LIVESTREAM Spain Semifinal: Osos Rivas @ Badalona Dracs, April 15, 17:00 CET (5 pm, 11 am EDT)

This weekend’s Liga Nacional de Fútbol Americano Serie A semifinal between the Badalona Dracs and Madrid Rivas Osos pits the league’s best offense against its best defense. A win-or-go-home game between two teams full of both local talent and foreign imports, it makes for an intriguing Saturday-afternoon showdown with a spot in the league championship on the line.

The Dracs finished the 2023 regular season with the league’s best offense, scoring 290 points in eight games, or an average of over 36 points a game. The Osos, with a defense that conceded 34 points all season, may be the team best suited to face Badalona’s high-powered attack. Neutrals will see how it all shakes out when they face off at 17:00h this Saturday at Camp de Fútbol de Pomar in Badalona.

“It should definitely be our toughest game so far,” Dracs receiver Isaiah Woods said. “They’re one of the best put together teams in terms of football discipline and everyone does their job when they need to. I think it will be a great game.”

The Osos arrive in the four-team playoffs as the league’s defending champions looking to defend their crown. Those in Badalona remember that run all too well as it was the Osos that knocked them out in last year’s semifinals with a 39-7 win in Madrid back on May 7, 2022. This season’s game, however, will be played in Badalona.

Only the Black Demons have gotten the better of the Osos this season, winning twice against their nearby rivals: 3-2 on January 21 and 7-0 a month later. The Dracs, meanwhile, went all of 2022 without suffering a single defeat. Their closest game was a 27-7 win against the Zaragoza Hurricanes on March 5. On Saturday, after playing every team in their own conference twice, both teams finally get to measure themselves against a high-quality opponent from the opposite conference.

“They’re a strong team, but we have beaten them in the past and I’m sure we can do it again,” Dracs offensive lineman Quim Jaen said.

Badalona enters the playoffs mostly healthy with talent littered all over the field. Kevin Doyle pulls the strings at quarterback while Woods’ return to health near the end of the season added another aerial threat to the attack. On the ground, running back Edu Molina was recently voted as MVP of the LNFA 2023 season by 4Quarters while Jeremiah Gutierrez is an explosive threat any time the ball is in his hands. The offense exploded at the end of the season, scoring 156 points in the final three games of the season.

“I feel like these past few games, for the majority of them, we’ve had everybody doing the right thing and going at 100% speed,” Woods said. “When that happens, we’re a dangerous team on offense.”

There may, however, be no team better prepared for what the Dracs bring offensively than the Osos. They haven’t given up more than 10 points in a game all season but are also extremely well-rounded with three wins by at least 35 points.

Defensively, it starts in the secondary, with Daniel Docal at one defensive back position and Ronald Tomasella –– last season’s defensive player of the year when he played with the Mallorca Voltors –– in the other. Up front, Madrid employs defensive lineman Johnny Escobar and signal-caller Sergio Barbera.

“It’s a measuring stick for us,” Woods said. “We played against the teams in our conference and saw how we stacked up to them to make it out of our conference. Now we get to see what that looks like against one of the best teams in the west.”

If there’s any immediate observable weakness in this game, it may just be Badalona’s defense. While the unit has looked dominant for stretches this season and knows how to generate turnovers, it has conceded its fair share of points in recent weeks. During that same three-game run to end the season, the defense gave up 71 total points.

For the Dracs, the keys this weekend are to cut down on preventable penalties, maintain their poise and focus on their own game with the pressure at its highest. It’s difficult to nit-pick an undefeated season, but if anything, Badalona’s biggest enemy has been themselves.

“[Rivas Osos] knows how to take advantage of an opponent’s weaknesses,” Quim Jaen said. “This will be a game not just about who wins it, but who makes fewer mistakes.”

The best part about the playoffs is that everything that has happened since the beginning of January no longer matters. There are four teams left standing, including the defending champions and one of the most dominant Spanish teams of all time.

Will offense prevail or will the motto “defense wins championships” ring true yet again? We’ll find out on Saturday as both teams fight for an eventual date with either the Black Demons or Hurricanes in the league championship come the end of April.

Osos Rivas @ Badalona Dracs, April 15, 17:00 CET (5 pm, 11 am EDT)