Polish Bowl: Bialystok Lowlanders HC Troy Baker facing biggest challenge of career

In his second year as head coach of the Bialystok Lowlanders in the Polish Football League, Troy Baker is preparing his team for the biggest game of the year, the Polish Bowl.

Last year, in his fifth season coaching in Europe, the 36-year-old Baker from California led the Lowlanders to the semifinals in the PFL in 2021 season where they were knocked off by the Tychy Falcons. This season, Bialystok lost only one regular season game, 42-21, to their finals’ opponent, the Krakow Kings.

A win on Saturday would definitely make up for the only blemish on the season so far.

We spoke with Baker about his thoughts on the past season, the upcoming championship game and other issues.

This is your second season as head coach of the Lowlanders and you have reached the Polish Bowl. How does that feel?

Baker: Yeah, Finally!  It’s been fun most days and it’s been very hard and stressful other days. But I believe we are setting a foundation for the future and fortunately for us all we are a little ahead of schedule. Our players I believe have bought in more this year than we had the previous year and we are seeing great dividends.

How could you compare 2021 team with the current one? What was your biggest challenge till now?

Baker: I honestly think last year we were more talented and just not as disciplined as we needed to be. This we are kind of the opposite. We aren’t the most talented group, but we are more disciplined. I guess it shows that discipline goes a long way.

Who was the biggest surprise from the current squad (player, coach)?

Baker: We’ve had a quite a bit of surprises this year. Rafal Królewski went from seven receptions 135 yards last year. This year he has 25 receptions for 500+ yards and 11 TDs! He has played the kind of football he can this year. It’s been fun to watch. We have a number of juniors this year that have stepped up and played much better than we expected.

Are you satisfied with the performance of the team this year or is there something you would like to change?

Baker: The one thing that we improved the most this year was health. We have been fairly healthy throughout the year. We also cannot forget the job our quarterback has done this year. He has worked with hard with the receivers and the results show.

Over the course of two seasons you won 11 games and lost three. This year you lost only one, against the Kings. How do you feel playing against them in Polish Bowl?

Baker: Thank you for pointing out the losses. One thing different than last year is that we get to avenge the loss in the same season. I feel confident we will have a good game plan. But, at the end of the day it’s about the guys on the field and anything can happen on game day.

Any final words before the game on Saturday?

Baker: It’s going to be a hard fought game. We are the underdogs for sure, but some days the underdog becomes the big dog!

The Lowlanders will face the Krakow Kings, Saturday, July 23 at 16:00 CET (4 pm, 10 am ET). Watch it live on American Football International.

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