China: Shanghai Beacon Wolves finish miracle playoff run with a decisive win in championship

The championship game of the 2022-2023 Chinese National Football League season featured the undefeated Hangzhou Smilodons and the fifth seeded but streaking Shanghai Beacon Wolves in a rematch of a triple overtime thriller during the regular season. In the end, the Beacon Wolves won the rematch, downing Hangzhou 20-8 and were crowned champions in their first season as a team.

The Hangzhou Smilodons were the #1 seed in the East after going undefeated throughout the regular season, topping the stacked East Division with a 5-0 record, and then sweeping their way through the playoffs en route to the championship game. Their opponents, the Shanghai Beacon Wolves, were only formed less than a year ago. After experiencing growing pains en route to a 0-2 start that included a loss to the Smilodons, the Beacon Wolves made mutton out of every opponent they’ve faced since winning their last three regular season games and their three playoff games by an average of 29 points.

The big story heading into the game was that the Beacon Wolves would be without their superstar player, Ricky Jones. As a result, it was a tight game early on as neither team was able to crack the opposing defense. The closest chance any team had at a score was a long Smilodons field goal that sailed wide as the game went into half deadlocked at 0-0.

It was a different story in the second half as Shanghai drew first blood on a touchdown by running back #67 Kevin and then successfully converted the 2-point try to make it 8-0.

The Smilodons offense began to struggle as they were forced into throwing the ball to generate offense. A strong Beacon Wolves secondary took full advantage with multiple interceptions. A pair of passing touchdowns by Shanghai made it 20-0 before the Smilodons could only muster a late touchdown by #3 Zhu Haojie (朱皓杰) to make the final score 20-8.

With that, the Beacon Wolves capped off their impressive run by claiming their first CNFL title and the title of “best team in China.”

Allen Hu is a Chinese-American who grew up playing American Football in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania. He primarily spends his time in both the United States and China