Finnish Semifinals: QB head-to-head – Kuopio Steelers vs Seinäjoki Crocodiles

When the Kuopio Steelers and the Seinäjoki Crocodiles meet in the Maple League semi-final on Friday, all eyes will be on the running backs.

Seinäjoki’s Christian Powell and Kuopio’s Le’Anthony Reasnover are the league’s two best ball carriers, capable of turning a contest on its head with a single jaw-dropping run. It promises to be a matchup for the ages, but when two incredible ground games clash, there needs to be a tie-breaker. That’s where the quarterbacks come in.

All season long, the offensive passing attacks of these two Finnish foes have played second fiddle to their workhorse backs, yet it remains difficult to win in modern football without some degree of aerial prowess. Heading into Friday, both teams have players capable of seizing control of the airspace if necessary.

For the defending Maple Bowl champion Kuopio Steelers, that man is Joey Bradley. A former Harlon Hill nominee at the University of New Haven, Bradley has long been a standout in smaller European leagues and brings an impressive resume from stops in Portugal, Poland, Spain, and most recently the Czech Republic. He hasn’t quite needed to be the man for the Steelers like he was for the Vysocina Gladiators, but he has provided a steady hand to propel the club into the top seed for a second straight year.

Through eight games, Bradley has connected on 114-of-186 passes (61.3%) for 1,542 yards, 13 touchdowns, and six interceptions. That’s undoubtedly a far cry from the 30:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio he put up in the Czech Republic, but his weaponry in Finland is far more impressive. Frenchman Jefferson Alexandre and the homegrown Hannes Harju have both shown flashes of brilliance this season.

On the other side, the Crocodiles have sorely missed the consistency of a player like Bradley, but may have a higher upside with Zach Greenlee back in the lineup. Signed as a replacement for the injured Zach Whitehead, Greenlee jumped to Finland immediately following his season with the Prague Black Panthers of the Austrian Football League but has played only two games due to his own injury. He’s expected to return Friday and the results could be sensational.

In limited action, the former Fresno State and UTEP pivot has looked on point, completing 28-of-48 passes (58.3%) for 398 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions. For context, the rest of the team combined for just 530 yards over the course of the six games Greenlee wasn’t on the field.

His presence opens up a completely new facet of the fourth-seeded Crocodiles offense and they’ve got the receivers to take advantage. Former CFL player Benjamin Plu is one of the most talented in the league, but remains underutilized, while Joel Sarkela and Nate Robitaille provide other intriguing options.

The battle between Bradley and Greenlee is sure to be one of the keys to the game and from the outside, it’s too close to predict who might come out on top. One needs to look no further than the pass efficiency rating of both players to have that concept illustrated. Bradley leads in that category with a grade of 147.5, while Greenlee is close behind with a mark of 147.15.

Only the slimmest of margins separate the two, but on Friday that may determine who is going to the Maple Bowl.

Watch the game live here. Seinäjoki Crocodiles @ Kuopio Steelers, September 3, 17:30 CET (5:30 pm, 11:30 am ET).

J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.