Brazil’s Superliga Heating Up

The past two weekends in Brazil’s Superliga have seen plenty of action as playoff positions start to emerge.

The Recife Mariners made a statement in their game, Joao Pessoa Espectros head coach Kevin Veloso celebrated his second career victory and the build up for the Lions-Arsenal match up in Cuiaba continued.

Recife Pirates 43 – America Bulls 0, Estadio Pascoal de Lima – Natal, Rio Grande do Norte

Brazil - Recife Mariners-Alex Niznak QB 2016-2

Recife Mariners QB Alex Niznak

The upstart America Bulls were handed their first loss of the season in a major way, as Recife rolled its way through Natal and continued its march to the top of Conferencia Nordeste.

Recife QB Alex Niznak was nearly perfect in the second quarter, going 13 for 15 during that period and helping the Mariners build a 23-0 lead at the half. Mariner linebacker, David Renan, led a defense that pitched the shutout. The MVP of the game, however, according to Mariners skipper, Lucas Cisneros, was kicker Rafael Bandeira, who was 3-3 on field goals and, according to Cisneros, “really jump started our team with maybe the best special teams performance in the history of the team.’’

Niznak, who finished the game 22-40 with 3 TDs, seems to be coming into his own. Cisneros was enthusiastic in his praise:

“He got into a rhythm yesterday, and it was just a beauty to see. His leadership is amazing and he is now very comfortable adjusting after drives and coaching up the guys. He also showed some very healthy competitiveness that the guys fed off.”

AFI’s take: Coach Lucas Cisneros’ squad is improving with every game and Alex Niznak’s comfort level with the offense seems to be greater with each snap. Things are trending in the right direction in Recife.

Joao Pessoa Espectros 45 – Recife Pirates 6, Almeioao – Joao Pessoa, Paraiba

WR-turned-QB, Vitctor Ramalho, of the Joao Pessoa Espectros, fights for extra yards against a Recife Pirates defender. Photo Credit: andersonnssilva

WR-turned-QB Vitctor Ramalho of the Joao Pessoa Espectros, fights for extra yards against a Recife Pirates defender. Photo credit: andersonnssilva

No Dantas? No problem!
Very few teams can handle losing their starting QB, even fewer when that QB is one of the best in the country… but the Joao Pessoa Espectros are not most teams. In the absence of star signal caller, Rodrigo Dantas, WR Victor Ramalho took the helm of the Espectro offense and accounted for 3 scores and some highlight-reel runs.

“He (Ramalho) is a double threat that represented a lot for them (the Pirates) to handle,’’ said first year Espectros HC, Kevin Veloso, who used Ramalho to run the ball a little more than usual for an Espectros team that is not shy about chucking the ball all over the field. “Our gap schemes were the most successful due to the Pirates d-line positioning,’’ said Veloso.

Veloso cited the Espectro special teams as a catalyst to his squads performance.

“They controlled field position very well, always leaving the Pirates with a long field and our offense with a short one,’’ he said.

Kicker Diego Aranha was perfect on PAT’s and added a field goal.

Defensively, Veloso was happy with how his team contained talented Pirates running back, Sanchez Holder. Nasty Joao Pessoa D-lineman, Marcos Hercules, forced two fumbles, one recovered by Jackson Lima, and the other returned for a TD by Jesus ‘’The Savior’’ Emanuel.
Everton Antero had two rushing plowed into the endzone for two Espectros rushing touchdowns.
AFI’s take: (counting down the hours until Recife Mariners vs. Joao Pessoa Espectros)

Cuiaba Arsenal 30 – Campo Grande Predadores 14, Estadio Jacques da Luz- Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul

Above: Cuiaba Arsenal WR, (waiting on name), gets off The line Against The Predadores In Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul. foto credit: Nelson Corrales

Cuiaba Arsenal WR gets off the line against the Predadores in Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul. Photo credit: Nelson Corrales

Brandon Watkins found the end zone twice, as did Ken Joshen, who scored offensively and on a pick 6, as the Arsenal owned the day in Campo Grande.

AFI’s take: The stage is now center for a big time game against Portugues’s Lusa Lions on August 20 in Cuiaba.

UFERSA Petroleiros 12 – Vitoria All Saints 0, Nogeuirao- Mossoro, Rio Grande do Norte

Ray Bradley scored on runs of 53 and 35 yards to handle scoring duties for the Petroleitos against the winless All Saints, in a game that only accounted for 236 yards of total offense for both teams combined, according to Petroleiros statistics.

“Our defense controlled the game and while we handled their run game, we gave up some big runs on quarterback scrambles,’’ said Mossoro Defensive Coordinator, Armando Gomes.

AFI’s take: The Petroleiros have athletes and are probably still at least a year away from sitting at the Big Boy Table in Conferencia Nordeste.

Vila Velha Tritoes 42 – Santos Tsunami 12, CT Meninos da Vila- Santos, São Paulo

Tritoes WR, Pedro Medici, found the end zone 3 times, twice by reception and once on a 47 yard punt return, to pace the Vila Velha in a game where they led from start to finish. In addition to hitting Medici for scores, the Capixaba quarterback, Altivo Ribeiro (11/17, 161 yards passing) also hit Stephan Cirilo for a score. Alex Allen added to rushing touchdowns and 76 yards on 10 carries.

While happy with the victory, Tritoes head coach, Lener Fernandes wants to fine tune his aggressive defense.

“We had a lot of unnecessary penalties. 3rd and long followed by a late hit, goaline pass interference,’’ he said.

Even with the abundance of flags, the Vila Velha defense had a lot of bright spots, led by linebackers Richard Moneqeui and Jefferson Martins, who was praised in particular by Fernandes for his leadership and speed to the ball carrier. Fernandes described cornerback Junis Bozetti, as “flawless”. Bozetti didn’t allow a completion and had an interception.

AFI’s take: This is a solid win for a Tritoes team that is still trying to find its new identity after the departure of some key pieces.

Curitiba Crocodiles 42 – Curitiba Brown Spiders 14, Complexo Esportiva Brown Spiders- Curitiba, Parana

Bruno Santucci rumbled into the end zone twice to pace the Crocodiles over the cross-town Brown Spiders. Drew Banks hit Adan Rodrigues with a TD pass, and had another one hauled in by ageless wonder, Gerard Kaghtazian Jr. The ever-opportunistic Croco defense added a pick 6 and scooped and scored for another TD.

“I think this was good win for us. Especially offensively after the first game where we struggled a little. Our offense played a lot better. We are starting to get on the same page,’’ said Banks.

The offense regained the services of running back Lucas Nascimento, who along with Santucci is one of the best runners in Brazil. Both backs can pound the ball and wear down defenses.

‘’I think we are on our way to becoming a great offense that will be able to put up a lot of points, and help an already good defense stay off the field and play with less pressure. We still have tons of work to do, but I think we are on the right track,’’ added Banks.

AFI’s take: A two headed crocodile monster sounds like a fantastic plot for a science fiction movie, but it’s exactly what Drew Banks will have at his disposal in the backfield with Nascimento and Santucci at 100% health.

Timbo T-Rex 81 – Foz da Iguaçu Black Sharks 7, Campo da Vila- Foz da Iguaçu, Parana

Above: The Black Sharks defense lines up against Timbo. Photo credit: Foz da Iguaçu Black Sharks Football Team Facebook page

Above: The Black Sharks defense lines up against Timbo. Photo credit: Foz da Iguaçu Black Sharks Football Team Facebook page

“I don’t remember the other (touchdowns),’’ said Timbo RB, Clair Jose Simao Jr., when asked to recount who did all of the scoring in Timbo’s victory in Foz da Iguaçu, Parana. Who could blame him? 12 touchdowns is a lot to keep track of.

Timbo head man, Amadeo Salvador, cited the continued development of QB Carlos Bassani as the key in Timbo’s scoring explosion. The scoring was spread around, with Simoe leading the team in rushing TD’s with 2, and Ivan Tonolli securing 3 of the Rex’s TD catches. Even the young Rex got into the action, as Salvador noted excellent performances from recent Base-Team (the equivalent of a JV or developmental team) call ups, Maher Brandl (OL) and Denis Willian (WR) as playing well.

The Timbo defense, stingy as ever, had 3 interceptions and forced a fumble. Salvador cited LB Luis Polastri and DL Dorval Sousa, who led the team in tackles, as catalysts for the Rex D.

AFI’s take: Bassani has continually improved after a shaky opening week loss to the Sao Jose White Sharks-Istepos. How he and QB, Drew Hill fit into the offense together will be interesting to see in the coming weeks. If there was ever a team culture to handle lots of talent at one position, it’s the one that Coach Salvador and Igor Rick have built in Timbo.

Parana HP 26 – Juventude 3, Campo da Uniao- Caixas do Sul, Rio Grande do Sul

Above: Coach Welsey Mota instructs his Juventude athletes as they enter the field against the Paraná HP. Foto credit: Juventude F.A. Facebook page

Above: Coach Welsey Mota instructs his Juventude athletes as they enter the field against the Paraná HP. Photo credit: Juventude F.A. Facebook page

The HP pieced together an offensive line full of rookies, featuring a defensive player at center, to pull of a huge Conferencia Sul road victory in Caixas do Sul. That offensive line only allowed one sack all day, allowing for 3 HP TD passes.

Guilhermo Gulin hauled in TD passes from two different HP players, Maycon Rodrigues and Matthew Rose, while Rodrigues hit Silva Junior with another strike to the end zone, to pace the scoring for the HP. Lucas Copi added two field goals.

Linebacker Gustavo Rios came up big for the HP defense, with big plays on the field and leadership off of it, in the absence of former DC, Carlos Copi, who is now at Belhaven University. Paulo Manosso added an interception for the HP.

AFI’s take: HP remains in the mix for a Conferencia Sul title. A frustrating first half of the season for Juventude in a loaded Conferencia Sul.

Tubaroes do Cerrado 25 – Goiania Rednecks 13, Serejao – Taguatinga, Distrito Federal

The ball carriers of the Tubaroes (TdC) wing-T attack galloped into gaggles of Goiania gang tacklers all day in the nation’s capital, and it was the TdC passing game that saved the day and notched the second consecutive victory in this budding rivalry of Brazil’s Cerrado region.

Both teams saw their first 3 drives stall out before a TdC touchdown pass opened up the scoring. A second air strike from the TdC ended the first half.

“It was a hard game and our front 7 played well,’’ said Goiania Defensive Coordinator, Igor Oliveira, of his team in the losing effort.

AFI’s take: There is a fun rivalry developing between these two Candango cup teams.

Lusa Lions (Portuguesa) 47 – Sorocaba Vipers 7, Caninde- São Paulo, São Paulo

After scoring on their first drive, Coach Paulo Henrique Martins’ squad needed a stellar second half to create a lopsided scoreboard.

“(After the first drive) We kind of slowed the game down and gave the Vipers room to improve. In the second half, we played our game faster and with no turnovers and were able to finish the game strong,” he said. “It was a divisional rival team and we knew this win would be important.”

Many of Lusa’s athletes continued their breakout season’s, with second year budding star linebacker, Henrique Barbosa flying sideline to sideline for tackles, safety Marshall Farias snagging an interception, and dynamic running back, Johnny Santos, scampering twice into the end zone. Anderson Maua added a kick return for 6.

AFI’s take: Lusa heads to Cuiaba this weekend for one of Superliga’s most anticipated mid-season matchups. Can Lusa, playing without imports, take down a stacked Arsenal team that features two imports? We can’t wait to find out.

Corinthians Steamrollers 38 – São Paulo Storm 14, Caninde- São Paulo, São Paulo

Above: Steamroller WR, victor Hugo advances the ball. Photo credit: Salão Oval

Above: Steamroller WR, Victor Hugo advances the ball. Photo credit: Salão Oval

The Storm opened and closed the scoring (with scores by Allan Giamas and Ronelle Stephens, respectively), but the Steamrollers did everything in between. Steamrollers RB, Branco Meneses had a huge day, with 4 TDs (rushing and receiving) to lead the way for the Steamrollers, who notched their first Superliga victory.

AFI’ take: The tough times continue for the Storm, while the Steamrollers hope that this win paves the way for them to stay on the right track for the rest of the season.

Highlights: Every touchdown in the Steamrollers – Storm contest. Video courtesy Salao 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,