PLFA: Topliga Playoff Preview

Hello Europe! It’s late June and that means that Polish American Football League Topliga is kicking into Play-off mod , as well as the preparations  for the SuperFinal VIII. As predicted the Final Four are Devils and Giants Wrocław, Seahawks Gdynia and Warsaw Eagles. The second half of the season was intense, filled with controversies, drama, so the conclusion can only get better. Let’s take a quick look at the upcoming Semi-finals .

Devils Wroclaw –Warsaw Eagles
Photo: Rosiak Photography 
In the regular season finale the Devils beat the Eagles in Warsaw to clinch South Division Title and home-field advantage for the semi-final. The end result was a close 27:25, thanks to a late 4th quarter comeback by the Eagles. Clarence Douglas Anderson III proved again that he can score from anywhere on the field, however during his punt return he suffered a knee injury. His possible absence from the game may be an x-factor . The Devils have bounced back from the early season loss to the cross-town rival Giants rolling on a seven games winning streak . They have beaten all three remaining contenders along the way and they are the hottest team in Topliga right now. The fast paced no-huddle offence led by QB Seddrick Harris can score in a numerous ways -pick your poison run by Xavier Glenn , Harris or by passing to the squadron of WR’s Dawid Tarczyński, Karol Pełechaty, Igor Mazur, Piotr Wis .

Phillip Dillon led Eagles rely on their defense led by powerful duo of DT’s Krzysztof Dreger and Tomasz Szczeszek and solid ground game stable of RB’s . Eagles gameplan for the upcoming bout should focus on keeping the Devils O on the sidelines and qutiong Hank Stramm “matriculating the ball down the field” . The key issue for the Warsaw side will be the production of QB Shane Gimzo and his receivers, against very talented group of Devils DB’s and heavy pressure D of Coach Richard Wade .After the loss HC of the Eagles Philip Dillon said that now he knows how to stop his opponent and that Warsaw has some aces up in their sleeves at the offensive side of the ball .

On special teams Clarence Anderson III won’t probably have a chance to return a punt or kick as the Devils will rather sacrifice field position . Also both squads have issues in the kicking game and gambling on 2pt conversions by the Devils may affect the final result of this close battle .

Both teams faced each other in the semi-finals in 2011 and 2012, each time the home team has won and I believe that 2013 won’t be any different as Devils will cruise to SuperFinal VIII .

Seahawks Gdynia –Wroclaw Giants
The Seahawks have clinched the homefield advantage by nearly escaping with a 14-12 over Kozły Poznań, a week later Kozły went to Wrocław and got hammered 62-0 by the Giants.

Photo: Skwict.pl 
When the two teams have met early in the season it was the Seahawks who won 32-28,will the semi-final provides a different outcome ? The strength of Wrocław Giants.

The Seahawks had a precious week off , due to the weather issues from the beginning of the season, it must have been invaluable to heal the injuries nagging the squad – QB Ferni Garza got his betings in the Week 8 loss to the Eagles. 

Secondly it was a week more to plug-in late season acquisition versatile RB/LB Andre Whyte to the offense- did I mention that Garza and Whyte played last year for Prague Black Hawks and guess what - they have beaten the Giants in the CLAAF. 

Another advantage for Gdynia is the fact that DB Peter Plesa got polish passport, so now Seahawks D can have Plesa, Whyte and Terrence Thomas on the field at the same time. As for the Giants they- will most likely put the load on RB’s Jamal Schulters and the OL. Mix it up with screen passing game to Mark MP3 Philmore and occasional fly to WR Tomasz Dziedzic. This will be the Football Maturity Exam for young and talented QB Bartosz Dziedzic his brother Tomasz and WR Patryk Matkowski, whose crucial fumble sealed the victory for the Devils in the second Derby Game. 

The interesting subplot here , the Polish National Team will face the Dutch Lions in September- for the February game against Sweden both Dziedzic brothers didn’t make the squad, so what is the best way to reserve a roster spot- you guessed – beat the Seahawks led by the HC of the Polish National Team Maciej Cetnerowski. Still, this may be easier said than done, QB Garza has a lot of weapons at WR Jeremy Dixon, Marcin Bluma, Patryk Kordyś, Paweł Fabich with reliable and productive Gaweł Pilachowski at RB . RB Sebastian Krzysztofek is the Gdynia’s Philmore- big name that is having a quiet year due to injury, yet I believe that both of them will make an impact on the game. 

As for the final result the Seahawks must start strong, create at least a two score lead in order to put the game in the hands of Dziedzic rather than legs of Schulters. For the Giants – put pressure on Garza, make use of the possible rust especially in the early parts of the game. If Giants can keep the game tight their chances will grow, the key issue for both sides will be limiting penalties and avoiding mental mistakes. In the end I think that the Seahawks will escape with a narrow win, mainly due to the fact that they have advantage in the passing game against Giants DB’s and more experienced QB. 

Both semi-finals should be a close battles and let us hope that they will be a great appetizer before the main course of the SuperFinal VIII.

Wojciech Andrzejcazk
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