American Football League of China heading towards midseason

With China’s October Holiday break coming up nearly upon us, let’s take a look back at the American Football League of China season so far in the East and South Divisions.

AFLC East

The East Division’s schedule kicked off on September 2nd, as the Shanghai Titans hosted the Shanghai Warriors, while the Hefei Crocodiles traveled to Hangzhou to play the Smilodons.

The Warriors and Titans played an instant classic to kick off their seasons. Eason Chen (#47) caught a 27-yard touchdown pass from Matt Smith (#3, 8/20, 150 yards, 2 TD) to put the Titans up early, and Kim Diao (#21) intercepted a pass and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown to help the Titans race out to a 15-0 halftime advantage. Chris Gardner (#2, 9/15, 138 yards, 1 TD 1 INT) entered the game at quarterback for the Warriors in the second half, and his 5-yard touchdown run put them on the board, but the Titans answered right back on their next possession, as Cam Shubert (#4, 3 catches for 67 yards, 1 TD) caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Smith to stretch the Titans’ lead to 21-8.

Warriors wide receiver Bradley Anlauf (#44) runs with the ball.

The Warriors came roaring back in the fourth quarter however, as Bradley Anlauf (#44, 4 catches for 46 yard, 1 TD) came down with a 7-yard touchdown reception in tight coverage, and Gardner ran it into the end zone from 5 yards out. The two-point conversion gave the Warriors their first lead of the game at 22-21 with about five minutes remaining in the game. Back came the Titans, as Smith hit Shubert for a 28-yard gain on third and long, and Lane Shen (#1, 12 carries for 63 yards, 1 TD) ran it in from 7 yards away to put the Titans back up 29-22. With just a minute remaining in the game, Gardner drove the Warriors down to the Titans 16-yard line, but his pass into the end zone was intercepted by Ben Huang (#32) to seal the game for the Titans.

Ben Huang’s (#32) interception on this play sealed the game for the Titans.

The Hefei Crocodiles scored the biggest win in their history on the same day, as they beat the host Hangzhou Smilodons, who were playing in their first ever league game, 38-8. Samoan running back Laxy’s (#14) long touchdown run may have been the game’s biggest highlight.

Hangzhou Smilodons (white) vs. Hefei Crocodiles (black)

The next weekend, the Shanghai Nighthawks kicked off their season with a 38-0 dismantling of the China University American Football League team (CUAFL), consisting of a mix of players from different university teams. The CUAFL team would go on to lose their next two games against the Shanghai Titans and Warriors by scores of 51-0 and 71-0, but certainly accomplished what it set out to do, by giving players from its teams valuable game experience against very good competition.

The Nighthawks also wrapped up the first half of their regular season schedule with a convincing 55-0 win in Hefei last weekend against the Crocodiles, scoring on both passing and rushing touchdowns, as well as an interception return for a touchdown on defense, to go to 2-0 on the season.

The Shanghai Nighthawks (white) and Hefei Crocodiles (black)

AFLC South

August 19th marked the beginning of the AFLC season for the South Division, as the Guangzhou Apaches visited Hong Kong to take on the Combat Orcas. The Orcas have improved dramatically from years past, and they showed it with a 25-17 victory under the lights at the Happy Valley Racecourse. Wide receiver Harry Cheng (#81) gave the Orcas an early lead with a receiving touchdown from Jonathan Wong (#14, 1 passing TD, 2 rushing TDs), who also scored rushing touchdowns in the second and third quarter.

Orcas safety Hartman Fung (#36) excelled throughout the game as well, finishing with 4 pass deflections and 1 forced fumble. Hoiwai Cheung (#46) put the game away in the fourth quarter with a rushing touchdown, as an 85-yard kickoff return touchdown by Liu Guobin (#47) for the Apaches was too little, too late.

Apaches quarterback Huang Xiaoyu (#28) attempts to evade the Orcas defense

A classic Hong Kong derby played out on August 26th, with the Warhawks coming out on top for the second season in a row. Wide receiver/kicker Tay Tse (#17) caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Matt Liao (#15) and also kicked a field goal to give the Warhawks a 10-0 lead in the second half, before Terry Sibanda (#84) scored a rushing touchdown for the Cobras to make it a one-possession game. But that was as close as they would get, as the fourth quarter was sped up to due to an incoming thunderstorm, making the final score 10-6.

Warhawks wide receiver Tay Tse pulls in a touchdown reception (courtesy Lampson.Y Design & Photo)

One of the favorites to win the South Division, the Foshan Tigers, kicked off their season on September 10th against the Combat Orcas. Quarterback Jonathan Wong (#14) fired a 20-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Zack Tang (#88) to give the Orcas a 7-0 lead going into halftime. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Tigers finally climbed back into the game, as safety Cai Jun (#21) intercepted a tipped pass from Wong. Two plays later, Tigers quarterback Fisher Yu (#1) threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Al Qian (#15) to tie the game at 7-7. The Tigers would get the ball back later in the quarter, and running back Jezny Elias (#33) plunged into the end zone for a touchdown to give them a 13-7 lead. The Orcas would turn the ball over on downs on the following possession, giving the Tigers their first win of the season.

Tigers running back Liang Jianbang (#30) (courtesy Lampson.Y Design & Photo)

The next weekend, the Warhawks traveled to Guangzhou to take on the Apaches, and pulled out a hard-fought victory. A field goal by Tay Tse gave the Warhawks a tight 3-0 lead heading into halftime. With the Apaches trying to come back in the second half, quarterback Huang Xiaoyu (#28) was tackled in the end zone for a safety by Warhawks linebacker Bryce Gauw (#0) to make it 5-0, and running back Yip Ka Chun (#9) scored a clinching touchdown to give the Warhawks a 12-0 victory.

Warhawks running back Yip Ka Chun (#9)

Finally, this past weekend, the Cobras traveled to Foshan to play the Tigers. The visitors from Hong Kong dominated defensively throughout the first half, coming up with a safety and a field goal by kicker Jeffrey Mui (#69) to enter halftime up 5-0. The Tigers collected a safety of their own in the third quarter, and this finally seemed to wake up their offense, as running back Liang Jianbang (#30) exploded for two fourth quarter touchdowns to put the game away at 15-5.

Tigers wide receiver Al Qian fights off Cobras defenders (#15)

Here are the AFLC’s full standings heading into the National Holiday

 

Reach the original story in Life in the Huddle.

Danny Zhang

Danny Zhang is a Chinese-American college student who grew up playing American football in the Boston area. He has a keen interest in the development of the sport in China, where he has recently studied, worked, and experienced football’s rapid growth firsthand.

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