Brazil’s CBFA Superliga Semi-Finals – Cuiabá Arsenal v. Timbo T-Rex

CUIABA, BRAZIL – The top seeds from the Conferencia Oeste and Conferencia Sul meet on November 26th to determine who will move on to the Brasil Bowl. Let’s learn a bit about this match-up between the Cuiabá Arsenal and Timbo T-Rex.

How we got here: The Arsenal and T-Rex are, to no ones surprise, facing anyone in the Superliga semi-finals. Cuiaba is the class of an up=and-coming conference, with teams like the Goiania Rednecks and Portuguesa, who led the Arsenal for three quarters in the national quarter finals, getting better each year. Timbo comes out of a brutally tough Conferencia Sul, that boasted multiple teams that could compete for a national title, including the Curitiba Crocodiles, the defending CBFA national runners-up, who they beat two times in a row to get to this point.

Literally, how did we get here?: Timbo will take a 1,916 kilometer bus trip that lasts over a day, to get to Cuiaba, the geographic center of South America. They will play in Arena Pantanal, a former world cup stadium, in a city known for having the national attendance record, at 15 thousand people in attendance, for this same conference semi-final game a year ago. Cuiaba is brutally hot and temperatures routinely go well over 100 degrees farenheit, even at the scheduled 6 PM kick off time, and the only way that the heat won’t be a factor, is if the rains pour down, which is common during the rainy season in Cuiaba, located just outside of the Pantanal, the worlds largest wetland.

brazil-games-of-the-week-sept-24-25-78

Head Coach, DB, receiver; Ken Joshen does it all for the #1 seed Cuiabá Arsenal.

What you need to know: This looks to be one of the most fun-to-watch games of 2016 in Brazil. Both teams have explosive offenses loaded with playmakers, and defenses that not only create turnovers, but expect to take the ball all the way to the end zone when they get their hands on it. Anyone watching the game can expect exciting plays from top athletes, violent, gang-tackling defenses, and people from all 11 positions on the field with the ability to put the ball in the end zone.

Both teams are full of veterans who have played in multiple big games. This looks to be a game where both sides look each othere in the eyes, and no one blinks. As Terrell Owens might say, ‘’getcha popcorn ready.’’

If Cuiaba wins: You’ve seen this movie before and you know how it ends. To quote Jeffrey Lebowski, ‘’He fixes the cable,’’ and Arsenal Head Coach and Brandon Watkins find the end zone, deflect passes, get picks, and make a big dent in the return game. Even if Cuiaba doesn’t get going early, they stick to the game plan, contain the Timbo offense, and bide their time until they get the big play they have gotten all season. All-purpose superstar, Igor Mota, makes plays on both sides of the ball, and the Arsenal secondary, who has bogarted more than 30 interceptions this season, continues their habit of taking the ball away.

Coach Amadeo Salvador (Center, white shirt) and his tightly knit T-Rex team face a long journey to South America's sweltering geographic center, to face a talented Cuiabá Arsenal squad in the Superliga semi-finals. Photo credit: André Schroeder

Coach Amadeo Salvador (Center, white shirt) and his tightly knit T-Rex team face a long journey to South America’s sweltering geographic center, to face a talented Cuiabá Arsenal squad in the Superliga semi-finals. Photo credit: André Schroeder

If the T-Rex win: Quarterback Luiz Bassani stays healthy and runs the show for a Timbo offense that chips away at a solid Arsenal defense by hitting the the holes in their zone scheme hard and connecting on their RPO passing game. The dynamic backfield of Clair Jose and Well Garcia break off a big gain or two, and the opportunistic T-Rex defense, with three levels of studs, like DT, Caião Perreira, linebacker Luis Polastri and safety Andrew Bernardini comes up with a few turnovers.

Matchups to watch:

Cuiaba DBs vs T-Rex RPO’s – Having Bassani back from injury means that Timbo Coach, Amadeu Salvador, has his entire playbook to work with, and he will likely open things up against a stout Arsenal defense. Cuiaba’s defense has been phenomenal in takeaways this season, but many of those have been on deeper routes with DBs in coverage. Will Cuiaba’s secondary stay with their assignments (and in position for picks) and also scream up for tackles against the heaviest dose of RPO football that they have seen this season?

Whoever the Cuiaba quarterback is vs T-Rex secondary – Marcelo Roversi and Watkins have shared time at the quarterback position this season. Watkins was key in Cuiaba’s fourth quarter comeback against Portuguesa in the Superliga quarterfinals and will likely take snaps this weekend. While Watkins has a great arm, the Timbo secondary is vicious, starrin Keith Smith II, Andrew Bernardini and a multitude of other ball-hawkers.

Cuiaba’s power run vs T-Rexex DL and LBs – Cuiaba’s power run play has been potent this year. Whether they are giving it to a running back, or using that back as a lead blocker and using QB power, they have used this play to march to the end zone. That’s no secret to Timbo Coach Amadeu Salvador and his defense, but knowing what someone is going to do, and being able to stop them are two entirely different things. The T-Rex will rely on early penetration from DT, Caião Perreira, and bet the game on defensive end Andre Perreira’s ability to blow up lead blocks and follow up on his ten tackle game from the Superliga quarterfinals.

Timbo's defense must continue to swarm to notch a road win in Cuiabá. Photo credit: Overtime do F.A.

Timbo’s defense must continue to swarm to notch a road win in Cuiabá. Photo credit: Overtime do F.A.

T-Rex kick/punt coverage vs Brandon Watkins – Brandon Watkins has thrown, ran for, intercepted and returned, recovered and returned, and caught punts and kicks and returned for touchdowns this year. He literally has scored a touchdown in every way imaginable, but out of all of Watkins talents, the nicknamed ‘’The Rocket’’ is abosolutely, undeniably, special in the open field, a scenario which often occurs when he gets his hands on a punt or kick. Will Timbo kick to him? If so, will they cover?

T-Rex zone game vs Cuiaba D-Line – The T-Rex offense, when under the command of Luiz Bassani, could be described as a well-oiled maching. In addition to the thousands of reps that this group puts in every season, that description can be attirubuted to the athleticism of their fast-stepping offensive line and their two speedy backs, Claire Jose Simoes Junior and Well Garcia. The Rex line has routinely gotten their first steps in the group before their opponents D-line, and Simoes and Garcia only need a sliver of space to break off a long run, but they can’t be running ‘’east-west’’ for very long to do it. They will face an aggressive and big Arsenal DL, that has punished many a good back this season.

Both teams vs Mother Nature – Cuiaba, Mato Grosso has two seasons: Hotter than anyone can imagine and dry, and hotter than anyone can imagine and rainy. December is the rainy part of that cycle. Timbo, whose regular season was marked by heavy rain in nearly every game, won’t be fazed by precipitation, but the heat and humidity could play a factor for the team from Brazil’s coolest region. The Arsenal had multiple first half fumbles in their quarterfinal game and will need to hold on to the football in wet conditions against an opportunist Timbo defense. www.weather.com is forecasting fog or rain and 34 degrees celcius/93 degrees farenheit for a 6 PM local time kickoff.

Veterans vs. Veterans – Both of these teams are Big Game Ready, and no one is blinking or flinching in this contest. These teams have three combined national titles and a multitde of playoff experience. When the TTD folded earlier in 2016, and CBFA commisioner, Guto Sousa, courageously created a new schedule to incorproate its top team, this is the kind of matchup that everyone in Brazil dreamed of. With lots of talento on both sides of the ball, the score is difficult to predict, but this will undoubtedly be a violent, hotly contested game.

AFI asked our experts to pick the game, here are their thoughts:

romuladofinalVictor Romulado Francisco – Salão Oval

” T-Rex – Timbo is more balanced than the Arsenal, but the team from Santa Catarina will face the most difficult test in the history of their organization, playing in a huge stadium for the first time, and facing high temperatures in Cuiaba. This will be a very difficult game to win.”

haim-finalHaim Fereirra – Blog Touchdown

”T-Rex – This is the semifinal we have been waiting for, in my opinion, with the two teams that have played the best throughout the year. Timbo has na outstanding roster, while Cuiabá is the home team and has the best player, and in my opinion, the league MVP, in Brandon ”The Rocket” Watkins. I believe that the power of the group will win over the individual, and I’m betting on the T-Rex.”

bruno-gentil-salaBruno Gentil – Salão Oval

”T-RexThe Arsenal haven’t lost since this exact same moment on this exact same field one year ago (CBFA Superliga loss to the Curitiba Crocodiles, who the T-Rex have beaten twice this season). I believe that, for the second consecutive year, Cuiaba falls at home in the semis. Timbo has only lost one game in the last two years. Even with Brandon Watkins being one of the top three Americans playing in the league this year, I see REX with a stronger group.”

riffellogopicHenrique Riffel – Futebol Americano Brasil

”T-Rex – Although it is a very long distance between Timbó and Cuiabá,  and it will be a great challenge for the team from Santa Catarina, I see the Timbo roster as physicall and technically superio to Cuiaba. Another factor that weighs against the Arsenal is a lack of facing a top teams in their regular season schedule, unlike Timbo, who playe the likes of the Coritiba Crocodiles, São José White Sharks-Istepôs and Paraná HP. The strongest teams that Arsenal faced were the Tubarões do Cerrado and Lusa Lions.”

overtimefalgoGeraldo Takanage – Overtime do F.A.

”T-Rex – This will be a close game, witth the Arsenal playing in front of a strong home crowd, but the T-Rex can pull off a close victory. Bassani is back from injury, and was excellent in the quarterfinal game against Crocodiles- he looks to be 100%, and with several versatile offensive weaons, like Clair José, who can line up at running back or motion out to receiver, this should make the difference in the game. One of the strongest points of T-Rex is their defense , which is playing very well, highlighted by the likes of Keith Smith II, Douglas, Andrew Bernardini and one of the best D-lines in Brazil.”

Clayton Lovett
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, which provides educational and competitive opportunities abroad for student-athletes.
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