The Perm Steel Tigers have advanced to Russia’s 20 team League of American Football – LAF – semifinals after winning the new Regions Cup tournament. They will join the three top teams from the Premier Division, the Moscow Spartans, Moscow Patriots and St. Petersburg Griffins.
In the new Regions Cup playoff system in Russia, three our of four playoff spots are automatically awarded to the top teams of the elite eight-team Premier Division, but the last one is decided in the Regions Cup tournament involving all the other divisions of LAF.
The winners of Division Urals (Yekaterinburg Lightings), Volga (Perm Steel Tigers) and the top two teams of Division North (Karelian Gunners and Moscow Dragons) came together for the Final Four of that cup last weekend.
Perm Steel Tigers 36 – Moscow Dragons 7
With both teams having to fight from behind in their Day One games, they were visibly worn out in the Finals. But that was when the vastly more experienced Perm squad was able to take advantage of the young Dragons from the onset and never look back. After storming to a 36-0 halftime lead, they eased down a bit in the second half, while the Dragons got much more aggressive on defense and were able to score a consolation touchdown in the fourth quarter.
With this unique event that allowed the teams from thousands of kilometers away to play each other for the first time, all of the participants surely got an array of new experiences and ideas that they will be able to take home and learn from, while providing a spark and motivation for all the Divisional teams that never made it to the Final Four. And as for the grand prize? The Steel Tigers will now host the perennial champions Moscow Patriots in the LAF semifinals on August 19!
Road to the Regions Cup Final
Moscow Dragons 20 – Yekaterinburg Lightnings 12
The squad from the Urals seemed to be in control for much of the game, as they took a lead in the first quarter and then again in the third, however the Dragons hung in tight until the very end, and were able to pull away in the final period of the game. Having entered the game in after the break, their backup QB Mikhail Potylitsyn managed to put together two scoring drives, converting a couple of fourth downs along the way, and take his team to day two of the tournament.
Perm Steel Tigers 42 – Karelian Gunners 39
Arguably the most exciting game of the whole LAF so far this year saw the heavy favorites from Perm having to struggle until the last minute of the game against a young and upcoming squad from the northernmost city that participates in the League. Despite falling behind 10-0 in the first minutes of the game, the Gunners steadily fought back on the heroics of their QB Oleg Kornev, who alone threw for three scores and ran for three more, until they took a four-point lead into the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter. With no timeouts left, however, the Steel Tigers were able to mount an impressive no-huddle drive to score a go-ahead touchdown with two second left and go to the Finals.
Moscow Spartans surprising new top seed in Premier Division
The Moscow Spartans finished the regular season in Russia’s Premier Division undefeated and the surprising top seed entering the semifinals. En route they defeated the 2016 (Moscow Patriots) and 2015 (St. Petersburg Griffins) champions and emerged as the favorites. The top three teams in the top division in Russia pulled away from the rest of the pack early but the Spartans proved late in the season they were definitely the number one team.
The Patriots finished with a 6-1 record and the Griffins were 5-2, their only losses coming at the hands of the Spartans and Griffins.
The Spartans will now host the Griffins in one semifinal while the Patriots will take on the Spartans in the other.