Brazil’s Superliga Surging Towards Thrilling Finish

Brazil’s Superliga heads into the crucial part of the 2016 season with several key games last weekend. The Recife Mariners looked impressive in their win over the Petroleiros. The Lusa Lions went into overtime before edging the Steamrollers while the White Sharks clinched a playoff berth in squeaking by Juventude.

 Ceara Caçadores – 49 Vitoria All Saints – 12

Estadio Municipal de Lauro Freitas – Lauro de Freitas, Bahia

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Above: Ceará Caçadore defensive back, Paulo Alberto, breaks up a Vitória All Saints pass. Photo credit: Gian Coloni

TB Battle continued to score points in just about every way imaginable, as he led his Ceará Caçadores squad to another win, keeping them in the conversation for a Conferência Nordeste title. Battle returned interceptions for touchdowns of 70 and 80 yards, a 76 yard receiving score, and broke off a 65 yard trot for a 4th touchdown.

The Brothers Reis also got into the scoring act for the Caçadores, with Marlo Reis (2 receptions for 54 yards) returning the games opening kickoff for 6, and catching one of Romário Reis’ (109 yards passing, 2 TDs, 0 interceptions) two TD tosses (the other went to Battle). Cacadores running back, Eduardo Maranho added 136 yards on 15 carries and a score on the ground. Cornerback, Paulo Alberto, had a pick for the squad from Ceara.

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Above: Ceará Caçadores fullback, Paulo “Caminhão” Alberto, fights off Vitória All Saint defenders for tough yards. Photo credit: Gian Coloni

Vitoria’s Michael Campbell contributed on offense, defense, and especially special teams, where he returned a Caçadore kick for a late All Saints score. The tough running Diego Fiaes ran for Vitoria’s only other score of the game.

AFI’s take: Although the scoreboard looked lopsided, this was a gutsy, character win for an undermanned Caçadore team who was able to bring only 40 players, and no backups at quarterback or running back.

Highlight: The electric Marlo Reis dusts everyone down the sideline and takes the games opening kickoff to the Promised Land (video courtesty Salaõ Oval):

White Sharks- Istepos – 6 Juventude – 0

Colégio Forquilhao – São Jose, Santa Catarina

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The White Sharks-Istepos (WSI) young quarterback, Nathan Marques, connected on a jump ball to Alexandre Girolometto for the deciding score in a rain-soaked, defensive battle that clinched a playoff berth for the WSI.

‘’It was another game where the rain dictaded what we had to do offensively. We had a good rythm in the 4th quarter but couldn’t capitalize,’’ said Juventude Head Coach, Wesley Mota.

Juventude strong safety, Willian Felizari, rolled up close to the line of scrimmage all day and led his team in tackles.

‘’We loaded up the box and played good coverage all game long. I believe they completed onlye 1 or 2 passes,’’ said Mota.

AFI’s take: The WSI have made a habit this season getting stops when they need to, scoring just enough points, and winning close games. These experiences will be valuable in what is sure to be a brutal playoff run to the CBFA Superliga finals.

Highlight: WSI WR, Alexandre Girolometto, goes up and gets a jump ball from quarterback, Nathan Marques (video courtesy of Salão Oval):

Curitiba Crocodiles – 13 Foz da Iguaçu Black Sharks – 2

Complexo Brown Spiders – Curitiba, Parana

Saturday marked the second ‘’mud bowl’’ in a row for both teams for the state of Parana.

“We ran the ball and really stayed out of the air, only (passing) to soften the defense a little,” said Crocodile signal-caller, Drew Banks, of his teams strategy for sloppy conditions.

Running back, Suelber Rangel, taking advantage of some extra snaps due to the absence of star RB, Bruno Santucci (out with a shoulder injury), opened up the crocodile scoring on the ground, and Banks scored on a bootleg late in the game to seal the Crocodile victory.

‘’(Lucas) Nascimento and Suelber ran the ball really well for us,’’ said Banks.

The lanes the Crocodile runners ambled through were opened up by a Curitiba offensive line that was rejuvenated by the return of two previously injured offensive linemen, Maatheus Jakimiu and Felipe Soares.

“Our O-line and Suelber carried us,’’ said Banks.

Defensively, the Crocodiles were a mangled version of their usual starting lineup, missing playmakers on all three levels of the defense. Pass-rusher extraodinaire, Delmer Zoschke, was out with a ruptured tendon in his finger, veteran linebacker, Fernando Alves, was sidelined with a strained hamstring, and adroit safety, Cleverson Freitas, missed the contest with a severe ankle sprain. A disabled list like this would ravage most teams, but the Curitiba Crocodiles are not most teams.

Safety/linebacker, Leonardo Tomadon, made several key tackles and a big sack late in the game. Marcos Rosas and Gino Santorro intercepted Black Sharks passes on the few that were attempted.

AFI’s take: Curitiba is certainly a ‘’next man up’’ team and has had to live out that mantra in nearly every game this season. With the undefeated White Sharkes-Istepos and playoff contender Timbo T-Rex looming to close out the season, now would be the time for all of Curitiba’s Crocodiles to get healthy.

Cuiaba Arsenal – 39 Sao Paulo Storm – 14

Canindé – São Paulo, São Paulo

Brandon Watkins and Ken Joshen combined for 3 interceptions and four touchdowns to once again pace the Arsenal in another double digit victory.

‘’The game was hard fought on both sides, the refs did a good job of controlling the game, and letting the teams play ball,’’ said Joshen who is also the Arsenal’s HC.

Sao Paulo struck first, with a safety and then touchdown scamper by Allan Giamas, but the Arsenal were able to ride out the Storm with suffocating defense that didn’t allow another Sao Paulo point until the end of the game, when the outcome had already been decided.

That defensive effort started with Cuiaba forcing by forcing a second quarter fumble, which set up a Watkins touchdown gallop. Watkins then put his Mato Grosso squad on the board again by returning an interception 30 yards for a touchdown, making the score 15-8 at the half.

‘’Our linebackers Higino Gomes and Igor Mota played exceptionally,’’ said Joshen. ‘’and the d-line, led by Jadson Santana and Marcus Alves, did a great job of securing the run and had several tackles for losses,’’ he added.

The second half opened up with back to back touchdown passes from Watkins to Joshen.

‘’Our O-line played well, allowing 1 sack and no penalties,’’ said Joshen.

Raulin Leal added a second half field goal, and Marcelo Roversi hit Michael Douglas Klitzke for a scoring pass to round out the scoring for the boys from the Pantanal.

AFI’s take: The Arsenal have big time playmakers on all three levels of their defense, they can penetrate the LOS and they swarm to the football. That should make for a fun matchup against the run game of the undefeated Tubaroes do Cerrado in their next game. Watkins and Joshen have been nothing short of electric all season long; it will be interesting to see what other sources of touchdowns that Cuiaba has up its sleeve come playoff time.

Watch the compact version of this game here:

Highlight: Brandon ”The Rocket” Watkins crosses the field to take an interception to the end zone, and receives some blocking help from the Arsenal defense along the way (video courtesy of Salão Oval):

Goiania Rednecks – 32 Sorocaba Vipers – 6

SESI Ferreira Pacheco – Goiania, Goias

Goiania Rednecks QB, Paulo Paiva, prepares to take a snap against the Sorocaba Vipers, in Goiania, Goias.

Goiania Rednecks QB, Paulo Paiva, prepares to take a snap against the Sorocaba Vipers, in Goiania, Goias.

With their win against Sorocaba, the Goiania Rednecks went from being a team that didn’t own a set of pads and helmets, to making the playoffs in the lightning speed of three years.

Paulo Paiva threw a TD pass to his brother, Carlos Paiva, and two more to Ewandson Nunes, while Lucas ‘’rato’’ Pereira rushed for two scores. The Redneck defense tamed the Vipers the tune of 7 sacks and 5 tackles for loss. Newcomer defensive end, Eder Oliveira, used his blackbelt jiu jitsu (his previous sport) skills to lead the Goiania defensive attack.

AFI’s take: This continues to be a dream season for the Rednecks.

Tubaroes do Cerrado – 24 Campo Grande Predadores – 0

Estadio Serejao – Taguatinga, Distrito Federal

The Tubaroes do Cerrado (TdC) started off hot, going up 14-0 within the first six minutes of play, and then used their wing-T run game and suffocating defense to grind out the clock to clinch a playoff birth, sett up a battle of undefeateds when they travel to Cuiaba to face the Arsenal for the Conferencia Oeste, Grupo E title.

The TdC’s destructive defensive line dismantled and devastated a dismayed Predadore offense and pitched a shutout. Star linemen, Felipe Marques and Augusto ‘’The Bus’’ Oliveira, led the way with Marques notching 4 sacks and 3 tackles for loss, and Oliveira securing the Predadores QB in the backfield on 3 occasions.

‘’The Predadores played a good game. The difference in the game was the defensive line and our strong running game,’’ said Oliveira.

The ‘’Running Bruno’s’’, the TdC running back tandem of Bruno ‘’hitman’’ Alberto and Bruno Oliveira, both reached the endzone on carries, and defensive captain, Pedro Yoshida, who had picked off an opponents pass in every game this season, continued the habit, and returned an interception for a touchdown. Vitor Fialho added a field goal and was 3-3 on PAT attempts.

‘’Our offense and defense are evolving every game. We are focused on the Arsenal and earning a 1 seed to play at home in the playoffs,’’ said Marques.

AFI’s take: In a country where the distance between the southernmost and northernmost teams is more than 3,100 kilometers/1,950 miles, road games are expensive and often mean that a full roster can’t travel. In other words: The TdC’s battle with Cuiaba for a 1 seed has gigantic playoff implications.

Recife Mariners – 36 UFERSA Petroleiros – 0

Estadio dos Aflitos – Recife, Pernambuco


It was a complete game for one of Brazil’s top teams, the Recife Mariners, as they bounced back from their first loss of the season in a major way, with the Mariner defense pitching a shutout and Alex Niznak slinging the ball all over the field for the Recife offense.

‘’Last game (a loss to the Ceara Caçadores) we faced a lot of adversity with dropped balls, but they worked hard and overcame those problems,’’ said Mariners Head Coach, Lucas Cisneros. ‘’Defensively, our up front guys played great. Nelly (Nelson Ferreira) got the highlight, he was constantly wreaking havoc in the backfield.”

The ‘’highlight’’ that Cisneros was referring to was a fumble that the defensive tackle, Ferreira, scooped up and returned for a touchdown.

‘’(Nelson is) very deserving (of the touchdown), (as he) represents that effort that we want,’’ added Cisneros.

All of that pressure up front created great opportunities for the Recife secondary to break up passes.

‘’Our DB’s also delivered a great performance, I think we only had 5 passes completed against us all day, that’s amazing against an American QB,’’

Recife quarterback, Alex Niznak, spread the touchdown love by connecting with four different Recife targets for touchdowns while going 27/47 for 340 yards.

‘’Alex and the receivers had a superb game and looked in rhythm throughout the day,’’ said Cisneros, of his star QB and talented receiving corps. ‘’All in all, a good performance and we are going to enjoy fully enjoy it today because we deserved it. Then it’s on to the Espectros and their very well coached and strong team.”

AFI’s take: A huge game with rival Joao Pessoa awaits. The Mariners are 2-1 against the Espectors in their last three contests, but Joao Pessoa won the national semi-final game. These two teams need zero help getting motivated to play each other, but a share of the conference title isn’t bad stakes.

Watch the compact version of this game here:

Portuguesa Lusa Lions – 20 Corinthians Steamrollers – 13 (overtime)

Estadio Canindé – São Paulo, São Paulo


Photo: Ricardo Corrêa/StudioRGB

Watch the compact version of this game here:

Add another thrilling chapter to this classic rivalry.

With only 20 seconds remaining in the game, Lions kicker, Renan Barbosa, nailed a clutch 42 yard field goal to knot the score at 13 and send the contest to overtime. To get to that point, Barbosa had opened the scoring with a first quarter field goal, and Corinthians countered with Diego Clouston touchdown passes stud receiver, Victor ‘’Mega’’ Hugo, who hauled in a tough catch to open the scoring for his squad, as well as to Matheus Torres.

”Corinthians took advantage of our lack of pressure on the quarterback and spread the ball around well to all of their weapons,” said Lusa Head Coach, Paulo Henrique Martins. ”We were resillient on defense, though,” he added.

That resilliency paid off in a major way for the Lion defense, as they blocked the Steamroller’s second PAT attempt, in a play that would echo into the end of regulation.

Hanging tough, Lusa QB, Catullo Goes, hit veteran pass catcher, Leandro Fratini, for a TD strike to wrap up the first half at a score of 13-10, Corinthians.

”Catullo made some crucial plays and didn’t have any turnovers,” said Martins of his veteran signal-callers performance.

The second half saw a rejuvenated Lion defense that forced three Steamroller turnovers.

”We changed our approach at half time and started using a little more fire zone, and it worked pretty well,” said Martins.

Lusa was unable to capitalize on the turnovers it created, though, as a stingy Corinthians defense, led by import, AJ Flores, forced a Lions fumble and pressured for two missed field goals, holding Portuguesa scoreless for nearly all of the second half.
With less than 2 minutes remaining in the game, Goes and running back, Johnny Santos, led the Lions on a 60 yard drive that resulted in the aforementioned game-tying field goal.

”Johnny was the man. He carried our team on his back,” said Martins of his star ball carrier.

In the second sudden death overtime, Lusa WR, Vinicius Seiya, continued his breakout season with a huge touchdown reception from Goes. Another Barbosa PAT conversion gave Portuguesa their first lead of the afternoon, and an opportunity to clinch a playoff birth, if they could stop the Steamroller offense on the ensuing possession, leading to a goaline stand for the ages.

After a penalty gave the Steamrollers the ball a 1st and 10 on the Portuguesa 11, Corinthians ran the ball four consecutive times behind imports Joc Crawford and Shervarius Jackson, to earn a 1st and goal from the Portuguesa 1 yard line. Three consecutive running plays later, and the two squads were still facemask to facemask on the goaline.

On 4 and goal from the 2, the Corinthians lined up with two tight ends, the quarterback under center, and three backs in the backfield. Lusa countered by bringing all 11 defenders into the box. They aligned shade technique defenders on either side of the Steamroller center. At the snap, the defensive tackle of the left side of the Portuguesa defense, Jonas Rusig, came clean through his A-gap and took advantage of a messy exchange between Clouston and Crawford. Rusig managed to tip the ball, track it through the air, and then secure the football, and a Portuguesa playoff birth in his hands. He then smartly slid to a knee, and was just as quickly up again, celebrating with his Lions teammates under the lights of  Estadio Caninde.

AFI’s takeLusa made plays when they had to, and their kicking game came through big. Continuity, from an offense that has been explosive at times this season, will be key moving forward.

Highlight: Steamrollers’ receiver, Victor ”Mega” Hugo makes a beautiful catch in traffic to secure a touchdown pass for Diego Clouston (video courtesy of Salão Oval):

Highlight: The Lusa Lions defense sets the edge and swarms through interior gaps to steal the football and secure victory against the Steamrollers in a beautiful goal line stand (video courtesy Salão Oval):

Clayton Lovett has served football in Brasil in a variety of roles, including as the member of the coaching staff of two CBFA national champions (Cuiaba Arsenal 2010, 2012). Football is his hobby. Professionally, he is the founder of CS Educacional,