Final weekend of play in Finland’s Maple League filled with drama and intrigue

Finland’s Maple League heads into it fifth and final week of play in this shortened 2020 season and all three games now have huge importance.

Watch all the games live on AFI.tv

With only one game left in the five-game season, two teams are tied for first, the 3-1 Kuopio Steelers and 3-1 Wasa Royals.  Meanwhile, the Helsinki Wolverines (2-2), Seinäjoki Crocodiles (2-2) and Helsinki Roosters (2-2) are in a battle for the last two playoff spots, while the Porvoon Butchers (0-4) remain winless and can only play the spoiler role.

In other words, there is huge drama in this weekend’s games.  A Crocodiles win puts them in the playoffs. A loss ties them with the loser of the Wolverines-Roosters game. If the Roosters lose and the Crocodiles lose, the Crocodiles move on since they beat the Roosters in the regular season. If the Wolverines lose and the Crocodiles lose then the Wolverines advance to the semifinals since they defeated Seinäjoki in the regular season.

Whew. Got that?

Anyway, here are the matchups for the final round of play in the 2020 Maple League regular season.

Thursday, August 27, Helsinki Wolverines @Helsinki Roosters

The Roosters and Wolverines are both coming off inspiring victories. The Roosters handed the Wasa Royals a 49-13 drubbing last week to reassert themselves as challengers for the Maple League title. Meanwhile, the Wolverines atoned for a horrendous 70-6 loss to the Kuopio Steelers the week before by decisively beating the Porvoon Butchers, 41-20.

In the Roosters win, new running back Mike Gentili made his presence known right away bursting out for a 74 yard touchdown on the second play from scrimmage en route to a 147 yard rushing day. . Quarterback Miro Kadmiry threw for 301 yards and five touchdowns with the other new “old” addition Kimi Linnainmaa, who came back to his old club after the Canadian Football League season was cancelled, also making his mark with eight catches for 198 yards and three of the six passing touchdowns. Arrtu Erkkila caught two more touchdown passes while Ville Karhinen caught one as well. In all, Helsinki racked up 491 yards of offense compared to the Royals‘ 278, much of which came late, when the game was already decided.

Kadmiry is now the leading quarterback in the Maple League He has been on fire over the past two rounds of play in the Maple League and now has 1,143 yards passing and 14 TDs.

Wolverines quarterback Chris Forcier threw for 209 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 142 and three more in the win against Porvoon. He began finding his key receiver Sebastien Sagne more frequently too. Sagne had eight receptions for 162 yards and a touchdown and now leads the league with 403 yards and four touchdowns. Another offensive threat for the Wolverines is Micky Kyei and last week he was used in the backfield with six carries for 85 yards and a touchdown. By inserting him as a running back rather than just a receiver, the Wolverines have added to their arsenal of scoring threats.

Both teams desperately need to win to be assured of making the playoffs.

Friday, August 28, Wasa Royals @Kuopio Steelers

This was a matchup many thought would be the highlight of the final week of play in the Maple League, but both teams are coming off tough losses and both have already qualified for the playoffs. Kuopio lost 14-7 to the Seinäjoki Crocodiles while the Royals were beaten badly by the Helsinki Roosters, 49-13.  All that is at stake is first place but since that might mean facing the surging Roosters in the semifinals, it might not be as important to finish at the top of the standings.

Royals star Alpha Jalloh had a frustrating game last week with 58 yards receiving and one touchdown but 27 yards and the score came with the score already 49-6 with a minute to go in the game. Quarterback Brandon Gwinner rushed for 129 yards and a touchdown, but 64 of that was also late in the contest with the score already out of hand. He only threw for 87 yards completing just 12 of 22 passes.

Gwinner is a the fourth leading passer in the Maple League with 656 yards and seven touchdown passes while Jalloh is the second leading receiver with 398 yards and five touchdowns. Gwinner is also the fourth leading rusher with 375 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.

Kuopio’s offense also faced a stiff defense last week, totaling just 210 yards with quarterback Seth Peters throwing for 176 of those yards and one touchdown. Running back Lamar Carswell caught the lone touchdown pass from Cutlan, a 15 yard effort, and was held to only 33 yards rushing after entering the game as the league’s second leading rusher. Wide receiver Josh Vandeweerd caught eight passes for 76 yards while newly signed Max Zimmermann had eight receptions for 59 yards. Tino Ndongo, who caught five touchdown passes the week before, was held to just three catches for 21 yards.

Carswell is the third leading rusher with 470 yards and eight touchdowns and can confound defenses when he is on his game. The Steelers defense could be the key with the linebacking trio of AJ Wentland, Kadel King and Semmi Radji.

This one is a toss up and it’s tough to know whether finishing first is as important as entering the playoffs injury free for both teams.

Saturday, August 28, Porvoon Butchers @  Seinäjoki Crocodiles

Although on paper, the outcome of this game could be seen as a foregone conclusion (best rushing offense versus the worst rushing defense)  the Butchers could easily change that. Seinäjoki enters the game on a high after beating the Steelers last week while Porvoon remain winless after losing to the Wolverines. However, the Butchers could play the spoilers and a team playing for pride and respect is dangerous.

Although he didn’t score last week, Crocodiles bruising running back Christian Powell was a major factor in last week’s 14-7 win over the Kuopio Steelers, bulling his way to 109 yards rushing, pounding out valuable yards when Seinäjoki most needed them, especially in the second half.

Seinäjoki quarterback Spencer Cutlan only threw for 56 yards and one touchdown with Nate Robitaille catching two passes for 17 yards, one of which was the touchdown pass. Cutlan accounted for the other Crocodiles touchdown, on a one yard run. In fact, Seinäjoki’s offense only generated 218 yards in total.

Powell leads the Maple League with 638 yards rushing and seven touchdowns on the ground.

The Butchers lost their fourth in a row last week when the Wolverines doubled up on them 41-20. Quarterback Jabari Harris was again the team’s leading ground gainer, rushing for 77 yards and three touchdowns while he threw for 91 yards. He is the second leading rusher in the Maple League with 486 yards and seven touchdowns and is fifth in passing having thrown for 521 yards and five touchdowns.

Can Harris “will” Porvoon to a win against a Crocodiles team that desperately needs to win? Or will the bruising running of Powell be too much for the worst defense in the league against the run?

AFI
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