ELF: Hamburg Sea Devils – Path to the Championship Game

On Sunday, the Hamburg Sea Devils will play the Vienna Vikings in the European League of Football (ELF) Championship game.

For the Sea Devils, this game is all they have been thinking about for the past year following their gut-wrenching 32-30 defeat to the Frankfurt Galaxy in the league’s first ever final back in 2021.

The 2021 final saw a balanced Hamburg squad lead for nearly the entire game before allowing Galaxy quarterback Jacob Sullivan to beat them through the air and hoist the trophy.

During the offseason, Hamburg lent heavily into their strengths and built a team that could dominate in specific phases of the game. Although their passing game fell off a cliff in terms of production, their rushing attack and defense skyrocketed with some key additions on both sides of the ball.

Those offseason gains led to an explosion of production in game one of the regular season as they obliterated the Berlin Thunder. Highlights of their front seven nearly decapitating Thunder quarterback Joe Germinerio and running back Glen Toonga running rampant went viral on ELF’s social media channels.

Despite their one only loss coming a week later to the Barcelona Dragons, the Sea Devils still looked to be the most intense team in the league. Their signature bell-ringing at home games and impressive pageantry only stood to swell the aura that was fast surrounding the team.

Photo: Hamburg Sea Devils

Key victories over the Rhein Fire, Barcelona Dragons and a 70-0 beatdown of the Istanbul Rams paved the way for Hamburg to be a top of most power rankings as the second half of the season began.

As the weeks went by, Hamburg relied increasingly more on their run-game and less on developing German quarterback Salieu Ceesay, and why would they? Toonga was winning them games and was complemented with the best defense in the league.

But towards the end of the regular season, realizing how one dimensional their offense was, Hamburg elevated quarterback Moritz Maack to the starting spot. But considering that Maack and Ceesay were almost never called upon to lead their offense to the redzone, it was hardly surprising when their production was nearly identical.

This quarterback carousel was not where the team wanted to be come playoff time. After all, the whole reason for the switch was to find an extra layer to the offense. But fate, as it does, forced Hamburg’s hand in the playoff game two weeks ago after Maack separated his shoulder during the Sea Devils’ first drive.

Ceesay is now firmly, and with little other choice, Hamburg’s starting quarterback as the team looks for championship redemption. His production has been inconsistent to put it mildly. His nine passing touchdowns and four interceptions screams mediocrity.

Still, behind him stands the most dominant rushing attack in Europe and a defense that strikes fear into opposing quarterbacks. Toonga currently sits at 1,468 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns. Hamburg’s defense has allowed the fewest points, yards and forced the most takeaways.

The Sea Devils have dived headfirst into their identity and approach the final with a full sense of self assurance. Hamburg’s detractors will argue they are too one dimensional. But just because you know what someone is going to do, it doesn’t mean you can stop it.

Daniel Mackenzie is a Press Association graduate who works in journalism and communications in the third sector. Daniel began playing football for the London Warriors and Team Great Britain and has since played across Europe.