Playoff race in Germany heating up

With the regular season in Germany winding down, the battles for the fourth and final playoff berth in both the North and South divisions of the Germany Football League are intense.

While the Braunschweig New Yorker Lions (12-0), Kiel Baltic Hurricanes (9-2) and Dresden Monarchs (9-3) in the North, and Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns (13-0), Frankfurt Universe (10-2) and Marburg Mercenaries (8-4) in the South, have all clinched playoff spots, the last berth is still up for grabs in both divisions.

Both newcomers, the Cologne Crocodiles (North) and Ingolstadt Dukes (South), are making serious playoff bids in their maiden seasons in the GFL.

GFL North playoff race

In the North, the Cologne Crocodiles, in their first year in the GFL, have put together a solid season with a 6-5 record., and sit currently in fourth ahead of the fifth place Berlin Rebels (6-6). Cologne has a game in hand over the Rebels with three games remaining against the New Yorker Lions, Dresden Monarchs and on the last weekend of the season, against the sixth place Hildesheim Invaders (2-9).

Based on previous games, they will likely be facing the Invaders with a 6-7 record and badly needing a win to clinch. They were handily beaten by the Lions and Monarchs earlier in the season and even if running back Kevin Parks were to play “lights out” football, they will be hard pressed to beat either one.

However, they downed the Invaders in the opening game of the season for both teams and should be able to do it again. The question is, will a 7-7 record be enough to qualify?

The Berlin Rebels made the playoffs with a record of 10-4-1 in 2016 for the first time since joining the GFL in 2012. While not playing with the same consistency in 2017, their record of 6-6 is misleading. Two of the losses were by a touchdown each to Dresden and the Lions while they were edged by two points by Kiel. They face Hildesheim this weekend whom they have beaten 40-20 and Kiel. In other words, both games are winnable.

Even if they were to split the games and also finish with a 7-7 record, they would make the playoffs for the second year in a row, assuming the Crocodiles also have a 7-7 record, by virtue of their games against Cologne. They beat the Crocodiles by eight points, 14-6, in the first meeting, and lost by five, 34-29, in the second. A difference of three points could be enough to qualify them.

GFL South playoff race

The Ingolstadt Dukes, while looking a little more secure in fourth place in the South with a 6-6 record, still have two games left. The fifth place Allgäu Comets (4-8) have won three of their last four games and seem to have found new energy. This is the same team that advanced to the semifinal two years ago and had played the New Yorker Lions to a tie in the first half only to succumb in the fourth quarter.

Photo: © Miladinovic

However, Ingolstadt will need to win these two games likely without quarterback Rick Webster. His knee problems, which forced him to miss the last two games, losses to the Unicorns and Universe, will probably also prevent him from any more play this season. Although Keith Hilson has filled in admirably, particularly against the Unicorns when he threw for 247 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for another 47, he is a different kind of quarterback than Webster, who led the league in passing yardage before his injury.

This has forced head coach Eugen Haaf to re-do the offensive playbook, not an easy task this late in the season. Can Ingolstadt rebound and win their final two games against the Stuttgart Scorpions and Allgäu?  A loss to Stuttgart would force a showdown with the Comets who play the last-place and injury-decimated Saarland Hurricanes this weekend and have a good chance of improving to 5-8.

The surging Comets, have looked like a playoff contender in the past four weeks. The team that made the semifinals two years ago had suffered from an acute case of player depletion, losing 15 starters for a variety of reasons. Plucking the talent from the youth team and recruiting raw, young players while having players playing out of position, took its toll early in the season. But with game experience, the new players have improved and the team has started to gel according to head coach Brian Caler. Starting quarterback Cedric Townsend echoes the same sentiments:

“We have been able to put together more consistent efforts. The close games that we lost earlier in the season, we were able to come out on top of in three of the past four games.”

All four teams battling for the playoffs will be in action this weekend with the Rebels taking on Hildesheim, Cologne facing Braunschweig, Ingolstadt at home to the Stuttgart Scorpions and Allgäu on the road against the Saarland Hurricanes.





Roger Kelly is an editor and a writer for AFI. A former PR Director the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League for 7 years, he now lives in Sweden writing about and scouting American Football throughout the world.