Carlstad Crusaders aiming for title number 9 in Sweden

The Carlstad Crusaders open their 2018 season aiming for their ninth consecutive Swedish title. And on paper, it looks like they are a good bet to capture it.

The Crusaders ran through the Swedish Superserien in 2017 winning all regular season games and taking the title by beating the Orebro Black Knights 24-0 in the championship game. In fact, the only game Carlstad lost in 2017 was a 21-15 overtime thriller to Finland’s Helsinki Roosters in the final of the Northern European Football League.

And not much has changed. The Crusaders are returning most of their key players this season, in addition to last year’s entire coaching staff with as asterisk beside offensive coordinator Danny Mitchell’s name. Mitchell will not arrive in Sweden until mid June due to his commitments at The Bishop’s School. So he will be a remote OC with quarterback Philip Juhlin handling the duties.

Carlstad QB Philip Juhlin can use his legs as well as his arm Photo: TT

Juhlin, the 2017 Super Serien MVP, will once again lead an offense that ranked #1 in Sweden last season. Juhlin threw for 2,550 yards and 36 touchdowns in 2017 to lead the league by a wide margin. At his disposal are two of the best receivers in Sweden, Jacob Dahre who led the league with 833 yards receiving and 17 touchdowns, and Marcus Johnsson, who was second with 818 yards and nine touchdowns. Young Robin Juhlin is also expected to contribute this season. Christian Forsman and Victor Toresson will handle the rushing duties for the Crusaders, and UK import Natal Melero is expected to see some time at wideout as well.

The Carlstad offense has only improved if that is possible, adding size and strength to an already talented squad.

Juhlin is feeling confident:

“I like our chances this year again. We have such a winning mentality here in Carlstad and I love the atmosphere, the air of confidence.”

The biggest changes for the eight-time champions have come on defense with the departure of names like Flemström, Romlin, Holmgren, Sandberg, Persson and Gunnarsson. To fill the gaps, Carlstad has signed defensive lineman Josh Hill from Merrimack College (NCAA Div. II), and defensive back Julius Rucker (Southern Oregon).

Christian Kuylenstjerna hauling down Orebro QB Photo: Hans Cullberg

Led by the 2017 linebacker of the year, Christian Kuylenstjerna (third in the league in tackles), the Carlstad defense looks impressive again in 2018. Linebacker Mattias Eriksson and defensive back Martin Ullbrandt will also be contributing to the Crusaders defense.

A key addition to the Crusaders staff has been Sebastain Johansson from Marshall University. The Carlstad native has been the team’s strength and conditioning coach throughout the offseason.

With the type of organization that is behind head coach Tracy Gere, the Crusaders have high expectations. They are ranked seventh in Europe in the most recent AFI Coaches Poll and have set their sights higher.

 

AFI
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