Serbia’s American football set for kick-off, Kragujevac Wild Boars aim to defend title

The Serbian Association of American Football kicks off its 2017 season with the Kragujevac Wild Boars getting set to defend the title they recaptured in 2016.

The Wild Boars are aiming for their seventh Serbian title as they open the season against the newcomers to the league this year the Sombor Celtis.

Kragujevac has added three new imports for the season including quarterback Ian McGinnis (Belhaven University), defensive back Allen Ramsey (Wake Forest) and running back Laurent Tshimanga (Merseyside Nighthawks, UK).

Head coach Aleksandar Ristić Alf is optimistic about the season:

“This year we started our offseason training earlier than usual, in mid October and it has paid off. We have great team chemistry and preparations went extremely well.”

The Wild Boars defense was superb and is expected to be just as strong this year. Kragujevac gave up only 13.5 points a game and recorded three shutouts in seven games. This is a team which is always dangerous and can be expected to contend again for the Serbian championship

Kragujevac Wild Boars defense was fierce in 2016 allowing only 13.5 points a game Photo: Igor Lazarević

SBB Vukovi Belgrade has not won the Serbian title since 2014 after winning four straight. Last year the Wild Boars captured the championship and in 2015 the Novi Sad Dukes beat Vukovi to win it.

Needless to say Vukovi is looking to regain the crown. New head coach Brent Barnes has brought in quarterback Lewis Kindle (North Carolina A&T State). He is joined by running back Duane Brady (Murray State) who will hopefully help replace the void left by the departure of veteran Tony Washington.

The Novi Sad Dukes finished in third place in 2016 after winning their first Serbian title in 2015. Quarterback Chris Griggs (Pasadena City College) will lead the offense and running back Jermichael Selders (New Mexico State Aggies) will give the Dukes a potent rushing attack. Head coach Vladislav Petković is optimistic about the season despite losing a number of players. Preparations for 2017 have progressed well according to Petković and the team is solid at all positions.

The Belgrade Blue Dragons finished the 2016 season with a 3-4 record and look to improve on that this year. New head coach James Fayed is a veteran of football in Europe and one of the Serbian national team coaches. He brings a wealth of coaching experience and is expected to help improve the Blue Dragons, especially on offense. He will have receiver Corey Williams who returns for his third season along with defensive back Marvin Desir who moves from the Mersin Mustangs in Turkey. However, Fayed is counting on quarterback Mladen Zlatić who he says will surprise in 2017.

The Sirmium Legionaries will try to improve on a 2-6 record in 2016 and have signed quarterback Tyler Dement along with receiver/defensive back Arthur Brown. The club lost 12 starters from the 2016 squad so it will be up to many of the younger players to step up this season. But the team is counting on the two import players to help coach up the younger players.

The Meridian Indians (Indjija) suffered through a 2-5 season in 2016. Young head coach Cameron Dickerson will have his work cut out for him but will start the year with Blair Black as his quarterback. The Detroit native  is a veteran of European play  having played in Spain and Germany as well as with the Indians back in 2014.

Dickerson will also look to Larry Stalling to shore up the offensive/defensive lines. the 6’6″, 280 lb Stalling is a graduate of Grambling State University.

Belgrade Blue Dragons action from friendly game against Sarjaevo Spartans Photo: Miloš Rafailović

The Pancevo Panthers open the season against the Belgrade Blue Dragons, a team they defeated in 2016 for one of their three victories. New quarterback Cameron Mayfield (Concordia) leads the offense and veteran running back Michael Campbell who returns for his second year with the Panthers, will play both offense and defense.

Newcomers this year to Serbia’s top league are the Sombor Celtis. The Celtis swept through the Serbian second division going undefeated in six games to earn advancement to the highest league. Head coach Andrej Sekulović is faced with a dilemma though as this small town team will enter the season without any imports. However, his core group of local players is impressive and includes last year’s league MVP, tight end Predrag Mandić. 

The season opens with the Belgrade Blue Dragons facing the Pancevo Panthers Saturday while Sunday the Wild Boars take on the Celtis and the Dukes and Legionaries tangle. Vukovi Belgrade kicks off their season at home to the Meridian Indians April 2.

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.