LIVESTREAM MAPLE BOWL: Helsinki Roosters @ Kuopio Steelers, September 12, 13:00 CET, (1 pm, 7 am ET)

The Helsinki Roosters and the Kuopio Steelers will meet in Maple Bowl XLII for the Finnish national title in Lahti.

These two teams met earlier this season with the Steelers escaping Helsinki with a 35-32 win in July.

This is definitely a rivalry. The Steelers and Roosters will be facing each other in the Maple Bowl for the third time in four years. The Steelers aim to hoist the trophy for the second season in a row, while the powerhouse Roosters, winners of eight consecutive Maple Bowls from 2012-2019, are determined to reclaim Finland’s top spot after a disappointing 2020 season

The Rooster’s offense enter the Maple Bowl carried offensively by their potent passing attack. Finnish quarterback Miro Kadmiry. Kadmiry led the Maple League with 21 touchdown passes in only seven games. The veteran passer has been spreading the ball around to several receivers all season finding 6’5″ former Minnesota Gopher (NCAA D1) Rashad Still, along with homegrown talent Micky Kyei, Arttu Erkkila, and Johannes Jauhiainen. Expect Kyei to make an impact as the former CFL prospect has been impactful out of the slot and on special teams.

Helsinki Roosters @ Kuopio Steelers, September 12, 13:00 CET, (1 pm, 7 am ET)

Roosters quarterback Miro Kadmiry on facing the Steelers defense a second time:

“We learned that every game is important and is a full four quarters. I think in many situations we slowed down too early, but I know that’s not happening in a game like this.”

On the ground, the Roosters offense features two veterans at running back in Mike Gentili and Andres Lindley are eager to help the offense control the clock and move the ball against an athletic Steelers front seven. One positive for Helsinki is that both backs can be dangerous as receivers or runners. The Roosters offensive line is the key to this game as tackles Samuli Vehkomaki and Tony Koskinen must be able to protect their quarterback against the league’s best pass rush.

Defensively, Helsinki features a multitude of homegrown veterans as linebackers Roni Salonen, Santtu Ayravainen, and defensive end Okko Outinen are back for another shot at the title. However young talent such as defensive tackle Christer Berg and safety Vijo Lempinen will be relied on in big moments during this championship game. Expect the veterans to help the overall awareness of the defense as they face an explosive Kuopio offense that averaged 41 points this season. Cornerback Lorenzo Melchiore is another player to keep an eye on. The speedy cornerback has played for the Roosters in all three phases, shining most as a return man. If Melchiore can get a few blocks on special teams look for the former American International college product to score his fourth return touchdown.

Roosters head coach Juha Hakala on slowing down a dangerous Steelers offense:

 “In the regular-season game, our offense played well, but on defense, we allowed too many big plays. On Sunday we can’t afford to give up 75 or 90-yard touchdowns to a team that already has a very dangerous offense in the form of their star running back Anthony Reasonover.” 

The Steelers go into this year’s Maple Bowl looking to repeat as champions. One holdover from their 2020 championship is defensive end Semmie Radji. Radji improved on his excellent 2020 season leading the league in sacks and tackles for loss this year. The Dutch pass rusher pairs well with Finnish veteran Jani Lindqvist, and former Div. I defensive tackle Ikeem Allen (Miami OH NCAA D1). The trio helped the Steelers lead the league with 16 sacks. Behind the fierce front, linebackers, Maurice Wright Jr and Kalle Seppanen will aim to slow down talented Roosters’ offense.

The Steelers secondary gives fans a fantastic match-up to watch going against a physically imposing group of Roosters receivers. French defensive backs Adel Bafdile and Kenny Floret have meshed well with Finnish talent Eero Vaija and Roni Laine to create a secondary that led the league with 14 interceptions. Kuopio head coach Pekka Utriainen believes this could be one of the best championship games in years:

In a way, I think this will be the first time we are actually going to get a good game in the Maple Bowl between us. Going back to 2018 we really weren’t ready to beat a strong Roosters squad, and in 2019 we were so banged up by various injuries going into the game, the chance of an upset was pretty slim. I feel like both coaching staffs appreciate and value the work done over on the other sideline, not only during the games but also during the offseason. These games are the high points of our seasons for both teams I believe.”

Kuopio’s offense is equally as impressive averaging 41.6 points per game. Quarterback Joey Bradley has orchestrated a  Steeler’s offense that has become an exciting unit to watch. Bradley’s main targets include Hannes Harju, Isaac Marshall, and Jeffrey Alexandre. Despite Bradley’s efficient passing game, the Steeler’s strength is on the ground. Running back Le’Anthony Reasonover has made a strong case for MVP rushing for 1,252 and 15 touchdowns in the regular season. Reasonover followed up the strong regular season with a 270-yard performance last week in the semi-finals. Spelling Reasonover is Finnish ball carrier Tuuka Lehtonen. Reasonver’s backup is no slouch as the veteran ran for 484 yards on the season. Off of play-action expect fullback Ville Lindsten to see some targets in the flats in today’s championship game to keep the Roosters off balance. Kuopio quarterback Joey Bradley commented on the matchup with a physical Roosters defense:

“The Roosters are a well-coached team that is solid from top to bottom. They don’t give too many chances for big plays but when and if they do, you must capitalize.”

These two squads have been on a championship collision course all season. Fans are expecting another classic matchup, especially after the thrilling 35-32 game earlier this summer. The traditional powerhouse Roosters have bounced back after missing the postseason last year and are ready to get back to the dominance that won them seven consecutive championships. Meanwhile, the Steelers look to bring their northern football skills south to win back to back Maple Bowl cementing themselves Finland’s top dawg.

Watch the game here. Helsinki Roosters @ Kuopio Steelers, September 12, 13:00 CET, (1 pm, 7 am ET)

Helsinki Roosters depth chart

Kuopio Steelers 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