22 – Thursday mailbag

Only three weeks left in the regular season and still five teams are alive for a playoff spot. Two teams can clinch this weekend, a win would put the Black Angels or the Tribes (or both) back into the postseason yet again. I believe this would be the 10th postseason in a row for the Angels, and the 6th straight for the Tribes. Meanwhile, the Diamonds, Lions and Gators have only their pride left to fight for, the latter two kicking things off in a most interesting matchup in Izegem.

Games this weekend

@ Leopoldsburg – 12:00 – Antwerp Diamonds v Brussels Black Angels

Since 2000 : Black Angels 8, Diamonds 7

Last match : April 10, 2011 – @ St Agatha – Black Angels 54, Diamonds 0

Here’s a rematch of a game from last weekend, and if you read the blog on Monday, I don’t think anybody is really looking forward to another Angels – Diamonds game. However, that’s what the schedule says, and that’s what is going to happen.

I don’t need to tell you that this is going to be tough for Antwerp, but there are several areas where they can make an immediate improvement. They’ll welcome back a couple of offensive linemen who were suspended for the last game, and they were sorely missed, as the Angels defensive line spent the whole game in the Diamonds backfield. This left the Antwerp backs with no room to move. Also on defense they should be far better prepared for what they’ll see.

As for the Angels, more of the same will suffice. They scored on offense, defense, special teams, with starters and with backups last week. They also have a goal this week, win and they’re in!

@ Leopoldsburg – 15:00 – Brussels Bulls v Limburg Shotguns

Since 2000 : Bulls 1, Shotguns 0

Last match : March 14, 2010 – @ Anderlecht – Bulls 35, Shotguns 14

The Bulls still sit in fourth place in the FFL, half a game behind the Titans, and that means that every game is crucial for them, as one slip-up could be fatal. The Shotguns, on the other hand, aren’t eliminated from playoff contention but they must win this game, and it wouldn’t hurt for some other results to go their way as well.

For the Shotguns, if they want to pass the ball, then they’re going to have to protect their quarterback, as the Bulls defensive line are among the best going around. Their quarterback has the ability to carve up any secondary, but he can’t do it while lying on the ground. The Shotguns’ defensive line have an equally important job to do slowing down the Bulls ground game and their multitude of running backs.

The Bulls caused turnovers all over the place last week, and by getting pressure on the quarterback they’ll be looking for more of the same this week. On offense they play a very controlled running game, and it has been most effective so far in combination with a sneaky dangerous pass game.

@ Izegem – 12:00 – Gent Gators v Leuven Lions

Since 2000 : Lions 5, Gators 2

Last match : February 20, 2011 – @ Gent – Lions 23, Gators 0

It’s official, the loser of this game is going to be the strongest team in the FFL*. Both teams have injuries, both teams had at least 50 points hung on them last week, and both teams are going to try like hell to avoid having the number one pick in the 2012 FFL draft, as it were.

I think this will be definitely a game worth watching. Gent try to balance it out on offense but must do a better job of protecting the football, so hopefully for them they got all their turnovers out last week. Leuven’s defense will want to muscle up after being torched for 50 points and forcing the Tribes to punt just once. That’s not a question of one or two players needing to improve, but the whole defensive unit will need to pull together.

It’s a similar story for the Lions offense. Their coaches will want to instill some confidence back into their offense so they can get the chains moving and the scoreboard ticking over against a Gators defense that was too flexible against the run last week. The Gators have an opportunistic defense but are inconsistent, and it’s this that the Lions will want to take advantage of.

@ Izegem – 15:00 – Bornem Titans v West Flanders Tribes

Since 2000 : Tribes 6, Titans 0

Last match : May 2, 2010 – @ Izegem – Tribes 42, Titans 23

The Tribes defense has stepped up recently, dominant in registering shutouts in their last two games, but this time they’re facing a potential playoff team who scored a truckload of points themselves last week. Most of the Titans’ points came on the ground last week, and it’s just that facet of the game that the Tribes pride themselves on, with their surprisingly quick linemen and solid linebacking core. So going air mail could be a nice option for Bornem, but they’ll have to deal with the Tribes pass rush before they can consider taking shots downfield.

The Tribes offense are one of the most balanced going around, and it’s just that that’s so tough to defend. They have so many weapons that eventually you’ll find yourself not being able to stop them all. However they are weakened along the offensive line with a couple of more inexperienced players being called on to fill in, which the Titans might be able to take advantage of. The Titans will want to force turnovers at every opportunity, and they have the sort of defense that can do it. Look for the Tribes to sprinkle in a variety of reverses and play actions to keep the defense on their toes.

Man v Machine

Bad news for the computer as it missed another game, giving it 8 in total. I nailed all 4 for the second straight week giving me 11 overall.

This week I have : Angels by 35, Bulls by 27, Gators by 6, Tribes by 17

This week the computer has : Angels by 13, Bulls by 15, Lions by 2, Tribes by 11

Mailbag

Law, Brussels

“Do you think the BFL should be divided into 1st and 2nd divisions?”

Hmmm.. That’s definitely the trickiest question I’ve been asked all year. I am a fan. Not just of one team or one player but of all teams, and all players. I don’t like to see teams being pounded 50-0, the players who lose don’t like it and mostly the players who win don’t like it either.

Fact : The top 4 teams (Tribes, Angels, Titans, Bulls) are a combined 12-1 against the bottom 4 teams with 6 shutouts and an average score of 33-6.

You obviously can’t ask the better teams to not play so well, so what you need is the lower down teams to play better. Is this achieved by putting them in a second division? I don’t think so. It would stop most blowouts, that is true, but I don’t see how this would help the teams who’d end up in the second division.

And besides, you’re talking about the whole BFL, and I don’t think the FFL would really consider joining forces with our French speaking friends in the south. I may be wrong, I guess, but that’s my impression.

You could try to improve the level of coaching, football’s awareness level to attract more players, dare I suggest teams sometimes train together? Have a daycamp or something, not during the season, obviously. One comment I get a lot from players of many teams is “we don’t train much”, or “we never have enough people at training”, as if they think other teams do (as in, the Tribes). Trust me, in my 4 years there, I could count the number of times we ran full 11v11 with all seniors at training on one hand, and any coaches from that time will tell you about how frustrated I used to get at the quality of the trainings that we did have.

I bring it up often, but a reason I started trying to do this All-FFL team was to give people something to shoot for. Consider it my contribution to trying to raise everybody’s game. I played All-Star games and for Belgium and they were some of the best experiences I had playing football. They don’t exist any more and that’s sad because I know for myself I set out every season to be the best in the country in my position. Making a team like that was the confirmation I needed so I knew I had met my goal.

Guess I’m getting a bit off track here! The short answer, therefore, is no, because I don’t think you help the teams who would end up in division 2. If you’ve read through all that, you deserve a new section in the blog!

Picture of the week

Tribes LB/CB Van Marcke makes a tackle on Lions FB Grenson. This photo was taken by another ex-Tribes player, Lorenzo Janssens. Check out his other awesome photos and galleries here : http://www.flickr.com/photos/tribe98/collections/72157625897776800/

Outro

Not surprisingly, I’ll be in my second (or third, depends on how you look at it) home town of Izegem this week. And guess what people, it’s going to be nice weather again! Have a good game, everybody. Until next time.

* ‘The strongest team in the FFL’ is not a compliment. It means they have to hold all the other teams above them in the standings.

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21 Responses to 22 – Thursday mailbag

  1. Thomas Lezy says:

    Don’t you think it would just be better to let teams play more games against each other than just one. This will make the season longer and the games much more interesting. Teams will get to know each other a lot better which would make the games more exciting and close. It will also make the Tribes’ changes on another undefeated season smaller (nothing against the Tribes, but still). To play only 8 games, I think, is a bit short. You practice and wait for it for nearly 9 months and after a couple of weeks, it’s al over. For people who really love football, like me, playing only 8 games is a bit too little. (sorry for any spelling mistakes)

    • dalehousden says:

      I believe that the FFL/BFL are considering changes to the season structure already, so I guess we’ll see what comes from that. Personally I always thought the season was a bit short, but I was just the kicker – not sure what people would think who have to play both ways though.

  2. Chubby says:

    Great read Dale. You’re beating the machine at the moment 🙂

    Making the season longer might be an option, but there is a reason why it’s short.
    First of all, the bad weather we have here. We can’t start too early in the year (bad field conditions), and finishing late in the season (past june) isn’t an option. People have exams, go on holiday and so on. So it’s not that easy.
    Not a lot of room to schedule extra games I think, but I might be wrong.

    Plus, playing football is tough on your body.
    Lot’s of teams need the bye’s we have now to let some players recover from smaller injuries. Without the bye’s, that means more injuries that last longer.
    Most teams do not have a huge number of players and if you see how many injuries there are after only about 2 months, I wonder how many teams would end the season being able to field 11 on the offense and defense.

    If you want more games, start playing preaseason games and I mean, really preseason like september, october. You can squeeze a couple of games in before the season starts as well, so that’s 4 or 5 extra games.

    As for what Dale says on practices, yup, it’s frustrating at times. And Thomas, be glad that Tribes is practicing in 2 different locations. If we would be practicing as 1 unit all the time, I believe our level could even be higher.

  3. Brussels Bulls says:

    Every year we have the same discussion about more games…But be realistic and take a look at where the team are, nearing the end of the season. Many teams do not have more than 20 players and squads are thinning down game after game…And honnestly having coached a junior competition blowing out opponents in every game conceding only a TD and finnishing the game with the mercy rule before the end of regular time is not alot of fun…Its about quality of the game and not about quantity (compare with the Austrians) As for the long wait before the season we at the Bulls started senior practice in November …

    • Coach Stijn says:

      Hitching my wagon to our Team View. We have 60 Seniors and eligble Juniors for our Senior Squad. Between November and the end of the regular season we’ll have played 14 games (8 season, 6 prep games). This is about as much as the US college season including post season, 2 games more than the Highschool season and 2 games less than the NFL season.
      As a sport, actualy any contact sport, there is a high risk of injuries due to repetitive strain on the body. A Belgian Boksing star , Junior Bauwens has a fight every other month just for him to allow his boddy to recuperate.
      Within the Bulls we have to deal with these repetitive strain injuries aswell, atm we do this by having the sheer numbers of bodies (and good work outs, of course). If we had less players I would not be sure of our flexibility.

    • Dorian says:

      I’m with the Bulls on this one.
      Maybe another interesting topic to elaborate on for you Dale: what happened with the Belgian team? Back on the forum Bart set out last year there was this guy who said he was gonna tell what happened…of course, he did not bother coming back to actually do so.

      Maybe a better question is: split season or Austrian model (end of March until thrid week of June). Any idea on when the FFL is going to announce its ‘preference’? From what I understand from the text, it’s gonna take a while knowing it has to go through the LLFAB and then the BFL.

      • dalehousden says:

        ‘this guy’ was the coach of the team so I guess he’d know. I’ll ask him.
        I have no idea when the FFL want to announce anything. i’ll ask John. The FFL can make their decision whenever they want, it’s only after that that is has to go through the other leagues

    • Thomas Lezy says:

      And these blow outs don’t happen now? Look at last weekend. Teams get blown out in the senior competition as well, that’s just how some games are, some teams are just better than some other teams. By making the season longer I think you can undo this. Teams will be getting to know each other more. I know football is a contact sport, I broke my leg in the diamond bowl and haven’t played all year, but we could play some bad-weather games. Football is supposed to be played in the mud and the rain. The weather shouldn’t be stopping you from playing. What if you just played 3 or 4 games in October and November, have a winter break and play 6 or 7 from February till May? You’ve got two months to recuperate. I know pre season games are an altarnative but it’s still not the same. (Go Gators btw)

  4. Brussels Bulls says:

    The other evening I was at Fat Boys, an american sportsbar in Brussels and met someone who played with the Moescroen Redskins way back …And he was telling me that they used to practice in the beginning with motorcycle helmets….lol

  5. rein says:

    Hey Dale (and the rest),

    If you follow this Facebook link, you can get some snapshots from last weekend’s games in Leuven. I’ll be in Leopoldsburg this Sunday for some more action pics!

    Greetings and keep writing!

    Rein

  6. Bart says:

    Try this idea:
    We keep it FFL
    Every FFL team has a junior squad
    We play 14 games ( 7 games during october/november + 7 games during march/april + playoffs in may )
    Juniors: 10-11.30am || Seniors Game 1: 12.00-14.30pm || Seniors Game 2: 15.00-17.30pm
    Juniors would play on half a field so that the 2 games can be played at the same time. Maybe 8vs8 would be doable for teams who still need to create a team in 2011.

    This way you strech the season and Juniors can still have their season at the same time.

    The winter break would give the teams the time to heal injuries, to prepare the 2nd part when they play all the teams again. Sponsors and spectators want more games and players learn more from a competition game then a scrimmage. This would raise the level of play.

    If we have enough officials we could have 7 home games. But we would need 20 officials for FFL only. Wouldn’t happen in the next years :s

    • Coach Stijn says:

      Juniors as of 9v9 play on a full field and the eventual progress goal is to have them play 11v11.
      The 6v6 squads are really developmental and their purpose is to be either a stepping stone to creating a 9v9 squad or as a “second” junior team used for intraclub development.

  7. #32 LFFAB says:

    I don’t see what the problem is with the FFL & LFFAB merging together. I think it would raise our level of play. And allow any of our clubs to try to play the EuroBowl.

  8. CPT_INTERCEPTION says:

    the biggest problem with ffl and lffab together would be the distance.
    same withe having junior games at 10 when you have a game on a distance it would be a verry long day for some teams. like for the tribes is gent verry close and already 2 years we cant play at gent. maybe when they shedule games they should look at that fact to. try to make teams not to drive to far for the games. Like im glad we din’t need to drive all the way to limburg this season. nothing against limburg it’s just a long drive

    • X-Man says:

      That’s one of the most heard and the ridicule reason against a first/second division scheme. You can’t have a team playing the top, aiming for the euro scene, and cannot afford a trip of max 200 km (and only once in a while) ? Phhuulleezze …
      My idea: creating 1 first ‘national’ division of 6 teams (3 FFL Conference, 3 LFFAB Conference) and 2 regional (FFL and LFFAB) championships of 4 teams each.
      The champ of each regional championship goes in first division in his conference only IF the team meets certain criteria (number of players, budget, junior team, coaching staff, etc.) . You only have plusses: this scheme creates an ‘elite’ level of play and organizations. It also creates a regional ‘developmental’ level of competition for young or “reconstructing” teams (or teams that do not want to travel too far …). This would stimulate the teams to develop themselves, while preserving the regional scheme we have today.

      • Chubby says:

        Saying that distance is ridiculous is a bit far fetched. What applies for you, doesn’t necessarily apply to someone else. Some people do not like to drive that far for a game. I can understand that just as I can understand that other people don’t. With the gas prices going through the roof, distance is a valid argument or do you guys get paid to play?
        And no team in Belgian competition is playing ” the Euro scene”.
        The Atlantic cup is only 2 games. Tribes didn’t make the trip to Ireland because of the cost.

        There are other reasons why one could object against a merger.
        First of all, the split was there because of a reason.
        The Walloon teams at that time ( i stress, at that time) where not willing to move
        forward as quickly as the FFL. And it paid off. How many Walloon teams have been champions in the last years? Or even begin serious contenders?
        I sincerely hope that this is going to change in the future and I believe that this is already the case with the rise of the Tigers.

        I still see a significant difference in mentality towards the game in a lot of teams.
        The LLFAB conference only consists of 6 teams as opposed to 8 in the FFL.
        I believe the average level of play in the FFL is still higher than the LLFAB and only the top team in the LLFAB is a serious contender.

        As for your idea of a first division of 6 teams, at this time, the 3rd LLFAB team is going to have problems being competitive. The Bulls are 3rd now in the FFL, and their play is in my opinion a lot better than the level of the 3rd placed LLFAB team.
        So this would mean that you have a team that might be shut down in every game.

        If the LLFAB is serious about improving the level of play, a merger isn’t an answer, better organisation, coaching, training and so on, is.
        Practice more, check your playbooks, learn how to pass and do practice games against Dutch teams for instance. The level of play will rise. If a few teams do this, you’ll have a competition that’s as tough as the FFL, but you don’t need the FFL to make this happen.
        Last year we played the Tigers in the final, and I thought their play was of a high standard. Good technique and speed , creative plays. That’s what the LLFAB needs.
        I see too many teams run 80% of the time (mostly off tackle and through the middle) and passes that go no where. Fix that and you’ll get far in the play-offs as the Tigers have proven.

        I believe the LLFAB is close. If they can get 2 more teams to step up to that level, we might see a winner from LLFAB again.

      • BFL President says:

        Chubby states and underlines some interesting questions…When you see how the french speaking press / Pubic opinion is in up and arms because the first division soccer next year might only have 1 walloon team says enough on how something like that is politically sensitive. On the other hand and like you state Chubby …When you have all the organisational fundamentals in place than actually you shouldn’t have to drive…But then take a bus to go to games. And let’s not confuse this issue with the Atlantic Cup… It is another level and another discussion…I think as BFL we need to make sure that LFFAB will become more competitive and as BFL president one of my main goals is to make sure that LFFAB football becomes this competitive…for the sake of American Football in this country. Just so that you know it is not about quantity, it is about quality….and on how to increase the level of the game. Just for you info there are 3 to 4 teams in wallonia in embryonic stages…Alot of interesting ideas have been expressed but for me we shouldn’t have this discussion untill every team has a junior programme and where we, as a league can offer a decent coaching education programme (and yes this IS a priority of the BFL board too). Eaqual opportunity and a level playing field is fundamental …When that is in place we can start debating the discussion on a divisional system.
        Lesley MOREELS
        BFL President

      • X-Man says:

        Sorry, but I disagree with both of you.

        First, the league was split mostly for money reasons: BLOSO subsidizes Flemish only sports leagues and ADEPS does the same on the walloon part, thus the BFL was split to allow subsidization from those two. Interesting note : 7 years later, I still wait for the first euro from BLOSO or ADEPS.

        2, the level of play may seem lower in the LFFAB, but Tournai and Tigers have reached the Final the 2 last years … when did that happen for the last 4 FFL teams ? And the 3rd ranked LFFAB team, Turtles, may be far better than you think.

        3, I’m glad to hear that the BFL emphasizes decent coaching education (memo, it’s been 5 years without coaching certification …) and junior programs BUT what would you do with a team that can’t afford a junior program or that has only one level 1 coach or that is just beginning ? Mix them up with teams that have 40-60 players, 1-2 junior teams, 5-6 coaches and some players of U.S. HS-College level ? Or not allowing these lesser teams to play (and perhaps killing them in the process) until they meet the same criteria ?
        Wouldn’t be more useful to have a ‘developmental’ level for those teams, creating an environment where those teams can be succesful and grow ?
        And don’t you think an ‘Elite’ would create an emulation for the other teams to rejoin that level ?

    • #32 LFFAB says:

      I am in disagreement with what you say. I think road games build up team spirit. During those long rides players get to know each other on a level no one else could understand. Making it beneficial to the team and it’s cohesion.

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