Dubai Stallions, Dubai Barracudas Ready for Duel in Desert Bowl III

Desert Bowl III tomorrow would seem to offer something for every rooting interest.

For the Dubai Stallions it is a chance to win a first Emirates American Football League championship after failing in Desert Bowls I and II.

For the Dubai Barracudas it is a shot at a title that would complete an up-from-the-depths climb, one that began with a joint-last finish in 2013 but could end with a trophy two seasons later.

For residents of Dubai there is the fifth derby of the season between the city’s EAFL teams.

These squads have been so finely balanced in 2014/15 that each has two victories over the other, and the aggregate score is deadlocked at 48-48.

For fans of American football there is the final organised men’s competition in the country before October and the conclusion of a full day of American football, which includes three age-group games ahead of the 6.30pm championship game, at Dubai Sports City’s Sports Village.

Abu Dhabi’s Wildcats won the first two EAFL championships, both over the Stallions, by 20-12 and 14-13.

Anthony Daniels, the Stallions coach, said getting that first trophy is uppermost in the minds of his players.

“We are itching for a win,” he said. “I bring it up as a motivational thing. I believe we could have won last year but we let it slip away.

“We need to go out and be dominant from the beginning of the game.”

Kyle Jordan, coach of the Barracudas since their inception, said the Dubai rivalry is growing, especially with his squad owning the league’s best record, at 6-2.

“It is a small neighbourhood and we certainly know each other,” he said.

“We’re more than cordial off the field, but on the field there is that rivalry and animosity.”

The teams share a Dubai Sports City training ground and equipment shed and occasionally cross paths. “We might see each other in the parking lot and maybe talk a little smack,” Jordan said.

The Stallions and Barracudas have different approaches to the game.

The twice runners-up are more direct and perhaps more physical, a defence-first side with former NFL linebacker Andre Sommersell, 34, leading the way. When they have the ball, the Stallions like to hand it to Davion Miller, a powerful running back who gained 104 yards in Desert Bowl II and looked to be the game’s MVP until Vivaldi Tulysse brought back Abu Dhabi.

The Stallions have a passing component, however, from quarterback Chris Wentzel, especially towards the towering receiver Askia Horne-Powell.

The Barracudas are a bit shiftier in attack, lining up in formations ranging from the rush-oriented power-I to a modern and complicated four-receiver spread-option scheme.

Zavier Cobb, the quarterback, is the key man in making the Barracudas’ expansive play book work.

His coach said Cobb is “starting to trust his feet a little more” on option plays, but Daniels of the Stallions said Cobb is an accurate passer who “doesn’t like to run the ball”.

Both coaches expect a close game, a fitting finale for a league, they say, that remains on the rise.

“Each season, I’ve noticed that the level of competition has gotten better,” Jordan said.

Paul Oberjuerge is a journalist at The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi. He spent nearly 31 years as a sports editor, sports columnist and metro columnist for Gannett and MediaNews while based in Southern California. Paul was a journalism and history