Pulling The Flag

Big Bowl XII MEGA Preview – Men’s

Its that time of the calendar. The annual flight to Frankfurt is booked, and every hotel within a 5 miles radius of the pitches are booked. Yes, you know it. It’s Big Bowl, back for its twelfth year.

 

GROUP A

Walldorf Wanderers (Germany)
Aarhus Frogs (Denmark)
Kaizen Flag (Spain)
Nackenheim Knights (Germany)
Coventry Cougars (UK)
NuOla Squad (UK)

In Group A of the Men’s tournament we naturally have the hosts, Walldorf Wanderers. They are stronger than ever, in a relatively weak group. UK Dukes QB, Benjamin Klever has fellow Wanderer and UK Duke, Fabian Neuer to throw too still, so thats a wrap for them. Yup, they’re still German National champs too.

The Aarhus Frogs are no strangers to elite competition and could manage a second placed finish. They recently performed well at the Sportmonda Bowl, so it’ll be interesting to see how they fair against the other teams.

Kaizen flag are still a relatively unknown commodity, however they were a couple of scores off finishing second in last years group stage.

Coventry Cougars will return for another Big Bowl, after knocking off runners up, Copenhagen Barbarians in group play last year. The Cougars will be hoping that last years two stars, Kieran Eaton and Sam Finnie will be returning to the side. The pair played both sides of the ball in last years blistering heat, and can change games for the side.

Lastly, we have the NuOla Squad. Neil & Rudi’s squad will be rocking a new uniform again this year, as they had for the previous years. They’ve moved on from lumberjack uniforms, and seem to be hinting at a possible ‘Tune Squad’ twist. In addition to their custom flags and sweet uniforms. They do have Robert Welti and Sergio De Paco playing for them, so we think they can compete enough in the group.

Who progresses?

We’re going for the Wanderers to be followed by the raw athleticism of the Cougars. Its a bold one, but its Big Bowl! The winner will play the runner up of group E, which features two big powerhouses.

GROUP B

Victoria Park Panthers (UK)
Uppsala 86ers (Sweden) replaced by Trauraux (France)
Munich Spatzen (Germany)
Atlantic Devils (Spain)
Esslingen Raccoons (Germany)
Wild Hogs (Slovenia)

Group B isn’t headlined by any European juggernaut per say. But these groups tend to be the juicy ones. Leading off, we have Britains own, VPP. They’re coming off the back of a poor game week, compared to their start of the seasons standards. But they’ll be in high spirits, as the team tends to travel well, they’re tightly knit together by Pete Coppenhall. We think if VPP can perform with their big players on offence they’ve got a great chance of topping the group.

Next up, the 86ers. The Swedish bunch are a young and athletic group, led by Erik Lagerstrom and Sundiata Owens. Owens, especially can be a handful playing both ways with his electric speed. However, after a two year winning streak in Sweden, the 86ers lost this past weekend to Eskiltuna Sharks in a game where the 86ers couldn’t stop the Sharks (38-20). EDIT: The 86ers have dropped out and the spot has been filled by the French outfit, Trauraux.

The Raccoons made headlines last year from their ‘different’ QB cadence, after he starts every snap with a ‘Racooooons, set, hut’. But don’t let fool you, they compete well in last years tournament.

The Munich Spatzen will seek revenge on VPP this year, after they lost 13-12 in last years tournament. The Spatzen are definitely in with a shot at winning the bracket, after they won the bracket for the 3rd placed teams at last years event.

The Atlantic Devils proved to be a great surprise from last years tournament with a lot of trick plays and a lot of dual quarterback plays, the team showed their athletic prowess. They flexed their muscles at the Allerod Armadillos early on and lost narrowly. They finally finished in 10th place. A fantastic first appearance.

Who progresses?

To be honest… we have no idea what so ever. Ask your grandmother, grandfather for a guess, and we imagine they’ll be as close as us. But we’re going to be a little biased and say the VPP & Munich Spatzen. But who knows. The runner up could face the Allerod Armadillos…

GROUP C

Baker Street Buttonhookers (UK)
Kalikakou (France)
Ljubljana KillerBees (Slovenia)
Mainz Legionaries (Germany)
Augsburg Rooks (Germany)
Warrington Revolution (UK) replaced by Zyusino Zombines (Russia)

Group C is going to be tasty. The well-known Buttonhookers will need to make a quick burst into action as they face Kalikakou at one of the many brilliant Saturday 8am games. Baker Street will be back to full strength, and they’ll need to be to improve on their 9th placed finish last year. They do have Carl Szabo back which will help going both ways. As will all around Ray Taylor.

Kalikakou lost narrowly to Baker Street at Pink Bowl, and we’re sure the athletic side will be raring to go at 8am if they want to get ahead of the curve early. In all likeliness the opening fixture of the group could actually be the team that wins the group.

The Killerbees are one of the top three teams in Slovenia. They were a little inconsistent last year, but still managed a 20th place finish under Gasper Bajt. The also boost one of the more unique and cooler kits at the tournament.

The Legionaries are a top outfit in Germany and one of the better German teams at the tournament. They utilise their dual QB run option as well as most teams, plus they managed a runners up medal at this years King Bowl.

The new boys on the block are off to Germany to test themselves against some fantastic competition. Warrington have found themselves high up in the division one power rankings this year, and they’ll be hoping that Lewis Jaundrell will be able to assist a bounce back performance after this weekends loss to Nottingham. EDIT: The Rev have dropped out and be replaced by the Zombies, who previously showed at Flagging New Year, it’ll be interesting to see what side they put out however.

Who progresses?

Its a relatively tough decision, but we’d pick Baker Street and Kalikakou to place top two, the winner of their game should finish top. But both will face an uphill battle as they’ll face quite possibly the best bunch of teams we may have ever seen in a group (Hyenas, NP or Cobras).

 

Group D

Kelkheim Lizzards (Germany)
Grangemouth Broncos (UK)
London Smoke (UK)
Sheffield Giants (UK)
Winterthur Red Lions (Switzerland)
Wurzburg Wombats (Germany)

Without a European powerhouse, per say. Group D looks set to be a stunner. Just like Group B this is anyones group. The Lizzards are probably the second best team in Germany behind the hosts. They boast a couple of German international players that’ll be familiar with some of the other talent. We imagine that they’ll have a fire under themselves as they look to better their measly 18th finish from last year.

The first of the trio of UK teams are the Broncos. An annual contender under their young dynamic ballers including GB stars from both sides of the ball and squad. Liam Fleming is a rangy both ways play, Callum Woods is a speedster on offence and his younger brother Kevin is capable of leading a defence. All this accompanied by the veteran like experience of Fraser Thomson makes them a solid all around team. However, they’ll be looking to separate themselves from the pretenders this year.

If you haven’t heard of the London Smoke yet, you’re missing out! We wrote about them their BAFA play in this weeks Quick Slant. Smoke’s skill players will literally smoke past you (we’re enjoying these puns now…), but also pick up the short yardage with some great moves. Their a strong all around team, but Henry Williams deserves credit for playing both ways and making some incredible plays.

The last UK team are the Sheffield Giants. The Dean Whittingslow led Giants team have a wealth of talent including newly transferred Mantas Ceckauskas, who has been on fire for them in league play. They also boast one of the best ball in hand runners in Josh Allen. As well as well as an almost fully GB experienced defence.

The Red Lions are newcomers to Big Bowl this year, representing Switzerland. Winterthur have every teams Big Bowl dream. The 9:30am start. This allows the team to get some extra sleep, and the odd bit of scouting, which you know, might be useful for a new team.

Who progresses?

To be honest, its a tough one, we’d pick the London Smoke to top the group, and after that its a really tough one. We don’t want to be too British biased, but after a great weekend of BAFA play, we’re going to go with the Broncos. The group will likely matchup with tournament favourites Copenhagen Barbarians or fellow Brits (kind of…), the London Rebels.

 

GROUP E

London Ex-Pads (UK)
Novo Mesto Knights (Slovenia)
Carnegie Flag Football (UK)
Dortmund Devils (Germany)
Copenhagen Scumbags (Denmark)
Wiesbaden Allstars (Germany)

To kick off Group E we have one of Britains most internationally experienced sides, the Expads. They boast a gunslinger at the helm. Tariq is known for his slick shades and ease of getting guys open. On the back end they offer a consistent defence with speedy Bill Ammons to blitz, Bill made the huge play of the 2016 Britbowl final picking off the QB from the blitzer spot and returning it for six to lock up the game.

Next are a familiar foe to the Expads. The Novo Mesto Knights were seconds away from clinching a huge win against London last year, until a last second mishap on offence forced a turnover. However, the Knights will want to put that behind them as they look to (possibly) top the group. They had a great start to the league putting up a 50 burger on the Killerbees, so they’ll be raring to go.

Carnegie (Kirkcaldy?) are led by one of Europes most efficient QBs, Neil Arnold. Anyone whos played against Neil will tell you about how good he is at spreading the ball around and attacking a weakness. Not too mention he looks like he’ll be accompanied by a few of his Bulls teammates.

The Dortmund Devils debuted last year after progressing from the waiting list. The Devils were a relatively competitive team and provided some great chat. Which may’ve been spirited from Borussia Dortmunds DFB Pokal win… never the less the Devils will want to challenge for a top three place.

The Scumbags saw an early exit at last years playoff bracket, after an injury to the quarterback. This saw a WR jump in at the spot and never fulfil the void left. They’ve competed with the best club teams in Europe so it’ll be nice to see them at full strength again.

Who progresses?

Interestingly we saw a piece on the playoff outlook of the group by Flag Football World, and heres what they had to say.

It might be weird to say but I think you’d rather finish second in this group than first. Why? Well, a first-place finish will get you a sweet 16 matchup with the second-place team from group A, which I think any of the four teams mentioned above would be favoured in. However, the elite 8 matchup brings the Armadillos. Sure – if you want to win it all you have to beat the Danes eventually. However, while a second-place finish gets you a playoff date with Waldorf, I think the Knights and particularly the Ex-Pads would match-up very well there. You need a good blitzer and athletic safeties to control the Walldorf offense (check for the Ex-Pads) as well as a strong-armed QB that will exploit favourable matchups (check again). If I’m Walldorf I am rooting hard for the Ex-Pads in that first contest because if the Ex-Pads finish second in their group, they may just run all the way to the final on Sunday.

GROUP F

Allerod Armadillos (Denmark)
Dutch Lions (Netherlands)
Maichingen Mustangs (Germany)
Moscow Tough Nuts (Russia)
Trier Bieber (Germany)
Rams (Germany)

Group F has seen two teams get promoted from with the waiting list, in the Dutch Lions and the Trier Bieber. The Armadillos would’ve taken note of these changes, as they look to correct their recent bad luck. They will not have to worry about facing Mass Flag as in previous two years. But instead they do have to deal with the Dutch Lions. The Armadillos have some of Europe’s best players in Niklas Johansen and Fredrik Ermler.

But the Dutch Lions will look to match that. As we speak about in the Group G preview, we have no idea what squad they’ll field as they also have the Hyenas squad to fill. But we do know they’ll bring some swag to the party.

The Tough Nuts are one of our favourite teams in the tournament. The Russian bunch play with a small squad and often exchange a small pennant pregame, a fantastic touch, by a fantastic bunch. If it wasn’t for the Dutch Lions jumping in late, we would’ve pencilled them in for a second place push, but that may be slightly out of reach.

The next promoted team are the Trier Bieber, we have no idea on the team they’ll field. We just hope it isn’t a Justin Bieber fan group…

Who progresses?

This may be the most certain we are about a group. Allerod and Dutch Lions progress here baring any upset. Their last 16 matchups are relatively favourable too, with second place playing the winner of Group B.

GROUP G

Hyenas (Netherlands)
NP Flag (USA)
Cobras (UK)
Foxes (Denmark)
Duisburg Dockers (Germany)
Ilmroosters (Germany)

Hello everyone. Welcome to the annual group of death. The Hyenas are of of the powerhouses of the tournament and are made up of predominately Dutch Lions players. However, with a waiting list call up for the Dutch Lions, how will that effect the Hyenas and who plays for what team. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out as that’ll probably dictate which direction this group goes in.

NP Flag return to Big Bowl as the lone Americans this year. They’ve lost Brandon Quinn’s speed at WR, but they’ll still have D2 wrestling star, Jeff Reimel’s star power, as well as Irish import, Sean Douglas’ electric moves which we’ve seen in the BAFA league. We aren’t entirely sure what team they’ll bring after Bobby Blacks retirement, meaning they need a QB. But we hear rumours that they believe its their best one yet. But will it be their best uniform to date?

The Cobras/SGD will definitely make a splash as they bring in Danish star power in Jonas Bo Hansen and Jakob Esperen, and then the Hornets sting of GB combo, Julian Holburn-White and Alan Young. It’ll be interesting to see the teams defence and rest of the squad. But the WR’s alone are enough to make any squad quiver.

The Foxes are worth a mention, however, getting through either of the trio above is getting to be extremely hard. But why’re Danish, so who knows.

Who progresses?

With the Dutch Lions getting ‘in’. We imagine the strategic move is to move the ‘better’ players to that squad to ease the chances of progression (we’re guessing this!). But with that in mind, we are going to be extremely bold and go with NP flag and Cobras progressing. Their talent should compete with a full strength Hyenas side regardless, but we just aren’t sure whats going to happen. The path to the final is no easier, as the it likely goes through the Danish powerhouses.

GROUP H

London Rebels (UK)
Copenhagen Barbarians (Denmark)
Utrecht Dominators (Netherlands)
Vienna Sentinels (Austria)
ASV Badener Greifs (Germany)
Edinburgh Outlaws (UK)

The London Rebels cannot escape Big Bowl powerhouses. This year they get tournament favourites, Copenhagen in their group. However, the Rebels have a much rejuvenated squad from last year, and should have a healthy Kenny Bello and French star, Jeremy Meslien, who had 17 TD’s before the weekend. We believe Jeremy is one of the premier players in the UK, and we’re sure he’ll take some pressure off of Bello.

The Barbarians should wipe the floor with this group. They’ll have a handful against the Rebels, but other than that it should be pretty straight forward for them. Word is that, Europes best (at least one of!) player in Silas Meyer-Juhlin suffered an injury recently which may have an impact on the team. Which is a huge blow for them, and it would be for any team.

The Uterecht Dominators will be a great addition to the group, they are an athletic side. However they are wildly inconsistent, but we do expect them to make a very good run from the 3rd spot in the group.

The Outlaws will also be getting their first outing to Big Bowl, as they’ll look to GB Silver Lion, Jamie Archibald to get them into a good seed.

Who progresses?

We really cant overlook a Barbarians side accompanied by a strong London Rebels side. However the path to the final is a bit easier for both sides than last year. Well at least the last 16 is anyway. They’ll cross paths with the group of death in the last 8 however.

 

And there we have it, the complete guide to the mens tournament of Big Bowl XII. Who’s your predication for the glory? Remember to comment on the Facebook post with your finalists and the winner of the final, in order to win a pair of FREE Big Bowl XII flags. Good luck, and happy Big Bowling!

 

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