AFI Game of the Week: Brazil – Vasco Patriotas v. Vila Velha Tritoes

Vasco da Gama Patriotas (Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro)


Vila Velha Tritoes (Vila Velha, Espirito Santo)

Sunday, August 28
2:00 PM
Mangaratiba, Rio de Janeiro

The Stakes

Group C and Group D leadership in the CBFA Superliga’s Conferencia Leste. Vasco da Gama, at 2-0, is tied with Flamengo at the top of group C, while Vila Velha is tied with the Minas Locomotiva for the lead in Group D, with both teams at 1-1.

The Players

Vila Velha:

  • The Tritoes will likely attempt to establish their run game with import RB and University of Akron alum, Alex ‘’A-Train’’ Allen. Allen has had a strong O-line to follow this season, led by left guard, Fagner Batista.

Vila Velha RB Alex ‘’A-Train’’ Allen

  • There will likely be a correlation between the amount of times the electric Pedro Medici touches the football in space, and the amount of points the Tritoes score. Medici, one of the fastest players in the country is a threat to go all the way every time he gets his hands on the ball. Coach Lener Fernandes has a variety of ways for Medici to wrap his Capixaba fingers around the pigskin, as Medici is equally likely to be the attention of bubble screens, or stretch a defense vertically. He has also scored on punt returns this season. Getting the ball to Medici and the rest of the pass-catchers from Espirito Santo, will be first year starter Altivo ‘’Tivim’’ Ribeiro.
  • Defensively, the Tritoes rely on speed and athleticism in the linebacker and secondary corps. The rangy Jefferson Martins has sideline-to-sideline speed, while his LB partner in the Tritoes 4-2-5, Richard Monequi, leads the team in tackles. DB Junis Bozetti has shown explosiveness all season in breaking on the ball, and didn’t allow a single completion in last weeks win against Santos. DB Vinicius Rocha, in his first year with the Tritoes, will also play a major role in the Tritoe secondary.

Vasco da Gama:

  • The spinning (and devastating) running style of a long Romulo Ramos touchdown run is one of the first things any Brazilian football fan thinks of when they think of Vasco da Gama. Ramos has scored 5 TDs on a mind-boggling 18.9 yards per carry (15/284) this season. Vila Velha’s 4-2-5 defense, chalked full of athletes, will present his first real test this season. ‘’We have to be aware of their 5th DB,’’ said Ramos.
Vasco RB Ramulo Ramos #40

Vasco RB Ramulo Ramos #40

  • Vasco head man, Gabriel Mendes has plenty of passing targets. Tight end, JP Fabres, has 8 catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns on the year. Ruda Andrade runs some of the most crisp routes south of the equator, always finding open space from his slot position. While only snagging 5 balls for 69 yards and a TD thus far in the season, Lipe Fernandes remains one of the most electrifying players in Brazil, and will certainly be a target in a big game. In the midst of all of this, WR Marcelo Aragão stands poised for a breakout season. ‘’They have two of the best receivers in the country in Lipe (Fernandes) and Ruda (Andrade),’’ said Tritoes LB, Martins.
Vasco WR Lipe Fernandes #9

Vasco WR Lipe Fernandes #9

  • Defensively, the story of the season for Vasco has been the emergence of 23 year old linebacker, João Hollyfield. Hollyfield’s strength, quickness and coachability have made him the centerpiece of the Vasco defense this season. ‘’Coach Gifford uses (Hollyfield’s) attributes in his favor, and under Coach Steve Gifford, he has become a leader and reference for our defense, who makes our guys play with blood in their eyes,’’ said Mendes.
  • Hollyfield’s dedication is inspiring. ‘’He serves in the army and lives one hour and 20 minutes away from where we practice, but never misses anything,’’ said Mendes. ‘’He is extremely coachable, respectful, humble and has a shining future in football.’’

The Game

  • First year Vasco defensive coordinator Steve Gifford has not been shy about bringing heavy pressure against opposing offenses this season. How he attacks the Tritoe spread formations and his adjustments against their empty sets, countered by how Coach Fernandes uses his bubble and screen game to against that pressure, will be one of the fun chess matches of this contest.
  • To contain the Tritoe offense, a team needs to be able to tackle in space. The ability of Vasco defenders like DE Ryan Homem, LBs Joao Hollyfield and Luiz Azevedo, and DBs Bruno Rosa, Brenno Costela, Victor Kuririn and Andre Macaskill to make plays in the open field is paramount to anything else that the Blitz Czar, Gifford, draws up on defense. If Medici gets the ball with some room to run, look out.Fernandes singled out some of his opponents specifically, calling Macaskill, Chalfun and Homem ‘’Huge play-makers and guys I really like to watch play.’’
Vasco DB André Macaskill #20 takes down reciever

Vasco DB André Macaskill #20 takes down receiver

  • Can the backside of the aggressive Vasco defense play with patience and discipline what has been until now, a devastating counter game from Allen and the Vila Velha OL?‘’This will be our first real test of the season. (Vila Velha) has a big, strong OL and good running back. We will need to stop him in order to have a chance to win. It will be a classic matchup of a strong, powerful running game against a fast, unpredictable defense. Should be fun to watch,’’ said Gifford.
  • Young Vasco quarterback Daniel Gazelle has put up solid numbers this season (404 yards passing, 5 TDs), but his most impressive number might be zero – the amount of interceptions he has thrown. This will be the first time this season that Gazelle will see a 4-2-5 look and Cover Blue (cover 2-read) and his ability to be decisive against this coverage and a fifth DB will be key to Vasco sustaining drives. A ball hawking Tritoe secondary, led by Bozetti and Rocha, will be ready.
  • The Tritoes under front and force players on the edge look to be an exciting match-up against Vasco veteran RB  Ramos one of the most decorated runners in Brazilian history. ‘’The dude is a beast; a devastating weapon,’’ said Coach Fernandes of the back his defense will face.Ramos’ fellow Vasco vet, the tenacious offensive lineman, Cris Forti, will be opening up holes for the Vasco terrestrial attack. ‘’We have got to watch their entire OL,’’ said Fernandes of his Tritoes squads prep for the Vasco running game.
  • Medici had over 120 yards and one TD in returns against Santos. Will Vasco kick or punt to him?
  • Can Vila Velha cut down on penalties? ‘’We had a lot of unnecessary penalties. 3rd and long followed by a late hit, goaline pass interference,’’ Fernandes said after his squads previous win over Santos. Cutting those down will be a key to the Tritoes success.

The Storylines

  • Fernandes, at 28, is part of a growing youth movement in Brazilian coaching. In Mendes, he is facing the Brazilian National Team (Brasil Onças) Head Coach and perhaps the biggest name in Brazilian coaching. ‘’I am a big fan of Gabriel Mendes,’’ said Fernandes.
Center: Vila Velha HC Lener Fernandes

Left to right: Vasco HC Gabriel Mendes, Vila Velha HC Lener Fernandes, Clayton Lovett

  • This is a rematch of a hard fought TTD semi-final game that saw Vasco da Gama win en-route to their second straight national finals appearance.
  • The new look Tritoes: Shortly before the season, Vila Velha lost QB Alvaro Siquera, an exciting talent who was named 2015 TTD MVP, to the Get Eagles of Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais. His brother, running back Rafael, also left in the move. Shortly thereafter, veteran safety and National Team mainstay, Fernando Giovannotti, took his talents to Flamengo (Rio de Janeiro). Players often make off season moves, but for a team to lose two athletes who are some of the best in the country at their position, so close to the start of a season, could be devastating to most teams.‘’Defensively, we were just trying to understand what was happening. Now our defense is aware,’’ said Fernandes of his adjustments after losing Giovannotti who was also a secondary coach for the team. The Tritoes trademark Cover Blue didn’t appear lose its appeal for Fernandes, either.‘’Nothing changed. We’ve been running it for three years,’’ he said.Offensively, it has been a team effort to build the offense around first year starting QB Altivo ‘’Tivim’’ Ribeiro. After a rough first game loss to Flamengo, Ribeiro bounced back strong in a win against Santos, going 12/14 for 144 yards and 3 TD passes. ‘’We put a lot of faith in Tivim,’’ said Fernandes,‘’ and the entire offense is working double to give our city and team a great offense,’’ he said.

The Comments:

‘’All Vasco – Tritoes games are tough games, and there are no favorites. We have watched a lot of film and think we know their strengths and their weaknesses.’’- Vasco da Gama Running back, Romulo Ramos

‘’I just want to get out there, do my job, and do the best I can to help my team,’’ Vasco da Gama cornerback, Bruno Rosa

‘’We hope that we can dominate the line of scrimmage, as this would give us a great advantage.’’- Vila Velha Left Tackle, Vinicius Braga

‘’We’ve watched film and tried to read their tendencies (so we can) react faster during the game. We have to be strong against their running game, especially with (Romulo) Ramos in the backfield.’’-Vila Velha DB, Vinicius Rocha

‘’Coach Gabriel Mendes is very intelligent and versatile- he has a solution for every situation. We have to go to the whistle on every play and get to the football.’’ Vila Velha LB, Jefferson Martins

‘’We have to avoid turnovers and be patient, because it is going to be a close game.’’- Vasco da Gama HC, Gabriel Mendes

‘’We will have a tough game, as always, against a well-coached Vasco team. We respect our opponent, but we respect even more our grind. So we will play with fire in our eyes and passion in our hearts.’’- Vila Velha HC, Lener Fernandes

Clayton Lovett has served football in Brasil in a variety of roles, including as the member of the coaching staff of two CBFA national champions (Cuiaba Arsenal 2010, 2012). Football is his hobby. Professionally, he is the founder of CS Educacional,