Big6 Europe: New Yorker Lions v. Amsterdam Crusaders

The Braunscheig New Yorker Lions head to Amsterdam this Saturday to face the Dutch defending champion Amsterdam Crusaders in the first Big6 game of 2017 at Sloten Sportpark.

This is the first time in their 30-year club history that Braunschweig will play the 18-time Dutch national champion Crusaders.

This Big6 game, the season opener for Braunschweig head coach Troy Tomlin and his team, promises to be a matchup of two European heavyweights. The two teams have combined for 19 national and 6 international titles.

With only a couple of mini-camps and no preseason games to prepare for the season, the New Yorker Lions are at a disadvantage compared to the Crusaders, as Amsterdam has already played an won six Dutch regular season games. And they have dominated averaging five touchdowns a game while pulling off a shut out in all but one game.

While being blessed with a multitude of Dutch national players, head coach Winston Ronde and his Crusaders have a variety of imports at their disposal as well.

New dual threat quarterback Keith Ray had a great 2016 season statistically, as he threw for nearly 4,000 yards and 53 touchdowns as well as rushing for 1,500 yards and 15 scores as a member of Polish second division club the Tychy Falcons. His supporting cast includes wide receiver Janawski Davis from Murray State University and Winona State defensive back Leo Watkins.

The Crusaders showed last year why they are one of the best teams in Europe, beating the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes 31-24 and narrowly losing the EFL championship game to the Frankfurt Universe 35-21.

Tomlin’s Lions coaching staff has had the difficult task of integrating more than 20 new additions into the Eurobowl champion’s roster.  One of the players replacing veterans on the defensive side is Finnish linebacker Roni Salonen as well as Americans Robert Kitching III from UMass and Jonathon Rollins from Western Illinois.

On the other hand, the core of the offense has been kept intact, as quarterback Casey Therriault and running back David McCants are joined by former Berlin Rebel Stacey Bryant.

Making the switch from defense to offense is Nathaniel Morris, who will be joining the “Trio Infernale” of receivers of Christian Bollmann, Niklas Römer and Jan Hilgenfeldt, Germany’s best wide receiver group. Supplemented by one of GFL’s best offensive lines, Braunschweig is expected to be one of the league’s best offenses once again.

It remains to be seen if the Lions will play their best football from the start, but this game in Amsterdam promises to be highly competitive and exciting. The match’s winner has a great chance in qualifying for Eurobowl XXXI, but both teams still have to play against 2016 Spanish champions Badalona Dracs.

The game will not be live streamed, but follow the AFI scoreboard and the team’s Facebook pages for info.

Leon Häfner

Leon Häfner began playing football for the Aschaffenburg Stallions at the age of 13 and currently plays for the Hof Jokers. Leon resides in Bayreuth, Germany where he studies Business Administration. You can reach him via his Twitter handle at @86haef

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