Helsinki Roosters escape Uppsala 86ers in NEFL Week 1 matchup

American football starts in Finland with an international showdown.

No, the Finnish national Maple League has not started yet (May 6th), but the Helsinki Roosters have began play in the Northern Europe Football League (NEFL) against the Uppsala 86ers (Sweden).

In true Northern European weather of -1 celsius and windy rains, it was a great way to start the football season. Ultimately the Roosters escaped with a 41-27 victory.

Why do I use the word “escaped” ? Allow me to explain. . .

Football is four quarters

Someone forgot to tell the Uppsala 86ers that in Finland you have to play American football for 48 minutes. After three quarters of play, the 86ers and Roosters were tied at 21-21. Then, the Timmy Thomas show went live and the 86ers started to think about the long ride back home. Outscoring the 86ers 20-6 to finish the game in dominant fashion, the Helsinki Roosters have once again put the entire Maple League on notice that they have not lost a step since last season.

Roosters defense

Photo: Jarmo Vehkomäki

Contrary to what the score says, the biggest advantage the Roosters had was a very aggressive defense that created six turnovers, including a pick six (interception for touchdown) by the opportunistic Pierre Courageux early in the first quarter for the first score of the game.

Santtu Äyräväinen was an absolute BEAST, for the short time he was allowed to play. Before being ejected from the the game, he was all over the field make bone jarring hits and even had a impressive toe tap interception.

Okko Outinen  was the most productive player on the defensive side for the Roosters finishing with 9.5 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, and a forced fumble on one of those sacks. I’ve heard nothing but praise about Outinen all off season, and boy he didn’t disappoint!

Despite giving up 477 yards of offense, the Helsinki Roosters proved that their aggressive play creates game changing turnovers worth the inflated stats.

86ers’ RB Victor Laviolette (21 att, 151 yds, 2 TD, 7 rec, 28 yds)

Photo: Jarmo Vehkomäki

The only positive for the Uppsala 86ers in this matchup.

Early in the game the 86ers tried and failed to create a lot of misdirection with their offensive play calling. Eventually the 86ers came to their senses and started feeding Victor Laviolette the ball. To be honest, the 86ers offensive line did very little to help Laviolette throughout this game.

Of his 21 carries, at least half of them involved him making a defender miss or breaking a tackle at the line of scrimmage. If giving a better line to run behind, this guy could be one of the best in Europe.

QB Brandon Connette’s Debut (12/34 , 231 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT)

Photo: Jarmo Vehkomäki

Finland is cold. That is the excuse I will give Brandon Connette on his European debut. Connette showed great pocket awareness all game and threw some pretty decent balls throughout the game. Too bad his receivers had one hell of a time catching those balls in that nasty weather. Despite these setbacks, Connette showed great resolve by continuing to throw the ball.

The rookie quarterback showed great ‘Football IQ’ by adjusting his throws to Timmy Thomas in the fourth quarter; throw the ball deep and Thomas will go get it!

Roosters new look offense

In my opinion, Jaycen Taylor is the best all-around running back in Europe. Despite my bias it was strange to see him lead the Roosters will only 51 yards on 11 carries, but he did score two touchdowns.

Taylor’s carries seems about right, but the world is accustomed to him getting much more than 4.6 yards per carry. Even the speedster Karri Pajarinen only had 20 yards on seven carries. A total of 71 yards rushing is very different from the team that averaged more than 200 yards per game last season. Is this the balance we can expect to see this year?

Timmy Timmy Thomas (5 rec, 146 yds, 2 TD)

Timmy Thomas is so nice I said his name twice!

Timmy Thomas wasted no time making his mark in Helsinki. He was quiet for most of the game, as Connette was adjusting to the weather and new atmosphere. But Thomas was rewarded for his patience when he caught two long touchdown scores for 49 and 69 yards in the fourth quarter. For a 5 reception day, 146 yards is just the beginning for Timmy Timmy Thomas.

Notable Stat Leaders

Uppsala 86ers

Kieran McDonagh – 20/45(44%), 256 yds, 4 int
Deniel John – 3 rec, 49 yds
A Wilkstrom – 4 rec, 42 yds
Joshua Akena – 3.5 tkls, 1 tkfl
Christoffer Nelin – 3.0 tkls
Nicholas Peterson – 3.0 tkls
Sam Sjölund – 3.0 tkls

Helsinki Roosters

Miro Kadmiry – 4 rec, 44 yds, 1 td
Okko Outinen – 9.5 tkls, 2 sacks, 3 tfl, 1 ff
Pierre Courageux – 7 tkls, 1 int, 1 td
Ilya Redin – 6.5 tkls, 1 tfl
Ville Rontu – 5 tkls, 1 int
Santtu Äyräväinen – 4.5 tkls, 1 tfl, 1 int
Akseli Olin – 3 tkls, 1 int, 1 pbu, 1 fg block
Viljo Lampinen – 1.5 tkls, 3 pbu

Stats:  
http://www.sajl-tilastot.net/NEFL/xlive.htm 
Game reviews:
Swedish – http://www.86ers.se/news/5033195/Forlust-i-Finland-
Finnish – http://www.vaahteraliiga.fi/roostersin-jainen-vuoristorata-paattyi-nefl-voittoon-86ersista/

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Perfect Pervis
Perfect Pervis is a football enthusiast from Texas City, Texas. Perfect currently resides in Finland, playing & coaching American Football and writing a blog about the football culture in Europe.
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