The 2019-2020 Chinese National Football League has come down to its final game with only two teams left standing as both the Wuhan Berserkers and Shanghai Titans have advanced to the championship game.
For the first time since 2013, there will be a non-Shanghai team in the finals. The Berserkers have been the front-runners all year, and with a lopsided victory over the two-time defending champion Shanghai Warriors, will make it to the finals, set for January 11th, 2020 in Shanghai. Opposing them will be the Titans, who took care of business against the visiting Hong Kong Warhawks.
Titans survive Warhawks 26-12
Shanghai Titans 23 – Hong Kong Warhawks 12
Zhangjiang Sports Center, Shanghai
The first semifinal of the 2019 CNFL playoffs was a hard-fought affair as the visiting Hong Kong Warhawks gave the Shanghai Titans all they could handle.
The Titans opened the scoring with a short touchdown run by running back Ben Wong (#32) but would be unsuccessful on the extra point try. The Warhawks responded with a short touchdown pass to #17 Tay Tse, but the Titans blocked the extra point and would return it all the way back take the lead at 8-6.
However, the Warhawks would make up for blocked extra point when #15 Cheng Chi Sing stepped in front of an errant Titans pass and returned it for a pick 6 to give the Warhawks a 12-8 lead.
It looked like the Warhawks had all the momentum as their defense was swarming and putting pressure on the Titans backfield the entire second quarter and had the Titans offense pinned deep, but just like the bolt of lightning on their logo, the Titans were able to miraculously connect on a deep pass to #6 Trey, who took it in untouched to give the Titans a 16-12 halftime lead.
The second half was a defensive showdown as both defenses clamped down and put the screws on the both offenses, but it was the twin Titans backfield of Wong and Dominik Pflumm (#13) that carried the day for the Titans, as Pflumm found the end zone in the only score of the second half to give the Titans the breathing room they needed and make the final score 23-12.
With this win, the Titans advanced to the championship game for the 4th straight year where they will have a chance to win their second championship trophy.
The Warhawks will end their season as one of the top 4 teams in China. Despite coming up short, they still had a great season and showcased why they’re the best team in the South.
Berserkers run wild to the tune of 84 points
Wuhan Berserkers 86 vs Shanghai Warriors 40
Jieteng Jiangjiu Music and Sports Park, Wuhan
In Wuhan, the Wuhan Berserkers became the first non-Shanghai team in 2013 to make the championship game as they rang up a staggering 84 points on the Shanghai Warriors en route to a runaway victory.
It looked like it was going to be a good game early on, as the Shanghai Warriors returned the opening kickoff deep into Wuhan territory, and on their first offensive play quarterback Chris Gardner (#2) connected on a 26 yard touchdown pass to Curtis Good (#1), and Gardner would convert the 2 point try by running it in himself.
However, the Berserkers would score the next 46 points as their big-play offense shredded a stout Warriors defense. Star QB Jarred Evans threw for 3 touchdowns during the Wuhan rampage, including a 15-yard pass to #97 Stephen Li, a 52-yard bomb to #80 Nash Wu, and a second touchdown pass to Li, this time a 55-yard connection. The Berserkers defense even got into the action as #24 Totti Zhang intercepted a desperation pass and took it to the house to end the first half to make it a 54-10 game. (The only Warrior points after the opening drive came via safety).
To their credit, the Warriors put up a spirited fight in the second half, as Gardner threw 4 touchdown passes to try and get his team back into the game, but it was too little too late as Evans showed off his legs by running for 2 more touchdowns of his own, and Nash Wu led the Wuhan special teams by returning a pair of kickoffs for scores.
Video game numbers were put up by both sides as Gardner would finish the game 23/50 for 326 yards and 5 touchdowns. For Wuhan, Jarred Evans would finish with 6 total touchdowns, and Nash Wu would have 3.
The Wuhan Berserkers continue to roll through the rest of China, and they will go into the title game as heavy favorites. The Shanghai Warriors are no pushovers, as they were the two-time defending champions, but the Berserkers looked like they were in a class of their own as they continue pushing the bar higher for the rest of China.
For the Warriors, this was a tough loss, as, despite fighting to the final whistle, they met an absolute buzzsaw of an opponent. Still, they’re still one of the best teams in China, and they’ll be back next year.