BRAZIL: Meet the BFA League’s Conference Champions!

No chance given to the underdogs, each conference trophy was handed to the early-season contender

As predicted here in the AFI, Galo FA, T-Rex, João Pessoa Espectros and Tubarões do Cerrado were the early-season main contenders to the BFA Title. Despite having strong opponents to face in each of their four conferences, it would have been a surprise to see the title and the national playoff spots falling into someone else’s hands. Each team faced their own adversities and still took the conference trophy home. Let’s take a look at last saturday’s games and make a preview for the next matches!

RECAP:

As we know, the Espectros had won the Northeastern Conference prior to last weekend, beating the Recife Mariners away. T-Rex beat Paraná HP and the Soldiers won a close game against newcomers Black Hawks FA in the South. Up in the Midwest, Cuiabá Arsenal had no trouble defeating the Leões de Judá, but the Tubarões had a tough time going through the Sorriso Hornets in Brasília. Galo FA shutout the Tritões in a record-breaking game, and Vasco Almirantes had a strong second half to beat Portuguesa and get back to the Southeastern final.

SOUTHERN FINAL:

T-Rex 48 – Santa Maria Soldiers 28

Saturday, November 16th: T-Rex vs Santa Maria Soldiers. The two highest ranked teams in the South played again in Timbó, Santa Catarina, Brazil. After 5-1 seasons by each side, it was time for one of the most awaited games of the year.

Rex RB Well Garcia pulls off an explosive run in the very first play from scrimmage. Ph: Richard Ferrari

Right at the first play from scrimmage, T-Rex took the lead with a 70-yard run by RB Well Garcia. Still in the first quarter, Rex QB Luiz Bassani threw a shovel pass and got picked by d-lineman Lucas Zanon, who returned it to the house. Game tied at seven. On the ensuing drive, it was Karl Henry’s time to rush the ball into the endzone and put the hosts back in the lead before the second quarter began. On a long connection between Bassani and his receiver Ian Bittencourt, Timbó saw its team on the redzone, and then it was fullback Francisconi’s turn to burst it through the goal line. Rex up by two scores. Before halftime, the Soldiers got back into the game with a Nathan Dias touchdown catch. 21-14 as the third period began.

The second half started a bit more one-sided as Bassani found Guilherme Meurer in the endzone, and then pulled of a QB sneak in the goal line. The visitors finally woke up and stroke back: QB Douglas Rodrigues threw a couple of touchdown passes and let the Soldiers down by seven again. When it felt like the hosts weren’t able to contain the Soldiers’ momentum, they did. After forcing a three-and-out, Rex got the ball back and Bassani found Bittencourt in the endzone for a TD. Up by fourteen, Rex kept the gas pedal down and scored again with Karl Henry before the clock expired. Final Score: T-Rex 48-28 Santa Maria Soldiers.

Rex QB and Southern Final MVP Luis Bassani lifts the trophy with his teammates. Ph: Richard Ferrari

MIDWESTERN FINAL:

Tubarões do Cerrado 61 – Cuiabá Arsenal 14

Also on Saturday, Tubarões do Cerrado went through no trouble to win the conference for the second time in their history. Cuiabá Arsenal had a solid 5-1 regular season and a 30-0 win to get to the final surely gave them confidence. But the recent change of offensive command took its toll on the team.

Arsenal had a bad day against the Tubarões, turning the ball over too much and giving away way too many big plays. Ph: Igor Alessandro

Backup QB Daniel Pereira was picked twice by the Tubarões defense, and the blue offense capitalized on both occasions: first with Gabriel “Cavalo” Ladeira rushing, and then with a Jordan Moore pass to WR Sedrick: Cuiabá down by 14 with only two defensive snaps. Returning the kickoff, Paulo Santos scored in an amazing foot race towards the endzone to put Arsenal’s first points on the board, but on the following kickoff it was Tubarões’ turn to score with Ewandson “B2” Nunes. Cuiabá finished the first quarter with a lost fumble and started the second by giving away a ton of yards. In its first drive with more than one play, Tubarões scored in a 15-yard rush by Moore. Having given away a TD on a bad kick, Victor Fialho decided to put more air on the ball, on the ensuing kickoff, and the bet paid off, as Arsenal muffed the returned and gave the ball away again. As tradition commanded in this turnover festival first half, the home team scored in the following playing and got back to the locker room winning 34-7.

The second half was even worse for Cuiabá, as the mercy rule was quickly rolling. Four more touchdowns by the Tubarões and one by Arsenal set the final score at Tubarões do Cerrado 61-14 Cuiabá Arsenal. Sedrick finished the game with the outstanding number of four touchdown receptions, and Moore had 5 TD passes and two rushing scores.

SOUTHEASTERN FINAL:

Galo FA 27 – Vasco Almirantes 0

The game between Galo FA and Vasco Almirantes wasn’t such a thriller as the Southern Final, but neither was it shooting practice like the Tubarões-Arsenal game. One year after the merger between Vasco Patriotas and Botafogo Reptiles, the Almirantes came in hot for the game following a 9-0 season that included a state championship and a #2 seed. Galo, on the other hand, is over three years ahead its last loss, and had beaten Vasco by 48-0 and 59-0 in their past encounters.

Despite the blowout history, the game was certainly good. Galo started strong and forced a three-and-out, but Galo RB Parris Lee fumbled the ball on the following drive and let the Almirantes in good field position. The rain was pouring as Galo’s defense held the Almirantes back and forced a punt. Both sides punted the ball a few more times before the first quarter was over, scoreless.

As the rain started to decrease, Galo’s running game began to work, but with QB Yaggo Brito out for a few snaps, backup Guilherme Guimarães was picked off by cornerback Loan Felisardo. Still in shape, the defense held Vasco back once more, as the visitors punted the ball again. A big play by All-Pro WR Victor Hugo “Mega” put Galo on the offensive field again. A run by Guimarães and a couple of good plays by slot receiver João Pedro Conrado set them for 2nd & 3 at the 19-yard line. A toss on an option-play and a great block by Conrado left Lee running free into the endzone. Galo 7-0 in the second. Before halftime, kicker Luiz Protásio missed a field goal that would have put Galo up by ten, so both sides went to the locker rooms with one score separating them.

Galo QB Yaggo Brito, despite facing some pressure, had a solid performance. Ph: Elvis D’Paula

Second half began with a good kickoff return by Galo free safety Michael James, taking Galo to their own 44. Runs by Parris Lee and Rafael Fadini took them across midfield, and another long completion to WR Mega, this time from QB Brito, who had just gotten back into the game. On a second and long in the red zone, the signal caller recovered his own fumble, caused by a wet ball. A run by Lee wasn’t enough for a first down, but placed Protasio in good position and his second attempt was right between the uprights. Galo 10-0. On the ensuing drive, Vasco moved the chains with a 31-yard pass from QB Tiago Gazelle to former Galo receiver Rudá Andrade, but failed to go any further. The drive ended in a 55-yard FG attempt that hit the soccer goal post (flashes of the Galo-Lusa game?), so the Almirantes were still in blank and Galo took the ball at their own 37.

After three rushes and a first down, Galo lost yards and had to punt again as the third quarter ended. Protásio, for 51 yards, pinned the ball inside Vasco’s 5-yard line. Vasco RB Rodrigo Pacquiao saved the team from the bad field position, knocking off 29 yards in two rushes. Despite the explosive start for the drive, the Almirantes ended up punting the ball, and Galo moved the chains thanks to a 12-yard Parris Lee rush and a sideline penalty by Vasco. After Brito tucked the ball under his arm and rushed till near the goal line, Lee pushed it in for a two-yard score and Protásio extended the lead to 17-0.

Three scores behind, the Almirantes switched to panic mode and started running against the clock by giving up their strong run game. After a long connection to Felisardo (who also plays WR), Gazelle brought Vasco to the opponent’s 21 yard line, but was picked off by Rodolfo “Rox” Santos at the goal line. Starting the drive from their own 5, Galo chewed the clock down with a couple of Fadini rushes and a complete pass to WR Victor Vilaça. On 3rd down, Brito threw a screen pass to Fadini, who took it 72 yards away into the endzone. On the kickoff, Vasco import Hakeem Sterling tried to return, but a great tackle by Vilaça stripped the ball out, and Galo got it back again. Chewing the clock again, they had time to send Protasio back on the pitch to set the final numbers: Galo FA 27-0 Vasco Almirantes. The trophy stays in Minas Gerais for the third straight year, as teams from Rio de Janeiro suffered their seventh straight loss against Galo in Belo Horizonte.

Four-time national champion and Galo offensive lineman Victor Quintas lifts the Conference Trophy, his third since rejoining the team in 2017.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Reediting the last two Brasil Bowls (2017 and 2018), Galo and Espectros meet again, this time in the semifinals. There’s still a bitter taste in the Espectros’ mouths after last year’s loss in João Pessoa, when Parris Lee scored Galo’s game-winning touchdown after the two-minute warning. With long-time starting QB Rodrigo Dantas out for the season with an ACL injury it is American Alex Niznak’s responsibility to carry the red-and-black Northeastern champions’ hopes to the next Brasil Bowl. Galo is still undefeated, but facing a thousand-mile-long journey, the balance may tilt in favor of the hosts. It is unwise to call anybody a safe bet in this matchup, but it’s certain to say a great game lies ahead. Galo is fighting for its third BFA title in a row, and the Espectros are looking to join the two-time champions club (along with Galo FA, Corinthians Steamrollers, Cuiabá Arsenal, Coritiba Crocodiles, T-Rex and Flamengo Imperadores).

Playing each other for the first time in history, T-Rex will host the Tubarões do Cerrado in the other semifinal. The Midwestern champions will finally test their powerful offense against a truthful opponent. Last year they fell short in the semifinals against the Espectros in Brasília, but having added conference MVP Jordan Moore to their roster, this year might tell a different story. Rex are the most experienced team in the matchup, and the 800-mile distance that awaits the Tubarões will surely help as well. T-Rex dreams to be the first three-time champion in Brazilian history, and the Tubarões are hoping to bring their first trophy home.

JOÃO PESSOA ESPECTROS vs. GALO FA (Dec 1st, 2PM EST/3PM Local time)

T-REX SPORTS ACADEMY vs. TUBARÕES DO CERRADO (Nov 30th, TBD)

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