Every great setting deserves a great game, and every great game deserves a great setting. We had both in Ostend on Saturday, really amazing work having been done by the organisers and both teams leaving nothing on the field (besides a few empty cups blown on by the almost gale-force winds). More than 1200 spectators showed up to see what was one of the best games in Belgian American Football history. The Football Gods saw that it was good and were kind to us with plenty of sun and we all stayed dry. The game itself was a hard but fair slugfest with both teams giving the best of themselves, and it went right down to the final minute, which is exactly how it should be.
Game review : West-Flanders Tribes 20, Brussels Black Angels 14
Yet again, it’s the boys from West Flanders who sit atop the Belgian Football League with their official 50th consecutive win. As if this hasn’t been repeated enough, it’s their sixth straight BFL title, and they’ve won 8 of the last 12 national championships. How did they do it this time?
The Tribes won the toss and received but were forced to punt after making just one first down. The Angels went three-and-out and punted the ball to WR Goncharov. This was a rather bad move as he wove down the left sideline for 70 yards on the punt return and put the first points on the board. K Dossche made the extra point and the Tribes led 7-0.
The Angels leant on their running game and were rewarded when RB Trouillez took a handoff to the right side, found a gap in the defense and took it 50 yards to the house, the kick from K Godichal was good and the game was tied at 7-7.
The ensuing kickoff went for a touchback, so the Tribes went to work from their own 20. They were forced to punt, but it was fumbled by the Angels returner and pounced upon by Tribes S Monserrez, giving them the ball back with excellent field position. They could move themselves into a first and goal situation, the second down pass from QB Vermaut to WR Laleman was a touchdown but it was called back on a holding call. After changing ends for quarter time, QB Vermaut found his favourite target WR Goncharov in the corner of the endzone for another touchdown. The kick was again good and the Tribes lead 14-7. The score would stay the same right up until the start of the 4th quarter.
In the middle of the game, neither team really threatened to score, the only possibilty of scoring was a long missed field goal attempt by K Laleman for the home team. The last offensive plays for the Tribes in both the 2nd and 3rd quarters were interceptions by S Flamand, but neither would lead to a score from the Angels. Defense totally dominated during the middle half of the game. The Tribes sacked QB Njufom twice in a row at one point, first by LB Jamin, and then by LB Verheyen and DE Dossche, and both teams running games were ground to a halt by strong defenses – passing being made difficult by the windy conditions.
Eventually, the Angels did answer back, a 25 yard catch by WR T Bouron from QB Njufom for a touchdown on a double move was followed by the extra point and again the score was tied, this time at 14-14. The Angels had gotten excellent field position after a sack shared between LB Dosunmu and LB Goffeau had caused a fumble and the Angels took over on the Tribes 20 yard line, which led to the touchdown only a couple of plays later. There were only about ten minutes remaining at this point and the first rumblings about overtime had begun in the stands.
After a big 36-yard kickoff return by RB George, the Tribes went to work. WR Goncharov had 3 catches on the drive as the Tribes made it on three straight third down conversions, including a toe-tapper on the sideline for a 10-yard gain by WR Goncharov on a 3rd and 9. After 10 plays on the drive the Tribes had first and goal from the 4 yard line which was pounded in by RB George to the right, busting a couple of tackles along the way, for what would end up being the game winning score. The snap on the extra point was a bit high and the conversion was failed, leaving it precariously balanced at 20-14 for the home team.
The Angels were forced into a 4th down and chose to show faith in the defense and punt the ball away. The defense didn’t let their coach down as they stopped FB Ryckelynck and RB George and got the ball back to have one last shot at it. The Angels took the aerial route, QB Njufom completing a couple of passes to WR Delhaisse but they were unable to hook up on the fourth down conversion, handing the ball back to the Tribes and leaving them only to take a knee to end the game.
Both teams had to do it tough with injuries in what was a hard but clean game. The Tribes had numerous players forced to the sideline during play (though they could mostly continue) and the Angels were forced to do it without their star HB Banza.
The crowd were entertained by the high quality match that they got to see. Sometimes finals can be ugly affairs as teams are more afraid to lose than they dare to win, but that was certainly not the case in this game. Both teams went at it as hard as they could right to the last play, and we can all be proud of the effort that they all put in. I must admit I was a little worried that this game could turn out to be a bit nasty, but respect to all players for walking the fine line and playing it as hard as possible while staying within the rules. OK, each team had 2 personal fouls (Tribes one late hit and one facemask, Angels one late hit and one chop block) but I didn’t see anything that was really unsportsmanlike. This also merits a congratulations to the coaches for keeping their players focussed on football.
Tribes total offensive yards : 199. Black Angels total offensive yards : 185.
Players of the week
Angels RB Trouillez. The game’s leading rusher piled up 106 yards on just 17 carries and scored 1 touchdown on a 50-yard run.
Tribes DE/K Dossche. Another big game and he was rewarded with an MVP trophy. He had 6.5 tackles, 1 pass knocked down and .5 sacks. Also he kicked 2/2 extra points and had 3 kickoffs with an average of 55 yards.
Tribes WR Goncharov. He always comes through on the big stage, this time with 10 catches for 102 yards and 1 touchdown. Also scored on a 70-yard punt return.
Angels LB Fiquet. A tireless worker, led the game in tackles with 7 (5 solo and 4 assists), plus played on the offensive line and recovered a fumble.
Quotes of the week
“That’s why you pick me!” – Tribes DE Stijn Dossche was happy to collect his MVP award after the game
“Wiiiiiiiilllyyy!!!! Dale, what are the stats for Willy?” – My new favourite team, the Gent Gators, found someone that they could cheer for! Incidentally, he had 5 flags thrown.. just kidding – my stats are good but they are not that good!
Stat of the week
The Angels threw just one pass the entire first half. It was knocked down at the line of scrimmage. Just shows you how tough the wind was.
The plans for the blog are currently the following. Thursday will be your mailbag and next Monday will be the final blog of the FFL season. I’ll end with a season review and that will be that.. until later in the year, of course. Then I’ll see what I can knock up college football wise, and come February (or earlier, that depends on what there is to talk about) my FFL thoughts will fire up again. Yes, I’ll be back – I’ve had too much fun to stop now! Don’t forget to let me know if you have any ideas for the blog for next season, it’s never too early to think about it.
By the way, it was fun to see many of you at the Belgian Bowl. Like I’ve said throughout the season, the best way to watch football is to do it with a bunch of mates, and there sure was a bunch of you in Ostend. I’m sure the organisers, the players and at least one referee were happy to see you all there!
The final word goes out to the volunteers and organisers of the day itself. I won’t start naming you because there are too many for that, but you know who you are. Saturday was a tremendous advertisment for the game and I hope that the hype surrounding this game continues and leads to more players, more sponsors and more football in Belgium!
I promised a full statistical analysis of the Belgian Bowl and it’s coming, but that is a lot of work (much more than just writing this – but you guys will never have seen anything like it before though, trust me). I hope to be done by the end of the week. Until Thursday