So here we are, just three days before the semi-finals and what a pair of match-ups we have got. I know it’s dangerous to think such things, but I’m expecting the two best games of the season on Sunday, and the reason is simple. I’m sure all four teams planned on being in the semi-finals this season, and I’m equally sure that none of the teams plan on watching the Belgian Bowl from the stands. All that adds up to four teams who will give their all so they can have a shot at becoming National Champions!
Games this weekend
@ Evere – 14:00 – Brussels Black Angels v Brussels Tigers
Last match : May 16, 2010 : Tigers 34, Angels 7
I’m afraid that this is going to be one of those “I don’t really know much about the LFFAB team” previews. What do I know about the Tigers? Well, they had complete dominance over the rest of the LFFAB, the closest game they had all year was a 28-2 win over the Fighting Turtles. Traditionally, this sort of season doesn’t really translate into post-season success, however, the Black Angels don’t have the best record in these semi-final games either, going 3-4 over the last 7 years, including being pounded 34-7 by the Tigers in Evere last year.
I have seen some good things from the Angels this year. Where I think they’ve improved over previous years is their maturity and patience. It was traditional FFL wisdom that if you got ahead of the Angels early they would self-destruct and beat themselves, but that’s not the case any more. They were down against the Tribes early in the season, and while they didn’t complete the comeback, there most certainly was a big charge to get back into the game, and it could have gone the other way. Last week against the Turtles, they dominated possession and territory in the first half but didn’t get down on themselves when they couldn’t score, and when things did start going their way, they poured on the points.
And this is why I think the Angels can get it done, and also because the Tigers haven’t played a match this season where they’ve had to work for it. Walking over teams 80-0 is no preparation for the Angels defense (5 shutouts in a row and counting!). I don’t expect it to be easy and I don’t expect Brussels to be able to continue that amazing streak, but when it’s close at the end I have to believe that they can make a crucial play at the vital moment.
However, I’m not just dismissing the Tigers beacuse of who they played this year, the same thing happened last year and they won comfortably. It happened last year because of turnovers – you can’t give any opponent a short field too many times in a game because eventually it’ll come back to haunt you. I just feel like the Angels always had the bodies to win big games, but the difference is that now they have their heads screwed on right.
Computer says : Tigers by 5. I say : Angels by 7
@ Izegem – 14:00 – Brussels Bulls v West Flanders Tribes
Since 2000 : Tribes 6, Bulls 0
Last match : March 20, 2011 : Tribes 26, Bulls 22
My biggest regret this season is missing the first game between these two teams, so I’m rather excited to have a re-match. From all reports their first game was an absolute barn-burner, so the obvious question is – can they do it again?
Why? Because the Bulls are better than they were back in March. No team has a better offensive line than the Bulls. No team has more options at running back than the Bulls. Their quarterback has a great arm, even if he doesn’t use it all that often. They have great team speed on defense. They’re very well organised and coached. Their kicking game is second to none.
However, the Tribes are better than they were back in March. Their defense has been modified. They have playmakers all over the field, offense, defense and special teams. They can score from anywhere on the field, at any time. They only know how to win.
Both teams know that if they play poorly on Sunday, they will lose. I think this will bring out the best in both teams and we’ll have a spectacular match. Both teams can score in bunches (the 22 scored by the Bulls in their previous match was the highest score to lose a game in the FFL this season), and neither team is lacking in confidence.
Something to watch for is the discipline of the teams. The Tribes are All-World as far as penalties go, but if they give up a heap of free yards to the Bulls, it will cost them. Also look for the special teams to make a difference, especially the clash between the Bulls kicking game and the Tribes returners. Otherwise it’s just about fundamentals – not dropping passes, not missing tackles, not blowing assignments, not turning the ball over. The team that makes the least mistakes will win.
For me, the Tribes just have so much experience in big game situations that I think they’ll get over the line. However the Bulls will certainly not go quietly, and I’m predicting an extremely close game.
Computer says : Tribes by 6. I say : Tribes by 6 in overtime
Mo Jablonka, Louvain-la-Neuve
“Dale, thank you for your comments about our team, we appreciate it, it was a such great experience for us to play in this wild card game, we learn a lot by playing at a higher level. We certainly have a lot of work for next year, and our kids are ready to improve. Special thanks to President Lesley Moreels for his support, he showed us the right way to follow with the Bulls program. We wish all the best for the Top 4 teams.”
No problem, it’s easy to find nice words about a team that plays hard at all times. And anyway, Jones told me not to write anything bad about you guys 😉
Bram Wydooghe, Izegem
“So it’s three Brussels teams and the Tribes. The capital versus the Far West ! Sounds like 19th century history from the USA. I’m sure both semis will be absolutely thrilling !! Really looking forward to the Tribes-Bulls game, I’m hoping for an overtime game in Izegem… (I think that has never happened in the latter stages of the Belgian competition -> Dale, I’m sure you can sort that out for me)”
To my knowledge there has never been an overtime game, but I don’t go all that far back. I’m pretty sure there hasn’t been one in the last decade but only the dinosaurs know what happened before that!
Roger Kelly, europlayers.com
“I love your blogs and thoughts and that is why I put it in front of the thousands of members we have on Europlayers every week. Not sure I agree with the Tigers in front of the Tribes, given what happened on the weekend. I would love to be able to place a Belgian team in our Top 21 in Europe someday. But keep up the great work and I know how much work it is. By the way, ” Scorecasting” is a great read and opened my eyes to the myths of “home field advantage”.”
Thankyou, I’m flattered! I don’t really agree with Tigers ahead of Tribes either, to be honest. After each season I go over the ranking system and make improvements and there are definitely some to be made this year.. Maybe I’ll learn something from ‘Scorecasting’. As for the top 21, I’m guessing we have a long way to go before a Belgian team gets ranked!
Picture of the week
Before I leave, I just want to direct all of your attention to the rulebook, specifically “Rule 3-1-3 : Extra periods”. Should a game be tied after regulation, there is a coin toss, and the team on offense get the ball at their opponents 25 yard line. Once they either score or turn the ball over, the other team get a possession, also from their opponents 25 yard line – most points wins. In other words, overtime is played under NCAA rules and not under NFL rules. This is actually the weekend when overtime is most likely, as there are two games and the teams should be evenly matched. I just want you all to be prepared, should it happen.
To all players and coaches, have a good game, and for all the fans, go and check out a game, you’ve got a great choice! Until next time