Swedish semi-final promises edge-of-your-seat action!The Swedish semi-final between the Tyresö Royal Crowns (8-2) and the Örebro Black Knights (7-3) will be a battle of brains versus heart which some experts predict will be the game of the season. The game will be streamed live this Saturday August 30th. Game time is 6 p.m. local Swedish time (12 noon EST). Check out the bottom of the preview for the LIVE STREAM!
The same two teams met in last year’s semifinal with a pulse-pounding finish. The game went into overtime and the Black Knights outlasted Tyresö to reach the 2013 final. “The stage is set for another outstanding contest between two evenly-matched teams,” said football pundit Gary Nilsson. “No question. It’s the one game you do not want to miss, which includes the final.”
Coach Terry Kleinsmith’s Royal Crowns are not as formidable as they were last year and their defense is not performing at last season’s incredibly high level. In 2013, they allowed less than a converted touchdown per game. This year that rose to two a game. They still have an impressive defense but not what they had expected and defense has always been a Royal Crowns trademark. It will be interesting to see what happens if defensive stalwarts, Philip Minja, Erik Rauge, Andrew Preston and, particularly Markus Westman do not perform at their usual high level. Rauge has the best individual statistics as he is eighth in overall tackles in Sweden accumulating 58 in the regular season,recording 6.4 per game. Markus Westman is 14th and Minja all the down at 34th. Admittedly, Minja is a safety and shouldn’t be making as many tackles as the linebackers but when Tyresö’s fiery defense is at its best, Minja is always around the ball. He was not even among the top 20 in passes defended or in the top 10 in interceptions.
Tyresö’s defense led the league in fourth down stops though, allowing only one in three. And they were among the top three in creating turnovers with a +15 rating. Andrew Preston’s name does not appear in the statistics as much but his presence is felt on the field and with his all-round play and special teams impact he is a real difference-maker.
On offense quarterback Billy Greene has really mixed his play calling up this year carrying the ball 47% of the time and throwing the other 53%. Proof of how often he called his own number is that he lead the team in rushing yards per game (61.9) ahead of the Royal Crowns running backs Josef Saker (46.5 yards/game) and Emil Knutsson (27.8). Leading receiver for Tyresö was Pär Lindelöf who caught 11 touchdown passes (15.8 yards/reception) and averaged 4.4 catches per game, putting him seventh in Sweden.
The Black Knights defense also has to keep an eye on Daniel Nässelqvist, Carl Kamm and especially Michel Jenmert. Tyresö has one of Sweden’s best kickers in Jesper Gregorsson, who was also the team’s nominee in that category this year. He was six of 10 in field goals with his longest being 34 yards (twice), second best in the Super Series. The team had a less than mediocre record in PATs hitting only 75% of them as compared to Örebro (92%) and league-leading Carlstad with 95%.
The Black Knight’s new quarterback Joe Clancy will now be put to the test as he only has two games under his belt. He has not had much time to prepare for the playoffs. But he has a great arm and has a history in college of managing games well.
Have the Black Knights receivers had time to work on their timing with their new quarterback, especially against as tough a defense as the Royal Crowns have? Receiver and backup quarterback Strahinja Stepovic is a standout for Örebro as he is seventh in the league in average receiving yards per game with 73 yards/game while catching eight touchdown passes. Consider also that he had to play two games at quarterback when former starter Andrew Shoop went down, before being replaced by new signal caller Joe Clancy. The team may well have the best receiving corps in the country led by last year’s MVP Johan Stål, along with Cezar Hebel, Gustav Andersson, Jakob Grufman, Daniel Rödjemyr and Natti Habte.
The Black Knights’ running backs boast Team Finland starter Veikko Lehtonen (79.4 yards per game) and Filip Bäckström (67.1). Örebro’s biggest test will be finding an early rhythm. The Royal Crowns have only allowed a total of 12 first quarter points all year!
The Örebro defense operates like a good team defense should but has struggled against the other top teams in the league. Carlstad scored 42 and 47 points against them in their two meetings this year while Tyresö put up 34 in their only game. Mike Hicks, Olle Balksäter, Anton Källvik and Filip Jönsson have the talent but it will be crucial for the Black Knights defensive front four to get presssure on Tyresö quarterback Billy Greene. Team Sweden’s Aleksi Nyström has returned to the lineup after being hurt against Arlanda which kept him out of the game against Carlstad. In the regular season game in July between these two, the Royal Crowns won 34-28. In that game, Örebro’s time of possession was twice that of Tyresö but they could not convert that into points, partly because of their slow start. But there was no lack of excitement in that game even though it was a regular season matchup. Will we see the same fireworks Saturday? Both teams have a lot at stake. Remember Tyresö’s utter disappointment in not making it to the championship last year. Make no mistake. Revenge for last year’s loss is close at hand for the Royal Crowns. On the other hand, the Black Knights with Joe Clancy under center are a different team than with Andrew Shoop.
Which team will rise to the occasion?
Which team keep its cool when it counts?
Which team has the most heart?
Playoffs are always playoffs.
The game will be streamed live this Saturday August 30th. Game time is 6 p.m. local Swedish time (12 noon EST).
Source text: Swedish American Football Federation and the Swedish Football Network.