Finland’s Maple League turning into 3 team race

The top league of American football in Finland, Vaahteraliiga (Maple League), played its fourth week of games from Thursday to Monday. All games in the Maple League are shown live through the subscription service Ruutu, and can be viewed after the games as well.

Thursday, May 25

Porvoon Butchers 38, Turku Trojans 0

Photo Credit: Turku Trojans

The Porvoon Butchers jumped out to an early lead on the first play from scrimmage via pass from quarterback Jordan Moore to receiver Mikko Seppänen for 67 yards. With the score 7-0 in favor of the Butchers, the Turku Trojans put together a very good opening drive. On the back of running back Joshua Quezada, the Trojans reached the Butchers 35 yard line before stalling due to untimely penalties. Late in the first quarter the Butchers converted twice on third down to extend their drive. Using the legs of running back Darion Hall to get inside the red zone, the Butchers scored on a bootleg quarterback keeper by Jordan Moore to make the score 14-0. The Trojans did not put up much of a fight on offense, struggling to get anything going with the run game focused on Joshua Quezada. The Butchers continued to roll by adding a field goal by kicker Daniel Luoma, which made the score 17-0. Late in the second quarter, Moore connected with Luoma to get the Butchers in scoring position before halftime. Jordan Moore scored the last points of the half on a designed run up the middle to put the Butchers lead at 24-0.

The Butchers picked up where they left at halftime, using a balanced running attack to get down the field. Running back Darion Hall scored the first touchdown of the second half to make the score 31-0. The Trojans started two consecutive drives with penalties to keep up with the theme of shooting themselves in the foot. Ville-Valtteri Suojanen successfully ran a punt fake on a 4th & 5 to extend a Trojans drive late in the 3rd quarter. Four plays later Darion Hall had a 57 yard punt return and put the Butchers in great field position. Hall continued to lead the Butchers offense into the red zone once again. On 4th down in the red zone, Jordan Moore made a leaping touchdown to put the nail in the coffin, as the Butchers went ahead 38-0. At the end of the third quarter the Trojans backup quarterback Teemu Thorström came in relief for starter Gilbert Rivera. Thorström had a small amount of success before a fumble ended the Trojans last chance at points in this game. The Butchers controlled this game from start to finish and it was reflected in the final score of 38-0.

Saturday, May 27

Hämeenlinna Huskies 60, Seinäjoki Crocodiles 6

Photo Credit: Hilarious Hobbit

This game began with a 90 yard kickoff return touchdown by Hämeenlinna Huskies Two-way player Roman Runner. It only got worse for the Seinäjoki Crocodiles. After going 3 & out, Roman Runner returned a punt for another score. The Hämeenlinna Huskies were ahead in this game 16-0 before playing a down of offense, with 10:29 left in the 1st quarter! Once the Huskies did take the field on offense, the Stan Bedwell air raid offense ran like a well-tuned machine. Receiver Niko Lester was featured on the jet sweep throughout the game, scoring from the 5 yard line to extend the lead to 22-0.  Running back Arkadi Meershout led the team in receptions (8), including a 14 yard catch for a touchdown. Losing 30-0, the Crocodiles were no threat to score as they went 3 & out on every possession in the first half, excluding one drive that was extended by a roughing the kicker penalty. But the Huskies showed no mercy, as Niko Lester found the end zone again in the 2nd quarter on a Stan Bedwell 58 yard touchdown pass. 36-0 was the score when the Crocodiles made the mistake of punting to Roman Runner again. 44 yards later, Roman Runner made his third touchdown of the half to make the score 42-0 before the half.

The second half of this game was unnecessary, but had to be played. The Seinäjoki Crocodiles finally gained their first 1st down of the game in the 3rd quarter. Removed from punt returns, Roman Runner scored two more touchdowns at receiver in the 3rd quarter to put the Huskies up 54-0. The fourth quarter saw both teams mix in backups to finish this one-sided affair. Huskies backup quarterback Eemi Huhtinen connected with wide receiver Joonas Isokääntä to make the score 60-0. With less than 2 minutes left in the game, Crocodiles quarterback Brett Arrivey scored on short run end the scoring at 60-6. The Hämeenlinna Huskies defense played tough the entire game, and because of the numerous 3 & outs they did not have a lot of highlight plays this game. But as a unit, the Huskies defense was the big bully in this game.

Key Player Stats

Hämeenlinna Huskies

QB Stan Bedwell – 26/34, 328 yds, 5 tds, 1 int
RB Arkadi Meershout – 8 rec, 62 yds, 1 td
WR Roman Runner – 5 rec, 69 yds, 2 tds/3 return tds
WR Niko Lester – 7 rec, 110 yds, 2 tds
DB Mikko Isokääntä – 5 tkls, 0.5 tfl
DL Aatu Suhonen – 3 tkls, 1 tfl
DL James Perrineau – 2.5 tkls, 1 tfl
DL Juha Yli-Arvela – 2.5 tkls, 2 tfl, 2 sacks, 1 pbu

Seinäjoki Crocodiles

QB Brett Arrivey – 9/24, 92 yds /1 rush td
RB Jaska Varinen – 4 rec, 52 yds
DB Tuomas Leinonen – 4.5 tkls
LB Juhani Koivumäki – 3.5 tkls, 1 int
LB Cory Magwood – 3.5 tkls, 1.5 tfl, 1 pbu
LB Joonas Raatikainen – 3.5 tkls, 0.5 tfl, 0.5 sack
DL Filip Zacok – 3.5 tkls, 0.5 tfl, 0.5 sack, 1 pbu

Monday, May 29

Helsinki Roosters 34, Wasa Royals 6

Photo Credit: Salla Lahti

In a game that was speculated to be a preview of the 2017 Maple Bowl, the onfield result was underwhelming. The Wasa Royals began the game relying heavily on the run game via running back Tom Suoste. Their drive was cut short when a pass was intercepted by defensive back Akseli Olin early in the game. The Helsinki Roosters came out hot with running back Jaycen Taylor being featured in the run and pass game. Once they were in the red zone, the Roosters quarterback Brandon Connette threw a pass to receiver Timothy “Timmy” Thomas in the end zone to start the scoring at 7-0. After going 3 & out, the Royals had their punt blocked by linebacker Santtu Äyräväinen, and the Roosters started their possession inside the Royals red zone. A quick 8 yard scamper by Connette and the Roosters went ahead quickly 14-0. The Royals were down but not out. After converting on a 3rd & long to extend the drive, quarterback Justin Sottilare found receiver RJ Long on a playaction pass for a score. The score remained at 14-6 into the second quarter as both teams settled into the game. The game changing drive happened in the second quarter of this game. Sottilare and the Royals converted twice on 3rd down to get inside the Roosters red zone. On 4th & 2 the Royals tried to run with Tom Suoste unsuccessfully for a turnover on downs. The Roosters wasted no time in capitalizing on the missed scoring opportunity. A 76 yard reception by Jaycen Taylor put the Roosters in the scoring position. From there, they would not waste the opportunity, as Brandon Connette scored on a scramble to make the score 21-6. The Royals kept fighting, but an interception by Roosters defensive back Curtis Slater ended any hopes they had of scoring before the half ended.

The Roosters kept their foot on the gas in the third quarter. Connette played catch with receivers Alexander Wasiljeff and Miro Kadmiry to score another touchdown and put the Roosters ahead 27-6. Then the Royals put all their chips on the table as the brought linebacker Stacey Thomas in to play receiver. This rejuvenated their offense as Stacey Thomas made a few big catches to help the Royals reach the red zone area. Looking for receiver RJ Long, Sottilare’s had a pass intercepted in the end zone by defensive back Ville Rontu. This was another Royals drive was stopped in the red zone by the Roosters defense. In the spirit of this game, the Roosters used this turnover as a catalyst for their next drive. Largely in part to a huge 60 yard catch and run by receiver Timmy Thomas, the Roosters returned to a scoring position. On a 4th & goal from the 15 yard line, Brandon Connette threw to Alexander Wasiljeff in the endzone for the last score of the game. At 34-6 neither team scored for the remainder of the game, but not because of lack of trying. Royals linebacker Chris Young appeared briefly at quarterback as the Royals desperately tried to mix things up on offense. In the 4th quarter the Royals once again turned the ball over in the red zone, courtesy of a fumble by Tom Suoste. The Roosters finally were not able to capitalize on a turnover due to a string of penalties while in the Royals territory. The Royals reached the red zone once more in this game, only to be denied again, this time by a Curtis Slater interception in the end zone. That would be the last threat from the Royals as they succumbed to their opponent 34-6

Key Player Stats

Helsinki Roosters

QB Brandon Connette – 18/32, 329 yds, 3 tds, 2 rush tds
RB Jaycen Taylor – 6 att, 66 yds, 3 rec, 92 yds
WR Timothy Thomas – 5 rec, 111 yds, 1 td
WR Alexander Wasiljeff – 5 rec, 48 yds, 1 td
WR Miro Kadmiry – 3 rec, 61 yds, 1 td
DB Pierre Courageux – 6 tkls
LB Quentin Coulpin – 6 tkls
LB Ilya Redin – 5.5 tkls, 0.5 tfl
DB Ville Rontu – 5 tkls, 1 int
LB Santtu Äyräväinen – 4.5 tkls, 1 pbu, 2 blks
DB Curtis Slater – 4.5 tkls, 1 pbu, 2 ints
DL Lauri Vaino – 3.5 tkls, 2 tfl
DB Akseli Olin – 3 tkls, 1 int

Wasa Royals

QB Justin Sottilare – 21/33, 255 yds, 1 td, 4 int
RB Tom Suoste – 25 att, 123 yds (4.9 avg)
WR RJ Long – 8 rec, 141 yds, 1 td
WR Jussi Kaas – 6 rec 56 yds
LB Chris Young – 4 tkls, 1 pbu
LB Christoffer Norrgård – 3 tkls

Perfect Pervis View

This week of Maple League games helped showcase the difference between the better teams in the league. The Porvoon Butchers proved that they are a legit playoff contender and did not give the Turku Trojans any reason to believe otherwise. The Hämeenlinna Huskies flexed their muscles by putting up huge numbers against the winless Seinäjoki Crocodiles. The most surprising game of the week was the Helsinki Roosters steamrolling the Wasa Royals. Despite the lopsided victory, the Royals showed that they could hang with the Roosters physically, but lack the championship mentality and experience to make the big plays when necessary. This week has me optimistic about the future of the Maple League as things are sure to get more interesting.

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Perfect Pervis is a football enthusiast from Texas City, Texas. Perfect currently resides in Finland, playing & coaching American Football and writing a blog about the football culture in Europe.