Busy Month for American Football League of China

September was an eventful month for the American Football League of China. The Shanghai Warriors, Hong Kong Warhawks, and Chongqing Dockers sit atop the league standings at 2-0, while other established title contenders like the Shanghai Nighthawks and Hong Kong Cobras sit on the edge of playoff qualification at 1-1.

Shanghai Warriors 34, Shanghai Titans 16, September 10th

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Alex Spang (#85) seals the game for the Warriors with his second pick-six of the contest

After an embarrassing preseason showing against the Titans in June, the Warriors avenged that loss with a 34-16 victory on September 10th.

The host Titans were missing a significant number of starters on both sides of the ball due to the beginning of CAFL Training Camp, while injuries limited a number of Warriors starters. Defensive back/wide receiver Alex Spang’s (#85) return to the Warriors sparked the team, and his 79-yard interception return for a touchdown put them ahead 8-0 in the first quarter. The score would stay the same until the third period, when Titans quarterback Kyle Moran (#13, 18/49, 231 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT) threw touchdown passes of 10 and 16 yards, to Li Zheng (#36, 4 catches for 81 yards, 1 TD) and Xiangyi Hong (#7, 3 catches for 32 yards, 1 TD) to put the hosts up 16-8.

The Warriors would then proceed to post 26 unanswered 4th-quarter points to close the game, starting with Andrew Crook’s (#87, 17 carries for 67 yards, 2 TD) 5-yard run. Linebacker Xiaoqing Hou (#82) then put the Warriors ahead, scooping up a fumbled Titans snap and racing into the end zone untouched for a 15-yard touchdown return.

Then after a turnover on downs for the Titans, the Warriors marched down the field, and Crook punched in another score. With the Titans in the red zone threatening to cut the score to within one possession, Spang would finish the game just as he started it, stepping in front of a Moran pass and taking it the distance 89 yards to ice the game for the Warriors.

Both teams will be in action this upcoming Saturday, as the Titans will travel to Hefei to take on the Crocodiles, while the Warriors will stay in town for an AFLC championship rematch against the Shanghai Nighthawks.

Chongqing Dockers 40, Chongqing Centaurs 14, September 10th

In a battle of two Chongqing squads, the Dockers were never troubled by the more inexperienced Centaurs, as they piled up five rushing touchdowns en route to a comfortable 40-14 win. Running back Marques Slocum (#1) ran for two touchdowns and caught another, Hongrui Huang (#15) added two scores on the ground, and quarterback Kam Liu (#2) also picked up a rushing touchdown. The Centaurs struck for two long plays, a 61-yard bomb from quarterback Yixiang Luo (#9) to Yang Zhang (#95) and a 74-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Jialiang Xie (#13), but otherwise were stagnant on offense throughout the game. The two teams will face off once again this Saturday, with the Dockers as the designated home team.

Hong Kong Warhawks 20, Hong Kong Cobras 0, September 17th

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Matt Liao (#15) of the Warhawks eludes Andre Clarke (#6) of the Cobras

The Hong Kong Warhawks finally got over the hump, defeating their city rivals the Cobras for the first time ever in their history.

In a dominant display, the Warhawks suffocated the Cobras defensively, and quarterback Matt Liao (#15) continued his impressive play, leading the Warhawks to a 2-0 start. Liao threw first-half touchdown passes to Jason Yeung (#80) and Justin Ng (#13) to put the Warhawks up 14-0, and linebacker Francis Chan (#45) returned a fumble for a touchdown in the second half to ice the game.

The Cobras have been breaking in a new quarterback, converted linebacker Ben Wong (#5), and have struggled on offense so far this season, only putting up nine points through two games. The Warhawks will be in action this weekend in Foshan, taking on the Guangzhou Tigers on Saturday, while the Cobras do not play again until Saturday, October 29th, when they host the Tigers.

Beijing Iron Brothers 30, Hefei Crocodiles 0, September 17th

The Beijing Iron Brothers traveled to Hefei on September 17th, and came away with a 30-0 victory against the host Crocodiles.

Beijing opened the scoring in the first quarter with quarterback Joe Cheng’s (#1) 26-yard touchdown pass to Hetong Yang (#18), who would go on to win Gatorade’s One Pass to Fame competition in London two weeks later. The visitors then doubled their lead to 16-0 with cornerback Guaiqiong Li’s (#31) highlight-reel 71-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter.

The Iron Brothers rotated quarterbacks throughout the game, and Kevin An’s (#12) 8-yard scoring toss to running back Chao Chen (#27) in the fourth quarter would cap off the day for the Iron Brothers, as they recorded their first ever regular season victory in convincing fashion.

The Crocodiles also used two quarterbacks throughout the game, Xiang Zhu (#15) and Haiyang Ma (#17), but failed to establish any consistent rhythm on offense, and now drop to 1-1 on the season. Both teams will be hosting games this Saturday, as Beijing squares off against the 0-2 Fudan University Dragoons, while Hefei takes on the 1-1 Shanghai Titans.

Shanghai Nighthawks 81, Shanghai Dragoons 0, September 18th

The Nighthawks dominated all phases of the game in new head coach Dionte Allen’s debut.

Numerous players scored for the hosts, including a few newcomers, as they opened up a 50-0 lead at the half. Jamal Cole (#42) was one of the bright spots for the visiting Dragoons, recording 5 catches in the loss. The Nighthawks’ 81 points scored is the second most ever scored in an AFLC game, behind the Shanghai Titans’ 82 points scored against the Wuxi Tridents in 2014. They will host the 2-0 Warriors in a rivalry game this Saturday, while Fudan will make the trek up to Beijing to face the Iron Brothers on the same day.

Chengdu Pandamen 56, Chongqing Centaurs 0, September 24th

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The return of electrifying playmaker Stefan Daniels (#2, 6 total TD) sparked the visitors from Chengdu to a big win over the Centaurs.

Quarterback Ivan Yuan (#7) connected with Daniels for a long touchdown pass in the first quarter, and it was smooth sailing from there for the Pandamen as they crushed the host Centaurs, and evened their record to 1-1. Daniels did a bit of everything for the Pandamen, as he caught, rushed, and passed for 2 touchdowns each, and added an interception on defense. Yuan might have had his best game statistically, passing for over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions. Both teams’ next game will be against the Chongqing Dockers, as the Centaurs will travel across town this Saturday for their matchup, while Chengdu will host the Dockers on Sunday, October 30th.

Guangzhou Apaches 20, Hong Kong Combat Orcas 12, September 25th

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The Apaches notched their first win of the season, edging the visiting Combat Orcas 20-12. With Guangzhou leading 12-6 in the third quarter, defensive back Troy Lin (#87) made the defining play of the game, picking off Combat Orcas quarterback Jonathan Wong (#14) and taking it the distance to give the Apaches a 20-6 lead.

The visitors would come back with a touchdown of their own to close the gap to a one touchdown game, but would not make it any closer, as they dropped to 0-2 on the season. The Combat Orcas will next take on the Warhawks on Sunday, October 30th, while the Apaches will close out their regular season schedule with a Guangzhou derby on November 12th, when they host the Tigers.

The upcoming weekend will be jam-packed with AFLC games, as 10 of the league’s 14 teams will be in action either Saturday or Sunday.

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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