The 2020 Chinese National Football League championship final pits one of the oldest and most successful teams in the league in the Shanghai Titans against the one of the newest, the Wuhan Berserkers Saturday, January 11 at the Zhangjiang Sports Center in Shanghai.
The Titans have reached the final for the fifth time in the seven years of the league’s existence while Wuhan is making their first appearance after being formed last year.
After an entire year, it comes down to this. After all the excitement of the regular season and the playoffs, the 21 teams that started the 2019-2020 CNFL regular season is down to two. The Shanghai Titans, the Beast of the East, and the Wuhan Berserkers, the Best of the West, meet in a showdown in Shanghai’s Zhangjiang stadium to determine the champion. Will it be the resident Shanghai Titans, who have reached their fifth title game in seven seasons, or the ascendant Wuhan Berserkers, who have made a statement for all the non-Shanghai teams out there in a dominant fashion?
Shanghai Titans E1 (4-0)
Road to the Championship: Beat Taiyuan Troops (62-0), beat Hong Kong Warhawks (23-12)
Under founder and head coach Datong Wang, the Shanghai Titans have become a mainstay in the CNFL post-season with a remarkable record of consistency. In the seven years of the AFLC/CNFL’s existence, the Shanghai Titans have made the championship game five times, a remarkable achievement. Despite losing many talented players from last year’s runner-up squad, the Titans reloaded, only to have their starting quarterback break his collarbone in their big rivalry game against the Shanghai Warriors.
However, the Titans this year have found a way to win en route to their fourth straight title game appearance. They have won with a strong defense and protecting the ball. Against the Warriors, the Titans won with defense and special teams, and against the Warhawks, it was once again the defense and special teams taking charge. With the backfield duo of Ben Wong (#32) and Dominik Pflumm (#13) leading the rushing attack for the Titans.
Fun comparison: 2019 Tennessee Titans. The Titans recently upset the New England Patriots off the back of a strong running game and a stifling defense. If China’s Titans squad wants to win the title, it would be best to emulate the NFL Titans and win the game on the ground. (And incorporate a little bit of this year’s Air Force NCAA football team, who won their last game against a superior talented team by simply holding onto the ball for 40+ minutes.)
Wuhan Berserkers W1 (4-0)
Road to the Championship: Beat Foshan Tigers (52-8), beat Shanghai Warriors (84-40)
While the Titans may be a mainstay in the CNFL playoffs, the Wuhan Berserkers are only in their second season but became the first non-Shanghai team to make the title game since the Chongqing Dockers in the CNFL’s inaugural year.
However, the Wuhan Berserkers are no Hickory High from the film Hoosiers. There is no “Let’s win one for all the small-cities (by Chinese standards at least) that never had a chance to get here.”
This Berserker team is a full-fledged juggernaut. They’re less of the fictionary Hickory and more of the real-life Crispus Attucks High School led by Oscar Robertson that dominated Indiana High School Basketball in the 1950s.
The Berserkers have been seen as title-favorites for a reason, and they’ve shown why with how dominant they have been this year. Their offense has been nigh-unstoppable with star quarterback, and future Bern Grizzlies player, Jarred Evans leading the way as the Chinese Lamar Jackson, dominating with both his arm and his legs.
The Berserker offense, with Evans (#5), #1 Wang Shida, and big tight end Shakeem (#85) leading the way, have put up video game numbers, as shown by their jaw-dropping 84 points against the Shanghai Warriors, who were the two-time defending champions.
Their defense also features the most feared linemen in the league, Robert Williams (#9), who clocks in at over 200cm tall!
Fun comparison: 2007 New England Patriots. Just as the Patriots put up record-breaking numbers and looked unbeatable, the Berserkers have looked the same this season. However, while the Patriots were famously upset in the championship game, Wuhan is looking to avoid the same fate.
This game will come down to who can impose their will on the game. Wuhan comes in as heavy favorites, and for good reason. They have an enormous amount of talent, and the game becomes a footrace, the Titans won’t be able to keep up. However, if the Titans can slow the game down and stick around for a bit, all it takes is one bounce here or there to turn the tables.