China’s City Bowl opens 2017 season

China’s CityBowl League opened its 2017 season on Apr 8 with a win of the Tianjin Black Sails over the hosting Jinan Mammoths. The opener was the first of 45 league games to be played across eight months, a fifty percent increase in total number compared to last season. Two new teams, Guiyang Jungle Fighters and Zhuhai Berserkers joined over the winter break, bringing it to a total of 25 teams in the league, and an average of 4 games per team.

The Mammoths and the Black Sails are both relatively young teams, who had played each other once last year. Despite having traveled more than three hours on game day, the Black Sails are the team that struck first. The Mammoths, who were hosting their first ever home game, were caught completely flat-footed on Tianjian’s reverse and quickly surrendered two touchdowns on two such plays. Their special team didn’t help at all either: they gave up a blocked punt and botched another kickoff catch which gave the ball right back to the Black Sails. Later the Mammoths’ eagerness to over-pursue was again exploited on a broken play to allow the opponent’s running back weaving through the entire width of the field for an easy touchdown, remarkably similar to what would have happened on a normal reverse.

Although the Mammoths got a touchdown back on a perfect long pass later in the second quarter, it became their only score of the game. Terrible weather troubled both teams in the second half, and bad snap exchanges happened one after another, including one mid-fourth quarter in red zone that killed any hope of the Mammoths’ comeback. The final score stayed at 19-6, victory for the Tianjin Black Sails.

Early season outlook suggests that traditionally experienced teams are still the favorites to reach the final, among them are Beijing Cyclones (the defending champion), Chengdu Mustangs, Hangzhou Ospreys and Shanghai Street Cats. In addition, Suzhou Blue Knights and Guangzhou Goats, both of whom had been competitive in the past, can also stir up the ranks if they impress the voters enough. (CityBowl employs a BCS-like ranking format in which two thirds of the weight comes from human voters.)

Notable games:

May 13 Hangzhou Ospreys @ Suzhou Blue Knights (Paradise Bowl III)
Jun 24 Shanghai Street Cats @ Chengdu Mustangs
Oct 14 Shanghai Street Cats @ Hangzhou Ospreys
Oct 21 Beijing Cyclones @ Chengdu Mustangs (rematch of last year’s final)

The full season schedule can be found here, and the team list can be found here.

Brian Zhao keenly follows and writes about American football in China, and particularly helps with the officiating aspect for leagues and teams over there. He manages the ChinaBlitz blog to report news and developments from local grassroot teams.