AFI’s Europe Top 20: 2018 Coaches Poll – May 3 – New #3!

There have been some major shifts in the third edition of our Top 20 of 2018 with a new number three and a couple of steep slides.

AFI is proud to have the input of some of the best coaches in Europe. Our  panel has grown to nine with the addition of Juha Hakala of the Helsinki Roosters and James Fayed from the Belgrade Blue Dragons. We’ve aggregated the choices of some of Europe’s top coaching talent, 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 include five coaches from four nations, many of whom lead teams in our poll.

  • Stan Bedwell – HC Allgäu Comets
  • Dan Levy – HC Prague Black Panthers
  • Dave Likins – DC Braunschweig New Yorker Lions
  • Nick Johansen – HC Wroclaw Panthers
  • Geoff Buffum – HC Calanda Broncos
  • Shuan Fatah – HC Swarco Raiders
  • James J. Fayed – HC Belgrade Blue Dragons
  • Juha Hakala- HC Helsinki Roosters

Because of the nature of disparate start dates of leagues throughout Europe, there are still a number of teams  in our Top 20 who have still not been in action, so we still feel that this  Top 20 is still somewhat preliminary.

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 (1-0 GFL1) – Germany (Last poll #1)

The Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns  wasted no time in jsutifying their number one ranking in Europe, whipping the Munich Cowboys 48-7. Showing no signs of rust from the offseason the Unicorns have opened the season emphatically. As one rival coach put it after watching the game. “This is the best team I have seen this year. Period.” 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: Allgäu Comets, May 6

Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns captured German Bowl XXXIX

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

Still at #2, the defending Eurobowl champion Braunschweig New Yorker 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 will open their 2018 GFL season this weekend against the Hamburg Huskies. The Lions were undone in the 2017 German championship game losing to the #1 ranked by a last second blocked field goal. Next up: Hamburg Huskies, May 5.

 

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

The Roosters have jumped up into their highest ranking ever as they surprised everyone by beating the Dacia Vienna Vikings in Vienna this past weekend, 41-37.  The shocker of a win under new/old head coach Juha Hakala put Finnish football back on the map. Quarterback Brandon Connette threw for three touchdowns. In 2017, Finland’s Helsinki Roosters marched through Finland’s Maple League with an 11-1 record and dismantled all opposition in the playoffs to win the Finnish title. They sit solidly in the #5 spot. They also defeated Sweden’s Carlstad Crusaders to win the Northern European Football League (NEFL) title. They re-signed a one of a kind leader in quarterback Brandon Connette, and have been preparing for 2018 with practice matches of Sweden’s Stockholm Mean Machines (a 47-19 victory). AFI expects the Roosters to dominate 2018 in Finland’s SAJL and possibly beyond. Next up: Wasa Royals, May 10.

Photo: Dominic Pötschner

4. AFC Dacia Vienna Vikings (4-0 AFL1; 0-1 international) – Austria (Last poll #3)

The Vikings were shocked by Finland’s Helsinki Roosters last week at home in Charity Bowl XX., losing 41-37. Our coaches panel has dropped them one spot to fourth. 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 #3 Vienna Vikings from Austria 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: Modling Rangers, May 6

Vikings QB Garrett Safron PHoto: Graz Giants

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

The Swarco Raiders may have dropped one spot but this was a tough call. Swarco demolished the Wroclaw Panthers from Poland, previously Europe’s #6 team and have looked impressive early in the Austrian season. However, a 35-28 loss to the Dacia Vienna Vikings is the one blemish on their record. Next up: Traun Steelsharks, May 5.

 

Sandro Platzgummer Photo: Markus Rose Sportspics media

6. Frankfurt Universe (1-0 GFL1 2-0 Big6) – Germany (Last poll #7)

The Frankfurt Universe continue to climb up our rankings after first blanking the Munich Cowboys in GFL play and then whipping France’s La Courneuve Flash 48-6 in the Big6 thus qualifying for the Eurobowl final for the second year in a row.  With financial uncertainty swirling around the club, Frankfurt continues to forge ahead. With all the coaches and players signed and on-field success so far, it would seem Frankfurt will weather the storm. Our panel has moved them up to #6. Next up: Marburg Mercenaries, May 13

Frankfurt DB Kweishi Brown returned this interception for a TD Photo: Sandra Ruhe

7. Carlstad Crusaders (3-0 SAFF; 1-0 NEFL) – Sweden (Last poll #8)

Sweden’s Carlstad Crusaders manhandled the Norwegian champion Oslo Vikings in the NEFL last week and have won their three games in Sweden.  They stay in the top 8 teams following their dominant march to their 8th Swedish title. They suffered an  overtime loss to the visiting Helsinki Roosters in the Northern European Football League (NEFL) championship game last season but rebounded to capture the Swedish championship. Next up: Uppsala 86ers, May 4.

8. Dresden Monarchs (1-0 GFL1) – Germany (Last poll #9)

The Dresden Monarchs opened their 2018 season by displaying offensive firepower in beating the previously undefeated Potsdam Royals 45-34. 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. However, our panel sees potential in the Monarchs and have them at #8. Dresden is consistently competitive and maintain a strong German cast that keep them in the mix year after year. Next up: Potsdam Royals, May 5.

9. Milano Seamen (6-0 IFL; 1-0 EFL) – Italy (Last poll #10)

Italy’s defending champion Milano Seamen continues to impress our panel. The Seamen defeated the only other unbeaten team in Italy last week, the Parma Panthers in decisive fashion and have opened the season in Italy with six straight wins and defeated the Badalona Dracs in EFL play. They move up one spot to the #9 position. Next up: Bergamo Lions, May 5.

Italy’s Milano Seamen defeat Parma Panthers Photo: Dario Fumagalli

10. Berlin Rebels (1-0) GFL1) – Germany (Last poll, #11)

The Berlin Rebels begin the GFL season by beating the Hamburg Huskies 24-0. Under head coach Kim Kuchi the Rebels look poised to reach the playoffs again in 2018.  at #12. 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 Nord clubs. Next up: Kiel Baltic Hurricanes, May 5.

11. Calanda Broncos (5-0 SAFV; 1-0 EFL) – Switzerland (Last poll, #13)

The Calanda Broncos have moved up again as they continue their  impressive play in the Swiss league where they have rolled out to a 5-0 start.  This past weekend 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. Our panel recognizes four big SAFVearly season wins. Outside of the Swiss league the Broncos are competing in the EFL tournament. Nex up is the Lucerne Lions May 5.

Calanda QB Clark Evans Photo: Sergio Brunetti

12. Wroclaw Panthers (4-0 LFA; 0-1 CEFL)) – Poland (Last poll #6)

After suffering a lopsided 63-21 loss to Austria’s Swarco Raiders last week, the Panthers have experienced the biggest drop in the rankings according to our coaches. Wroclaw entered the game with some hope after playing so well against the Raiders last year. But they had no answers. So despite an undefeated record in Poland they were whipped by a very powerful Raiders squad.. Nevertheless the Panthers have won four straight games in Poland’s LFA including a decisive win 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: Poznan Patrioci, May 6.

Wroclaw Panthers QB Tim Morovick

13. Marburg Mercenaries (0-0 GFL1) – Germany (Last poll, #14)

Our #13 team is the Marburg Mercenaries who advanced one spot after 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: Frankfurt Universe, May 5.

14. Cologne Crocodiles (2-0 GFL1) – Germany (Last poll, unranked)

The Crocodiles enter our rankings after winning their opening game in the German Football League, beating the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes 32-14 and also trouncing the Amsterdam Crusaders. The Crocodiles finished just our of the playoffs in 2017 and are looking for a big improvement this year. Next up: Potsdam Royals, May 13.

OLOGNE RB SHAYENN EDWARDS PHOTO: FOOTBALLPIX.DE

15. Badalona Dracs (6-0 LNFA; 1-1 EFL) – Spain (Last poll, #16)

The Dracs have moved up one spot list despite being idle. They recorded a stunning 37-20 victory over France’s leading team, the Thonon Black Panthers in EFL action two weeks ago. They are undefeated in Spain’s LNFA league but  it was their convincing win against Thonon has the panel of coaches buzzing. Next up: Gijon Mariners, Spanish quarterfinals, May 5.

16. Copenhagen Towers (2-0 DAFF; 2-0 NEFL) – Denmark (Last poll #20)

Denmark’s Copenhagen Towers have moved up four spots since our last ranking after whipping the Tamworth Phoenix 50-7  in NEFL play and winning two straight in Denmark. The Towers traveled to Oslo, Norway in the Northern European Football League three weeks 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: Sollerod Gold Diggers, May 27.

Photo: Michael Quist

17. Potsdam Royals (1-1 GFL1) – Germany (Last poll, unranked)

The Royals have entered the AFI Top 20 at #17 although they could possibly be higher. They opened their season with a 56-0 blowout win over the Hildesheim Invaders but then fell to the Dresden Monarchs 45-34. This left the judges a little uncertain. Potsdam is playing in the German Football League for the first time in its history this season.Next up: Dresden Monarchs, May 5.

Potsdam WR Max Zimmermann Photo: @Gerhard Pohl, Potsdam Royals

18. Kiel Baltic Hurricanes (1-1 GFL1) – Germany (Last poll, #14)

The Kiel Baltic Hurricanes have slid down to #18 after beating the Hamburg Huskies 24-14 following a  32-14 loss to the Cologne Crocodiles. Kiel lost their final two regular season games in 2017 and then lost to Schwäbisch Hall 33-11 in the German semifinal. In 2018, the Baltic Hurricanes are celebrating their 30th anniversary. They’ve have signed former Pittsburgh Steeler and West Virginia Mountaineer wide receiver JD Woods. Next up: Berlin Rebels, May 5.

19. Prague Black Panthers (1-0 CAAF; 0-1 CEFL) – Czech Republic (Last poll #17)

Prague rebounded in the Czech league by beating the Ostrava Steelers in a championship game rematch 42-3. They have won three straight in league play with an overwhelming 139-6 points difference. Prague dropped a 44-21 decision to Austria’s Swarco Raiders three weeks ago in CEFL play.  dropping them a couple of spots in the standings. Next up: Pardubice Stallions, May 6.

Prague RB William Young

20. Koc Rams (4-1 TFL; 1-0 CEFL) – Turkey (Last poll, #18)

Turkey’s defending champion, the Koc Rams has slid down two spots to #20. The Rams outlasted Serbian champions, the Kragujevac Wild Boars two weeks ago in CEFL action, beating them 47-41 in a shootout and earning them a spot in our ranking according to our coaches panel. Next up: ITÜ Hornets

AFI
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