Bristol Aztecs announce European schedule

The Bristol Aztecs have been a long-time staple of the UK American football culture

They are unanimously a regular contender in the south conference and have seen a second wave of success since the arrival of head coach Pete Jones in 2022. Jones is also part of the UWE Bullets and Great Britain U19 coaching staffs, so he is widely respected within the UK not just in Bristol. The Aztecs accomplished an 8-2 season with a historic win over the London Warriors which was 10 years in the waiting. Unfortunately for the team, they were eliminated in the semi-finals by the eventual champions, the Manchester Titans. Coincidently, it has been both of these teams that are furthering the development of the UK with their recent ambitions in Europe.

Photo: Charlotte Murden

The Bristol Aztecs recently announced that they would be testing the waters of European competition. In April, the Aztecs will travel to Amsterdam to compete against the 2022 and 2023 BNL Champions, the Amsterdam Crusaders, before the start of the BAFA season. This marks a turning point within the UK, a country that has been very limited in its European competition. The Warriors competing against the Raiders Tirol, the Farnham Knights, Coventry Jets, and the London Blitz involvement in the EFAF Cup in the 2000s and 2010s, and finally, the recent development of Manchester into the CEFL is about the extent of the experimentation post-1990s.

Head coach Pete Jones:

“We have aspirations to play in Europe, and it’s an opportunity to do some fact-finding while having a competitive preseason game.”

Bristol Aztecs

Bristol has a lot of big-time players within the organization that will be imperative for their success. The biggest of the bunch is Karekin Brooks, the former UPenn standout who has been a huge success for the past two seasons at the UWE Bullets and won the Aztecs team’s MVP in last season’s campaign. The running back is sure to have European team interests coming into 2024 and it is with no surprise. His offensive line features a lot of the UK’s most underrated linemen, Will Bunce and Louis Burghes among them. At the receiver position, American Manny Chrispin’s athletic ability will be on full display as the slot receiver is bound to test the speed of the Crusader’s defenders. David Asamoah is another receiver to watch. The deep threat has remained under the radar but this may be an opportunity to break out. Team Great Britain’s tight end, Sean Cook, only adds to the weapons that may be available to Louis Benzey who led the team to the semi-final in 2023.

Photo: Charlotte Murden

Moving on to the defense, it was recently announced that two Great Britain defensive backs would be suiting up in 2024, Tom Seager and Jason Selormey who both will add to the spine of former and current players from the surrounding southern universities. Nigel Hoyte has also been announced as the Defensive Coordinator for the 2024 season, the former Akron University defensive lineman was a pioneer for young athletes following in his footsteps as one of the early British players to go to the States, he later played for both the London Monarchs and London Ravens and was inducted into the BAFA Hall of Fame in 2021.

Amsterdam Crusaders

There is no way to immerse like going straight into the deep end, and that is exactly what the Aztecs have done with the selection of the Crusaders as their post-90s European debut. Key players that may be of interest are in the premium for this match-up. For the Crusaders, the defensive back unit is a particularly strong point. Jason Denneboom is a familiar name to the Bristol culture as a former Bristol Pride athlete who has earned praise as he transitioned from quarterback to defensive back.

Keanu Deira

Soufyan Dardour is one of the best safeties in the country, Keanu Deira is a well-rounded athlete in the core who also is key on special teams and Chivarro Van Ommeren is a young potential star. He is a graduate of the NFL Academy and one of the bigger up and comers from the country. Travis Fraser, another former Pride player, was also part of the Crusaders last season and with team Defensive Rookie of the Year talent Gennaro Hoogervorst and veteran defensive lineman Jamie Von Tongerlo the Amsterdam defensive is a mix of young athletic playmakers and experienced long-time veterans. On the offensive side of the ball, there is no lack of names either, Melvin Maasdamme was last season’s team MVP and was established as one of the best receivers in the country. John Hanbury and Dylan Bakker are two tight ends who can cause a lot of problems for Bristol and a young running back room featuring Offensive Rookie of the Year Remi Gafaar will be a difficult unit to slow down for an entire game.

Photo: Bob de Calonne

The forward-thinking progress of the Aztecs program is certainly an exciting time as it opens up many new matchups across Europe with other high-level teams, which will lead to a great reputation for the team in Europe, more interest in UK players from professional leagues, and could act as somewhat of a trial run for an eventual ELF franchise within the country. These are intriguing times for everyone involved, perhaps Pete Jones said it best when asked if we can expect games in Europe to be part of the schedule for the Aztecs in the coming years.


Until next time.