GFL Semifinals: Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns vs Potsdam Royals – Last word from the coaches

The upper echelon of GFL competition is usually filled with familiar matchups, but semifinal Saturday in Germany this year will be a time for first.

Both elimination games this weekend feature teams advancing to their first-ever semifinal berth, but the late game will be even more historic. The powerhouse Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns will take on the Potsdam Royals for the first time ever with a trip to the German Bowl on the line, setting up an unpredictable contest with little precedent.

The Unicorns have coasted to an undefeated record again this year under head coach Jordan Neuman, knocking off their chief rivals the New Yorker Lions easily last week. Meanwhile, the 7-3 Royals have successfully filled the power vacuum in Germany with their best campaign ever under head coach Michael Vogt, riding the nation’s leading rusher Jake Mayon past Munich in the quarterfinals.

Ahead of the game, American Football International reached out to both coaches to provide a preview of what fans should expect.

AFI: After a year without football in 2020, how much does reaching the GFL semi-final mean to you and your team?

Jordan Neuman: It’s a a great feeling to play in big time games again after all the work that was put into it by our team over the last two years.

Michael Vogt: Obviously it means a lot. We are a very young organization and it’s the first time we have come so far. Having a playoff game at home was great and now facing one of the best teams in Europe is what we were hoping for.

AFI: This will be the first meeting between these two teams in GFL history. What unique challenges does your opponent present?

Neuman: It’s a brand new opponent so there is a lot of study that goes into not only learning the schemes, but learning the individual players as well.

Vogt: The Unicorns are one of the best around, the talent on the team is outstanding, they are very well coached in all parts of the game and also have a great and loud fanbase. They are not one dimensional, they can pass and run. Besides that, their specials look very sound as well.

AFI: This game has the distinction of featuring players with NFL experience on both sidelines. What does it mean to have that caliber of player involved in the GFL and how do you neutralize those types of athletes?

Neuman: There will be great players all over the field on Saturday. Some with NFL experience, some with major college football experience, and some who are the top national players in all of Europe. But to answer your question, we don’t put more focus on a player based on their football history because there are a lot of players without NFL experience that can hurt you just as badly if you are too locked into one guy.

Vogt: It’s great to have them around, players and coaches can learn a lot from their experiences. They surely have some stories to tell too! Neutralizing them is a challenge, especially when you have so much talent around that player.

AFI: The run game is expected to be a huge factor in this one, thanks to a couple of impact backs in Jake Mayon and John Santiago. What impact do you expect those players to have on the outcome?

Neuman: Running the ball is almost always key to winning football games. This game will feature two of the best backs in all of Europe, so there is no question the run game on both sides will have a big impact on the outcome of this game.

Vogt: It’s no secret that we heavily rely on our run game. If we can execute our blocking properly and create lanes for Jake – he will have another great game. John Santiago is a great player, he can decide games too, so we need to have a plan for him as well.

AFI: Football comes down to matchups. What matchup, individual or position, do you expect to have the greatest effect on the result?

Neuman: When you get to the semi-finals, there are no major holes anywhere on either team. You can’t rely on one position group to be able to dominate and only rely on that one thing or one person. It’s got to be balanced football and we have to be able to win across all position groups to be successful.

Vogt: Like I mentioned, the Unicorns are loaded with talent. We can’t focus that much on one matchup. Both lines will play an important role, just like in every other game, and I am sure our DBs will be tested.

AFI: The playoffs can be the time of year when depth is tested and unexpected heroes step up. What underrated player on your team has the potential to be that X-factor and why?

Neuman: That’s the great thing about games like this, I myself don’t know yet who will be that underrated player will be who steps up to make a game-changing play. I’m looking forward to seeing who it is, but I can say that we have several players who might not have the big names but are fully capable and ready to make that game-changing type play.

Vogt: Depth is indeed a factor, we lost a lot of guys during the season. But that happened to all teams and that’s why you try to have deep rosters. Whining doesn’t help and as bad as it is for the injured guys, it opens an opportunity for others to step up. There isn’t one person I would name, I know how well our guys took the challenge and will continue to do so.

AFI: After all the hard work of this year, what message will you have for your team pre-game?

Neuman: Enjoy it, we have all seen how fast and unexpected everything can be taken away, so take advantage of every opportunity given!

Vogt: We are very proud of what we achieved as a team and as an organization. We are where we wanted to be, both teams will be very excited and motivated.

Watch the German Football League semifinal game between the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns and Potsdam Royals live on Kickoff is Saturday, September 25 at 17:00 CET (5 pm, 11:00 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.