The second season of the Outlaw Flag League (OFL) is upon us starting late August. The OFL provide competitive football outside the BAFA season to bring some enjoyment in the Autumn and Winter months. 5 of the 14 teams return from the 2016 season, including last year’s finalists Northants Titans Atlas. Joining them from last year are the Chichester Sharks, Coventry Cougars, Coventry Panthers & Northants Titans Prometheus. We see 15 new teams enter the fray, all battling it out for the OFL Championship trophy. This includes 5 rookie teams who are in their first year of flag football. The teams are split into two conferences, the Exiles and the Bandits.
We spoke to Stanley Flashman to help us breakdown the Outlaw Flag League some more and to let us know what to expect from the league in 2017;
Thanks for your time today Stanley! How did the OFL go last year?
The 2016 season we saw an exciting regular season battle in the Exile Flag Conference, which was decided on the last game of the season. The Northants Titans Atlas defeated the Manchester Crows in a 27-20 victory. The Titans Atlas boasted the highest scoring offence and stingiest defence throughout the 6 game regular season. The Manchester Crows & West Essex Showboats earned the other automatic playoff places by finishing 2nd & 3rd respectively in the Exile Flag Conference. In the Bandit Flag Conference, the Baker Street Buttonhookers were clear front-runners by a margin of two games, even without star QB Vince Machi for the first 3 games of the season. He came back in week 2 to seal up the division by putting up 140 points with their deadly dual-QB offence with Bryan Zindrick. The Chichester Sharks, led by Coach of the Year Neil Henderson, and scratch team Cadbury Heath Coyotes, which saw a mixture of Spartans, Vipers & Stormers, both posted a 4-2 record to seal up the #2 & #3 seed accordingly.
The remaining 8 teams in the divisions battled it out in the Wildcard Weekend for the last remaining spots at Finals Day. A great day of football saw the Coventry Cougars & Northants Aztecs emerge from the pack to extend their season, the latter came out on the right side of an overtime win against the Coventry Panthers in controversial fashion during one of the games of the season.
Finals Day saw the two undefeated teams from the regular season take out the wildcard winners in the first game of the day. They progressed through their semi-final competition to set up a final that fans around the OFL Universe would be waiting on since both teams captured their conference crowns. The stage was set as the Northants Titans Atlas would take on the Baker Street Buttonhookers. The return of superstar WR Carl Szabo boosted the ‘Hookers, who torched the previously stingy Titans Atlas defence for a number of first half touchdowns to take a commanding lead into the intermission. The Northants Titans Atlas offence would respond later on in the second half but left it late to try and make a comeback as the Buttonhookers defence held firm. The Buttonhookers became the first OFL Champions with a 55-18 victory. Carl Szabo received the Outlaw Bowl MVP Trophy on a day which saw him snag 9 TD’s & 3 XP’s over three games, including a hat-trick in the final.
Any shifts in power this year?
The Baker Street Buttonhookers have decided to not take part in the second season of the OFL, so we will have a new champion this year. However, it could be any of the teams that are taking part in the 2017 season. The obvious choice would be to say that the Northants Titans Atlas will be looking for blood after their loss in the final last year. The Chichester Sharks are also always impressive under the leadership from QB Neil Henderson. With this season bringing 15 new teams, including 5 rookie teams, there is an element of the unknown to be had with the 2017 season.
What teams should we be keeping an eye on?
Apart from the aforementioned Titans Atlas & Chichester Sharks, there are three teams that fans of the OFL should be keeping an eye on;
Warrington Revolution – You might have seen the boys from Warrington giving UK Dukes a run for their money with their hype videos, including some sensational one handed beer can catches! The Revolution are quietly establishing themselves as a team to watch in 2017, racking up some impressive wins while they are finding their feet in the UK Flag scene. Expect to see QB Lewis Jaundrell causing some chaos to the secondaries in the OFL this season!
Coventry Cougars – The Cougars came on strong towards the back end of the 2016 OFL Season and performed to a high level when the pressure was on. They picked up a huge victory in a 46-44 shoot-out against the formidable Crows side, in what was comfortably one of the top 5 games of the year. They’ve continued this form into 2017 with some big victories at NuOla Spring Break against the Birmingham Lions and the Copenhagen Barbarians at Big Bowl 2017. On top of all this, they made the playoffs in the National League besting the Northants Titans Atlas on the final game of the season. The addition of Danny Caballero has bolstered their already formidable line up.
Cheshire Cavaliers – The Cavs are making their OFL Debut in 2017 and are coming off the back of an impressive second half to their National League campaign which saw them improve massively. They narrowly missed out on a spot in the Northern Playoffs. In only their second season, things are looking up for the Cavs under some big play from former OFL Pro Bowler Sergio De Paco. They’ll be looking to cause a stir in the OFL this season.
Any players to be aware of?
There are a number of players who you need to be aware of for the 2017 season but there is three names that stick out to me who will be big factors for their team come game time;
Gary Newcombe (Northants Titans Atlas) – Gary Newcombe is an ex-Titans monster who is now plying his trade for the Coventry Jets kitted team. But has tranferred back home after Coventry Jets decided to pull out of the Outlaw Flag League. Gary is an asset on both sides of the ball and his presence causes a match-up nightmare for opposing teams with his enormous reach and his ability to give his rivals no chance to get the ball ahead of him. He is also a mean blitzing option as well.
Matt Tibbles (Northants Titans Prometheus) – Matt Tibbles had a fine 2017 BAFA campaign under centre for the Northants Titans White. He’s only been playing QB for a brief time, and he comes into this the OFL season with more experience under his belt. He led a Titans Scratch team to the Brighton Tsunami Charity Send Off Tournament Title in late July along with capturing the V-Day Tournament crown in early August and will be looking to add to those accolades as the OFL season rolls around.
Josh Evans (Cynon Valley Celts) – Josh Evans enters the OFL with his rookie side looking to help grow their reputation after a successful start, seeing off the Swansea Hammerheads in a best-of-5 series earlier this summer. Josh Evans brings experience to a side which needs a veteran presence. He is an automatic tackler and is excellent in man coverage. He also bring some fantastic offensive skill to the Celts with game-breaking speed and shifty hips. Expect to see him rising up the stat boards this year.
Have you got any early predictions?
As indicated below, we think this is how the regular season plays out;
Based on the above regular season standings, the playoffs will play out;
With that being said, there is still a lot of football to be played and as we saw at times last season anything can happen when these teams step out onto the field!