Carlstad Crusaders HC Billy BD Kennedy discusses Swedish final

The Carlstad Crusaders are getting prepared to play in their 11th consecutive Swedish Superserien final against the defending champion Stockholm Mean Machines July 6.

The Crusaders have won eight of those 10 finals but lost in last year’s title game to the Mean Machines. For the first time since 2009, Carlstad enters the Swedish final as the underdog. Head coach Billy BD Kennedy is coaching in the final in his first year as a head coach since 2012 when he was coach of the Arlanda Jets.

He shares his thoughts on reaching the final and his team’s preparations and prospects.

AFI: You have taken the Crusaders to the championship game in your first year as head coach. How does that feel?

BD Kennedy: It feels great, but the reality is all credit goes first to the players. They have done a fantastic job focusing on getting better, preparing, overcoming adversity and simply working each week of the season (and off-season) to become the best players they can be. That’s how we have built this team. I have a great staff around me that does a tremendous job along with a top notch organization. When the Crusaders have been to every SM-Final from 2002-2019 (excluding 2008) it’s simply an expectation each year to be in this game. I have been apart of some of those in the past in different rolls and it is a nice feeling of accomplishment. (2002-2004 as HC). I couldn’t be happier for the team and organization. 

AFI: You are facing a Stockholm Mean Machines team that has beaten you twice in the regular season. Do you prepare any different for this game?

BK: I wouldn’t say we prepare different. But we know this is a championship game. We also are well aware that we have lost the two regular season games to SMM. This is a credit to the Mean Machine, because they are a very good football team, but we also feel like we have not put out our best effort against them yet this year. So in preparing for this game, the focus is us. Yes, we prepare to play SMM, but we are focusing on correcting some of the mistakes we have made in the two previous games. 

AFI: What are the keys to winning this game?

BK: I believe it is execution, stringing good plays together and the ability to focus on each play. We will need secure the ball on offence and creates some turnovers on defense. Turnovers can be a big momentum swinger in any game.

AFI: Your two quarterbacks have been rotating. Will you continue with that approach?

BK: I can say that having two QB’s like Shazzon Mumphrey and Philip Juhlin on the team at the same time is the nicest “problem” I have ever had since starting to coach in Sweden in 2002. Yes, both are prepared to play QB and both are prepared to help this team perform in any capacity. 

AFI: Stockholm quarterback Alex Thury has been steady all year and especially in the games against you. He has thrown 7 TDs and not interceptions. How can you get more pressure on him?

BK: Alex Thury has played fantastic all year. He has definitely played well against us. We need to finish getting to him. In our previous games, we are getting pressure, but not finishing off the play. We have to find ways to keep him contained when he drops back and not scramble out and make plays. He is a very good QB, so disrupting his timing and putting pressure will be in the hands of our DL and anyone else coming from the second level. 

AFI: Stockholm WR/DB Alpha Jalloh is highly versatile. He scored three touchdowns in the last game. How can you keep him more under control?

BK: If I knew how to keep Alpha Jalloh under control, I would be sleeping a lot better this week. Alpha is a playmaker. He was a playmaker for us two years ago, he was a playmaker for Gothenburg last year and he has definitely been a playmaker for SMM this season. We will do our best to try and contain him. It is as simple as that. We have to play assignment sound Defence because SMM has a lot of other weapons out on the field at the same time. So, we will obviously have respect for Alpha and the type of player he is, but we will just need to be assignment sound and tackle hard. 

AFI: The same goes on offense. With Jalloh playing in the secondary, how do you plan your attack? (I know, away from him. Just sound technical)

BK: We will be well aware of where he is aligned, but it is also the same situation as him on offense. SMM has a lot to talent on defense. Our key will be to execute at the highest level possible. 

AFI: In terms of yards gained and lost in the two games between you, you are about equal. What has the difference been? (I know, they found the end zone more. Just sound technical.)

BK: This is a great questions. The biggest difference in our previous meetings has been 1. Turnovers 2. Third down conversions 3. Red zone scoring. Those are the areas where we need to improve and preform better to win the SM-Guld. Those are the things we have been emphasising practice. 

AFI: Anything else you want to add?

BK: It is extremely exciting to be apart of the Swedish National Championship. I am excited the way our team has battled, worked and continued to improve all season. This should be a great football game. I hope a lot of people are able to make it down to Börås and I am looking forward to Saturday evening. 

 

AFI
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