ELF Week 1 Standout Performers: A couple of surprises and a few that were expected

By Matt Bressington

Well, that was definitely eventful, wasn’t it? Certain players who weren’t expected to perform deserve apology notes from this writer while others showed yet again why they are among the elite level players in the league. Lastly, we have the long-awaited emergence of players who have entered or are returning to the league in 2023.

Let’s have a look at the players that really stood out this week.

1. Jarvis McClam – Raiders Tirol

Jarvis was E.X.C.E.P.T.I.O.N.A.L in his debut game for the Raiders, smoking the Ravens for multiple long returns, including a touchdown. He was a reliable target showcasing his strong hands and diverse route tree by scoring another touchdown. Then, to finish it off, he threw a touchdown pass to his receiver partner Philipp Haun, to complete one of the best individual performances in the history of the European League of Football. We all knew he was special, but very few of us expected him to explode into the league quite like this.

2. Kyle Kitchens – Berlin Thunder

Berlin DL Kyle Kitchens Photo: Eric Muehle

A usual suspect in lists of the best defensive and overall players in the European League of Football, Kitchens simply does not stop performing for his teams. Another classic performance, this time against the debuting Hungary team, led him to four sacks on the day as well as a touchdown for the two-time Defensive Player of the Year. He has started this campaign as a serious contender to three-peat the award for the league’s best defender. If he does achieve this, it would be a remarkable achievement and possibility would be one of the “Unbreakable Records” that are carved in stone into the history books of the league. There are levels of pass rusher, but I think we can all agree that Kitchens is still on his own level at the top of the league.

3. Zach Blair – Cologne Centurions

A lot of us wrote off the Cologne Centurions at the start of the year, and it’s fair to say the whole of that front seven absolutely brought the heat against Paris. Blair was visibly the center of it all, with an absurd number of tackles, TFLs and a Sack for his troubles. We knew Blair was an excellent linebacker at the start of the season so it wasn’t as if it was unexpected that he would be a leading player, but he had divine power in this game. They couldn’t hold on until the end but it’s fair to say they proved many people, including this writer, wrong.

4. Matt Vitale/Tony Tate – Wroclaw Panthers

Photo: Łukasz Skwiot Fotografia Sportowa

Another organization on the “deserving an apology” list, the Wroclaw Panthers stunned the 2-time championship-contending Hamburg Sea Devils with a 34-25 win and honestly made it look rather comfortable. Vitale looked poised under center and confident in the pocket and showed that he does have an arm for the deep ball and vision to see over the top of the defense to make it happen. He and Tate looked vicious in their debuts. Tate was the deep threat who showed excellent balance and footwork throughout the process of the catch. I am very happy to say I was wrong about Matt Vitale, and he showed everyone who doubted him how good he can be. Extremely impressed with his performance.

5. Aaron Jackson – Berlin Thunder

Berlin WR Aaron Jackson #4 heading into the end zone. Photo: Eric Muehle

We all knew Jackson was one of, if not the best, receivers as soon as he signed on the dotted line for the Thunder. Boy, we were right! He torched the Enthroners defense for a bunch of yards and a pair of scores on the way to a 36-3 Berlin win to open up their title challenge. He looked fast, his routes were smooth, showed he can get the ball short and take it up field or make a play on the ball on the sideline/in the endzone. With his supporting cast and the clear confidence his organisation shows in him, he will be a serious threat to every single team. He looked borderline uncoverable at times. He is what we thought he was.

6. Anthony Mahoungou – Rhein Fire

Rhein Fire WR Anthony Mahoungou #1 Photo: Fiona Noever

Last but certainly not least, Mahoungou made his return to the European League of Football and it’s rather poetic that he did it against his former team, the Galaxy. He created separation all day, scored for the Fire and was a driving force for the offense all game with his huge gains as the Fire throttled Frankfurt 33-9. The defense played so well that his performance almost went under the radar, but not with me. He was an excellent example of an elite receiver who can change a whole game with his deep-threat ability.

Standouts were aplenty

Overall, this week had so many standouts that it’s impossible to name them all, many defensive players scored, and quarterbacks really came out to play and showed their legitimacy, such as Strong and Jacob. There were also mistakes. The league isn’t perfect. But I’m happy to be along for the ride in this season. Here’s to an equally as entertaining week 2

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