The matchup between the Porvoon Butchers and Wasa Royals Saturday, August 1 marks the final game in Finland’s Maple League kickoff week. Saturday’s game features two teams who are looking to bounce back after missing the playoffs in 2019.
The Wasa Royals are mixing new faces with familiar ones as head coach Stacey Thomas has brought back John Booker this season now as offensive coordinator. Booker led the Royals all the way to the Maple Bowl in 2017. Another familiar face will be veteran running back Tom Suoste. Suoste averaged 88 yards per game on the ground last season. Look for Suoste to run the ball often behind the Royals strong offensive line. One of his lineman Eric Blomgren believes that the Royals will get back to the success they are used to in Wasa.
“I believe we will surprise a lot of people and I have a good feeling about the team going into this season.”
A new face for the Royals will be quarterback Brandon Gwinner (Morrisville, NY). Gwinner is coming off of a stellar season with the Brisbane Rhinos in Australia, where he threw for over 30 touchdowns and was named team MVP. Gwinner looks to continue his success in his Maple league debut.
“I have confidence in the team on both offense and defense, coaches as well to get the job done and get the first win of the season.”
Defensively the Royals will have veteran Viktor Mantry in their defensive backfield. On the line of scrimmage a key matchup to watch for is Royals defensive lineman Marrti Kass versus the Butchers offensive line. The winner could help determine the which team comes out on top. Thomas is looking for young linebacker Lamin Latikka to step up after playing seven games in 2019
For the Butchers its more of the same. Quarterback Jabari Harris a Finnish football veteran will be leading the Butchers from under center. Just like he did in his first season in Finland back in 2014.
“Returning to Porvoo has been very fun and heartwarming. The coaches and players have been very receptive towards me and have allowed me to come in and begin to build with these players “
Some new faces for the Butchers will be receiver Juuso Alakoski and running back Yusufa Lehtinen. Both are experienced playmakers who will add to strong core of skill players led by Mikko Seppänen. Seppänen was one of the best receivers in the maple league last year, hauling in 79 catches for 801 yards and 11 touchdowns.
On the ground look for newcomer Yusufa Lehtinen to run the ball behind their strong offensive line anchored by all-stars Arttu Tennberg and Jari Mononen.
On defense the Butchers will be counting on homegrown talent such as second year Linebacker Timi Nuikka. Nuikka made 49 total tackles in his first season in the Maple League in 2019.
Saturday should prove to be an intense game of two hungry teams looking to improve on disappointing 2019 seasons. Because of the shortened season this game could be vital as they fight for playoff spots in the future.