EAFL semi-final previews: Barracudas v Foxes, Stallions v Wildcats
The 2016 Emirates American Football League (EAFL) season has reached the play-off stages and both semi-finals will take place at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi on Friday with a place at the Desert Bowl on March 18 at stake.
Barracudas v Desert Foxes
The two teams played each other in the final regular season game last week, but the 36-0 whitewash for the league-leading Barracudas will have little bearing on this EAFL semi-final. The Al Ain Desert Foxes have shown they can put up committed and workmanlike performances, running both Dubai Stallions and Abu Dhabi Wildcats close. If they can reproduce that type of form this weekend, they could yet spring the upset of the season.
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The Barracudas will be hoping its business as usual as they look to continue where they left off last week. They have the league’s leading offence in yards gained and points scored (155), and the best defence (12 points conceded). Quarterback Zavier Cobb has been consistent all season and with a triple threat of running backs in Luke Norrey, Lamar Jordan and Quinton Collins, they have the most productive and feared backfield in the EAFL.
“Despite a slow start in the first half of the season, we’ve started gathering some steam recently,” Barracudas coach Kyle Jordan said. “We’re playing pretty well on both sides of the ball, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement and consistency. The big thing is that the team is playing with confidence in themselves and each other. It’s confidence I haven’t seen in my four years with the organisation.”
The coach is pleased with how the squad has improved this year, especially the new additions.
“As the season has gone on, we’ve had a number of guys step up,” Jordan said. “There have been players that were inexperienced last year but have a better understanding of the game now. There have been new players that have joined and been able to make plays immediately. We’ve also managed to get some of those core players back.”
Al Ain coach Johnny Sharp say the high point of a difficult season for him is how the team has stuck together.
“The Desert Foxes got off to a slow start,” he said. “We are in a rebuilding year, and with that comes a lot of figuring each other out and building trust with teammates and coaches. Despite the results, my team is upbeat rather than down in the dumps with their heads down. They have learnt to find positive moments in every practice and every game, regardless of the outcome of either.
Dubai Stallions v Abu Dhabi Wildcats
There hasn’t been much to choose between the two teams all season, but now the two fierce rivals get to face-off with a place in the Desert Bowl IV at stake.
It has been a challenging season so far for the defending champions Dubai Stallions. Their offence has been inconsistent and for large parts of the campaign they have been without dangerous running back Davion Miller and last season’s starting Chris Wentzel, who made his long awaited return to the team in the defeat to the Barracudas three weeks ago. Their defence has also struggled at times, championship calibre play one week, mistake-ridden the next.
“At this stage of the season we are not where I thought we would be,” Stallions coach Anthony Daniels said. “As a team we need to come together and play better, especially on offence. We have the personnel to still go on and win the Desert Bowl for sure, but individuals don’t win football games and we haven’t come together as a team. Injuries and absentees have caused us problems.”
“It is still our desire to repeat as Desert Bowl champions,” he added. “I believe that we are as competitive as the other teams and that when we play Stallion football, we can beat any team in the league. But we need to start playing Stallion football.”
For the Abu Dhabi Wildcats, a season of high expectations has yet to deliver fully. The addition of new coach Tony Robinson has brought vast experience and a disciplined approach. They have won four of their six games and although their offence has been inconsistent, their defence has often come to the rescue, creating turnovers and applying pressure to opposing quarterbacks. The late arrival of all-purpose back Vivaldi Tulysse has injected both pace and an air of optimism about the Wildcats.
“I think that as a team we are still taking steps forward towards learning what it takes to win,” said Robinson. “The team as a whole is working hard, allowing our coaching staff to really focus on who wants to play the game and get better at it. We can really focus and get good quality work with the guys who want to be a Wildcat. I am excited about our progress thus far, as I have learnt a lot about this team and some of the issues that it faces.“
“We are certainly better than our results and our record indicate to this point,” he added. “With the talent and numbers that we started this season with, I truly felt like we would be undefeated to this point. But after losing so many to injury my expectations were changed greatly.”
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Updated: March 3, 2016 04:00 AM