LIVESTREAM FINLAND: Porvoo Butchers @ Helsinki Roosters, September 4, 17:30 CET (5:30 pm, 11:30 am ET)

It’s playoff Saturday in Finland. The Helsinki Roosters (6-2) will host the Porvoo Butchers (5-3) in this semi-final’s matchup. The Roosters swept the Butchers in the regular season most recently beating them in an exciting 39-35 game in early July. Expect fans of the Maple League to pack the stadium in Helsinki to support two teams eager to get back to Finland’s title game.

The Butchers are coming off of their best regular season since 2011, the final season of head coach Jim Nendel’s first stint with the Butchers. . Coach Nendel has now returned to the coastal city and led the once powerhouse program back to the playoffs turning around a winless 2020 team into the league’s third playoff seed. Quarterback Jabari Harris has been a key part of Nendel’s team building, commanding a dangerous Butchers offense. Harris is a dynamic athlete who specializes in improvising and throwing on the run. The Veteran quarterback has played in Finland for seven seasons and even played defense and kick returner at times. Now a seasoned passer, Harris is playing maybe the best football of his decorated career putting up 234 total yards a game and 19 total touchdowns. Harris’s success is in large part due to a litany of Finnish talent around him as Mikko Seppanen, Marcus Siiskonen, and Sami Nikkinen have been clutch all season. Seppanen commented on the team’s mentality heading into this game:

“We have waited this moment for the whole season and now its time to win!”

Newcomer Brandon Izhanza has also played well on both sides of the ball. On the ground, Harris and running back Sean McAllen are a dangerous duo to contain. McAllen however, appeared to suffer an injury last week and is questionable for today. Head Coach Jim Nendel commented on Porvoo’s return to the playoffs after ten long years: 

“It feels great to be back in Porvoo, I walked around the old town again today and again was struck by how fortunate I am to be here. It’s really a wonderful place. I am so excited for our guys to be back in the playoffs again and to have a winning season after a 10-year drought.”

Porvoo Butchers @ Helsinki Roosters, September 4, 17:30 CET (5:30 pm, 11:30 am ET)

Defensively, Porvoo’s secondary must step up to the tough task of containing an explosive Roosters receiving core. Butchers fans can expect Brandon Izhanza and Niko Roiko to help shut slow down some of Helsinki’s top targets. Roiko had an outstanding game last week making two interceptions and forcing a fumble against the Crusaders. If linebackers Timmi Nuikka and Alvin Reels Jr. can get in on the action and force turnovers the Butchers could pull off the upset in Finland’s capital. Veteran linebacker Alvin Reels Jr commented on the upcoming matchup:

“We are very excited for the game. It was a long regular season and we’ve had many ups and downs but it feels good to be in the playoffs and we believe we have a team capable of being in the Maple Bowl. The Roosters are a stacked and talented team and also very well coached. This is our third time playing them this season, we still feel that we had them at their house so that loss left a bad taste in our mouths. We’ve been preparing long and hard for this. I expect it to be a dog fight. Not nervous at all though I’m going to leave it all on the field tomorrow for my brothers and I know they will do the same not just for me but for the team!”

Helsinki’s offense has been one of the league’s best units putting up 36 points per game. Efficiency and versatility describe this offense as they’ve averaged 250 yards passing and 122 yards rushing per game. Miro Kadmiry leads this offense throwing for a league-leading 21 touchdowns this season. The league’s lone homegrown Finnish starter has had a ton of weapons to chose from this season including Micky Kyei, Arttu Erkkila, and Rashad Still. Kyei’s speed and quickness make him tough to cover out of the slot, while tall receivers Rashad Still and Arttu Erkkila and excellent red-zone targets.  On the ground, a talented Roosters backfield features veterans Mike Gentili, Andres Lindley making this a tough offense to slow down. Expect the Roosters to run the ball often today as the Crocodiles gave up 133 yards rushing per game this season. Roosters running back Mike Gentili commented on the upcoming game:

“We’re very excited to face a strong Butchers team. I’ve been very impressed with their film and the fact they have shown a lot of grit winning close, hard-fought games all year. It’s getting cold up here and you can feel the playoff energy at practice. We’ve got a lot of guys healthy who haven’t been in a while and we’re ready to compete for a spot in the Maple Bowl!” 

Defensively the Roosters pass rush will look to get to the Jabari Harris and contain the Butchers most dynamic weapon. Young defensive lineman Christer Berg recently re-joined the Roosters and is eager to make an impact. Expect Okko Outinen, Berg, and veteran Lauri Aho and be chasing harris all game long. Linebackers Roni Salonen and Akseli Vartianinen could also be used in a quarterback spy role. In the secondary Lorenzo Melchiorre and Viejo Lempinen hope to contain a dangerous core of Finnish receivers eager to stamp their ticket to the title game.

The Rooster once dominated the Finnish football scene winning seven Maple Bowls in a row. After missing the playoffs in 2020, they’ll have to win one more game in order to get a chance at reclaiming the national title. The Butchers are a proud team in their own right, winning their last championship in 2010 with Jim Nendel at the helm. After years of mediocrity, Nendel has returned and brought the Butchers back into contention. Expect a hard-fought game between two proud clubs looking to break through and give themselves a shot at the Maple Bowl.

Watch the game live here: Porvoo Butchers @ Helsinki Roosters, September 4, 17:30 CET (5:30 pm, 11:30 am ET)

Helsinki Roosters depth chart

Porvoo Butchers depth chart

Alex is a former professional American football player who is now studying in London. His goal writing for AFI is to stay involved with the game that has given him so much. Alex enjoys covering leagues and players and sharing different football