On Saturday it’ll be ‘Derby Time’ in Berlin, the German capital, when the Berlin Adler will have to travel a mere seven kilometers across town to face off with the Berlin Rebels. Both teams have won five out of their last ten head-to-heads, with the latest bragging rights clearly on the Rebels side with four W’s in a row.
The last derby was eight months ago. A day to forget for the Adler, who lost 7-55 to their arch-rivals. Now both teams will be back at the Mommsenstadion, in the western part of the city.
Heading back to last season the Rebels are in the middle of a three game losing skid, having lost to New Yorker Lions (the current German Bowl champions) in their last game of the 2016 regular season, and after that being defeated by the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns in the first round of the German Football League playoffs and last week losing to the Milano Seamen in the Big6 contest – all road games.
The Rebels last home loss dates back to September 2015, when they were defeated 27-17 by the German power house Kiel Baltic Hurricanes. Since then they recorded one tie against Dresden and after that six home wins in a row, hoping to extend the streak this Saturday.
It’s about time, that the Adler will earn back those bragging rights in Berlin. The last Adler win was three years ago. Since then they had to swallow four bitter losses.
Self-confidence won’t be a problem for the Adler after a 30-8 season opening win against Hamburg Huskies last weekend. “In a derby like this, what counts is the heart and not which team has the better roster on paper,” says Adler quarterback Paul Zimmermann.
Players to watch
Number 1 and 5 of last season’s rushing leaders in Germany now are both on the same team. The Rebels’ running game is a two-headed monster embodied by Lawrence McCoy and Chris Smith (former New Yorker Lions running back). This duo might be the best one-two punch the GFL has to offer on that position. McCoy and Smith combined for 38 touchdowns last season. Now both on the same team is scary.
The Adler once again put their hopes in the hands of Devon Francois, who made a huge impact in all three phases of the game last season, playing defensive back, running back, and returner. In seven GFL games the New Orleans native scored 13 touchdowns (8 rushing, 3 passes, 2 kickoff returns). Francois left his mark in Berlin and is supposed to be used mainly on offense this year.
— Berlin Adler 🏈🇩🇪 (@BerlinAdler) April 26, 2017
Rebels: Their offense, period.
Last seasons fifth best offense didn’t lose any firepower, just the quarterback changed. Their two premier running backs will be too much to handle for most teams.
Adler: The 4-3 defense.
Last year the Adler surrendered 46 points per game, the third worst mark in the league. With the change on defensive play calling, now head coach Eric Schramm is taking over those duties, plus five new import players on the starting defense line-up, things changed drastically. “We want to create more pressure”, Schramm said of his defensive game plan. Mission accomplished last week against the Hamburg Huskies when the Adler defensive line lived up to this task with eight sacks, three each by Filip Palmqvist (Sweden) and David Leisegang.
Import Berlin Adler linebacker Burton de Koning;
— Berlin Adler 🏈🇩🇪 (@BerlinAdler) April 10, 2017
It is tough to mention any weaknesses. Last week the Rebels lost their Big6 opener in Milan because of a missed PAT. Maybe they’re still a bit rusty after a long off-season. Quarterback James Harris is a GFL newbie. Let’s see how he harmonizes with his receivers after just a short period of acclimating.
The Adler also fell short on kicking, missing two field goals against the Huskies. One was blocked, they other one went wide right. If the game should be on the line at the very end, the Adler will have to go for the big points, because they cannot rely on safe 3 points from 30 yards or further away.
Ways to win
Both teams depend heavily on their run game. Setting the tone in that phase from the beginning is key from a defensive standpoint, stopping the run should be the main priority.
Passing wise the young Adler quarterback Paul Zimmermann, only 20 years old, showed last week in Hamburg, that he already has a good connection with his receiving corp, handing out three touchdown passes. Maybe the youngster once again can be a deciding factor.
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