Finally, Vaahteramalja XXVII has arrived! My Preseason rankings proved to be way off, as well as my Midsummer re-do. I was correct about the Helsinki Roosters and Seinäjoki Crocodiles being the top 2 teams, even though I posted the Roosters as the #1 team both times. But rankings and seeds don’t matter now, this Saturday there will only be two teams fighting for the right to be Maple League Champions!
Crocodiles Keys to Win
Spreading the love
Offensively, the Crocodiles are the best passing team in the Maple League. The Seinäjoki fans are calling Justin Sottilare and company “Air Force 1” because they spend so much time in the air! Timmy “Top Snake” Thomas has over 1000 yards receiving in the regular season but was held in check against the Wasa Royals last week. Enter the #2 option for the high flying Crocodiles, Spencer Cutlan. Mr. Cutlan is the Yang as Timmy Thomas is the Ying. He proves every week that the Crocodiles offense is not a one man show, and did it again last week racking up 90 yards on 6 receptions to lead the receiving group. Let’s not forget about the ever reliable André Feuerherdt who is a big play magnet. It’s like Andre only makes big plays, not much for wasting his time making short catches at all. Last but not least, Sottilare has the option of passing the ball to The Man The Legend, Niko Lester. A converted cornerback, Lester has proven a valuable asset to the passing game for the Crocodiles, combining his versatility with great hands and decent route running skills. Having these four talented receivers as well as a very intelligent quarterback, makes exploiting matchups a key ingredient to the offensive success of the Crocodiles in this game. But what about the running back? Steven Strother is the X factor for the Crocodiles. He showed how much he could impact a game by accumulating more than 180 offensive yards by himself alone last week against the Royals. Strother is a true running back type, not afraid of contact but willing to use his speed to his advantage to make big plays. He can grind out a game with 20+ carries if the Crocodiles need him to, but also can break a run at anytime for a 60 yard touchdown. What the Seinäjoki Crocodiles must do to win this game, is to make sure that all six of these play makers contribute in this game.
Stop the run to play the Pass
The Crocodiles have a pretty stingy defense that has a tough night ahead of them against the Roosters. The French duo of Robin Mouton and Mathieu Fayard must put a stop to the running attack of the Roosters. Jaycen Taylor will be on full display for this championship game, as well as quarterback Mic Brown using his legs to contribute to the run game. The Crocodiles have the best passing defense in the Maple League thanks in part to the secondary Fantastic Four: Pierre Courageux, Tuomas Leinonen, Toni Haukkamaa, and Juhani Kouivumaki. Also in the mix for secondary operations is the talented Niko Lester who is sometimes tasked with shadowing opponents’ number one receiver. This talented group will be of no use if the Roosters are able to establish their dominant run game. What the Seinäjoki Crocodiles must do to win this game, is stop the run game.
Where is Curtis Slater?
The Crocodiles are a great team, well coached, talented, and full of playmakers. But Curtis Slater is a Baaad Man! Whether he is at Safety or lined up as a Punt returner, the Crocodiles need to locate him and avoid him. I’m sure if the Crocodiles punt him the ball they can tackle him, but it only takes ONE time for them not to tackle him and the entire game changes. I have the utmost confidence in the Crocodiles passing attack and their talented receivers, but it only takes ONE bad pass, or ONE tipped pass for Curtis Slater to make the Crocodiles leave this game with regrets. Why chance it! What the Seinäjoki Crocodiles must do to win this game, is avoid Curtis Slater.
Roosters Keys to Win
The Roosters have been a dominant team all year, minus the two games they have faced the Crocodiles. I see no reason to expect anything different this game. The Roosters were suppose to be favorites heading into this game, but that is no longer the case after splitting the season series with Seinäjoki. That does not make them underdogs either, as they have spent most of the season playing role players to help make their team a more experienced group as a whole. The Roosters have had great success with this strategy, but this is the Championship game. This is what the entire season has been geared for, Strive for Five. Mic Brown has been an integral component to the Roosters development process over the last year. He has sat out games to help mentor and coach his teammates to success. He is the heartbeat of the Roosters in 2016. Wherever Brown leads, the Roosters will follow. That is why Mic Brown will be the best version of himself in this game, because anything less than his best would not be accepted by his teammates or coaches. What the Helsinki Roosters must do to win this game, is to have Mic Brown play like Mic Brown.
Run Forest Run
Jaycen Taylor, Alexander Kuronen, Karri Pajarinen, and Mic Brown. These four players make the Helsinki Roosters rushing attack the most dangerous in the Maple League. Kuronen is an every down back who has great vision and patience to know exactly when to explode through gaps and when to get downhill and get what you can. Jaycen Taylor is arguably the best running back in the Maple League and definitely one of the top in Europe this year. Two carries from him usually guarantees a first down or a touchdown, good luck stopping that! Then there is young Karri Pajarinen, the rookie. If speed kills, consider him a mass murderer. What he lacks in game experience, he more than makes up for with blazing wheels. The last piece of the run game puzzle is Mic Brown. Whether it is using designed runs, or scrambling on pass plays, Brown’s running ability is always a dangerous threat. What the Helsinki Roosters must do to win this game, is run the ball.
Shoot that Plane down
The Roosters defense has a tough task ahead of them. They must stop “Air Force 1” and do it consistently for an entire game. Curtis Slater leads a strong secondary group including Pekka Rantala, Akseli Olin, and Ville Rontu for the Roosters. Can they contain the Crocodiles Receivers? Hopefully they took notes from the Royals and can apply that strategy as well. Turning the Crocodiles into a ground force is extremely hard, but possible if the Roosters can create a hostile environment and create turnovers in the passing game. Then the responsibility will be on Sebastian Karbin, Roni Salonen, Aleksi Aitala, Lauri Antilla, and the rest of the Roosters front 7 to put a clamp on Steven Strother. What the Helsinki Roosters must do to win this game, is stop the Crocodiles passing attack.
I honestly have no idea who is going to win this game. This is one of the most even matchups I have ever witnessed in my 25+ years being involved in American Football. I do wish both teams the best of luck!
Saturday, September 3, 2016
Urheilukatu 500250 Helsinki
Live stream: Ruutu.com
Live stats: SAJL.fi