Saturday, the Helsinki Roosters take on the Wasa Royals in the Maple Bowl. This is not your ordinary championship game. The Roosters are going for their 6th consecutive Maple Bowl win. The Wasa Royals are in their 1st Maple Bowl in team history after only five years of existence. The Royals have players who have lost to the Roosters during their five Maple Bowl streak. During the season, these two teams have physically fought. The series is 1-1 between these two team this season. This is not just a game; this is THE game. The Helsinki Roosters and Wasa Royals are true rivals and get to put their reputations on the line for the ultimate glory this weekend.
*But, let’s remember its game, full of players who are people. I ask on behalf of all lovers of the sport that these two teams leave it all on the field and play fairly, respecting their teammates, opponents, and spectators.
This game will show off two of the best offenses in the Maple League this season. The Roosters boast the number one scoring offense in the league, while the Royals finished a close second. The great thing about these two teams is that they both have great offensive weapons worth discussing.
Wasa Royals quarterback Justin Sottilare led the Maple League in total passing with 3,188 yards this season. Sottilare started very slow this season due to personnel issues with the receiving group in Vaasa. Once the Royals got the right pieces involved and opened up their offense, Sottilare exploded through the league and has been putting up big numbers every week for his team. With the Seinäjoki Crocodiles the past two seasons and now the Wasa Royals, Justin Sottilare is facing the Helsinki Roosters for the third straight time in the Maple Bowl.
Connette led the Maple League in passing touchdowns with 35, while also having 6 rushing touchdowns from the quarterback position. Completing 60% of his passes and not having to play the last few weeks due to a talented backup, Brandon was impressive all season. Since his arrival, Connette has shown extreme athletic ability and leadership on this talented Roosters team. On a team, full of weapons, he is an equal opportunity distributor and seems to always take what the defensive team gives him. Connette is responsible for having three different receivers with over 500 yards receiving each (and a fourth who had 427).
Timmy Thomas is in a crowded group of receivers, but still stood out as the number two receiver for the Roosters. Timmy was #3 in the league in receiving touchdowns and is a threat to score each week from the outside receiver position. The Maple Bowl is not a new place for Thomas as this will be his third straight trip, now as a Rooster instead of against the Roosters.
Another ex-Seinäjoki Crocodiles player playing in his third straight Maple Bowl, Spencer Cutlan takes on the sidekick role for the Royals receiving group. With a lot of attention given to the outside receivers, Cutlan has had a very productive season, including 613 yards and 10 touchdowns to make him one of the top pass catchers in the Maple League this season.
Luster is having a breakout season with the Helsinki Roosters this season. Previously used as slot receiver, Luster has exploded this year at the wideout position. With 832 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns, he is arguably one of the best two receivers in the Maple League this season. Luster’s versatility sets him apart from most players. He has the size and speed to catch the deep ball, but is a precise route runner and great runner after the catch as well, so as to score on screens and short routes. Every time Bernard Luster catches the ball he is capable of scoring.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Aappo Solaranta – Royals Receiver
Nicholas Peterson – Royals Receiver
Tom Suoste – Royals Running Back
Alex Wasiljeff – Roosters Receiver
Karri Pajarinen – Roosters Running Back
Again, this game pits the best against the best. The Roosters have the top defensive in almost every statistical category including turnovers forced. Right behind them is the Royals defense in most categories. Both defenses have a tough task ahead against some good offenses.
For the second straight season the former Maple League MVP leads the league in tackles. Young is a sideline to sideline player in every sense of the word. With a very high motor he takes no plays off and is usually the first Royals player to the ball, whether it’s a run or pass play. His 65 solo tackles by themselves would put him in the top 4 in the league in tackles! In this game the Roosters can try, but you can’t avoid Chris Young, because he is everywhere.
Roosters Defensive Lineman
Okko is the driving force for the Roosters front seven. Whether teams try to double team or not, he is always making plays in the trenches. Because of his aggressive style he attracts a lot of attention, but is never denied the glory of making tackles and sacks. Okko is one of the top defensive lineman on the best defense in the Maple League.
Roosters Defensive Lineman
If Okko Outinen is THING 1, Lauri Vainio is THING 2. Often forgot about because of the publicity to Outinen, Vainio quietly led the Maple League with 8 sacks this season and 16 tackles-for-loss. Lauri will have just as much of an impact in this game as Okko.
Royals Defensive Lineman
The number two guy in terms of sacks in the Maple League, Rodon has been dominant all season for the Royals. He became even more effective when the Royals defensive line added more pieces to take pressure of him and reduce the double teams he sees very often. Zeqiri is great at making solo tackles when given the chance.
Royals Defensive Lineman
Efe had to fight injuries this season, but still ended up making a huge impact for his team totaling 35.5 tackles and 5.5 sacks. Evwaraye brings heart and toughness to a young Royals defensive line. His presence makes doubling Rodon impossible and vice versa. Efe Evwaraye is the equalizer for the Royals defensive line.
Roosters Defensive Back
Top shelf Slater is the best of the best. Capable of playing cornerback and safety, he has shown his versatility time and time again this season. Slater is one of the league leaders in tackles, interceptions, and defensive touchdowns. He is a ball hawk and has great instincts to make big plays at the perfect moments. His reputation has made mast teams game plan around him, but the few times he has been tested, his opponents have been made to pay.
Royals Defensive Back
Khalifa is a BIG cornerback with excellent coverage skills. The league leader in passes defensed, he is usually tasked with guarding the best receiver at some point in the game, and usually has success. The most dangerous thing about Khalifa is that because he is usually matched with an American receiver, quarterbacks think he can be beat. This misconception is why he leads the league in passes defensed.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Ilya Redin – Roosters Linebacker
Santtu Äyräväinen – Roosters Linebacker
Pierre Courageux – Roosters Defensive Back
Akseli Olin – Roosters Defensive Back
Nicholas Peterson – Royals Defensive Back
Jefferson Davis – Royals Defensive Back
Stacey Thomas – Royals Linebacker/Defensive Back
If you have been reading or scrolling so far you have noticed there are some missing names. I saved the best for last. Each team possesses a player that could ultimately be the difference in this game.
Roosters Running Back
Jaycen Taylor is a champion. That’s a fact that can never been changed, no matter the outcome of this game. In three Maple Bowl appearances, he has two Maple Bowl MVP awards. Taylor was third in rushing yards in the Maple League while having less carries than his backup young Karri Pajarinen (fourth in rushing), but led the league with 10 touchdowns. In this pass heavy league, Jaycen Taylor even held his own catching 318 yards to keep his all-purpose yardage over 1000 for the third consecutive year. Taylor will be involved in this game in one way or another, and that usually means good things for the Roosters
Royals Receiver/Defensive Back
Long has had an MVP worthy season this year. He has literally carried his team on his back having 1437 yards receiving for 15 touchdowns, and accounting for 41% of the Royals entire offensive yards this season. These numbers are in addition to playing on the defensive side of the ball throughout the season as well. Long has even shown more versatility by playing quarterback a few times when the team needed him to. The Royals team relies heavily on RJ Long because he can carry that load.
PERFECT PERVIS PREDICTION
I believe this game will be one of the best Maple Bowls in recent history. Two teams that will make highlights and big plays on both sides of the ball. On paper the Roosters seem to have the better team all around, but by a very slim margin. If this game comes down to one player or one team making the big play it could go either way. In my opinion the Roosters are better equipped to handle the championship moment it will take to win this game. I predict the Roosters win 31-24.