The third season of the American Football League of China, currently China’s only organized nationwide football league following the announcement of the Chinese Arena Football League’s (CAFL) one-year postponement, is set to get underway on Saturday, August 15th.
This season will feature ten teams, two less than the 2014 season, as the Guangzhou Goats, Chengdu Mustangs, Hangzhou Ospreys, Wuxi Tridents, and Beijing Cyclones opted to join the City Bowl, a more informal and widespread arrangement of Chinese full-tackle teams that does not crown an end-of-season champion. These five teams have been replaced by the Guangzhou South China Tigers, Hong Kong Combat Orcas, and the Chengdu Pandamen.
The Tigers and Combat Orcas will compete in the geographically compact AFLC South division, joined by the Hong Kong Cobras, Hong Kong Warhawks, and Guangzhou Apaches.
The Pandamen will play in the stacked AFLC North, joined by the Chongqing Dockers and Shanghai Warriors, who contested the inaugural AFLC championship in 2013, won by the Dockers, as well as the Shanghai Nighthawks and Shanghai Titans, who contested the 2014 AFLC championship, won by the Nighthawks.
The preseason was a chance for each of the ten teams to shake off some rust, or in the case of the newer teams, gain valuable game experience, as it ran from April to late July. Each team played in two to four games or scrimmages, sometimes against AFLC opposition, while at other times facing off against teams from the City Bowl.
The Warriors and Cobras enter the new season riding high, as both stayed undefeated through the preseason. The Titans look to have a slight edge over the Nighthawks heading into the season, capped off by a meeting of the two sides in the CardinalHealth Bowl on July 4th, in which the Titans stormed back from a 29-8 third-quarter deficit to take the game 30-29, on a dramatic last-minute touchdown drive. The rivals will face off yet again in the August 15th season opener.
The Apaches hung tough in the preseason against the Hong Kong Cobras and Warhawks, and posted an impressive 34-0 preseason rout over the non-league Zhuhai Berserkers. Look for the Apaches to continue to give the two Hong Kong stalwarts a game that they can’t overlook during the season. The Warhawks will look to improve upon their 3-2 record in 2014, but as always, the Cobras stand in their way.
The league’s three newcomers will have to adjust quickly to the high level of play of its returning members, as none of the three have extensive game experience to draw upon. Of the three, the Pandamen seem to show quite a bit of promise, as they possess good size, and held the 2014 league runner-up Titans to 21 points in a home shutout loss in May, albeit with the Titans missing numerous key players, who could not make the trip due to weather delays.
The league’s divisions are for scheduling purposes only, as its four best teams by record will receive playoff berths. A venue and date for the AFLC Championship game will only be selected once the two finalists are known.
Week 1 of the 2015 American Football League of China season begins August 15th with the following games:
AFLC North – August 15
Chengdu Pandamen @ Chongqing Dockers
Shanghai Nighthawks @ Shanghai Titans
Bye: Shanghai Warriors
AFLC South – August 15
Hong Kong Cobras @ Guangzhou South China Tigers
Hong Kong Warhawks @ Hong Kong Combat Orcas
Bye: Guangzhou Apaches
Pre-season AFLC results:
7/25: Hong Kong Combat Orcas 0 @ Hong Kong Cobras 42
7/18: Guangzhou Apaches 0 @ Hong Kong Warhawks 13
7/11: Hong Kong Combat Orcas 7 @ Beijing Cyclones (non-AFLC) 28
7/4: Shanghai Nighthawks 29 @ Shanghai Titans 30 (CardinalHealth Bowl)
6/20: Guangzhou Apaches 12, Hong Kong Cobras 20 @Shenzhen
6/20: Hong Kong Warhawks 26 @ Guangzhou South China Tigers 6
6/13: Shanghai Warriors 18 @ Shanghai Titans 17
5/23: Shanghai Nighthawks 22 @ Shanghai Warriors 40 (Pearl Bowl)
5/16: Shanghai Titans 21 @ Chengdu Pandamen 0
5/9: Chengdu Mustangs (non-AFLC) 18 @ Chongqing Dockers 8
4/25: Zhuhai Berserkers (non-AFLC) 0 @ Guangzhou Apaches 34
4/11: Nanchang Gun Cavalry (non-AFLC) 0 @ Shanghai Titans 63
2015 City Bowl/non-league results around China:
8/2: Guangzhou Goats 24 @ Nanchang Gun Cavalry 0 (MCFit Young Club Bowl)
7/5: Guangzhou Goats 28 @ Shenzhen Buffaloes 20
6/27: Hefei Huizhou Ren 0 @ Hangzhou Ospreys 58
6/7: Wuxi Tridents 20 @ Suzhou Blue Knights 29
6/6: Shenyang Hunters 8 @ Beijing Cyclones 42
5/9: Hangzhou Ospreys 24 @ Suzhou Blue Knights 36 (Heaven Bowl)
4/18: Beijing Cyclones 0 @ Shenyang Hunters 22