arm in the UK. He threads passes where only his receivers can claim them, and can put up a bevy of points in a blink of the eye.

Receivers – 2nd

Again, this is a close call, but we’ll give the Lions receivers the 2nd place spot, as they have impressive depth behind their starters.

Defence – 4th

We can’t ignore that the Lions defence have had their fair share of shaky performances. They were pushed to their limits by a Northants Titans Blue side, which didn’t have their starting QB.

Blitzing – 2nd

Atsuki Kuramochi has been the main blitzing threat for the Lions, and has 10 sacks to his name this season. The Lions defence has produced 15 sacks so far this season.

What are their chances?

If the day becomes a battle of offensive superiority, then the Lions could thrive. They’ve shown all year that they throw caution to the wind and can score seemingly at will. If their passing attack get slowed down at all then they could struggle, as their defence shifts a large number of points. As long as their offence is firing on all cylinders, they have a chance to take home their second title.

Baker St Buttonhookers (SEC)

Record – 15-1 (2nd seed from the South)

Offence – 8th (545 points scored)

Defence – T-10th (266 points conceded)

How has their season been?

This has been a Cinderella story for the ages. Who would have thought that a rookie outfit would find themselves in the final 4?

Without context, this has been a miracle run for the Buttonhookers, but when you consider this is one of the household names throughout the continent, it takes a little bit of the Disney-esque magic out of the tale. That doesn’t make their season any less impressive, as the Buttonhookers have the distinction of emerging from the toughest division in football, which had two Britbowl competitors from last year, including the 2016 champion London Rebels. The Buttonhookers have put in business-like performances all season, as they were rarely fussed on their way to a SEC Central division title. Their lone loss came at the hands of the Reading Lions, but they won the return fixture at the Southern playoffs with a score of 46-6. A third win of the season over the London Rebels (and the most comfortable, 39-30) sent the Buttonhookers to their first Britbowl at the first time of asking.

Notable Players – Vince Machi (66 passing TDs), Steve Mongey (20 TDs), Carl Szabo (15 TDs), Casey Fitzsimmons (10 TDs)

Credit: Julian H-White

Who should we look out for?

Vince Machi, recently named to the GB Lions squad and SEC QBOTY, manipulates opposition defences better than anyone else in the league. He has, by our estimation, the best receivers at Britbowl, as Steve Mongey, Carl Szabo and Casey Fitzsimmons all offer different problems for a defence to consider. The Buttonhookers use their experience gained at international tournaments, such as Big Bowl and Pink Bowl, to pose questions that their opposition can rarely answer. Defensively, it’s a similar story to the Birmingham Lions, as the Buttonhookers lean more on their chances of scoring every drive and getting a few stops per game. They’ll miss Bobby Centlivre, who’s had an excellent season defensively.

How do they measure up against the other contenders?

Quarterbacks – 2nd

While Vince Machi is one of the most revered QBs in the nation, he perhaps doesn’t have the arm that Tristan Varney does. As mentioned, this is more of a “1A” situation, as opposed to there being an outright better winner.

Receivers – 1st

This is the corps that could cause any defence at Britbowl problems, as they have exceptional speed, height and safe hands to boot. If something isn’t working, they have the ability to switch players in, as the ‘Hookers have the best depth at receiver of all the teams in attendance.

Defence – 3rd

They statistically have the same points scored, in less games, so this may be a little unfair on the Birmingham Lions to be ranked behind the Buttonhookers. But when you consider that the Buttonhookers have two duels against the Rebels and Victoria Park Panthers, you can make the case that they’ve been tested more in their division than the Lions have.

Blitzing – 3rd

The Buttonhookers, much like Hornets, don’t really have a designated blitzer, but they’ve found success through Lindsey Johnson and James Deck. They’ve shown on the field that they can cause great QBs such as Calvin Tarlton and Peter Coppenhall issues, so we’ll give them the slight edge in this category.

What are their chances?

Really, really strong. If they show up with their strongest team, including their awesome rotation of receivers, then there isn’t really a team who can match-up well against them. Defensively, they’re a collection athletes, with some flag savvy mixed in through GB Lion Josh Nicholson.

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