Finally the Belgian Bowl is on the horizon. It all seemed so far away on a cold, windy afternoon in Gent four months ago. Since then, two teams have emerged from the pack as the best football outfits in the country, and it’s those worthy teams who will fight it out in Ostend for Belgian Bowl XXIV.
Introducing the Brussels Black Angels
These Angels are big and tough, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that they’re slow. Their defense had 6 shutouts in 8 FFL games and swarms to ball carriers, often before they’ve had a chance to try to get away. Their offense is based on the power run and their backfield is the best in the league thanks to two top-5 MVP candidates, RB Trouillez and HB Banza. They can pass the ball too, with veteran QB Njufom and a wide array of receivers. So expect hard-nosed football from this team, they can grind it out on offense and pound you on defense.
Introducing the West Flanders Tribes
The Tribes have a very balanced offense, led by MVP RB George. However be wary of jamming the box with extra defenders because they’ve got speed to burn on the outside with WR Goncharov. Their defensive strength are their linebackers, OLBs Verheyen and Jamin guarding the outside while ILBs Stepman and DeGrendele patrol the middle. They’ve shown more patience on offense than in years past, and their defense is as solid as ever – bend but don’t break.
Keys to the game
– Start well. The Tribes jumped out early in their last matchup and the Angels couldn’t quite make it up, although they got very close.
– Don’t kick to Goncharov. He’s an extremely dangerous returner and it’s just not worth the risk.
– Stop the Tribes sweep. Teams have been trying for years but nobody has done it consistently. If you can take this away from them, then you can force them into doing things that they’re less used to doing.
– Stop the run. Make them throw the ball more than they would like, especially with the windy conditions.
– Don’t drop balls. Too many passes have hit the dirt this year than should have. In a big game, it can be the difference between hoisting the trophy and watching as the other team do it.
– Stay disciplined. The Angels can make enough yards of their own, the last thing you want to do is give them extras.
Since 2000 : Tribes 12, Black Angels 2, Tied 2
Last 3 matches :
March 6, 2011 – Tribes 20, Black Angels 7. March 28, 2010 – Tribes 33, Black Angels 7. February 22, 2009 – Tribes 13, Black Angels 7.
It’s clear that the Tribes have had the Angels’ number over the last years, but that’s to be expected as they’ve had everybody’s number. The Angels were much closer in their most recent game than the scoreline suggested. Different from then for Brussels is that their starting quarterback is back under center, which allows WR Killens back to his more normal position on the outside.
The Black Angels will win Belgian Bowl XXIV because..
they are mentally a different team from the past. They don’t panic when they get behind. They don’t get frustrated when things don’t go to plan. The loss of OT Meys is huge, but the last time the Angels played against the Tribes, he didn’t play tackle either, he played tight end. This means that the Brussels coaches already have a plan.
Tactically, this is a more offensively balanced team than in the past, as they mix in more short and deep passes. Defensively, they don’t wait for the offense to come to them, rather they go after it hard and force mistakes from their opponents through their blitzing and pass-rushing. Their secondary are also extremely dangerous, if any of them get their hands on the ball they are a threat to take it to the house.
The Tribes will win Belgian Bowl XXIV because..
you can’t stop everybody on their offense. You can’t double-team WR Goncharov exclusively because that opens running lanes for RB George. You can’t load the box with 8 because that opens the pass to TE Brutyn and WR DeGroote. And even if you can somehow cover everybody, you’ve still got to account for QB Vermaut running with the ball.
Their defensive line can pressure the quarterback while their linebackers hold the next level. CB Van Marcke is the best tackling cornerback in the league and FS Huyghe is a threat to any passing attack with his quick break to the ball.
There’s nothing like a bit of controversy
As I mentioned before, the Angels will be without the services of their All-FFL OT Bart Meys, who was suspended for striking an opponent during the Angels semi final match against the Tigers.
I didn’t see the incident, and I don’t really know Bart personally (we played national team together), but he always struck me as a professional guy and when I heard what had happened my first reaction was “The Terminator? You’re kidding me, right?”.
I do understand that the FFL and/or the BFL won’t reverse a decision made by the referees, because doing so would open up a can of worms* that would result in every single refereeing decision being challenged by everybody. On the other hand, if he really didn’t deserve to be ejected (doesn’t look like it from the photos, but, I know, photos can be deceiving) then it’s a terrible shame for the guy, and for his team, to have done nothing wrong and miss the biggest game of the year.
The computer says Tribes by 2. I think this is a fairly logical pick, after all the Tribes are undefeated and it is a home game (although I’m expecting lots of Angels fans in Ostend too). It’s going to be windy, and the Tribes are used to that.
However, there is a fine line between confidence and over-confidence, and if you ask me, too many people from West-Flanders are standing on the wrong side of that line. If the Tribes think that they will walk over the Angels, then they will lose. It’s going to take their best game to lift the trophy yet again.
The Black Angels are going to throw everything they’ve got at the Tribes, and in a close game, just one bounce of the ball can be the difference between winning and losing. It’s going to be a close one and the team that can keep themselves together for longer will come out on top. The Angels are much improved and they have the best chance of anyone to beat the Tribes in a Belgian Bowl in six years. The more I think about it, the more I like their chances. But, I did say that I won’t pick against the Tribes until they actually lose a game. Somehow they still pull it out each and every time plus, like I said, it’s a home game. Statistics tell us that home field advantage in NCAA football is worth 3 points.
Prediction : Tribes 20 – Black Angels 17
Curtis Plybon, Brussels
“I keep a personal “checklist” of items I would love to see in the BFL. Items, large and small, that would make the league more similar to Football in the U S, and thus make the sport a lot more fun for all. Until this year, one of those missing pieces, was “Sport Reporting”. From reading the above, you have a done a great job filling that void. For that I, along with many others are quite thankful to you.”
Thanks Coach! ‘Just trying to generate a little excitement’ was I think how I described this blog in the early days. But I’m keen to hear what else is on your checklist!
Oli, Harelbeke / Brussels
“Dale, thank you for having me in your All-FFL team, but it’s a team sport and in my case if I didn’t have my Tackle Lionel & my Guard Denis, I would be nowhere”
That’s true. We’ve all played this game and we know that nobody does it alone. Great teammates not only make life easier on the field, but they keep it interesting on the sidelines as well!
Looking forward to seeing you all there, it’s going to be a great game, and it would appear that the EFAF President is going to be there as well! Let’s all just be on our best behaviour, shall we? To all the players and coaches, have a great game and enjoy the day! The time for talking is over – let’s play football. Until Saturday
* If you open up a can of worms, you always need a bigger can to put them back in.