Danish Semifinals: Copenhagen Towers vs AaB 89ers – HCs speak out

The Copenhagen Towers and AaB 89ers head into the Danish Nationalligaen semifinals this weekend for the third straight season.

Copenhagen won both the previous semifinal matchups and in the two games between the two teams during the 2021 regular season, the Towers prevailed both times.

However, the playoffs are a brand new season so AFI asked both coaches, Peter Herbild of the Copenhagen Towers, and the 89ers‘ Austin Jones, to talk about the game and the state of each of their teams.

AFI to Jones: You will be playing the Towers in the Danish Nationalligaen semifinals for the third year in a row (not including 2020 of course). They have beaten you both previous times and twice this season so you are underdogs going into the game. Is that almost an advantage?

Austin Jones: They’ve won all 17 previous meetings. Of course, they’re the favorites, but games are played on the field, not on paper. In both matchups this year we’ve shot ourselves in the foot. If we can avoid costly mistakes I like our chances.

AFI to Herbild: You will be playing the 89ers in the Danish Nationalligaen semifinals for the third year in a row (not including 2020 of course). You have beaten them both previous times and twice this season so you are favorites going into the game. Is that an advantage?

Peter Herbild:  The role of the favorite is a doubled-edge proposition. If we play our best it can work for us but if complacency sets in, it can do the opposite.

AFI: Is everyone healthy going into the game?

Jones: Unfortunately, no, but at this point in the season, that’s to be expected. We have some guys banged up just like everybody else. The good news is we’re much healthier than we were 2 weeks ago.

Herbild: We are unfortunately dealing with a number of injuries on offense, but a good football team finds ways to win even when the stars do not align.

AFI to Jones: Your QB Shelton Eppler has thrown for a total of 605 yards and 5 TDs in the two games against Copenhagen this year. Magnus Urth has caught 29 passes for 435 yards and 3 TDs. You have the firepower it seems against the Towers. What more can you do on offense?

Jones: Passing is sexy, but we need a balanced offense to be successful. We’ve got to get the run game going this week. In the two previous matchups with them, we’ve only rushed for 29 yards. That’s obviously not good enough.

AFI to Herbild: 89ers QB Shelton Eppler has done some damage against you this year throwing for a total of 605 yards and 5 TDs in the two games. His favorite target, Magnus Urth, has caught 29 passes for 435 yards and 3 TDs. What can you do to slow these two down?

Herbild: They are both terrific players that rank amongst the best in the league this season. They will make plays on us, but we need to make it difficult for them and ensure that they prove that they can do it in different ways.

AFI to Jones: The Towers chief weapon on the ground is Anton Witmeur who is a slashing type of running back. They also have an excellent wide receiver in Mike Williams who had 10 catches for 241 yards in the last game against you. What can you improve on to stop them?

Jones: The biggest thing is to be assignment sound. In both previous games, we’ve failed to do so for a full game. If we can line up and do our job we can get stops and get our offense back on the field.

AFI to Herbild: You rely heavily on your running back Anton Witmeur and now you have Mike Williams at receiver. He had 10 catches for 241 yards in the last game. The 89ers will be focused on those two. Obviously without revealing your game plan, what can you do if they succeed?

Herbild: Even despite the injuries we have several weapons on offense, so it will be up to the 89ers to pick their poison. Last game they focussed on stopping the run which gave Mike great conditions to work with. We will see how they approach and whether our response will be enough.

AFI to Jones: A win would put the 89ers in the Mermaid Bowl for the first time in their history. That is no doubt huge incentive for the entire team. 

Jones: It’s a huge incentive. A lot of work has been put in to improve the organization. The Mermaid Bowl is what we’re all working for. As I told our team, how we prepare and compete this week will determine whether the 2021 team gets remembered as the team that finally took the 89ers to the next level or just another team that came close.

AFI to Herbild: The Towers have reached the Mermaid Bowl 11 times and won it eight times including two of the last three. You are playing an 89ers team with burning desire to reach the championship game for the first time. Do you need to give your team any extra motivation?

Herbild: I believe we need to be very careful basing our expectations for Saturday on our past achievements. Our team has not been nearly as dominant this season and that comes down to myself and the veteran players not delivering at the same level. If we do not bring focus and effort, we might see a Mermaid Bowl without the Towers for the first time since 2015.

Watch the Copenhagen Towers play host to the AaB 89ers live on AFI.tv. Kickoff is Saturday, September 25 at 19:00 CET (7 pm, 1 pm ET).

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