It’s over. Belgian Bowl XXV has been played and won, and that means it’s a well deserved off-season for everybody. Let’s see what went down on a dry Saturday evening in Ostend.
Brussels Tigers 46, Antwerp Diamonds 6
Well, where shall I begin? Let’s start with the victors – this was a fantastic performance. Dominant in all three phases, controlled the line of scrimmage, won the turnover battle, had less penalties. Every possible indicator that you could think of – they won it. The Diamonds certainly can play better, but they also weren’t allowed to, because the Tigers were all over them, all of the time.
The Diamonds never got a hold of the Tigers’ blitzes at all, leaving returning QB Keymolen on his back or running for his life all too often. That Keymolen was even playing quarterback was a surprise, this was mostly done so that Iron Man Borra could play at Fullback due to serious injury problems at that position. At any rate, the Tigers could control the game whether they had the ball or not.
The Tigers started the game with a bang, RB Abdelaoui taking a handoff on the first play from scrimmage all the way to the house, leaving the Diamonds down by six before they even realised that the game had started. After this initial excitement the game settled down to what would be a familiar pattern of the Diamonds not gaining much territory (and giving away much of what they did gain through penalties) and the Tigers marching up and down the field.
However, they wouldn’t score again until into the second quarter when RB Abdeloui took a pitch, rolled out right and threw a long pass which was caught by WR Lionel Denis, again the two point conversion was no good and it was 12-0 for the LFFAB Champions.
Things went from bad to worse for the Diamonds as QB Keymolen was intercepted and only a desperation tackle from HB Smet prevented a touchdown, but it was only a short delay as HB Salcuni scored from 1 yard out to make it 18-0.
The Diamonds appeared to have caught a break when a Tigers pick-six by DB Simoes was called back for defensive holding, but on the very next play, the Diamonds QB was sacked by Tigers defender Lawrence Jones and the fumble was recovered by DL Steven De Cock. The next play was a Tigers catch for a short gain augmented by a facemask and an unsporstmanlike conduct penalty against the Diamonds on the same play, which led to a simple QB De Coninck to WR Van Rijsbergen 4-yard touchdown catch. So at half time it was 24-0 and the game was as good as done (although to be honest, I had picked the game to finish 24-14 to the Tigers in the Gators guessing competition and was clearly hoping for some fireworks from the Diamonds).
Alas it wasn’t to be, as Abdelaoui scored yet again, this time on a 25-yard pick six, a successful two point conversion making it 32-0.
The Diamonds finally got great field position after a poor punt and a penalty and were able to make it count, TE Verhelst able to find a little room on a 9-yard touchdown catch. The two point conversion was no good but at least the Diamonds had avoided getting shut out.
I must be honest and say that after this point I don’t have any stats. This is because when the play was up the other end of the field, I just couldn’t see the Tigers’ players numbers any more. The lighting was not great and maybe I’m getting a bit old too but I’m afraid I couldn’t see properly any more.
So all I can really say is that the Tigers scored twice more in the final quarter and the game ended a rather awkward 46-6.
Antwerp’s TE Joris Verhelst took home the offensive MVP award, and Brussels’ LB Casteels was defensive MVP. It may interest you to know that it was actually me who chose the winners. How did I decide? Well, I started with the best player on the field, and that was Frederic Casteels, no doubt. I know I’ve only seen him play this one game but I would go as far as to say that he’s the best player I saw all season. This left me to pick an Antwerp player on offense and Verhelst might not have gotten the ball all that much (then again, which Diamond did?) but he was the most dangerous threat the Diamonds had.
So what did we learn from this game going forward? That the Tigers are now the benchmark in Belgium. I don’t know if the Atlantic Cup is being organised or where that might be, but I sure hope so, because I’d be most curious to see how they would fare against some European competition.
As for the Diamonds, I’m sure that they have a bitter taste in their mouth, not from the fact that they lost, but just the way they played. I know, and they know, that they had more than what they showed on Saturday. But like I wrote on the facebook page when I got home after the game, the Diamonds should be proud of their season, they achieved a hell of a lot and did what had never been done before – qualifying for the Belgian Bowl from the #3 spot.
Play of the game
If you were a bit late sitting down then you probably missed it – the first play from scrimmage and the Tigers RB Abdelaoui takes a handoff to the right, bounces outside and takes it 55 yards to the house.
Play of the pre-game
I have a hatred of ceremonial kickoffs (there is nothing worse as a kicker than to have to wait while someone who has never even seen a kicking tee before waves their foot at the ball and dribbles it three yards away – believe me, I know). However, this time, Carl Hoefkens almost drilled the pigskin for a touchback.
Quotes of the game
“Another flag on the field. Looks like not everyone is ready to go home just yet” – game commentator Jurgen Nijs
“That is one ugly jersey” – quite a few people, including Pieter De Muynck and Jeroen Vanhauwere, who seem to think that I look better in burgundy than in black!
So this was the final game report that I’ll write (or perhaps the last one until I get fired by the Gators – we’ll see about that!).
Those who were at the game – nice to see you. Those who weren’t – well, you either had the best excuse in the world not to be there, or you aren’t football fans. You missed out.
There will be one more blog post, probably next Wednesday, not sure yet, depends when I finish it, because I still have one or two things that need to be said. Until then