Friday I had the pleasure to watch the opening game of American Football in Finland. The Maple League began play with the Vantaa TAFT taking on the Turku Trojans. Spoiler alert: Turku destroyed Vantaa 57-15. Despite the lopsided score there was still plenty of action to talk about.
A legend is humbled
Stephen Stokes is a great American football player in Finland and I have nothing but respect and admiration for him, but at this present point in career he is more than past his prime. As the head coach of TAFT his duties were expanded to the max by having to play quarterback for the team as Cole Webb will not arrive in Finland until after his college graduation. What I learned watching Stokes play quarterback was that STEPHEN STOKES IS NOT A QUARTERBACK! For only one score did TAFT move the ball beyond the midfield point, the rest of the game they stayed mostly around their own 20 yard line. I really hope Webb can improve their offense as well as let Stokes focus on his coaching duties more intently.
Turku has a Quarterback problem
Miro Kadmiry played the entire first half where the offense scored 20 of the 26 points accredited to the Trojans(one defensive touchdown). One touchdown was a rushing score and Kadmiry threw two touchdown passes and one pick six (interception ran for a touchdown). These are just stats compared to watching his very inaccurate throws during the first half. The passing game was not very effective in the first half and the Trojans relied heavily on their rushing attack.
In the second half Sebastian Berndtsson opened the offense up completely. By throwing 2 touchdowns in the 2nd half before Taft put its defensive substitutes in(then he threw 2 more), Berndtsson showed that the Turku offense could be very effective in the passing game. In my opinion Berndtsson is the better option. He looks to have a much stronger arm but also has accuracy issues like Kadmiry but he consistently threw a good deep ball all game. Start him coach!!
Battle in the trenches
Lineman? Does anyone really pay attention to the lineman? Honestly, I watched the ball and tried to enjoy the blowout, but I did notice the difference between the TAFT lineman and the lineman of the Trojans. The Trojans won the battle easily on both sides of the ball. The Trojans offensive line bent the TAFT guys to their will and did whatever they wanted to, while their defensive line spent all day in the TAFT backfield including scoring a touchdown in the process.
Vantaa’s Key Players
Joel Sisler was the glue player for TAFT this game. Not only was he flying everywhere on defense, but Sisler was probably the most effective receiver for TAFT as well. Whenever Cole Webb arrives Sisler will definitely benefit from the offensive help. Cedric Johnson played as well as a receiver could without a capable quarterback. On a few bad passes, he made catches that most wouldn’t have because he is such a talent. Johnson will be the first person to welcome Webb upon his arrival! Xavier André must have been really busy coordinating the defense because his impact on the game was nominal.
Maybe I didn’t notice him because of all the great things Turku was doing, but it’s obvious his defense needs some type of help whether that is him adjusting the play calling or him physically impacting the game more. Sisler can’t do it all by himself. The running back Andre Dahlman from the TAFT team looked very unfamiliar with the plays as Stokes seemed to instruct him personally before each offensive play. But once he had the ball in his hands, Dahlman showed decent speed, strength, and field vision throughout the game. Dahlman is a name to be remembered this season in the Maple League.
Turku’s Key Players
There was a lot of great talents on the field in this game, but Chris Douglas stood out as the wow factor. This running back has great speed and explosiveness. Before an early foot injury Douglas was on pace to single-handedly crush the spirits of the TAFT defense.Lucky for Vantaa he was slowed by the injury and was shut down early by the Turku coaching staff. If he recovers from his injury Chris Douglas could take the Maple League by storm this season. Roman Runner played as well as expected for Turku. An experienced player in the Maple League, you can always count on Roman Runner to produce on both offense and defense.
Cameron Gupton was a pleasant surprise on the defensive side for Turku. Tasked with the responsibility of shadowing Cedric Johnson all game, Gupton did not disappoint as he didn’t allow Johnson much breathing room all game. The backup running back, Eemeli Valkamo, from the Trojans was a great change of pace during the second half of the game. Valkamo only ran the ball a few times but those few runs were BIG PLAYS! Joni-Petteri Malka made a 50 yard field goal. This soccer player has a strong leg and his translated it to success on the American Football field. I’m pretty sure if he gets the chance he will break the Maple league record with a 55 yarder.
Maple League Season Continues
If you read my Preseason Rankings article you know I had ranked TAFT #3 and Turku #4. Obviously I was expecting more from TAFT than what was shown this past weekend. Luckily, there are plenty of games left in Finland this season, so you never know how things will shake out.
Next week Vantaa TAFT will be hosting the Vasaa Royals and the Turku Trojans will be visiting the Helsinki Roosters, good luck to both teams. Also in Maple League play the Tampere Saints will visit the Seinäjoki Crocodiles.