American Football League Of China Down To Final Four

The American Football League of China is now down to its final four, following the last two weekends of quarterfinal action.

Both the top seeds from the East Division and South Division were knocked off by #3 seeds from within their own divisions, as the Shanghai Warriors fell to the Shanghai Nighthawks, and the Hong Kong Warhawks lost to the Guangzhou Tigers. Meanwhile, the Shanghai Titans and Chengdu Pandamen secured their own spots in the semifinals, as the Titans won big at home against the Chongqing Dockers, and the Pandamen traveled to Guangzhou, and scored a solid victory against a tough Apaches team.

Saturday, November 26th
Shanghai Nighthawks 28, Shanghai Warriors 14

On a cold, rainy afternoon, the visiting Shanghai Nighthawks powered past their longtime rivals, the Shanghai Warriors, by wearing down the Warrior defense with a punishing rushing attack.

Owing to a steady rain that had started the night before, the field was reduced to a slippery mud pit by kickoff, playing into the Nighthawks’ hands. The Warriors high-powered passing attack was stymied in the rain, and the Nighthawks struck first with Tianshou Zhang’s (#44, 3 rushing TDs) 1-yard touchdown plunge. The visitors continued to use the ground game into the second half, and quarterback Billy Qin’s (#18) 3-yard keeper at the beginning of the fourth quarter put them up 20-0.

The Warriors would begin to mount a comeback however, as quarterback Chris Gardner (#2, 10/19, 76 yards, 2 INT, 16 carries for 136 yards, 2 rushing TDs) finished off the ensuing drive with a 16-yard touchdown run. After the Nighthawks turned the ball over on downs, Gardner found Danny Zhang (#6, 4 catches for 43 yards) for three straight completions, before keeping it himself again to cut the deficit to 20-14.

The Nighthawks would punt on the next possession, but with a chance to take the lead, the Warriors were called for multiple penalties on their next drive, and came up on short on 4th and long. Tianshou Zhang then provided the dagger, as he blew through multiple Warriors defenders for a clinching 55-yard touchdown run. The Nighthawks will travel to Chengdu two weekends from now to take on the Chengdu Pandamen, while it was a disappointing finish to the season for the Warriors, whose loss came on the heels of an undefeated regular season.

Sunday, November 27th
Guangzhou Tigers 20, Hong Kong Warhawks 8

The weekend saw its second upset, as the Tigers downed the South’s top seed, the Hong Kong Warhawks, with a complete performance on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Fisher Wu (#1) and running back Jianbang Liang (#30) scored touchdowns for the Tigers on offense, while cornerback Leo Liu (#41) clinched the game with a second-half interception return for a touchdown.

Three players returned to the Warhawks from playing in the China Arena Football League for the game, including starting running back Ka Chun Yip (#9), but could not prevent the team from being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. The Tigers will now travel to Shanghai to face the Titans in the semifinals, in what should be a physical matchup.

Saturday, December 3rd
Chengdu Pandamen 26, Guangzhou Apaches 16

Chengdu made sure that the fate that befell the league’s other #1 seeds would not afflict them. Behind four total touchdowns from Stefan Daniels (#2), the visiting Pandamen pulled out a solid 26-16 victory on the road in Guangzhou against the host Apaches. Ivan Yuan (#7) opened the scoring for the visitors with a touchdown pass to Daniels (#2, 2 rushing and 2 receiving touchdowns), but the Apaches would keep the score close at halftime behind the powerful running of tailback Matthew Bunney (#45).

The Pandamen would pull away in the second half however, as Daniels rushed for two more touchdowns to put the Apaches away for good. Chengdu will now face perennial title contenders the Shanghai Nighthawks at home on Saturday, December 17th, in what will certainly be an intriguing matchup.

Saturday, December 3rd
Shanghai Titans 38, Chongqing Dockers 6

The host Shanghai Titans started fast and never looked back, winning comfortably against the Chongqing Dockers, who only traveled with 18 players. Titans quarterback Taylor Yu (#15, 3 TD passes) opened the first quarter with touchdown passes to Matt Smith (#3) and Frank Ma (#11, 2 TD receptions), before Dockers quarterback Kam Liu (#2) scampered into the end zone to cut the deficit to 12-6.

The Titans would prove to be too much to overcome however, as running back Lane Shen (#1) and Frank Ma added second-quarter touchdowns to extend their lead to 24-6. The Dockers switched to a wildcat offense, with Marques Slocum (#1) at the controls, but could not crack the Titans defense.

After a scoreless third quarter, the Titans would put the game away in the fourth with touchdown runs from Jimmy Liu (#45) and Eason Chen (#47). Next up for the Titans will be a semifinal matchup at home against the Guangzhou Tigers in two weekends. For the Dockers, it was a disappointing end to the season, as they lost their final two games of the season after winning their first three.

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