Pulling The Flag

Britbowl 2016: Youth Edition

After you’ve watched a special senior flag final on our PTF coverage, what next? Just keep that live stream up on your TV, tablet or phone for a wee while longer, as we will be bringing you live coverage of the under 12s and under 17s finals as well.

Last year we saw the undefeated London Blitz claim a recently re-branded under 13s final winners trophy, beating the previous year’s winners, the Chorley Buccaneers Red Beards. We also saw another well-fought final in the under 17s age group where the peerless Horsham Barbarians – who also went undefeated – rebounded from losing the final the year before to the Buckinghamshire Wolves to triumph over the Coventry Cougars.

This year the Barbarians have disbanded, so a new champion will be crowned come the end of the day.

But who are the contenders?

Under 17s

1: Coventry Cougars

Central Conference: Champions

Record: 17-1

The Cougars have been in this situation before, and go to finals as number 1 seeds. This time though they are primed for their first ever title at this age group. Why? Well, Horsham have travelled off into the sunset, and they’re now regarded as the league’s powerhouse.

Statistically, they are the strongest team at finals on offense, with an average of 46.3 pts scored per game. Had they have played all of their allotted games, that could have been even higher. No defense is going to want to come up against those numbers.

Defensively, they are also the league’s number one ranked team, averaging only 5.6 points conceded per game. That’s less than one touchdown a game, folks!

Again, had they played all the games, then the story could be different. But conceding 100 total over an 18 game season is comparable in flag terms to the ’85 Bears.

They did have one blot on their copy book, with a 13-12 loss to the Northants Titans, but they recovered comfortably to take the conference. That loss to the Titans will sting though and when they meet up on finals day, expect fireworks.

The Cougars strength seems to lie in their unity and galvanized spirit. In every sense of the word, they are a team, both on and off the field. But there are individuals within the team that do stand out as game winners.

Key players;

Kieran Eaton, Wide Receiver/Defensive Back

James Ashmore, Quarterback/Defensive Back

Grace Conway, Wide Receiver/Cornerback

Kieran is the Cougars main threat. With speed and a pair of sure hands, he is possibly the standout player at this level. With an impressive rookie season in the seniors now behind him as well, he’s our pick to shine and possibly the tournament MVP.

His partnership with his quarterback James Ashmore is the foundation of the Cougars success, so keep an eye out for them on the day hooking up downfield. James is also one of the trickiest quarterbacks to sack. To quote the blitzer from the Plymouth Buccaneers Adult flag team: “That kid must take salsa classes?”

That partnership with Kieran is also supplemented by possibly the most dynamic female players at this age group, in Grace Conway.

Grace’s background comes from being an exceptional netball player and that ensures a safe pair of hands, but it’s her power and determination that stands her out as a future Great Britain candidate.

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She’s got hops – Pic Courtesy of Lisa Madden

2: Chorley Buccaneers Cutlasses

Northern Conference: Champions

Record: 16-1-1

Doing their best to stop them will be the Chorley Buccaneers Cutlasses, or Blades as they are affectionately known.

The Cutlasses finished with a 16-1-1 record and find themselves as number 2 seeds going into finals.

The development of players at the Bucs is their most impressive trait. With enough players constantly feeding through at all age groups, their strength lies in strong coaching and an extraordinary team spirit.

With some real talent on board, they are definitely a threat to the other teams. Momentum is the key for them. If they get off to a good start, you wouldn’t back against them making the final.

They had a reasonably tricky conference to navigate, with the high scoring Burnley Tornados nipping at their heels all season. They came out of it with just a loss to the Cougars and a draw with the Woodland Black Panthers in the inter-conference days.

Offensively, they put up 597 pts, which was the second highest total among all teams. But averaged out that leaves them over 11 pts behind the Cougars at 35.1 for the season.

Defensively, they look a little vulnerable in comparison to the other three teams at finals, ranking 6th in points against and conceding 323 pts. That’s nearly a 100 more than the Wolves and Titans.

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Squad Goals – Pic Courtesy of Deborah Carr

Key Players;

Joel Chesters, Quarterback

Andrew Carr, Running Back/Defensive Back

Brandon Price, Wide Receiver

Two years ago, Joel had the game of his life in the under 13s final comeback against the Coventry Cougars. He almost singlehandedly turned the tide in his team’s favour that day.

This year Joel is the focal point for the Cutlasses offense at quarterback. His cool, calm and relaxed approach to the position, tied in with his ability to read the game is key to their success.

Andrew Carr is Bucs, through and through. If you remember a couple of years ago, the Buccaneers retired his number from the under 13s age group. That’s the kind of impact this kid has on the club. He may lack height, but he doesn’t lack stature and don’t be shocked to see him bursting through a defense with the ball tucked under his arm at any given point during the day.

By the way, for a little guy, he leads the team in interceptions.

Brandon lead the way in touchdowns for the “Blades”, with 30, in what is his rookie season. That’s quite an achievement considering the talent they have to call on. Hopefully the finals will be a good place for him to showcase his talent?

Top scorer anyone?

3: Buckinghamshire Wolves

Southern Conference: Champions

Record: 16-2

The Wolves had a shaky start to their campaign. Wins over the Hertfordshire Cheetahs and London Warriors were always likely. But the team that were nipping at their heels the year prior, the Northants Titans, had come out showing their intent. A 59-45 shoot-out would leave the Wolves licking their wounds for now.

They turned their fortunes, around, and were named conference champions after pegging back the Titans at the death.

The Wolves match up well against just about everyone in the league. Experience makes them a realistic challenger for the finals and with a very creative playbook, they will definitely be a crowd pleasing team to watch.

Offensively, they ranked 5th with 523 pts and an average of 39.8 in the most competitive conference out of the three.

On the Defensive side they just ranked third by 6 points behind the Titans on 239 pts, averaging 13.3 against per game.

The days of Jacob Few and Marty Fillipov are long gone. If they can step out of the shadows of teams gone by, they could regain their once annual status as national champs.

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On the Prowl – Pic Courtesy of Buckinghamshire Wolves

Key Players;

Sam Fletcher, Quarterback

Tom Allen, Running Back/Receiver/Defensive Back

Ben Ramsdale, Receiver/Defensive Back

Sam has been quarterbacking the team for over two years now and his rocket of an arm is his biggest threat. With a precision throw and great movement on the pocket, blitzers don’t generally get anywhere near him before the ball is gone. He also likes to be on the receiving end of a pass or two, so keep an eye on him venturing down field towards the endzone.

You look at Tom Allen sometimes and wonder if he’s showing interest in the game? Don’t be fooled, this kid is electric. Once he has the ball in his hands, he’s mightily impressive and hard to stop. We like Tom as one of the standout players to watch at finals this year, so keep an eye out for number 15’s jersey.

Ben is one of the more experienced players at the Wolves. His connection with Sam Fletcher being one of the Wolves biggest threats. He has a sure pair of hands and an eye for the endzone. If he finds himself even half open, the defense will be in trouble.

4: Northants Titans

Southern Conference: Runners-up

Record: 16-2

2015 found the Titans staring at the Barbarians and Wolves with a hint of envy, having narrowly missed out on qualifying for finals by one game. This time around, they led the charge from the get-go.

Riding the crest of a wave, they would surprise the country with that earlier mentioned 13-12 win over the Cougars. Not only did they have a now 12-0 record, they also occupied the number one seed for finals.

So the finals spot was just a formality then? Well, not quite!

As we’ve just mentioned, they fluffed their lines slightly in the next tournament, losing to the desperate Buckinghamshire Wolves. Although they did get the two wins needed to keep them at the top of the conference, number one seed was now in the balance, at 14-1.

In their comical trip to Waveney, where they were one of two teams who turned up, they lost that advantage with a loss to the Wolves. They did however avenge missing out on the previous year’s final, courtesy of the two walkover wins received by London Blitz and Hertfordshire Cheetahs no shows. So it was a bittersweet day for the Titans organisation.

The Wolves would go on to claim the conference title and the Cougars would win their conference, so the Titans got fourth position.

They probably don’t care either way, as qualifying was always the goal and in those later two tournaments, they had a lot of experience missing towards the end of the season. Finals should see them match up well against the other three teams.

Points scored certainly isn’t an issue. They rank second in the country with an average of 42.5 per game.

Defensively, they also rank second, allowing 12.9 per game.

They have a lot of talent across the board. Talent that is infused into what is a very large squad. Rotation may even be their biggest issue on the day, but if they play like they did for the first two thirds of the season, they are the real dark horses for the title.

Key Players;

Sam Tibbles, Quarterback

Ollie Tibbles, Wide Receiver/ Defensive Back

Joshua Robinson, Center

Sam is the elder brother of the Tibbles duo, along side brother Ollie. They are the combination that has scored the most points this season for the Titans.

Sam also has an arm like Brett Favre, is calm under pressure and links up well with not only Ollie, but the rest of his receiving corps. The Titans missed Sam and Ollie towards the end of the season and that could be part of the reason they stumbled towards the finishing line. Expect big things!

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Sam playing Senior ball – Pic Courtesy of James Brewerton

Ollie has that brotherly connection with Sam that teams can’t buy. Ollie has often been the recipient of his brother’s love, connecting with him for a score or two. Both have now also been seen suiting up for Northants Titans White in the senior league and the Northants Aztecs in the Outlaw Flag league, so that winning combination could terrorizing defenses for years to come.

While Sam and Ollie may be the top scoring combination, with them both missing game time towards the back end of the regular season, that let Josh nick ahead in the overall touchdown scoring charts for the Titans.

He got a lot of those scores from the center position, often scoring from his own 5 yard line.

Under 12s

1: Chorley Buccaneers Red Beards

Northern Conference: Champions

Record: 20-0

The Red Beards are at it again! After another successful year and with what was seemingly a 80% revamped team from last year’s finalists, you can’t help but admire their succession plan.

Most of the 2015 team transitioned into the under 17s second team, the Broadswords, which left just a handful to show the way to the now moved-up Black Beards development team.

It hasn’t slowed them down any, and with a 20-0 record in the bag, they go to finals as number 1 seeds.

They maybe haven’t been tested as strongly as they would like, but that doesn’t take anything away from the achievement of an undefeated season.

Stats generally don’t lie, and with an offense that put up 570 pts, you wouldn’t back against them firing their way to glory.

Defensively, they allowed only 101 points all season, with an average of 5.1 a game against. Surprisingly, that wasn’t the best defense this season, but it probably won’t make much difference going into finals, because as a rule, they don’t tend to allow any team to get away from them.

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Red Beards and Black Beards – Pic Courtesy of Chorley Buccaneers

 

Key Players;

Harry Coyne, Quarterback/Defensive Back

Daniel Schofield, Wide Receiver/Defensive Back

Harry McDermott, Receiver/Defensive Back

Harry has had two exceptional seasons at quarterback for the Red Beards.

In 2015 he made the move up from the Black Beards to starting quarterback of the Red Beards and took them to a final. This year, he will be at it again. With maturity beyond his years, Harry is easily recognised standing in the backfield picking out his receivers. It seems like he has all day at times.

He’s calm under pressure, rarely makes a mistake and has a deep ball I’m sure all of us would be envious of for a 12 year old.

It feels like Daniel has been playing with the Buccaneers since he was in a nappy. This will be his sixth Britbowl finals and the scary thing is, he still has one more year of eligibility!

Son of coach, Keith Schofield, Daniel is possibly the main threat for the Red Beards and his link up play with Harry Coyne is devastating to the defense. He’s one of our standout players to watch in the under 12s bracket.

He had a very impressive game in the final last year, and will be leading the way for his team mates once again this year.

Harry is one of the Black Beards development team’s success stories. His transition into the Red Beards has been seamless. With his father also coaching from the sidelines, he has been able to impress not only his dad, but the other team’s coaches in the league with his maturity and all-round game.

2: Waveney Wolves

Southern Conference: Champions

Record: 18-2

The rookie Wolves have had a season to remember. After claiming their first silverware at the spring Huntsmen Bowl, they have never looked back.

They did take a couple of tournaments to figure out how to stop the London Blitz. But once they did, they marched on to a conference title at a canter.

Located on the East coast, they had to travel further than any team in the league, but it just seemed to galvanise their fresh-faced squad to where they are now.

With excellent coaching and a well-drilled offensive and defensive schemes, they look like real contenders.

Statistically, they are ranked number one in both offence and defense. However, they didn’t play all of their games, so they are slightly misleading.

427 pts – with an average of 34.9 pts scored – is really impressive. If they can replicate that kind of form, they are going to be really hard to stop.

Also an average of conceding just 4.6 would likely be higher, but you can’t help but be impressed by those numbers, can you?

Key Players;

Junior Faria, Receiver/Blitzer

Dominic Hailey, Quarterback

Oliver Bird, Running Back/Linebacker

When asked who has been a standout player? You don’t often get the words Blitzer coming straight from the coach’s mouth.

Junior’s blitzing has been devastating this season. He has led the team in sacks and caught the eye of his coaches and team. To quote Coach Sherwood: “His work rate in training and in matches truly sets the bar”.

That’s high praise for a kid who only took up the sport less than a year ago. Junior is also a handy receiver and adds that thing you can’t coach: Height!

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Junior Faria hanging out – Pic Courtesy of Waveney Wolves

Dom Hailey has really impressed this year. From a development year last year to the league this year, he has stood out as a very calm and capable quarterback for the Wolves. His running of the offence is like a well-oiled machine. He’s an incredibly accurate passer and if he gets in the groove, almost unstoppable.

Cult favourite, Oliver Bird stands out because of his Eddie the Eagle glasses. Let us tell you something: This kid can play. He’s a deceptive runner and very effective linebacker. We like this kid!

3: Leicester Huntsmen

Central Conference: Champions

Record: 17-3

The majority of the previous year’s third placed team had moved up to under 17s for the 2016 season, thus leaving this year’s instalment with only the bare minimum five to field a team. So some recruitment was required. That came and the Huntsmen would go on to win their first-ever conference title.

Dominating performances within their own conferences would be offset by much harder inter-conference games versus all of this year’s finalists. They would all come as losses, so although they are ranked third, realistically, they are the underdogs of the four competing.

Their offense is competitive with a total 380 points scored over the season, with an average of 23.8 a game, ranking third. Their defense is ranked fourth out of the teams qualified, allowing 148 over the twenty games, with an average of 7.4 allowed.

These stats are again a little off, based on a couple of games being walkovers, However if they can find their play makers, they are a contender for sure.

Key Players:

Harry Simpson, Center/Safety

Ellie Carvell, Wide Receiver/Cornerback

James Curtis-Bowen, Running Back/Receiever/Cornerback

Nicknamed “Happy Meal”, Harry is one of the outstanding players of his age group. With a rugby background, he has terrorised both offence and defenses all season.

Coming from the center position, he always seems to find or create space for his quarterback to find him and goes to finals as the Huntsmen’s all-time top scorer in both age groups.

Watch out for his moves.

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Can somebody order me a Happy Meal? – Pic Courtesy of Anne Marie Cook

Ellie Carvell has hands. If she can get on the end of her quarterback’s throws, she should have a fine day at the office. We don’t want to put too much pressure on her, but BAFRA referee Lee Taylor has tipped her for big things. Lets hope he’s right.

A threat from anywhere, James is proving to be a good all-round player at this age group. His power running from his rugby game is transitioning well to flag. If the Huntsmen are to have a good day, he will be key.

4: London Blitz

Southern Conference: Runners-up

Record: 15-3

London Blitz gave newcomers the Waveney Wolves an real introduction to the league for the first few tournaments. They did enough to take the wins and propel themselves up to number one, but after two-thirds of the season they let them back in.

Disappointingly, they qualified for finals before their last tournament, so decided not to travel to Waveney for the that one. But with a finals place in the bag, they didn’t need to go.

Despite losing a large chunk of their championship winning squad and last year’s MVP Luca Coyte due to age, they had more than enough in the tank to take on this season. Understandably, with such a large squad last year, quite a few players never made the field in the final last year. So it’s a great opportunity for those who didn’t get much game time to try and make it back this year.

They are an incredibly talented bunch, and with height and speed in their ranks you wouldn’t bank against them going again and retaining the lower age group title. With their vociferous support, they are also one of the best-backed teams from the sidelines.

Key Players;

We have chosen not to write about any individuals from the Blitz, because frankly, we don’t know much and don’t want to give you false information.

Schedule – Round Robin

The under 12s action will commence from 12:00pm and the under 17s from 13:00pm.

All teams will play a series of round robin games, with the top two making the final.

The finals themselves will take place at:

Under 12s Flag Final: 15:45pm

Under 17s Flag Final; 17:00pm

If you want to watch the action, but can’t make it to Sheffield Hallam University Sports Park, you can find the action on our Facebook page, with live coverage onward of the Senior finals through to the end of the youth finals, from 13:00pm on our YouTube channel.

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