Danish National League kicks off shortened season

The Danish American Football Federation kicks off its National League this weekend with the Søllerød Gold Diggers  and AaB 89ers squaring off in the opening game.

This will be the second league in the world to play a season of football since the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe.

The National League will kick off the season with five teams and will play a truncated season with each team playing only four games apiece starting August 8 with the regular season winding up September 12.

The Triangle Razorbacks will be looking to defend their Danish championship title with the chief challengers being the Copenhagen Towers and Søllerød Gold Diggers with the Aarhus Tigers and AaB 89ers the dark horses.

Triangle Razorbacks: (2019: 8-4 – Danish champions)

Head coach: Peter Nicolajsen 

Last season, the Razorbacks posted an 8-4 overall record and went all the way engineering an upset win over the Copenhagen Towers in the Mermaid Bowl.

Returning players include veteran quarterback and Mermaid Bowl MVP Reed Gottula, who is in his third year with the team and is a proven winner and League MVP Niko Lester. Key names on the offensive line include tackles Matthias Stockamp and Peter Møller, guards Kristian Holst and Nicholas Møller-Hansen as well as center Mikkel Hansen. 

Expect a starting front seven consisting of defensive ends Allexsander Klose, Wael Nasri and Henning Bøge Hvidtfeldt, tackles Anders Holm Jørgensen and E.J. Parnell as well as linebackers Mathias Reimer and Jonas Hellmann Petterson. The upgraded secondary will see Martin Jepsen and Simon Knudsen at the corner spots with Henrik K. Dinesen and Niko Lester at safety.

Copenhagen Towers: (2019: 11-1 – Danish finalists)

Head coach: Peter Herbild

Last season, the Towers posted a 10-0 regular season record and reached the Mermaid Bowl, the Danish championship game, but were upset by the Triangle Razorbacks. This season, head coach Peter Herbild has added British quarterback Calvin Stitt who started 11 games last season for the Allgau Comets in the German Football League. Stitt will have excellent targets in wide receivers Junior Konate (CFL Global Combine invitee), Jakob Green and MJ Williams along with tight end Philip Thun. Anton Witmeur returns at running back. The offensive line is anchored by Kristoffer Green and Jens Møller.  The key to the defense is the defensive line which includes Kristoffer Brun, William Sewell, Mads Marquard and Mikkel Stilling.

The Towers linebackers have a lot of experience and might be the best duo in Denmark with Andreas Schneider and Philip Hargett. The secondary looks strong with young players like Gulbæk, Kenneth Larsen and Jakob Bækgaard getting better each year, combined with experienced veterans Bitsch, Zacho and Bendixen.

Søllerød Gold Diggers (2019: 8-3 Danish semifinalists)

Head coach: Troels Vestergaard 

The Gold Diggers were the most improved team in Denmark in 2019 and were barely eliminated by the Razorbacks in the semifinals, 20-16. This could be the year that Søllerød returns to the Mermaid Bowl for the first time since 2010 when they won the second of two, back to back titles.

Søllerød will have Idaho State Bengals Tanner Gueller as their starting quarterback. The 6’3″, 235 pound Rochester, Washington native threw for 9,061 yards and 74 touchdowns in his four year career with the Bengals. His key receiver will likely be Team Denmark wide receiver Thomas Ashworth who has 40 passes for 741 yards and eight touchdowns in seven games in 2019.  Anchoring the offensive line for the Gold Diggers will be another starting national team player, tackle Troels Thorbjørn Nielsen. Christian Vahl is expected to start at running back. Vahl led the Danish league in rushing last year before suffering a season-ending injury.

On the defensive side of the ball, head coach Troels Vestergaard will rely on 6’2″. 250 pound defensive end/linebacker Logan Dykstra (Sioux Falls Cougars). In his career, Dykstra recorded 71 career tackles, including 32 solo tackles in 34 games and had 11.5 tackles for loss for the Cougars. Alongside him on the defensive line will be Swedish national team member David Strobel who will be commuting from south Sweden, while another Idaho State player, Kody Graves will start at linebacker. In his senior year at ISU, the 6’1″, 215 pound Graves recorded 98 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss. The defensive secondary will feature DB Ajdin Durdjevic who had transferred over from the Kronborg Knights last season but tore his ACL.

Aalborg 89ers (2019: 5-6 Danish semifinalists)

Head coach: Jakob Zinck Thellufsen

In 2019, AaB posted a 5-5 record but had one of the most explosive and prolific offenses in the country averaging 43 points a game. Returning is perhaps the best Danish quarterback in the country, Alexander Kronborg, who is also the starter for the Danish national team. In 2019, Kronborg threw for 3,619 yard and 52 touchdowns and was the architect behind the high-scoring games the team produced. Also coming back to the 89ers is running back Breon Allen who had a stellar collegiate career at East Carolina University and Snow College. His 1,189 yards rushing and 24 touchdowns helped propel the Aalborg offense in 2019. Leading a talented group of receivers for the 89ers is Mads Christiansen who had 1,177 receiving yards along with 18 touchdowns. The offensive line is anchored by Stephen Marshall.

The issue the 89ers had in 2019 was their defense which gave up 354 points in 10 regular season games.  Anchoring the defensive line is returning veteran Jeppe Haals who had six sacks in 2019 along with 11 tackles for loss. Linebacker Edi Durakovic has recovered from an injury and will be back playing the position he excelled at as a junior. A new addition in the secondary is Florida native Rashad Greene (West Alabama, NCAA, Div. II).

Aarhus Tigers (2019: 4-7 5th place)

Head coach: Jonn Mathews

The Tigers finished with a disappointing 4-6 regular season record in 2019 and were knocked out of the Wild Card playoffs by the 89ers 60-34. New head coach Jonn Mathews is aiming to improve on that record but at the same time develop his young Danish players.

To replace last year’s starting quarterback, Isahiah Weed, he has a battle between Alexander Schwartz and Christoffer Bay Carstens. Schwartz was the quarterback for the Danish U19 national team in the 2019 European Championships. That team finished fourth in the tournament.

At running back, Mathews has inserted Jakob Ringsholt while his key wideouts are Magnus Urth and Frederik Daugaard. Urth is considered to be one of the most talented young wideouts in Europe with Daugaard not far behind.

The offensive line is anchored by Mads Højen.

Defensively, defensive lineman Max Møller leads a front seven which is expected to see good improvement in 2020. Behind him is linebacker Marco Busk who Mathews has high hopes for. The secondary is led by Milos Ilic who also played on Denmark’s U19 national team.

 

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