The German Football League has kicked off and this weekend seven games are on tap as the 16 team league opens its 41st season.
This year, the GFL North consists of defending North title holders, the Braunschweig New Yorker Lions, Dresden Monarchs, Berlin Rebels, Potsdam Royals, Cologne Crocodiles, Hildesheim Invaders, Kiel Baltic Hurricanes and Dusseldorf Panther.
In the GFL South, the defending champion Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns will be joined by the Frankfurt Universe, Allgäu Comets, Stuttgart Scorpions, Marburg Mercenaries, Munich Cowboys, Kirchdorf Wildcats and Ingolstadt Dukes.
Braunschweig New Yorker Lions (2018: 11-2-1, 1st North, Semifinalists)
The New Yorker Lions failed to reach the German Bowl for the first time in six years in 2018 but with head coach Troy Tomlin back, there is no doubt they will be contenders again this season. New at quarterback is Brandon Connette who returns to the GFL after winning two straight championships with Finland’s Helsinki Roosters. Connette was the top passer in the GFL in 2016 while with the Dresden Monarchs. Also new are linebacker Basil Jackson and defensive back Jamaal White ((Northwestern State University, NCAA Div. I FCS, Berlin Rebels). White will be a huge boost in the secondary after three years with Berlin where he recorded a total of 215 tackles.
Dresden Monarchs (2018: 11-2-1, 2nd North, Semifinalists)
Dresden challenged for the North conference title in 2018 and came oh so close, playing Braunschweig to a tie in the final regular season game of the year. They lost a tough semifinal game to the Unicorns. Head coach Ullrich Däuber has signed QB Zack Greenlee (University of Texas at El Paso). He signed Belgian wR Martin Emos who was one of the top receivers in the GFL last year and has also brought back the team’s leading rusher in British RB Glen Toonga. The Monarhs have reinforced the defensive secondary with DB Omari Williams who was a three year starter at Samford (NCAA Div. I, FCS).
Berlin Rebels (2018: 11-3, 3rd North, Quarterfinalists)
The Rebels came oh so close to knocking the Frankfurt Universe out in the quarterfinals, losing 6-5. Head coach Kim Kuci has re-signed two key members of the offense with the return of QB Terrell Robinson and RB Chris Smith. Joining them in the backfield is RB Andreas Betza who was the leading rusher for the Frankfurt Universe in 2018. Also new to the Rebels is defensive back Paul Morant who has helped the Milano Seamen win the Italian championship the past two years.
Potsdam Royals (2018: 6-8-1, 5th North)
Potsdam came out of the gates on fire in 2018 but cooled down as the season progressed. Still they were in playoff contention until very late. Head coach Michael Vogt has brought in QB Cody Williams, (Monmouth) DL Michael Reynolds, WR Keevan Lucas ( Tulsa). They lost a pair of starters – WR Max Zimmermann and LB Thiadric Hansen – to the Canadian Football League but have signed Sweden’s top receiver, WR Jacob Dahre.
Cologne Crocodiles (7-6-1, 4th North, Quarterfinalists)
Cologne had a solid season in 2018, reaching the quarterfinals where they put up a fight but lost to eventual champions, the Schwabisch Hall Unicorns. Head coach Patrick Köpper will rely on German QB Jan Weinreich. RB Colby Goodwyn, who was the 2nd leading rusher in the GFL with Hamburg in 2018 has joined the Crocodiles along with DB Emory Polley who spent three seasons with the Panasonic Impulse in the Japanese XLeague, helping Panasonic win their seventh title in 2015. Cologne has also added speedy WR Jake Isabel (Chapman University).
Dusseldorf Panthers (New)
With Australian national team head coach and former head coach of the Dresden Monarchs, John Leijten, on the sideline, Dusseldorf could well surprise this year, their first back in the GFL since 2016. Leijten has brought in Christian Strong from Seton Hill as his QB while adding standout DB Jacob Edelman and RB Khris Francis (North Carolina) who rushed for 784 yards with Kiel in 2018.
Look for the Panther to be much improved.
Kiel Baltic Hurricanes (2018: 4-9-1, 6th North)
Following the worst year for the Hurricanes since entering the GFL, Kiel has appointed an own product in Timo Zorn as their new head coach. . QB Jake Purichia (Indianapolis) will take over an offense that ranked 12th in the 16 team GFL in points and passing yardage.
Hildesheim Invaders (2018: 4-10, 7th North)
The team that has undergone the biggest change in the offseason would have to be the Hildesheim Invaders. In 2018, their second year in the GFL, they barely improved on their 3-11 record in the first year. Head coach HC Matt Lefever has obviously been given a bigger budget as he talked all star QB Casey Therriault out of a one-year retirement. Therriault won 5 titles with the New Yorker Lions and is widely acknowledged to be one of the finest quarterbacks to have ever played in Europe. LeFever’s sales skills also enticed standout French WR Anthony Dable-Wolf (New Yorker Lions, New York Giants) to join the Invaders and re-signed WR Jaleel Awini who collected 306 receiving yards in 5 games last year. Outstanding French DL Mamadou Sy has also been convinced to leave the Lions and join Hildesheim.
The progress of Hildesheim in 2019 will be closely followed. Expect them to contend.
Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns (2018: 18-0, 1st South, German Bowl champions)
The defending and back-to-back German champion Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns, look poised for a three peat in 2019. Head coach Jordan Neuman has reassembled his title-winning team with a couple of tweaks. Gone is his championship QB in Marco Ehrenfried and in his place is Jadrian Clark who quarterbacked the Braunschewig New Yorker Lions in 2018 throwing for 3,627 yards and 45 touchdowns, good for fourth in the league. Key returning players include WR Tyler Rutenbeck who led the team in receiving yards with 978 and LB Nick Alfieri who was the team’s leading tackler with 87 tackles..
Frankfurt Universe (2018: 14-3, 2nd South, German Bowl finalists)
With rumors swirling all off season of the actual survival of the Universe after a bankruptcy declaration, HC Brain Caler managed to keep his team intact it seems. Frankfurt came within a whisker of winning the German title in 2018 losing to the Unicorns 21-19. Caler has brought back QB Steve Clulely who started the season last year only to suffer an injury that sidelined him for the rest of the season. A key target for Cluley will be sure-handed Finnish WR Sebastian Sagne who is returning. Swedish RB Oscar Nevermann will start in the backfield while the defense will again be anchored by MLB Sebastian Silva Gomez.
Look for the Universe to challenge again for the German title.
Allgäu Comets (2018: 8-6, 3rd South, Quarterfinalists)
HC Jeff Scurran comes to the Comets to restore calm and order following a tumultuous season in 2018 which saw the team undergo a complete change of coaching staff midway through the year. The Comets still managed to make the playoffs and with Scurran at the helm things should stabilize. Scurran has had a hugely successful high school career in Arizona with a reputation for turning situations around. He has re-signed British QB Calvin Stitt, along with safety Danny Wynne. Swedish/American LB Josh Murphy (Orebro Black Knights/Washington State) is new this season and with his speed will help on defense.
Munich Cowboys (2018: 6-8, 4th South, Quarterfinalists)
The Cowboys reached the playoffs in 2018 for the first time in four years and HC Garren Holley is aiming to improve on that this season. Holley has signed QB Brady Bolles (Northwest Missouri State) along with dangerous WR Jaylen Zachery (Central Missouri State) who was in camp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Marburg Mercenaries (2018: 6-8, 5th South)
Following a wild 2018 season which saw the Mercenaries come so very close to making the playoffs, HC Dale Heffron has retooled for 2019. Gone is Mr. Everything Silas Nacita along with a revolving door quarterback situation. Heffron has signed top Division II QB Jakeb Sullivan (South Dakota School of Mines) along with WR Tyler O’Donnell Stonehill College), RB Triston McCathern who was the third leading rusher in GFL2 in 2018 as well as LB Justus Moreland (University of South Dakota Coyotes).
Ingolstadt Dukes (2018: 4-9-1, 6th South)
HC Eugen Haaf has his work cut out for him as he opens the 2019 season. His QB, Kyle Barnett broke his hand in the preseason and he will have to choose between veterans Cedric Townsend and Anthony Gardner to start the year. Both performed well in a preseason loss to the Potsdam Royals. He has also added WR Bobby Chan Chan (Northwestern State) and DB Fred Payne (Western Carolina University).
Whether the Dukes can challenge for a playoff spot remains to be seen.
Kirchdorf Wildcats (2018: 3-10-1, 7th South)
HC Christoph Riener has signed Clayton Turner (Miami, NCAA, Div. I, Kiel Baltic Hurricanes) as his QB and offensive coordinator for 2019 hoping to improve on an offense that averaged just 12 points a game in 2018. Defensive lineman Shannon Smith (Bowling Green, NCAA Div. I) will help bolster a defense that was ranked a respectable 7th in the GFL last year.
Stuttgart Scorpions (2018: 2-12, 8th South)
Based on preseason performance, Stuttgart Scorpions HC Jermaine Guynn has an improved squad for 2019. Despite a dismal 2018 which saw the Scorpions finish dead last, Guynn’s team defeated the Dusseldorf Panther in a preseason game and looked solid doing so. QB Michael Eubank has returned after a respectable season which saw him throw for 2,454 yards and 27 TDs in 12 games. New to the team is WR Tyler Cooperwood (Utah). The key for Stuttgart will be to shore up the defense which allowed 486 points last year, second worst in the GFL.