American Football League of China Quarterfinal Action This Weekend

The American Football League of China heads into their quarterfinal matchups this weekend. The winners move on to the semifinals December 12 with the AFLC championship game slated for January 16, 2016.

#5 Shanghai Titans (2-2) v #4 v. Shanghai Warriors (3-1),

Pudong, Shanghai

China - AFLC - quarters - Titans-Warriors

These two teams faced off just over a month ago, with the Warriors emerging victorious 30-16. This matchup should be more even however, as the Titans return last year’s starting running back Erick Velasco, who is a more of a scatback type, to compliment Jerry Zhang, who is more of a bruiser. The Titans have also received a boost on the defensive line with the added presence of defensive end Inusa Dawuda Jr. Quarterback Taylor Yu did not do a good job protecting the ball back in October, as he threw three picks and lost a fumble in the defeat. His ability to avoid mistakes may ultimately be the deciding factor in the game

Warriors quarterback Tim Gomez picked apart the Titans secondary in the first game, but he figures to see a stronger pass rush this time around. He will have by far the best receiving corps in the league to throw to, as Kevin Cook, Qiming Xiao, Curtis Good, and Alex Spang are all big-play threats. The Warriors run defense has been susceptible to giving up sizeable chunks of yardage against some of the league’s better teams at times this season however, and while Yu’s accuracy is often an issue, wideouts Allen Jin and Frank Ma possess the speed to take the top off a defense. The Warriors will have to respect this possibility, and this should give Zhang and Velasco room to run underneath in the Titans’ run heavy offensive scheme. This one is hard to call, and should be a fairly close game as usual.

#9 Chongqing Dockers (1-4) v. #1 Hong Kong Cobras (4-0)

Hong Kong

China - AFLC - quarters - Cobras-Dockers

The first ever matchup between the two teams should be an intriguing one, as this also represents only the second game the Cobras have played against AFLC North opposition in the last three seasons. The AFLC South’s best team for two years running has compiled a 9-1 record in league games the past two seasons, but that one loss came against the North division’s Shanghai Nighthawks in last year’s playoffs, and they have been fighting the perception that their superb record has been a result of playing inferior competition. A convincing win against the Dockers could do a lot to earn them respect. As they have done all season, quarterback Elias Hammiche, running back Acton McKenley, and wide receiver Thomas Man will lead the attack for the league’s #1 seed. Man in particular could be in for a productive afternoon, as Chongqing’s subpar defense will be put to the test by the hard-running McKenley, which should leave them open for big plays over the top.

After dispatching their regional rivals the Chengdu Pandamen 28-16 in the first round, the Dockers have momentum going into this contest, but the loss of running back Wendell Brown may be too much to overcome against the Cobra defense. Without any semblance of a passing game, Marques Slocum has moved to tailback, with the athletic Hao Lu moving under center.  Chongqing has looked disjointed on offense too often this season however, and any turnovers will most likely spell doom for the Dockers. The winner of this one will take on the winner of the Warriors and Titans matchup on December 12th in the AFLC semifinals.

#6 Guangzhou Tigers (2-2) v. #3 Hong Kong Warhawks (3-1),

Hong Kong

China - AFLC - quarters - Tigers-Warhawks

The second of two playoff games in Hong Kong will feature the Tigers visiting the Warhawks for the second straight time. The Warhawks ran away with the Week 5 matchup, 48-24, and not much has changed or happened to the two sides aside from the time off they have had to prepare for each other again. Hong Kong will figure to keep leaning on diminutive but speedy running back Ka Chun Yip, who has been a workhorse all season long. The Tigers will attempt to match the Warhawks’ speed on the ground with speed of their own, as running back Eason Chen is a home run threat, and the focal point of their offense. Playing at home, the Warhawks should be able to take out the visitors from Guangzhou a second straight time, as quarterback Jason Yeung’s ability to air it out to targets like wideouts Sahil Arora and Jan He Wong represents an offensive dimension the Tigers can’t match.

The game’s winner will visit the Shanghai Nighthawks on December 12. The defending AFLC champions represent the #2 seed, and were set to face the #7 seed Guangzhou Apaches at home this weekend, but the Apaches forfeited due to a lack of available players able to travel to Shanghai for the game. The Nighthawks have thus advanced to the AFLC semifinals.

China - AFLC - 2015 quarterfinal draw chart

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