American Football League of China Heads Into Semifinal This Weekend

With the semifinal round of the AFLC playoffs this Saturday in Shanghai, China, we preview the Chongqing Dockers’ trip to take on the Warriors for the right to reach the AFLC Championship Game, where the winner will face the Shanghai Nighthawks.

Chongqing Dockers (2-4) at Shanghai Warriors (4-1),

China - AFLC - Warriors-Dockers
Under the old postseason format, Chongqing’s season would have long been over, as they stumbled through the regular season to a 0-4 record. The Dockers have turned it around since then, going 2-0, and pulling off a stunning upset of the previously undefeated Hong Kong Cobras in Hong Kong in the AFLC quarterfinals. Only 18 players made the trip to Hong Kong on November 28th, but more players are expected to travel to Shanghai for the visitors in the semifinals for this matchup with the Warriors, who trounced them 46-6 in week 2 of the regular season.

The Dockers have reverted to a run-heavy offense, much like the rest of the league, and it has paid dividends for them, as Marques Slocum (ex Michigan Wolverine), just making the switch to running back weeks ago, is tough to bring down with just one or two defenders. The return of James Fitzgerald, who has played all over the field from linebacker to quarterback to tight end, was key for Chongqing in their upset over the Cobras, and he is expected to contribute on both sides of the ball again. While not much of a threat throwing the ball, quarterback Hao Lu is one of the fastest players in the league, and if he can be utilized well enough, the Dockers will stand a chance against the Warriors, who are heavy favorites.

China - AFLC - Warrior-Dockers - Gomez-Slocum

Tim Gomez & Marques Slocum

Stopping the Warriors offense is another matter entirely however. Tim Gomez enters the game on a tear, having thrown six touchdown passes and no interceptions against a strong Titans defense in the Warriors’ 40-23 quarterfinal triumph three weeks ago.

Kevin Cook, Qiming Xiao, Alex Spang, and Curtis Good proved to be too much for the Titans to stop, and they should have no trouble producing big plays as they have all season. Xiao, Spang and Good were not even full participants in the two teams’ first meeting this season, and while the Warriors may be a little banged up, the presence of their key offensive players means that the Dockers’ secondary looks to be facing the type of aerial blitzkrieg they have not yet seen this season.

Defensively the Warriors have been solid but not stellar, and Chongqing could hang around in the contest if Slocum and the Dockers’ ground game give the hosts problems. Expect the Dockers to stay competitive with the Warriors to start off the game, before the hosts pull away at the end.

Another Forfeit Game

In a disappointing development for the AFLC, the Hong Kong Warhawks, who were set to take on the undefeated defending AFLC champion Shanghai Nighthawks, have instead forfeited, and for the same reason that the Guangzhou Apaches did so one round earlier, due to a lack of available players able to travel to Shanghai on the day of the game. Being an amateur league, other commitments often take precedent for many players, which explains why the home team often has an even more pronounced advantage than in other American football leagues around the world, as visiting teams sometimes do not have the numbers to play to their full ability.

Having had two opponents in a row forfeit, the Nighthawks move on to the AFLC Championship Game, set for January 16th, 2016, and await the winner of the Warriors and Dockers, having not played a game since Halloween night.

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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