Barcelona magic highlights a fantastic Week 8 in the ELF

With team rosters officially locking on August 8, the European League of Football has entered the home stretch after Week 8 offered some of the best gridiron action anywhere in the world this weekend.

There was a little something for everyone. A shootout thriller for the ages with an upset finish, the toppling of the league’s final undefeated, and an aerial showcase that could shake up the playoff race.

Here are my thoughts on the games.

Game 1 – Barcelona Dragons 60 – Cologne Centurions 51

Barcelona Dragons LB #33 Timon Debiez and #45 Alex Gonzalez Photo: Barcelona Dragons

111 total points. 1,220 yards of combined offense. You could play a thousand games in a hundred different leagues and you might not find a game half as exciting as what happened in Reus on Saturday.

It came as no surprise to any casual ELF observer that the Cologne Centurions were able to produce a high-scoring game. They’ve been one of the league’s most productive offenses all season and running back Madre London had what might be considered an average outing for him, with 290 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. A strong game from Jan Weinreich at quarterback meant they were almost unmatched, the keyword there being almost.

Barcelona was brilliant at home, slicing apart the Cologne defense with big play after big play. The MVP of the week, quarterback Zach Edwards, looked almost superhuman. He avoided pressure with the escapability of Houdini and racked up 454 yards passing and four touchdowns, adding 45 yards and two more scores on the ground. French receiver Remi Bertellin was equally unstoppable, catching eight passes for 271 yards and a long touchdown, while Jean Constant had 274 all-purpose and a rushing score. It was nothing short of electric, edge of your seat, video game football.

Those who enjoy defensive showcases won’t want to hear this, but this is the type of game fans want to see. This game could have gone back and forth for eternity and never gotten old, its only flaw being the technical malfunction that left the broadcast without a time clock or scoreboard. Pure entertainment injected directly through the eyeball.

Beyond the incredible showing on the field, I was captivated yet again by the atmosphere in Spain. Those in Reus may not be the ELF’s largest crowd, but they may be the loudest and their energy fueled the hometown team to victory. One moment, in particular, will stick with me. After what appeared to be the game-deciding defensive stop, the camera panned the crowd and captured a pair of teenagers, maybe 15-years-old, jumping into each other’s arms in pure elation. Tears of joy could be seen. Three more touchdowns were scored after that moment but I’m sure they reacted with the same enthusiasm at every twist and turn.

It reminded me of the moment I myself fell truly in love with the sport, turning from youth player into lifelong fan. It was a similarly dramatic game, the 2011 Vanier Cup in Vancouver, considered one of the best games ever played in Canada. That game stole my heart and I never got it back. I don’t think these kids will either.

There is something truly special brewing in Barcelona. Adam Rita’s once down-and-out team has become a threat to win every week, even as a good portion of their coaching staff has turned over. The players have taken ownership and young coaches like offensive coordinator Patrick Wenin are opening eyes. The playoffs may be too tall a task for this group in the end, but they are already fundamentally redefining the football culture in Spain.

Game 2 – Frankfurt Galaxy 35 – Hamburg Sea Devils 9

Galaxy RB #33 Justin Rodney fighting for yards. Photo: Michael Freitag

The Hamburg Sea Devils are perfect no longer and honestly, it is not at all surprising.

If you are a regular reader of this column, you know I’ve been banging this drum for weeks. Hamburg’s offensive ineptitude and the struggles of their quarterback have made them vulnerable, and all it took was an average defensive outing from their banged up unit to see them drop a game to their chief ELF rival.

In a pivotal contest, Jadrian Clark threw for just 139 yards and one interception. The Galaxy defense has turned into a peer, if not an equal, to the Sea Devils ferocious front, but even so more has to be expected from Andreas Nommensen’s group. It was a below-average performance up front as well, and the result was a loss that was neither close nor exciting.

Jakeb Sullivan continues to quietly have a very strong season for Frankfurt and he, by contrast, provides the potential for offensive brilliance on any given play. These teams have now split the season series, but I don’t think there is any debate as to who is in the ELF driver’s seat as the season enters the home stretch. The Galaxy look untouchably crisp, while this might not be Hamburg’s last loss before the playoffs.

Game 3 – Leipzig Kings 49 –  Stuttgart Surge 23

Leipzig RB #2 Jason Aguemon Photo: Mariann Wenzel

The last time these two franchises faced off, the Surge pulled a gritty upset of a tired and injury-hampered Kings squad. It was one of the year’s finer team performances and for just a quarter Sunday, you had to wonder if it might happen again. Leipzig has been typically slow to start and they came up scoreless in the first, with a couple of mental errors giving Stuttgart a slim lead. Then something clicked.

Leipzig had the type of offensive explosion that only they are capable of, going on what amounted to a 49-3 run until mid-way through the fourth. Quarterback Michael Birdsong was absolutely slinging the football, finishing with 312 yards and five beautiful touchdowns through the air. Nine different receivers caught passes and seven of them had a catch of over 20 yards. Stuttgart’s secondary was utterly helpless.

The Kings were just as good on defense and Kyle Kitchens had a sensational outing off the edge, racking up 4.5 sacks. Surge quarterback Aaron Ellis was hung out to dry, taken to the turf eight times. Stuttgart managed to maintain some respectability with a pair of late touchdowns, but it was merely lipstick on a pig.

Leipzig really is firing on all cylinders since Birdsong returned and while depth remains an issue, they have a handful of players that are easily among the ELF elite. They get a well-earned bye this coming week but come back to the three-headed monster of Hamburg, Frankfurt and Wroclaw back to back to back. That’s one hell of a tough draw, but with two of those clubs showing recent vulnerability, the Kings have a chance to play spoiler in the standings or even get into the playoffs themselves.

J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.