The top league of American Football in Finland, Vaahteraliiga (Maple League), played its second week of games from Thursday to Monday. This week saw a separation of the top tier teams, and set the tone for the season. All games in the Maple League are shown live through the subscription service Ruutu, and can be viewed after the games as well.
Helsinki Roosters 50, Seinäjoki Crocodiles 12
The Roosters outplayed the Crocodiles from the very beginning of the game. The Roosters totalled 536 yards of offense to the Crocodiles 162 yards. Brandon Connette led the passing attack for the Roosters completing 26 of 31 passes for 371 yards and 5 touchdowns. The main beneficiary of his passes was receiver Bernard Luster with 11 receptions for 219 yards and 3 touchdowns. Also, contributing to the passing game was Welsh receiver Timothy “Timmy” Thomas. Thomas had 6 receptions for 78 yards and 2 touchdowns against his former team. Defensive Lineman Lauri Vaino led the Roosters defense with 4.5 tackles, 2 tackles-for-loss, one pass defensed, and one sack. Defensive backs Pierre Courageux and Viljo Lempinen each had one interception in the game for the Roosters.
The Crocodiles showed no signs of life offensively besides two big plays. The first big play was a 61-yard touchdown by running back Jaska Varinen early in the first half. The other big play was an 85-yard punt return by Anthony Brooks that got the Crocs to the Roosters 7 yard line where they were unable to convert field position into any points. The only other positives for the Crocodiles would be the defensive stats made from playing defense so much of the game. Linebacker Corey Magwood made the most of his time on the field with 7.5 tackles, one tackle-for-loss, a sack, and 2 forced fumbles. The Crocs have a long way to go to return to the competitive nature of their past seasons.
Key Player Stats
WR Miro Kadmiry (Roo) – 7 rec, 42 yds
DB Ville Rontu (Roo) – 3.5 tkls, 1 pbu
LB Iilya Redin (Roo) – 3.5 tkls, 1.5 tfl
DL Hannu Saarimaa (Croc) – 5.5 tkls, 1 tfl
LB Joonas Raatikainen (Croc) – 4.5 tkls
LB Juha Luuri (Croc) – 4.5 tkls
DL Filip Zacok (Croc) – 3 tkls, 2 tfl, 1 sack
Porvoon Butchers 35, Tampere Saints 7
The Butchers are a much improved team from last year’s 2-win season. The Saints are still looking for their identity as a team. The Butchers dominated the game rushing for 275 yards on 33 attempts. The Saints also had over 30 rushing attempts, but only totalled 87 net yards. The Butchers rode the legs of running back Darion Hall to impose their will on their opponents. Hall finished the game with 215 yards on 19 rushes and 2 touchdowns. Quarterback Jordan Moore also added 55 yards rushing and one touchdown to give the Saints more trouble than they wanted from the run game. The combination of these two running the ball from the I-Formation made the passing game very efficient. Moore was 7 of 12 for 118 yards passing, with 2 touchdowns. His passing numbers are slightly misleading considering at least 2 of his incomplete passes were dropped in the end zone. On the defensive side of the ball, the Butchers smothered the Saints run game and pressured quarterback Raleigh Yeldell all game long. Linebacker Troy Roach led the Butchers defense with 5.5 tackles, followed by fellow linebackers Sebastian Karbin and Niko Pennanen who each had 4.5 tackles. Defensive back Niko Roiko contributed as well with 1.5 tackles, a pass defensed, and an interception for the Butchers.
The Saints offense was a chaotic mess. A lot of it had to do with the fact that quarterback Raleigh Yeldell had been in Finland for less than a week before the first game. Despite the logistics issue, the Saints attempted to be a spread offense but lacked the talent to succeed against the Butchers. The Saints offensive lineman could not get push on run plays or keep their quarterback safe on pass plays. Saints receivers often ran wrong routes or could not create separation to get open. Running back Tuukka Lehtonen totalled 40 yards on 17 carries for the Saints. Those numbers will not win them very many games, if any. Yeldell was the one bright spot for the Saints offense as he had to create and extend plays himself for most of the game. His struggles showed when he needed help and there was none to be found. The Saints defense couldn’t stop a cold. Defensive backs Elliot Jeffcoat and Benjamin Ylipää led the team with 5.5. tackles each. That explains why the Saints lost this matchup.
Wasa Royals 31, Turku Trojans 2
The Turku Trojans have not scored an offensive touchdown in two consecutive games. The Wasa Royals travelled to Turku and physically beat the team into submission. Returning a lot of players from last year’s roster, the Royals defense looked as stout as ever. The Trojans had a total of 141 yards of offense, with only 33 being produced through the air. Compared to the Royals 396, it was easy to see why the score was so one sided. Early in the game the Royals offense was sloppy and kept the Trojans hopes up. The first quarter score was 0-0, before quarterback Justin Sottilare and the Wasa offense came to life. It was interesting to see Sottilare play in a balanced offensive system with the Royals compared the pass heavy attack he led with the Seinäjoki Crocodiles last year. But after a slow start the quarterback got in a nice groove, especially with receiver RJ Long. Long led all players with 8 receptions for 121 yards. Sottilare finished the game 22 of 36 for 307 yards, 2 passing touchdowns, and one rushing touchdown. These numbers seem high until you compare them to the Royals running back Tom Suoste, who had 21 rushes for 76 yards and one touchdown. This balanced attack is what helped the Royals march up and down the field throughout the game.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Royals were lights out. 2016 Maple League MVP, Linebacker Chris Young led the way with 12 tackles and 2.5 tackles-for-loss. The Royals defense held the talented running back Josh Quezada in check with only 37 yards rushing on 22 attempts. Defensive Lineman Rodon Zeqiri also made his presence felt by making 6.5 tackles, 3.5 tackles-for-loss, and having one pass defensed, sack, and forced fumble each. The Royals also shut down the passing game, limiting quarterback Gilbert Rivera to 2 of 15 for 33 yards. Gilbert is a serviceable quarterback, but lack of open receivers is why his stats suffered greatly. The most positive plays the Trojans had offensively were the 4 first downs they received due to Royals penalties.
Key Player Stats
WR Spencer Cutlan (Roy) – 4 rec, 43 yds, 1 td
WR Dmitri Doubitski (Roy) – 3 rec, 28 yds, 1 td
LB Stacey Thomas (Roy) – 4.5 tkls
DB Rufail Khalifa (Roy) – 2 pbu
LB Ilkka Koiranen (Troj) – 9.5 tkls, 2 tfl
LB Fredric Casteels (Troj) – 8 tkls, 1.5 tfl
DB Heikki Toivola (Troj) – 4.5 tkls, 2 pbu
DB Ville-Valtteri Suojanen (Troj) – 3.5 tkls, 2 pbu
PERFECT PERVIS VIEW
This was an eye-opening weekend in the Maple League. The traditional playoff teams like Turku Trojans and the Seinäjoki Crocodiles have shown that they have a long way back to being playoff caliber teams. The Helsinki Roosters look like a much better team than the one that won the 2016 Maple Bowl, which makes them the clear favorite this season. The Wasa Royals beat a bad Turku team as expected, but in a way that seemed shocking to me. This balanced offense gives the Royals the option to control the ball and put up big points with their playmakers. The Tampere Saints look like a team with a brand-new quarterback who has not worked with his team yet. The biggest story of the weekend is how good the Porvoon Butchers played. Bringing back the I-Formation and running the ball seems to fit this team perfectly. The Butchers could definitely shake the Maple League up this season!