Matchups in Finland crucial as season winds down

Finland’s Maple League heads into it fourth week of play in this shortened 2020 season and all three games now have huge importance.

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With only two games left in the five-game season, two favorites have emerged, the 3-0 Kuopio Steelers and 3-0 Wasa Royals. Both the Helsinki Wolverines (1-2) and Seinäjoki Crocodiles (1-2) have won one and lost two as has the Helsinki Roosters (1-2) while the Porvoon Butchers (0-3) remain winless.

Thursday, August 20: Helsinki Wolverines (1-2) @ Porvoon Butchers (0-3)

Both the Butchers (0-3) and Wolverines (1-2) are coming off horrendous, lopsided losses. Last week, Porvoon was thrashed by the Helsinki Roosters 60-12 while the Wolverines were embarrassed by the Kuopio Steelers 70-6.

In a game that should have been an even matchup, even slightly favoring Porvoon, the Roosters scored early and often in the first half, jumping out to a 33-0 halftime lead. Even with Butchers quarterback Jabari Harris battling all game long, Porvoon could not recover from the disastrous first half. Harris did manage to engineer two late touchdowns. On the day, he rushed for 127 yards (accounting for all the Butchers rushing yardage) and threw for 126 yards and two touchdowns. His leading receiver was Mikko Seppanen who had 80 yards receiving while Kristian Natunen had 34.

Harris is the key for Porvoon. He has rushed for 409 yards and four touchdowns while throwing for another 430 and five scores. Stop him and you stop the Butchers.

For the Wolverines, last week’s loss was a game to forget. Completely. Quarterback Chris Forcier had a dismal day completing just four of 13 passes for 68 yards and the team’s sole touchdown. He was also picked off once. His backup Rasmus Laalo hit on three of his seven pass attempts and tossed two interceptions. Wide receiver Sebastien Sagne caught two passes for 82 yards and the only Wolverines touchdown while the other four receivers combined for a total of 42 yards between them.  the Wolverines 107 yards of total offense. In fact, Helsinki had -17 yards rushing.

Forcier definitely had an “off” game and will need to find his rhythm and fast in this game. He was thrown for an average of only 157 yards a game in three contests so far and only three touchdown passes. With a receiving corps of Cedric Johnson (207 yds/2 tds), Sebastien Sagne (249 yds/1 td) and Micky Kyei (53 yds/o td), he has the tools at his disposal.

Both teams need this game badly.

Friday, August 21, Wasa Royals (3-0) @ Helsinki Roosters (1-2)

These two team both had big wins last week. The Royals outlasted the Seinäjoki Crocodiles 42-32 while Helsinki found another gear and won their first game, rolling over the Porvoon Butchers 60-12.

Helsinki secured their first win of the season behind a 347 yard and six touchdown passing night by quarterback Miro Kadmiry. Receiver Arttu Erkkilä had 121 yards receiving catching three of the touchdown passes while Alexander Wasiljeff caught the other two finishing with 116 yards receiving. Also in on the scoring with one touchdown each were Santtu Vehkomaki, Olli Lievonen and Mourad Daifi.

For Wasa, Alpha Jalloh was critical in the win over Seinäjoki  He tossed a 48 yard pass on the opening play of the game for Wasa, setting up the Royals first touchdown, he rushed for 26 yards and scored on a four yard run and he caught 129 yards in passes including two key touchdown passes, the second one with less than a minute to go to seal the win.

Royals quarterback Brandon Gwinner was also on his game throwing for 254 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for another 56. Nicholas Peterson had eight catches for 102 yards and two scores while Mahamed Hersi caught one pass for 48 yards (from Jalloh) and Nico Barrow one for 15. Running back Tom Suoste was his usual reliable self, rushing for 53 yards and one touchdown, constantly confounding defenders.

This matchup will be interesting. For the Roosters to have a chance, they will have to get Jalloh under control, not easy task, and also neutralize Gwinner. For this game, Helsinki will have Team Italy running back Mike Gentili in the lineup. He will definitely add to the rushing attack.

With Wasa now looking more and more like a well oiled machine with multiple weapons, this will be a tough task for Helsinki. However, this is basically a playoff game for the Roosters and anything can happen.

Saturday, August 22, Kuopio Steelers (3-0) @ Seinäjoki Crocodiles (1-2)

This could definitely be the game of the week. The Steelers put on the most impressive performance of the Maple League last week in demolishing the Helsinki Wolverines 70-6. Meanwhile, Seinäjoki kept pace with the Wasa Royals but fell short 42-32.

Behind excellent protection from his offensive line, Kupio quarterback Seth Peters completed 21 of 28 passes for 366 yards and seven touchdowns. Another one of his favorite targets on this day was Canadian receiver Josh Vandeweerd who hauled in nine passes for 92 yards and one touchdown. Vandeweerd also stepped in at quarterback late in the game completing 3 of 4 passes for 32 yards and a touchdown. Jakko Paananen had four catches for 63 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Lamar Carswell had a quiet game with only 10 carries for 77 yards and a touchdown. His backup Perttu Pajunen also scored.

Although Kuopio seemed to catch the Wolverines napping last week, they do have the weapons to score against any defense and now have the highest scoring offense in the Maple League, averaging over 53 points a game. Carswell maybe the most exciting running back in the country and has rushed for 437 yards and eight touchdowns on 42 carries, an average of 10.4 yards a carry. Peters has thrown for 780 yards (good for 2nd) and a league-best 13 touchdowns.

Seinäjoki running back Christian Powell had a career rushing game last week with 25 carries for 352 yards and three touchdowns. He had 121 yards after the first quarter alone! He ran around and through Crocodiles defenders all game long. And when Powell wasn’t carrying the ball (he accounted for 25 of his team’s 50 offensive plays), quarterback Spencer Cutlan was using the other tools at his disposal to keep his team even. He threw for 121 yards and one touchdown and ran another one in himself, a 33 yard scamper late in the game that almost changed the momentum of the contest. Wide receiver Nate Robitaille had a quiet night on offense with only two catches for 16 yards but one of them was a touchdown and he was working double duty, playing defensive back as well. Tim Thomas was the leading receiver for Seinäjoki with six receptions for 67 yards while Hadrien Lynda had one for 33.

So far Powell has rushed for 529 yards and seven touchdowns in three games, but more importantly he too is averaging 9.4 yards a carry. Cutlan has thrown for a modest 360 yards and three touchdowns but with Robitaille and Thomas in his weapons arsenal, he has the tools for an explosive offense.

This game will be fun to watch as the two best running backs in the league square off.








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