China Round of 16: Gun Cavalry, Titans move on to quarters

The 33 team Chinese National Football League heads into the playoffs with 16 teams remaining in a battle to reach the championship final.

The #1 seed from the South Division, the Gun Cavalry played host to the North Division #4 seed, the Jinan Mammoths while the East #2, the Shanghai Titans faced the  #3 seed from the North, the Shenyang Spartans.

Gun Cavalry survive Mammoth scare 

Gun Cavalry 34 – Jinan Mammoths 26

The Gun Cavalry held off a determined Jinan Mammoths team in Nanchang to keep their season alive.

Both teams traded touchdowns early on, as both the Gun Cavalry and the Mammoths offenses threw for touchdowns on their opening drives. The Gun Cavalry would score on their second drive, and after forcing a fumble by Jinan’s running back, they would score again to make it 21-7.

However, the Mammoths did not panic, as quarterback #77 Zheng Lei (张磊) would run it in for a touchdown himself to cut the deficit to 21-14 going into the break.

The Gun Cavalry would open the scoring in the second half as quarterback #13 Da WaiSheng (大外甥) threw for his second touchdown to push the lead to 28-14. Despite facing a two-score deficit again, Lei cut the lead to 28-20 with his second rushing touchdown on the day.

Jinan’s defense then made a huge play, forcing a fumble to set their offense up in a good field position. The offense delivered as Lei ran for his third touchdown to make it 28-26 after the potential game-tying 2-point conversion was stopped short.

The Gun Cavalry offense responded with a touchdown with just a few minutes left to make it 34-26, but Jinan blocked the extra point to keep it a one-score game.

With under a minute left, Lei hit a 40-yard bomb to wideout #7 Liu Feng(刘峰) in double coverage to bring the Mammoths to the five-yard line. But the Gun Cavalry defense stood tall. After a penalty pushed the Mammoths back to the 14-yard line, Da WaiSheng made the game-winning play on defense by sacking his counterpart as time ran out to seal the victory.

It was a duel of quarterbacks as both Da WaiSheng and Zhang Lei had great games, each showcasing their dual-threat ability and running for three touchdowns each.

The Gun Cavalry advanced to the quarterfinals, where they will take on the Shanghai Titans, winners over the Shenyang Spartans.

Titans wallop Spartans to advance

Shanghai Titans 47 – Shenyang Spartans 6

In a matchup delayed by a year, the Shanghai Titans took care of business, downing the Shenyang Spartans 47-6 and advancing to the quarterfinals.

Coincidentally, the Titans were due to play the Spartans a year ago in the 2021-2022 playoffs but crushing travel restrictions put the game on kibosh as Shenyang would forfeit.

This time around, despite harsh restrictions continuing to be set in place, enough Spartan players could make the trip to Shanghai for the game to go on as scheduled.

The Titans went up 6-0 early as quarterback #5 Duan Jun (段俊) found wide receiver #3 Li Xiaofeng(李晓峰) for a score, but the extra point was missed.

The Titans then stretched their lead to 13-0 after running back #23 Wu Renjie (吴仁杰) found an open hole in the middle of the Shenyang defense.

The Spartans were able to close the gap to 13-6 after a seven-yard rushing touchdown by running back #89 Cao Fenghe (曹峰赫). That would be the closest they could get as the Titans dominated the rest of the game against an undermanned Spartan squad.

The Titans advanced to the quarterfinals, where they will play the Gun Cavalry. This is a rematch of a semifinals game from a year ago when the Titans beat the Gun Cavalry 27-22 in Shanghai. The Titans must venture into the lion’s den and travel to Nanchang this time.

After an exciting first round, the quarterfinals are set with some intriguing matchups! The Beacon Wolves look like the team to beat with their array of offensive firepower, but will the Beijing cold and the strong running game of the Cyclones slow them down?

A pair of #1 seeds look like they’ll be on a collision course in the semifinals, but can their opponents from the South division flip the table and make it a backyard rivalry instead?

And finally, we have a semifinal rematch one round early as the defending champion Titans travel to Nanchang to take on the Gun Cavalry.

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