Opinion

SFFL Pre-Season Power Rankings

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Credit: SFFL

A new season of Slovenian Flag Football League is coming soon. This year we have seven registered teams, but there have been some big changes. It will be the first time in the league for the newly created team Jazbeci made mostly from former Alp Devils players. Consequently, the Alp Devils will now be competing with almost an entirely new roster. Then there are Domžale Tigers, who will be competing with a very young team. Gladiators, Lazar Wild Hogs, ABBA Killer Bees and OMP Knights are also participating. Unfortunately the Werewolves from Slovenska Bistrica have stopped competing due to a lack of players.

Instead of the league’s opinion for ranking of teams, we have this year asked the teams themselves to create the preseason rankings. We added points to each rating (from 7 to 1) and got the results below!

1. OMP Knights Novo Mesto (49 points)

A perfect score in rankings to match their perfect score in SFFL editions so far. Just like last season, they’ll be the surefire favourites claim the title again. Their true strength can basically only be measured at international tournaments where they can match up to other strong international teams. They have consistently been in the playoffs with two 6th place finishes at Big Bowl, while
other current Slovenian teams have yet to see the playoffs. It will be interesting to watch the Travnikar-Štravs connection again this year, since they were leaps ahead of the rest the previous season. Pugelj will also be interesting to watch, since he “only” finished 9th among receivers last year after being no. 1 the year before. New centre Gerdenc will be up and running by the start of season after recovering from an injury for the last few months.

Credit: SFFL

2. ABBA Killer Bees Ljubljana (38 points)

Last year’s difference between Killer Bees and Wild Hogs was minimal and with only 2 points separating them in these rankings, we can expect close matches between the teams. It is interesting that the Killer Bees are ahead in the opinion rankings, since the SFFL 2018 had the teams reversed, as the Wild Hogs came 2nd overall. The Killer Bees show flashes, but lack consistency in the big moments to help the make the jump. They have added some new players who will try and gather some much needed experience to hopefully contribute to the team’s success by the end of the season. A “rookie” Gomboc has also joined the team after ending his tackle career at Murska Sobota Storks. He will definitely add some experience and explosiveness to their game. Then there is the Bajt-Hertl connection, who were both 2nd in their respective categories (Pass TD, Rec TD) last year. There have also been rumours that an old veteran Novak might make an appearance, but it is yet unknown at which position.

3. Lazar Wild Hogs Kočevje (36 points)

The Wild Hogs finished the regular part of last season in 3rd place after last tournaments defeat against Alp Devils dropped them from 2nd. That meant they had to play the Wildcard game against Karlovac Dukes. They won that game and then narrowly beat Killer Bees after extra time in the semi-finals. Teams put them in 3rd place in the rankings this preseason, but they’ll be wanting to prove those predictions wrong. They acquired several new players who will try to prove themselves in the competition, but the largest change was made at the quarterback position. Uvodič has been replaced by a tandem of QBs Turk and Lee, the latter becoming the first American quarterback in Slovenian flag football. We can probably expect a combination of the two, and together with the quick Lavrič; their offense could be quite dangerous.

Credit: SFFL

4. Kranjski Jazbeci (28 points)

The newly established team Jazbeci mostly has previous Alp Devils members with a few rookies. Last year, while still under Alp Devils name, they started the competition poorly. Due to their inexperience in flag they managed to draw quite a few penalties, hindering their game. They however improved quickly and proved to be an even match even for the top teams. Winning against Wild Hogs at the last regular season tournament meant they jumped to 4th place over the more experienced Gladiators team. But that lack of experience ultimately cost them when it mattered most when the Gladiators beat them in the wild card game, pushing them down to final 5th place. Players to point out are definitely Žlajpah and Zelnik who showed great playing abilities and will certainly try to improve even more this year. Žlajpah posed a serious threat in both offense and defense with his explosiveness, height and great catching ability. Defensively oriented Zelnik made 77 tackles and caught several interceptions, with 4 of them returned for a TD. Lebar finished 4th among quarterbacks last year and he will definitely be aiming for the top spots this
year. The difference between Jazbeci and teams in front are minimal, so expect some exciting games between them!

5. Ajdovščina Gladiators (21 points)

Teams have put Gladiators in 5th place, but we think that a higher place is well within their capabilities. The most important piece of the puzzle will definitely be the player at the quarterback position, where even Tončič might make an appearance this year. After finishing last year’s regular season at 5th place, the Gladiators managed to beat Jazbeci in the wildcard game but later on lost in the 3rd place match against Killer Bees. The team has added 4 new players with which they hope to gain some much needed height in their offense. Šuštaršič has improved significantly since last season and together with Pergar they could pose a threat to any defense. It will be interesting to see if either two rivalries will form between Killer Bees/Wild Hogs and Jazbeci/Gladiators or if the latter teams will improve enough to make it a 4-way rivalry.

Credit: SFFL

6. Domžale Tigers (13 points)

The Tigers have decided to join the league again after skipping last season. In 2017, then as Houston Problems, they were composed predominantly of ex-tackle players along with the help of young Kotnik, who was that year’s SFFL MVP. But even he wasn’t enough in the finals where they were beaten by Knights. Not much is known of this year’s team, only that it will be mostly made up of 17 year olds fairly new to the sport. Second to last placement is mostly due to the lack of information regarding their roster, but they might surprise a few people. They will be joined by Kotnik, who will be of great help to the young quarterback Žiga Majcen.

7. Alp Devils (11 points)

After the departure of the majority of players to the newly established Jazbeci, Alp Devils had to basically start anew. We are glad to see that even primarily tackle teams have shown interest in SFFL and hopefully more will join in the following years. The fact that they are the biggest mystery might be the reason why teams don’t expect a high placement from them. Tackle experiences don’t help much with flag, but they could surprise everyone with young and fast players.

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