Finally I can say, “Welcome one and all to the 2011 FFL season!”. This week I’ve got some actual football to talk about and this can only be a good thing. Along with that I’ve got my ten thoughts, and I’ll be trying to avoid bringing up my predictions for the two games played (although my Bulls v Diamonds call was looking good for a while). Let’s begin.
I had a nice chat with our most esteemed President, John van de Mergel, before the games. He assured me that the collapse of GunkTV isn’t a problem as far as the organisation of the Belgian Bowl goes. He mentioned the brainstorming sessions and I got a little insight into that (apparently only 2 Flemish teams have a press officer), but the serious plans to come out of it should be finalised by the summer. The most important thing I learned out of the chat was something that I pretty much already knew – the organisation of the Belgian Bowl is in good hands.
Game One – Antwerp Diamonds 20, Brussels Bulls 14
This game won’t go down in football history as a pretty game, however I don’t think the Diamonds will mind. As a matter of fact, this game was right up their alley, and given the style of game, it was no wonder that they came out on top.
The front seven of the Diamonds had the Bulls quarterback under pressure all day, at least, whenever he dropped back to pass, which was almost never. The Offensive line worked hard for their running backs, but the Diamonds defense, led by LB Marco Karmidi and S Sebastian Morales, swamped the Bulls for the most part early on.
The Diamonds power running game was too much for the Bulls in the first half, as they were able to rack up numerous first downs and control the clock. Their reward was two touchdowns, putting them up 12-0.
The strangest play of the day happened on the only completion for either team. Antwerp QB Elliott Keymolen found TE Joris Verhelst on a crossing pattern, only to have the ball stripped away by a defender who returned it all the way to the 2-yard line, setting up the Bulls to go ahead 14-12. A couple of fumbled handoffs really cost the Bulls, as Diamonds QB Keymolen began to use his legs more and more as the game went on. This led to him scoring the eventual game-winning touchdown on a QB draw. In fact, he was the most dangerous player on the field, well supported by his offensive line, C Glenn Resman in particular.
Both teams have plenty to work on, especially in the passing game, but both defenses were strong, and the coaches have plenty to work with. I expect both teams to get better going forward. The Bulls should be able to put their bye week to good use so that they’re ready to face the Lions in two weeks’ time.
Game Two – Leuven Lions 23, Gent Gators 0
I had expected more from Gent, perhaps unfairly. Rumors had reached me that Kim Jolie wasn’t starting at QB any more, but I’m not really sure I believed them (perhaps I just didn’t want to?) until sure enough, he’s starting at Safety against the Lions. I don’t know what the wisdom was there, perhaps the player asked for it, I don’t know, but the Gators didn’t look like the offensive force they were last year.
The game started out scrappily. Penalties, turnovers and some bizarreness on a Gator punt return that I didn’t see because I thought the play was over were a large part of the early game. Leuven took over with superior special teams play, and a few flashes of brilliance from their WR #30.
By the time the game was truly underway, the Lions looked comfortable in offense, RB #25 making solid yards and FB/LB Kristof Grenson making an impact whenever he came onto the field. By comparison, the Gators lacked composure on offense, racking up three false starts and one illegal formation penalty on the one drive (which went three and out).
I must admit I didn’t see the last couple of minutes because I was tired of freezing my butt off (must get more organised for the next games), so I went home. However I figured that Gent wouldn’t be making a comeback given how the game was going. I thought G #65 for Gent played a nice game, as did their FB Sander De Gussem, but it’s going to take a more determined effort from all their players if they’re to improve. In general though, they need to give their QB more time to throw, as their starter was constantly under pressure and hit several times as he released the ball, causing poor passes and interceptions.
I thought Leuven looked the most smooth of all four teams on display today, they seemed to be the most complete team. However that doesn’t neccessarily mean that I’d choose them to defeat, say, Antwerp, as the Diamonds have a way of imposing their style of football upon their opponents.
The Bulls look to be extremely young again, and with seemingly all new players at the skill positions it may take them some time to get rolling. As for the Gators, they also seemed to have a lot of new players, so again, we shouldn’t judge too early in the season – however their lack of composure was worrying. Too many penalties, especially concentration penalties like false starts and illegal formation, things that can be avoided. I’m sure they’ll improve this year as they get more used to each other.
Players of the Week
Antwerp QB Elliott Keymolen. He looked elusive when he ran with the ball, but he’s also got the intelligence to get out of bounds if required. A little more polish in the pocket and he’ll be a good one.
Leuven C #56, and G #50. Both worked hard all game, getting to the second level and #50 pulling effectively, springing Lion running backs on more than one occassion.
Leuven WR #30. Explosive player when running with the ball. I think as a defense you’d prefer not to let this guy get his hands on the ball too often. Think Percy Harvin Jr.
Ten thoughts I think I think
1 – I think I need to write down who actually scored the touchdowns. Sorry people, I was busy trying to acquaint myself with four teams full of players that I had never seen before.
2 – I think it’s easy to criticise from the sidelines, however I found all teams’ kicking game as flat as a Pommy beer*. Only Leuven’s kicker and punter were to standard (though I wouldn’t expect anything less from the Lions). Note to all punters – you’re supposed to step in the direction of where you want the ball to go, not sideways.
3 – I think I missed the funniest play of the day because I was watching the Gators secondary. By all accounts, the FB of the Lions, who had come in motion, just flattened his own QB on the way past. I don’t think that counts as a sack, but perhaps it should!
4 – I think another bizarre play was the Diamonds taking a knee at the end of their game. QB Keymolen took the ball and just stood there for a few seconds until being told to kneel down. Diamonds didn’t practice the Victory formation at training?
5 – I think I’m forgetting to mention the play where Bulls P #84 tried to punt the ball away but missed, and then kicked the ball while it was lying on the ground! Well spotted by Titans President Hans De Leenheer, who reminded us all that that’s not a legal thing to do. Although, in reality, it’s only illegal if they throw a flag!
6 – I think the new Gators jerseys looked really nice. Black with white numbers and flashes of ochre on the sides.
7 – I think it was nice to see people from all 8 FFL teams in Gent. The Angels, Shotguns, Titans and Tribes were all represented in the stands.
8 – I think I liked the way the Diamonds used their ex-QB, Michael Vervaet. He lined up all over the place, from in the slot to running back, and everywhere in between.
9 – I think that the hamburger I bought at the ground was pretty good. Nice to have some warmth as that wind was blowing in our faces all game. Next time I should bring a thermos full of warm chocolate milk.
10 – I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week
– I had a good time of it on the road for my first long drive alone, nothing worrying or unusual happened, so I’ll be making the trip to Berendrecht next week.
– How about those Spurs in the NBA? Can they possibly threaten the Lakers in the West? Surely they won’t have the legs that late in the season.
– Been watching so little TV lately. Now that the NFL is done, I have lots of extra time. However, I have been using it to write this blog!
– I know, I know, it’s not real, but – Finally, The Rock has come back to the WWE!
Quote of the week
“Run support” – Black Angels WR/QB Bart Killens, when I asked him what he thought the Lions Free Safety was doing lined up 30 yards from the line of scrimmage.
February 27 – Berendrecht, (Antwerp Diamonds)
12:00 – Brussels Black Angels (0-0) v Leuven Lions (1-0)
15:00 – Antwerp Diamonds (1-0) v Bornem Titans (0-0)
Thanks to everyone for your kind comments and also to those who helped me out with a few questions I had (you know who you are). I have had heaps of hits on the website today, I think probably people who are waiting to read this update. However, my self imposed deadline is 9:00pm, and you can believe me, I use every minute of it! Hopefully this post meets your expectations, let me know.
Thursday’s edition will feature the mailbag, plus a look forward to the weekends’ games, including the Battle of Antwerp. Until then!
* ‘As flat as a Pommy beer’ is an Australian phrase, in this case meaning ‘not very good’.