The AFLC Semifinals are up ahead this weekend, but here’s a close look back at the American Football League of China quarterfinals. All three Shanghai teams moved into the semifinals with ease, in addition to the Chengdu Pandamen, who pulled out a close home win to move onto the league’s final four for the second year in a row.
Shanghai Nighthawks 50 – Beijing Iron Brothers 20
The Nighthawks traveled up to chilly Beijing and deviated from their usual run-heavy offensive approach by taking to the air, as quarterback Clarence Jeffery (#14) threw for five touchdown passes. Jeffery found Brent Reid (#19) on a deep pass for an early score to put the visitors up 6-0 after their opening drive. The Iron Brothers answered back however, as Chen Chao (#27) caught a deep pass from Hasiter (#13), broke a tackle, and sprinted into the end zone, and the ensuing two-point conversion put the hosts up 8-6. From there on out however, it would be all Nighthawks. The visitors ended the quarter with a deep pass from Jeffery to Charles Steel (#83), and then added to their lead as Josh Hoko (#5) caught another touchdown pass to give the Nighthawks a 21-8 advantage at halftime.
The Nighthawks continued to pour on the points in the second half, as the Iron Brothers, hampered by a leg injury to star defensive back Guo Ruibin (#2), could not stem the tide. Brent Reid (#19) caught two more touchdowns from Jeffery, and Tianshou Zhang (#44) finished off the game with two rushing touchdowns. The Iron Brothers would score two touchdowns later in the game, but it was too little, too late. The Nighthawks will return to Shanghai to take on the Titans in the semifinals next weekend, looking to make the AFLC Championship Game for an unprecedented fourth year in a row.
Shanghai Titans 36 – Mountain City Fury 0
The Mountain City Fury came to Shanghai to take on the defending AFLC champion Titans with just 12 players, but put in a valiant performance given the circumstances. Tight end Noboru Nakayama (#83) started the scoring off for the Titans with a touchdown reception from Kyle Moran (#13, 3 passing TD), and Lane Shen (#1) rushed for another touchdown to give them a two-score lead after one quarter.
They would continue to pour it on in the second quarter, as Frank Ma (#11) and Cam Shubert (#4) both notched receiving touchdowns, giving the Titans a commanding lead at halftime. Eason Chen’s (#47) touchdown run in the third quarter would cap the scoring for the game, which ended early due to the McFury’s lack of players available. Next up for the Titans is a rematch of last year’s championship game, against their crosstown rivals the Shanghai Nighthawks, in the semifinals.
Shanghai Warriors 42 – Hong Kong Warhawks 3
The Shanghai Warriors found themselves in a dogfight early on against the South Division champion Warhawks, before clamping down on defense in the second half and pulling away with a big victory. The Warriors defense set the tone early, as Frank Schipani (#20, 8 tackles) forced a fumble that was recovered in the end zone by Zach Etkind (#69) for an early touchdown. Hong Kong responded with a 41-yard field goal from Tay Tse (#17) to make the score 8-3 Warriors. The visitors would struggle to get anything going on offense for the rest of the first half however, and Danny Zhang’s (#6) 3-yard touchdown reception from Chris Gardner (#2, 77 passing and 77 rushing yards, 1 passing and 1 rushing TD) was the only highlight, as the score at halftime read 14-3 Warriors.
Shanghai opened the second half with a long drive, and Gardner finished it off with a short touchdown run to make it 22-3. Both teams’ conditioning was put to the test under the warm Hong Kong sun, but it was the Warhawks that made a crucial mistake that may have sealed the game. Quarterback Matt Liao (#15) took to the air to try and get his team back in the game, but his errant pass was intercepted by Dennis Bridgeforth II (#27) and taken back 41 yards for a score, making it 30-3. A fourth quarter rushing touchdown from Andrew Crook (#7, 8 carries, 51 yards, 1 TD) and touchdown pass from Joe Zhou (#16) to Van Calvin Le (#4) put the game beyond all doubt for the Warriors, who will hit the road for the second time in two weeks next weekend, traveling to Chengdu to take on the Pandamen in the AFLC’s other semifinal game.
Chengdu Pandamen 28 – Foshan Tigers 21
What was billed on Life in the Huddle as the potential game of the week did not disappoint, as the Pandamen pulled out a close victory at home.
This game featured plenty of offense, as both teams found success both on the ground and through the air. Wide receiver Zhao Yun (#87) caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Fisher Wu (#1) to give the Tigers an early 7-0 lead, but the Pandamen struck back immediately, as Ivan Yuan (#7) completed a pass to Rivers Zheng (#11) deep in double coverage, setting up Yuan’s short touchdown pass to Stefan Daniels (#2) that cut the Tiger lead to 7-6. Daniels, playing quarterback to start the second quarter, snuck into the end zone from a yard out, and his two point conversion run gave Chengdu the lead at 14-7. The Pandamen then added to their lead on the final play before halftime, as Yuan lofted a pretty 13-yard touchdown pass into the corner of the end zone for Zheng to make the game 20-7.
The Tigers found their groove again midway through the third quarter, as they marched down the field and capped off the drive with Wu’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Ye Zhijin (#13) to make it 20-14. The score would remain the same until the fourth quarter, when Chengdu drove down the field, and Yuan tossed his third touchdown pass of the game to tight end Wu Xi (#66) from 11 yards out, giving them a 28-14 lead. Back came the Tigers, as they drove right down the field, and Wu threw his third touchdown of the game, finding Blaise Ngabo (#88) in double coverage for a 10-yard score that made it 28-21.
Daniels would recover the ensuing onside kick however, and Chengdu ran out the clock, ensuring that they would get to stay as the home team for at least one more week during the playoffs. Their biggest test of the season will come next Sunday, as the East Division’s #2 seed Shanghai Warriors come to town for the AFLC semifinals.
Below are results from this past weekend’s football games in China, as well as details about games for this upcoming weekend. These details are also available under the 比赛结果/赛程 tab of the “Schedule” menu option.