AFI’s Europe Top 20: 2018 Coaches Poll – June 30

The last two weeks have seen plenty of action and upsets in Europe with and unprecedented number of position changes as AFI presents the seventh edition of the AFI Europe Top 20.Coaches Poll. With their thrilling wins, Germany’s Potsdam Royals and Berlin Rebels have made dramatic climbs in our rankings. Potsdam has continued to climb and now occupies our #8 spot while Berlin has jumped from #16 to #9 following their upset win over the New Yorker Lions.

AFI is proud to have the input of some of the best coaches in Europe on our  11 man panel which continues to grow. We’ve aggregated the choices of these top European coaches and executives and present them along with our own choices.

The AFI Coaches Poll is conducted bi-weekly throughout the European regular season using a panel of coaches from European clubs. The panel is chosen by election, country by country plus independents, from a pool of coaches who have indicated to the American Football International their willingness to participate. Each coach submits a Top 20 with a first-place vote worth 20 points, second place 19 and so on down to one point for 20th.

This week’s panel includes eight coaches from seven nations, many of whom lead teams in our poll and special football ambassador, Johannes Woudenberg:

  • Stan Bedwell – HC Allgäu Comets (Germany)
  • Dan Levy – HC Prague Black Panthers (Czech Republic)
  • Dave Likins – DC Braunschweig New Yorker Lions (Germany)
  • Nick Johansen – HC Wroclaw Panthers (Poland)
  • Geoff Buffum – HC Calanda Broncos (Switzerland)
  • Shuan Fatah – HC Swarco Raiders (Austria)
  • Malik Jackson – HC Vukovi Belgrade (Serbia)
  • Juha Hakala- HC Helsinki Roosters (Finland)
  • Johannes Woudenberg – Ambassador at large (Holland)

With all the countries in Europe now in action, there are a lot of games to monitor and our panel does their utmost to keep up.

We continually work to improve and always welcome your comments and insight.

If you are interested in being a part of the AFI Coaches Poll in 2018 please email [email protected].

Now, for the rankings!

1. Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns (8-0 GFL1) – Germany (Last poll #1)

The Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns  continue to march through the German Football League and justify their number one ranking in Europe. They have had two easy wins over the Stuttgart Scorpions and Munich Cowboys. Prior to that, the Unicorns turned back the Frankfurt Universe 17-7 four weeks ago, their main challengers in the GFL South. They had opened the season with lopsided wins over the Munich CowboysAllgäu Comets, Stuttgart Scorpions, Kirchdorf Wildcats and Ingolstad Dukes. They are averaging 40.5 points a game while giving up 9.  The Unicorns started the year in top spot after last year’s German championship win over the Braunschweig New Yorker Lions in German Bowl XXXIX. They finished the season undefeated with a 17-0 record. Until they are unseated, the Haller fans will continue to claim #1.

Next up: Marburg Mercenaries, June 30.

Unicorns WR Nathaniel Robitaille Photo: MANFRED LÖFFLER

2. New Yorker Lions (5-1 GFL1; 3-0 Big6) – Germany (Last poll #2)

Despite dropping a close 24-21 decision to the Berlin Rebels two weeks ago, the Lions rebounded hammering the Dresden Monarchs 44-24 and thus retain their #2 ranking according to our coaches. The Lions won their fourth straight and sixth overall Eurobowl title, beating the #5 Frankfurt Universe 20-19. They had previously beaten both the Hamburg Huskies twice and the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes and Hildesheim Invaders. The Lions opened the season with a tight 10-6 win over the La Courneuve Flash from France in the Big6. They followed that up with a 60-0 trouncing of the Amsterdam Crusaders to qualify for the Eurobowl final.  The perennial challengers for both the number one spot in Europe and the German title were undone in the 2017 German championship game losing to the #1 ranked by a last second blocked field goal. 

Next up: Potsdam Royals, July 1.

New Yorker Lions QB Jadrian Clark Photo: Sidelineview

3. Helsinki Roosters (5-0 SAJL;1-0 Int.) – Finland (Last poll #3)

The Roosters sit alone atop the Maple League standings after overwhelming the Seinäjoki Crocodiles 88-21. They defeated the second place Kuopio Steelers 55-26. They overwhelmed the Porvoo Butchers thee weeks ago. They opened their season in Finland with a one-sided victory over their Maple Bowl opponents, the Wasa Royals, beating them 48-7. They had surprised everyone by beating the Dacia Vienna Vikings in Vienna four weeks ago, 41-37.  The shocker of a win under new/old head coach Juha Hakala put Finnish football back on the map. Last season, they defeated Sweden’s Carlstad Crusaders to win the Northern European Football League (NEFL) title. AFI expects the Roosters to dominate 2018 in Finland’s SAJL and possibly beyond.

Next up: Porvoo Butchers, July 5.

Helsinki Roosters QB Brandon Connette Photo: Riku Flink

4. Swarco Raiders (8-2 AFL1; 3-0 CEFL; 1-0 Int.) – Austria (Last poll #4)

The Swarco Raiders have been on a roll in the past four weeks. Although they dropped their final regular season game of the Austrian season to the Danube Dragons, while resting starters, they look formidable. They captured their 2nd straight CEFL Bowl title beating the Koc Rams from Turkey. The week before they defeated the Ljubljana Silverhawks in Austria. In fact, all year they have played outstanding football crushing the Dacia Vienna Vikings and then beating Central College (NCAA Div. III) and the Modling Rangers. The Raiders now occupy top spot in the Austrian Football LeagueSwarco had demolished the Wroclaw Panthers from Poland, previously Europe’s #6 team and have looked impressive midway through the Austrian season.

Next up: Copenhagen Towers, June 30.

Swarco RB Sandro Platzgummer scoring one of his 4 TDs Photo: Goran Milosavljevic Fotografie

5. Frankfurt Universe (5-1 GFL1 2-1 Big6) – Germany (Last poll #5)

The Frankfurt Universe remain in our Top 5 after improving their record in the GFL to 5-1 with a win over Ingolstadt. They lost the Eurobowl final to the New Yorker Lions by the slimmest of margins, 20-19. The week before, without their starting quarterback they lost 17-7 to the Schwabisch Hall Unicorns. after blanking the Stuttgart Scorpions 42-0 three weeks ago and downing Ingolstadt 40-26 the week before that.  They had started the GFL regular season by blanking the Munich Cowboys and overwhelming the Marburg Mercenaries 63-7. Then they whipped France’s La Courneuve Flash 48-6 in the Big6 thus qualifying for the Eurobowl final for the second year in a row.  With all the coaches and players signed and on-field success so far, it seems that Frankfurt is weathering the financial storm that had engulfed them.

Next up: Allgau Comets, July 8.

Universe RB Joe Bergeron Photo: Karlheinz Herbert

6. AFC Dacia Vienna Vikings (8-2 AFL1; 0-1 Int.) – Austria (Last poll #6)

The Vikings have maintained their 6th place in our rankings after beating the Graz Giants 21-14 with the return of quarterback Garrett Safron. They had overwhelmed the Bratislava Monarchs 64-7 despite still missing starting Safron. They had fallen to #9  in our previous poll after losing in the Austrian Football League 24-21 to the Ljubljana Silverhawks. Last month, they were crushed by their arch rivals in Austria, the Swarco Raiders. Although they defeated the Modling Rangers 25-20 the week prior, Vienna was shocked by Finland’s Helsinki Roosters in early May at home in Charity Bowl XX., losing 41-37.  Prior to that the Vikings had jumped out to a 5-0 record in the Austrian Football League including a 35-28 win over the Swarco Raiders. In 2017, the Vikings enjoyed a resurgent year and finished back on top of the Austrian league, winning the Austrian title with a decisive victory over the Swarco Raiders. 

Next up: Austrian semifinals, July 7/8

Vikings WR Maurice Wappl Photo: PeterKramberger

7. Copenhagen Towers (5-0 DAFF; 3-0 NEFL) – Denmark (Last poll #7)

Denmark’s Copenhagen Towers are steady at #7 with lopsided wins in the Danish league after defeating Sweden’s Carlstad Crusaders in a thriller 44-43 to win the Norther European Football League title. They had already climbed three spots in our previous ranking after overwhelming wins in the Danish American Football league. They started their rise in the rankings in April after whipping the Tamworth Phoenix 50-7  in NEFL play and winning two straight in Denmark. The Towers also traveled to Oslo, Norway in the Northern European Football League a month ago and defeated the Oslo Vikings  21-10. In 2017, the Towers won the Danish crown by dominating  the Sollerod Gold Diggers in Mermaid Bowl XXIX. 

Next up: Next up, Swarco Raiders, June 30.

Copenhagen Towers celebrating NEFL title win over Carlstad Crusaders Photo: Tommy Andersson

8. Potsdam Royals (4-3 GFL1; 3-0 EFL) – Germany (Last poll, #11)

The Royals have made another climb up the rankings, moving up from #11 this week following their two straight wins in the GFL beating both Hamburg and Kiel handily.. They recorded a thrilling 43-42 European Football League win over Italy’s Milano Seamen.  Five weeks ago, they defeated Switzerland’s Calanda Broncos 33-31.  They had knocked off the Berlin Rebels earlier in May. This  obviously had an impact on our coaches panel.  They opened their season with a 56-0 blowout win over the Hildesheim Invaders but then fell twice to the Dresden Monarchs 45-34.   Potsdam is playing in the German Football League for the first time in its history this season.

Next up: Braunschweig New Yorker Lions, July 1.

9. Berlin Rebels (4-2 GFL1) – Germany (Last poll, #16)

The Berlin Rebels have enjoyed the biggest rise in our poll moving up 7 spots to #9 after deafening wins over the New Yorker Lions and Cologne Crocodiles. Under head coach Kim Kuchi the Rebels look like they will  reach the playoffs again in 2018. In 2017, they lost in the German quarterfinals to eventual champions the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns but pushed the Unicorns to overtime. The club has signed a number of international stars including Lauri Vanio (Finland), Mamadou Sy (France), and Chris Smith (Netherlands) and will complete with the top GFL North clubs.

Next up: Cologne Crocodiles, August 5

10. Carlstad Crusaders (8-0 SAFF; 2-1 NEFL) – Sweden (Last poll #7)

The Carlstad Crusaders have held onto to their #10 spot. They had fallen three spots according to our coaches panel after being shocked at home 44-43 by Denmark’s Copenhagen Towers in the NEFL title game. Nevertheless, the Crusaders continue their dominance in the Swedish Superserien with another lopsided win, this time over the Uppsala 86ers, since our last poll. They had beated the Örebro Black Knights and Stockholm Mean Machines with relative ease. Five weeks ago the Crusaders comfortably handled British champions, the Tamworth Phoenix in NEFL action. The Crusaders remain undefeated in Sweden. Last month, Carlstad manhandled the Norwegian champion Oslo Vikings.

Next up: Uppsala 86ers, Swedish Semifinals, June 30.

Photo: Moses Sh

11. Dresden Monarchs (6-2 GFL2) – Germany (Last poll #9)

The Dresden Monarchs have dropped two spots after  losing to the New Yorker Lions last week 44-24. They had beaten Kiel after losing four weeks ago 30-7 to the Berlin Rebels. They rebounded to blank the lowly Hildesheim Invaders 35-0. The had marched out to a 4-0 record in the German Football League after manhandling the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes and Hamburg Huskies earning back-to-back wins over the previously undefeated Potsdam Royals. A perennial contender for the playoffs in Germany,the Monarchs finished 2017 as the #10 team in Europe after losing two of their last two games including the quarterfinal game to the Frankfurt Universe. 

Next up: Cologne Crocodiles, July 1.

12. Wroclaw Panthers (8-0 LFA; 1-1 CEFL)) – Poland (Last poll #8)

The Panthers have fallen four spots in our coaches poll no doubt due to the news that they have lost their quarterback and top defensive back. They had previously climbed up two spots to #8 after rolling over the Bialystok Lowlanders 62-7.  The week before, they had thumped arch rivals, the Gdynia Seahawks 35-7. They had rebounded in the CEFL  earlier in May by downing the Prague Black Panthers 39-22.  Although that game was for pride alone, it helped atone for the lopsided 63-21 loss to Austria’s Swarco Raiders the week before. The result of that loss was the biggest drop in rankings thus far four weeks ago. Nevertheless the Panthers have now won six straight games in Poland’s LFA including two decisive wins over the Gdynia Swahawks. They won the 2017 Polish championship in dominant fashion. They surprised the Raiders in Central European Football League last year, forcing the Raiders to come from behind to win the game. The Panthers were undefeated in Poland and soundly beat Denmark’s Triangle Razorbacks in CEFL action.

Next up: Polish LFA Semifinals, July 7.

13. Milano Seamen (9-0 IFL; 2-1 EFL) – Italy (Last poll #13)

Italy’s defending champion Milano Seamen easily won their Italian semifinal game to reach the Italian championship game. The Seamen had suffered a heart-breaking loss to Germany’s Potsdam Royals in the EFL final following a fourth quarter collapse and with all the other shuffling in the Top 20, the coaches panel has moved them down to #13. They finished the regular season in Italy with two crushing wins over the UTA Pesaro (50-0) and the Milano Rhinos 49-12. Last month, Milano unleashed on the top team in France, the Thonon Black Panthers in EFL play, whipping them 49-3The Seamen defeated the only other unbeaten team in Italy last week, the Parma Panthers in decisive fashion.  They also defeated the Badalona Dracs in EFL play.

Next up: Bolzano Giants, Italian Super Bowl, July 8.

Milano WR Xavier Mitchell scored 4 TDs vs Potsdam Royals Photo: Dario Fumagalli

14. Cologne Crocodiles (5-1-1 GFL1) – Germany (Last poll, #12)

The Crocodiles fell two spots after losing to the Berlin Rebels last week, their first loss in Germany this year. They had struggled somewhat in beating the winless Hamburg Huskies three weeks ago 43-28. They had won their two opening games beating the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes 32-14 and Potsdam Royals 42-41.and then tied the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes 22-22. They also trounced Holland’s Amsterdam Crusaders in an exhibition game. The Crocodiles finished just our of the playoffs in 2017 and look much improved this year.

Next up: Dresden Monarchs, July 1.

15. Calanda Broncos (10-0 SAFV; 1-1 EFL) – Switzerland (Last poll, #14)

The Calanda Broncos finished the regular season in Switzerland unbeaten after defeating the Winterthur Warriors, their semifinals opponent, 35-8. They had previously lost a heartbreaker to Germany’s Potsdam Royals 33-31. They have slid one spot in the opinion of our panel. The Broncos finished the Swiss season  with a 10-0 record and a points difference of 423-105. In April, they crushed Belgium’s Brussels Tigers 39-0 in European Football League play. They won the Swiss league in 2017 after recording a lopsided win in the championship game over the Basel Gladiators.

Next up: Winterthur Warriors, Swiss Semifinals, June 30.

Photo: Sergio Brunetti

16. Badalona Dracs (8-0 LNFA; 1-1 EFL) – Spain (Last poll, #15)

The Dracs have fallen one spot after barely winning the Spanish championship, the Spanish Bowl.  It was the first game all year they had been pushed by a Spanish team and they had to overcome a 19 point second half deficit to win.They had had an easier time in the playoffs with a convincing 48-0 semifinal win in the Spanish playoffs over Madrid’s Osos Rivas.They have previous won  their quarterfinal game in Spain 78-12 against the Gijon Mariners. They are 1-1 in EFL play after they recorded a stunning 37-20 victory over France’s leading team, the Thonon Black Panthers in EFL action a month ago.

Next up: Season complete.

17. Koc Rams (8-0 TFL; 2-1 CEFL) – Turkey (Last poll, #17)

Turkey’s defending champion, the Koc Rams lost in the CEFL Bowl final to Austria’s Swarco Raiders but have maintained their #17 ranking.They won their semifinal game in Turkey after finishing the Turkish regular season undefeated (a loss to the Yeditepe Eagles was erased when the Eagles were disqualified from the TFL) The Rams won both their CEFL games, overwhelming the Moscow Patriots 63-21 and outlasting Serbian champions, the Kragujevac Wild Boars  in CEFL action, beating them 47-41 in a shootout..

Next up: Bogazici Sultans, Turkish final, July 1.

18. Marburg Mercenaries (5-2 GFL1) – Germany (Last poll, #19)

The Marburg Mercenaries have risen one spot to #18 after winning three straight games with two different quarterbacks. Marburg surprised the league by stopping the high flying Allgau Comets 28-14 last week but had lost to the Kirchdorf Wildcats the week before. They had suffered a big slide in the rankings dropping six spots from #13 after being crushed by the Frankfurt Universe 63-7 last month. Marburg had opened their season by  whipping the Kirchdorf Wildcats 33-7 in German Football League play. Marburg reached the German quarterfinals where they lost to the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes. Marburg finished the year in the German Football League South with an 8-7 record marking the biggest improvement of any team in the league. For 2017, the Mercenaries signed Austria’s top domestic quarterback, Alexander Thury and dangerous receiver Peter Jinkens.

Next up: Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns, June 30.

MARBURG QB/RB SILAS NACITA

19. Prague Black Panthers (8-0 CAAF; 0-2 CEFL) – Czech Republic (Last poll #18)

The Prague Black Panthers have slid one spot to #19 although they rolled through the Czech league undefeated. They have an amazing 456-54 points differential in 10 games. They had dropped a 39-22 decision to Poland’s Wroclaw Panthers, in the CEFL prior to thatThe Black Panthers blanked the Pardubice Stallions 50-0 in the Czech league the week before. Prague dropped a 44-21 decision to Austria’s Swarco Raiders last month in CEFL play.

Next up: Brno Sigrs, Czech Semifinals, July 8.

20. Kragujevac Wild Boars (7-0 SAAF; 1-1 CEFL) – Serbia (Last poll #20)

The Kragujevac Wild Boars have held onto their #20 spot after running through the Serbian league undefeated. Last week they overwhelmed the Bor Golden Bears 35-0 and prior to that the Kikinda Mammoths 55-0. They were defeated by Turkey’s Koc Rams in CEFL play after first beating the Moscow Patriots 34-20.In 2017, they finished the Serbian season in style winning the championship game over the Novi Sad Dukes to defend their title. They also held their own against the Swarco Raiders in losing the Central European title game.

Next up: Indija Indians, Serbian Semifinals, June 30.

Photo: Igor Lazarevic

Honorable Mention: Bolzano Giants, Italy; La Courneuve Flash, France; Murcia Cobras, Spain; Graz Giants, Austria; SBB Vukovi Belgrade, Serbia; Parma Panthers, Italy; Allgau Comets, Germany; Thonon Black Panthers, France

To all photographers: If we have used one of your photos without a credit, it is usually because we could not find your name. Please let us know and we will fix and add linkbacks as well.

AFI
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