After a wild weekend, playoffs are taking shape in Brazil

As the regular season approaches its end, the battles for playoff spots and against relegation set the tone for early October in the BFA League

In a weekend of amazing comebacks and some shocking results all over the country, September ends in great fashion as the BFA League saw three undefeated sides fall. October begins with some playoff berths secured and some still open. The first relegation is confirmed, and the other three will be decided in the next three weeks. Here is a panorama from the last games, a full report on the southeast matchup, and the preview for the ones coming soon! And for those interested, there are lot of opportunities to try casino gambling canada with international sports!

SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE: Galo FA vs Portuguesa FA

The most crowded conference in the BFA League held only one match last weekend. The thrill of it was enough for a whole round of games, though, as Galo FA (national champions in 2017 and 2018) hosted Portuguesa FA (2016-18 São Paulo Football League champions, formerly known as Lusa Lions) in Belo Horizonte for the first duel between undefeated teams last weekend. The national title defenders entered this match with a three-year-long, 40-game winning streak. The visitors, on the other hand, hold the record of points scored against the dominant black-and-white defense throughout this winning streak. The 44-20 Galo win at São Paulo in 2018 was one of the worst performances by their defense in years, giving away three touchdowns, something only Lusa has achieved.

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The match

As soon as it began, things looked different. Portuguesa started strong. Really strong. In Galo’s first drive, a bad snap gave the ball away inside their own 10-yard line. In the following play, all-star running back Branco Menezes scored a touchdown. In Galo’s second drive, quarterback Guilherme Guimarães got picked on a screen-pass gone wrong and set Lusa for great field position again. This time, Lusa was held by Galo’s defense and settled for a field goal. 10-0 on the 1st quarter. After a few punts by each side, Guimarães was benched for Yaggo Brito, who had started in previous games. Still unable to score, the home team couldn’t convert on a 4th down and gave Portuguesa another short field. They rushed again into the endzone and made it an 17-0 score. Galo, in these 40 straight wins, had never been behind by more than 10 points, but last Saturday they went to the locker room three possessions behind.

That’s when great players and great coaches make a difference. Head coach Rodolfo Ruiz, OC Marcus Herford and DC Joaquín Sierra must have made some adjustments, because Galo turned the page and turned the table in the second half, breathing fire right from the start. It wasn’t all roses, though.

On the second play from scrimmage after halftime,  BFA 2018 MVP Parris Lee rushed 39 yards to the house, making it 17-7. On the ensuing drive, Portuguesa QB Catullo Góes helped moving the chains downfield, but was frustrated by a red zone interception by first-year import Michael James. A turnover looked like everything Galo needed for the comeback, but after a couple of flags, their offense was backed up against the wall. On 3rd & 25 at their own 5, Brito was sacked in the endzone in another misread screenplay and gave away a safety. 19-7 in the 3rd quarter, and from that moment onward things changed.

Parris Lee begins the comeback for Galo. Photo by Elvis D’ Paula

Despite connecting the ball to his great receivers Vinicius Seiya and Luiz Domingues, Catullo was pushed back by a couple of crucial sacks thanks to star defensive end Marcos “Tuleba”. With a lost fumble, Lusa was unable to capitalize from yet another possession in the offensive field. After the fumble recovery by strong safety Danilson Ramos, the hosts went on “go big or go home” mode. In a one-play offensive drive, Yaggo Brito went 43-yards-deep to stud receiver Victor “Mega” for a TD. Portuguesa 19-14 Galo already in the final quarter.

Lusa couldn’t go anywhere in the ensuing drive, so Galo got the ball back for an attempt on a come-from-behind drive. After penalties on each side and a couple of first downs for Belo Horizonte’s team, Parris Lee carried the ball 35 yards downfield and brought Galo to the redzone. A quick pass to Mega put them on the 2-yard line, and with great execution on a toss to Lee, the largest comeback in team history was complete. After a 17-point deficit, Galo made it 22-19 with a two-point conversion.

But the game was far from over yet. Portuguesa got the ball with a lot of time left. Catullo threw a missile to WR Domingues, who did an amazing jump catch on the sideline for a gain of 30. In field-goal range, they lost big yardage in run attempts, leaving kicker João Lustosa too far. The 61-yard attempt had depth, but went wide left. Galo had the ball back, but with a couple of run stops by Lusa’s defense, they faced 3rd & 6 at the opponent’s 31. Yaggo ran through the middle on a read option and took a slide, but after a discussion among the referees, it was called a fourth down, since the QB started the slide before the first down line. In 4th & 1, under two minutes to go, clearly in field goal range, Galo decided to risk it, because Lusa had no timeouts, so a conversion would end the game. They went for a QB sneak and didn’t make it. Portuguesa would get a second chance to tie the game with little over a minute to play and no timeouts. After being nearly picked by Danilson, Catullo found Vinicius Seiya in a crossing route and got 17 yards. After a scramble, another pass to Seiya gave Lusa 16 more yards and another first down. Catullo then threw a couple of incompletions, but Seiya pulled off his third catch in the drive, this time for 11 yards, stopping the clock. At Galo’s 31 yard-line, Lusa had the ball in a safer field position, but Catullo failed to throw the ball away and got sacked by edge rusher Lucas Vasconcelos. Amazing and desperately, Portuguesa’s players sprinted back and were set with just enough time for a spike.

In the final play of the game, João Lustosa was going to have a 57-yard field goal attempt. Down 22-19, it would tie a game they had every chance to win, being up by 17 in the third quarter. The kicker had just nearly hit a 61-yarder, but it bent left. The ball was snapped, the hold was good and the ball took off, looking like it had the range and the precision. 57 yards away, the ball hit the soccer goal crossbar, just about a foot below the uprights, so the kick was no good. By about one foot. Game over, Galo (5-0) won by 22-19. The winning streak is extended to 41 as they probably get the top seed and home field advantage in the playoffs. Portuguesa (4-1) awaits other results, but likely takes the #3 spot.

Check out the highlights

Next matchups:

Next weekend, América Locomotiva (1-3) hosts the São Paulo Storm (1-3) in Belo Horizonte. The Macaé Oilers (0-4), still fighting against relegation, will travel to Rio de Janeiro to play the Flamengo Imperadores (1-3). Also in Rio, Vasco Almirantes (4-0) hosts the Vila Velha Tritões (3-1), reliving a inter-state rivalry in dispute for playoff seeds. Corinthians Steamrollers (0-4), on the other hand, are desperately seeking to remain in BFA Elite. The two-time national champions host the Challengers FA (2-2), who still hope for a postseason spot. Relegation will likely be decided by a strength of schedule tiebreaker if neither the Oilers or the Steamrollers can get a win in the last two games, and Macaé has the upper hand.

SOUTHERN CONFERENCE:

Santa Maria Soldiers and T-Rex faced each other in a real battle for the south last Saturday (9/28). Current conference champions, T-Rex took a trip to Santa Maria to face the undefeated Soldiers, clashing for a higher playoff seed. As the hosts dominated the entire first half and part of the third quarter, they held a 21-0 lead. But two-time national champions T-Rex found inspiration in the second half and scored three touchdowns to tie the game and take it to overtime, aided by a flag for sideline interference by the Soldiers’ cheerleaders. The penalty was called after an incompletion on 3rd down when the game was 21-13, so T-Rex went on to tie it in that same drive. In OT, running back Well Garcia had no mercy and broke through the goal line for the final score, giving the visitors a 28-21 win, after coming from behind in a 0-21 3rd quarter deficit. The home loss by Santa Maria leaves no undefeated team in the south.

Rex and Soldiers rematch on a thrilling game. Photo by Richard Ferrari

Check out the highlights

The Black Hawks traveled from Gaspar to São José to play the Istepôs in yet another exciting matchup. The state rivals are in different situations in the standings, as the former fights for high playoff seeds and the latter desperately tries to escape relegation. Surprisingly, the hosts dominated the first two quarters and left for halftime break with a 15-0 lead. The Black Hawks adjusted their game and came back to the second half with fire in their eyes, scoring 26 unanswered points. Black Hawks Safety Gustavo Goedert dominated the game with two interceptions, which gives him a total of seven picks in five games.

The final score of 26-15 in São José was bad news for the two-time national champions Coritiba Crocodiles, who hosted the Jaraguá Breakers in a one-sided 48-0 victory for the home side. Despite the overwhelming win, the Crocodiles finish the regular season with a 3-3 record, staying out of the playoffs for the first time in their history.

Next matchups

Black Hawks come from behind and lead the conference. Photo by May Abreu

In October 12th, the Black Hawks (4-1) and Santa Maria Soldiers (3-1) play each other in Gaspar, and T-Rex (4-1) visits Paraná HP (3-2), as all four have guaranteed playoff spots and now duel for higher seeds. T-Rex now holds a tie-breaker advantage against the Soldiers, but, having lost to the Black Hawks, they might fall to seed #2 in case of a home win in Gaspar. The Soldiers should get a #3 seed in case of a loss, but might still dream of a #1 seed if HP beats Rex. Paraná, on the other hand, might lose and finish 3-3, but with a regular-season win against the local rival Crocodiles, they have the tie-breaker edge and #4 seed secured, at the very least. The Istepôs (0-5) visit the Jaraguá Breakers (0-4) in the same weekend, and both teams desperately need a win, which would be a first in this year’s BFA season for each side. Whoever loses get relegated to BFA Acesso in 2020. The Breakers also visit the Soldiers a week after that to play a postponed game. The Soldiers would need a win to secure whichever playoff spot they might cling to, and the Breakers would play for no stakes, as an improbable win wouldn’t change their situation in the standings.

NORTHEASTERN CONFERENCE:

The national contenders and always conference champions – since the inception of the conference itself – João Pessoa Espectros visited the Recife Mariners last Sunday. Not having lost a regular season game in over three years, the Espectros were certainly the favorite pick for yet another “clash of the undefeated”. The game went on a whole different way, though, to the surprise of the American Football fans in Brazil. The Mariners started strong, scoring three touchdowns in the first half. The Espectros missed a field goal before halftime, and the partial score was 20-0. The second half was less one-sided, as each team had two touchdowns, setting the final score at 35-19 for Recife. Mariners’ signal caller, Jake Schimenz, had two touchdown passes and two more on the ground, while the Espectros’ QB, Alex Niznak, also found two targets in the endzone, but didn’t get any scoring rushes.

Mariners and Espectros clash at Recife. Photo by Tiago Giordani

Check out the highlights

Also playoff-bound squads Ceará Caçadores and Bulls Potiguares measured forces in Fortaleza. Each team has its own American import as well: former Coritiba Crocodiles QB Drew Banks plays as a wide receiver the Bulls, and former América Locomotiva Talon Roggasch quarterbacks for the Caçadores. The game started pretty close, going to halftime at 7-6 for the visitors. Ceará  started the second half at full speed, with a kickoff return for a touchdown by their other import, Bill Johnson. Two more home TD’s came with the running game. First with all star RB Eduardo Maranhão, then with Roggasch himself. The Bulls tried to ignite a comeback with a touchdown and an onside kick, but it didn’t do much. With a 27-15 final score, the Caçadores finished their regular season with another win.

Check out the highlights

At the bottom of the standings, the Santa Cruz Pirates knocked the Natal Scorpions out of the BFA Elite with a 31-6 win at the city of Natal. Not too far from there, at Mossoró, the UFERSA Petroleiros beat Cavalaria 2 de Julho by a tight 14-8. Those results leave Natal Scorpions at 0-6, which brings them back to the lower tier (BFA Acesso) after three years. The other three teams tie at 2-4: out of the playoffs, but back to the Elite next year.

Next matchups

The upper half of the standings now prepares for the playoffs, as some rematches are set to take place. The #1 seed Recife Mariners (6-0) hosts the Bulls Potiguares (3-3) at Arena Pernambuco (2014 FIFA World Cup stadium). In July, the Mariners won the away game by only nine points, but now the Bulls are going “all in” as the Northeastern underdogs.

Long time foes will clash in the semifinals again, as the Ceará Caçadores (4-2) visit the João Pessoa Espectros (5-1). The #2 seed Espectros seek revenge against the Mariners in the conference final, sure, but a matchup against #3 Ceará can never be overlooked. The sides played in September and João Pessoa won 52-21, but the Caçadores are hoping for a different outcome this time.

 

MIDWESTERN CONFERENCE: Next matchups

As no games took place last weekend, some postponed matches are holding back the fate of the final standings in the Central Division. Campo Grande Predadores (0-3) and Brasília Templários (0-4) play each other twice in the next couple of weeks. If someone loses both games, they likely face relegation, but if they split the series, both might escape. Power ranking leaders Tubarões do Cerrado (5-0) host their neighbors Leões de Judá (3-1) for another edition of this Brasília rivalry. It is most likely that the Tubarões are securing the division (averaging over 60 points per game), with the Leões de Judá taking the long road to the playoffs with the second place.

In the West Division, Sinop Coyotes (0-5) are desperately seeking for a win against rivals Rondonópolis Hawks (2-3) next weekend. The Hawks are out of playoff hopes and the Coyotes practically guarantee survival with a win. Despite the poor record, Sinop lost four of those five games of them by two possessions or less. Wrapping up the division, Cuiabá Arsenal (4-1) and Sorriso Hornets (4-1) rematch for the #2 seed. Whoever loses has to visit the Tubarões in Brasilia in the semifinals, and whoever wins will host the Leões de Judá before the conference final. Sorriso won the matchup at home in June, but having dropped a loss to Rondonópolis, they need to win again at Cuiabá. Twice national champions, Arsenal doesn’t plan on giving this win away, though, as they try to climb back to the conference finals after missing it last year.

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