London Warriors have one eye on next challenge

By Simon Buckett

‘With one game to go, the London Warriors are marching towards what looks like another unbeaten regular season in the British American Football Association’s Premiership.

If they defeat the Bristol Aztecs this weekend, it would be their sixth undefeated season since 2013. The Warriors have won five of the last six British titles. And they are looking beyond.

But they haven’t forgotten their roots.

It started back in 2007, in the heart of Selhurst, a suburb of London, when the Warriors were formed. No one knew that the London Warriors would be preparing to rise from relative obscurity to become a dynasty of British American Football. Since then the Warriors have amassed five national championships and ventured into European territory. Playing as an amateur team against the semi-professional teams of Europe is no easy task but the Warriors are looking to restore London’s position on the European football scene.

Ranked within the top 40 teams in Europe, the British Champions have played exhibition games against Sweden’s Uppsala 86ers, the Swarco Raiders from Austria and German powerhouse, the Frankfurt Universe as well as competing in the Northern Europe Football League against  the Copenhagen Towers from Denmark and Sweden’s Carlstad Crusaders.

Warriors a talent pipeline

European football is littered with domestic and international quality, but spotting and developing exceptional talent is something the Warriors are used to. Former safety Tigie Sankoh is currently in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns and Efe Obada’s incredible journey from the Warriors to the Carolina Panthers has been well publicised. There are also former Warriors playing in Europe such as linebacker David Izinyon with the Rostock Griffins (GFL2)and defensive end Alex Haldane playing for the Dresden Monarchs in the German Football League.

Returning players a huge boon

As the Warriors continue to dominate the domestic game, they are now on the cusp on making their next run at European competition and some overseas talent is coming back to the UK. 2018 saw the return of safety Daniel Mackenzie from spending time with Hämeenlinna Huskies in Finland and Italy’s Guelfi Firenze, while prolific quarterback Jerome Allen has returned from his 2018 season with the Swarco Raiders.

Two former Warriors, tight end Harry Innis and linebacker Niall Scott-Grant, who left the Warriors to pursue their international careers, have also returned this year.

After winning the European Football League bowl with the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes in 2014 and reaching the German Football League (GFL) final with the Frankfurt Universe last year, Innis is excited about coming home to the Warriors:

‘I enjoyed the competitiveness of European football, the standard of the competition raised mine – iron sharpens iron. The Warriors’ ambition to put UK football back on the European stage is something I want to be a part of.”

On the Warriors prospects Innis was optimistic:

“Most European teams are at an advantage being able to recruit imports but that’s not how we do it in the British leagues. The Warriors have great athletes and superiority in the quality of coaches who have an incredible understanding of the game.”

Scott-Grant returned from the Dresden Monarchs and is excited to be back in the UK:

“It’s always better to be home. The mindset with European teams is dictated by the head coach whereas at the Warriors the mindset and attitude is in the team’s DNA from the cadets right through to the seniors.”

New to the Warriors for the 2019 season was former another former Frankfurt Universe player, wide receiver Tim Thomas. In 2018, Thomas led his team with 89 catches for 1,300 yards and 18 touchdowns, third overall in the GFL.

Thomas hugely values the experience he’s gained from European competition.

“Learning from American import players was the best for my game. It’s helped me learn about the position of receiver and the game as a whole and I’m excited to bring that the British league. I joined the Warriors as it is a complete program with great coaching and talented players. This combination will pull us up to European standard.”

All returning players have already had a significant impact. Scott-Grant has racked up six sacks while Innis and Thomas have contributed a combined 10 touchdowns to a prolific offense which has already put up 556 points over nine games as the Warriors push to secure a sixth National Championship.

You can catch the Warriors take the next step towards this goal is their playoff game on Sunday 18th August, 2pm, at the University of Greenwich, Avery Hill Campus, SE9 2UG.

 

 

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