More Contenders Emerge In Brazil’s Superliga

As teams in Brazil’s Superliga near the 1/3 point of the season, more contenders have emerged, making the race for the title as wide open as ever. The Minas Locomotiva, Flamengo, Joao Pessoa Espectros, America Bulls and Vasco da Gama all prevailed in action on the weekend in the top league in Brazil.

 Minas Locomotiva 26, Rio Branco Cabritos 0 (Clube da AEST, Serra, Espirito Santo)

Brazil - Minas Locomotiva-Rio Branco Cabritos

Minas Locomotiva quarterback, Abrãao Coehlo, prepares to receive a snap against the Rio Branco Cabritos in Serra, Espírito Santo. Photo credit: Lucas Secchim

Versatile speedster Abrãao Coehlo, moved from running back to quarterback to bolster the Locomotiva offense, threw for two touchdowns (to Daniel Fernandes and Juliano Faria), and helped open up the running game, which saw Coelho and Marco Gheller each rush for a touchdown.

For Minas offensive lineman and head coach, Italo Mingoni, the weather was a factor in their game planning.

“We had to prioritize the running game, as it rained for almost the entire game.”

AFI’s take: Locomotiva has some nice pieces and talented athletes. If they can stay out of the loss column while fine tuning execution, they might find themselves in the playoff hunt.

Flamengo 59, Botafogo Challengers 0 (Vila Olimpica, Duque de Caixas, Rio de Janeiro)

Brazil - Flamengo-Botafogo coin toss

Referee Jean Pierre Soares prepares captains from Flamengo and the Botafogo Challengers for the coin toss prior to Saturday’s game. Photo credit: Salão Oval

More of the same explosive offense and stingy defense for Coach Otavio Roichman’s squad. Flamengo scored on every one of its possessions, and allowed but a single first down to the Cabrito offense.

Receiver Patrick Dutton continued his breakout season with 3 TD grabs, all from quarterback (and Olympic Torch Bearer!) KC Frost. Flamengo’s touchdown-by-committee backfield also got into the scoring festivities, with 6-point gallops from Ivan Roichman, Rafael Silva, Felipe Florencio and Yolandis Pratt, who added some variety to his scoring menu, by also finding end zone via pick-6 and a reception from quarterback Diego Lepre.

Otavio Roichman, one of Brazil’s winningest coaches:

“We had a very good start, dominating on defense, offense and special teams,’’

Roichman also liked the continued focus he saw from his squad:

“Different from the first game, we kept our concentration the whole time.’’

Despite the jaw-dropping performance, Flamengo’s head man was still able to identify some things that his group can improve on.

“The only thing we didn’t do good was our extra points. (We had) issues with the snap, blocking and field conditions. (Fixing this) is my main goal for the next practices.’’

AFI’s take: It’s a tribute to Roichman’s coaching and Flamengo’s veteran leadership that this group has refused to take their foot off the pedal against back to back inferior opponents. That type of maturity, mixed with their talent, keeps them in the conversation as one of the favorites to win Brazil’s first unified title.

Joao Pessoa Espectros 43, Vitora All Saints 0 (Estadio Municipal Lauro de Freitas – Salvador, Bahia)

Brazil - Superliga - Vitória ball carrier, Diego Fies, fights for extra yards against a gang of João Pessoa defenders. Photo credit Gian Coloni

Vitória ball carrier, Diego Fies, fights for extra yards against a gang of João Pessoa defenders. Photo credit: Gian Coloni

The defending CBFA national champs got back to their winning ways, moving to 1-1 on the season, giving young, rookie head coach Kevin Veloso his first career win. Rodrigo Dantas spread the touchdown passing love, connecting with three targets (Heron Azevedo, Vitor Ramalho and Rafael Lins) in the end zone. Star safety, Edvaldo Rosas, bogarted a Vitoria pass and returned it for a score, and Diego Aranha added a field goal.

The Espectros scored in every quarter of the game, but had some issues rushing the football initially.

“At first, our offensive line was not generating as much push inside as we wanted, and we suffered because of that, but after a few adjustments, we started running the ball well,’’ said Veloso of his line, which eventually paved the way for rushing touchdowns from Vitor Romalho and Jonathan Carvalho.

For Veloso, executing the game plan was a key to his groups success.

“Everything that we game planned was there for us. All of our quick game and fades were there. Our catch-and-throw rhythm was good as well.”

AFI’s Take: This is the type of offensive and defensive performance that we have come to expect from Joao Pessoa. With Conferencia Nordeste looking as competitive as ever, it will be fun to see if their regional dominance continues.

America Bulls 21, Ceara Caçadores 13 (Estadio Pascoal de Lima- Natal, Rio Grande do Norte)

The Bulls pulled off the unexpected in beating Ceara.

Bulls quarterback Brian Gessel:

“I don’t think many people in Brazil expected us to win this one.”

Whatever the rest of the country thought of Natal’s America Bulls prior to this weekend, they likely now consider them a contender in a wide open Conferencia Nordeste.

The Bulls, now 2-0, made a statement by beating a Caçadores squad who, in their season opener, had beaten the defending CBFA national champion Joao Pessoa Espectros.

“Our defense played great and our team played hard from the start to finish. Our guys played with a lot of heart and I think that and our team’s effort is what made the difference,’’ said Gessel.

For Bulls OC, Moacir Fernandes, the teams game week preparation translated into on-field success, citing intensive video sessions the previous Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.

“Our running back rotation worked well and we converted some big third downs through the air,’’ he added.

Eric Ferreira got in the end zone twice for the Bulls, once by rushing and once by receiving, and Pedro Natan also snagged a TD strike from Gessel.

‘’It is worth mentioning how our defense limited the Caçadores offense to only 13 points,’’ said Fernandes.

He singled out safety, Joe Small, as the catalyst for the Bulls smothering defense. “He was in every corner of the field,’’ said Fernandes of Small, who had an interception, forced a fumbled, and notched a safety for the squad from Natal.

For Fernandes, there is still work to be done before what has turned into a must-see game on the CBFA calendar against the Recife Mariners.

“We still have some things to work on in the passing game, because Gessel hasn’t had that much time with his receivers yet.”

Gessel likes what the future holds for his Bulls.

‘’We’re playing good as a team, the defense is picking up our offense right now. We have to do some things better offensively, but as long as we keep playing good together as a team I think we’re gonna have a lot of success.”

AFI’s Take: Possibly a post-big-win hangover for the Caçadores? Conferencia Nordeste is quickly becoming as fun and unpredictable as Conferencia Sul. Injuries or late-addition imports could swing the race before years end.

Vasco da Gama 34, Botafogo Reptiles 16 (Vila Olimpica- Duque da Caixas, Rio de Janeiro)

Vasco defensive coordinator Steve Gifford’s defense continued it’s dominating ways by harassing Reptile’s QB, Ramon Matire all day, and the offense exploded in the second half to break a 7-all tie and key a big victory for the Patriotas.

Vasco outside linebacker Joao Gabriel, continued to make himself a household name in Brazil, by notching two sacks and recovering a fumble for a defense that totaled 5 sacks and forced two fumbles.

Although Matire, who threw two TD passes, was able to keep his Reptiles in the game for a while, it simply wasn’t enough against a Romulo Ramos and Caio Vidal-led ground game and efficient (15/24 on mostly short passes against a Reptiles secondary playing with a cushion) passing by young Vasco QB, Daniel Gazelle.

“The game plan was to run,’’ said Vasco HC, Gabriel Mendes, of a ground game that rattled of 284 yards on 28 carries.

AFI’s Take: There are still some games between now and September 24, but the Vasco-Flamengo mathcup looks to be the Battle For Rio de Janeiro, and has makings of a game of the year.

Highlight: Vasco QB, Daniel Gazelle drops a pretty pass into the hands of Marcelo for a TD (Video Credit: Salao Oval).

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