LIVESTREAM: Spanish Playoffs Get Underway This Weekend

The Spanish semifinals get underway this weekend and although the two favorites, the undefeated Badalona Dracs and the defending champion Valencia Firebats should advance to the final, surprises could be in store.

Valencia Firebats (6-2) VS. Barbera Rookies (3-5)

The Valencia Firebats, who won the Spanish crown in 2015 may have their hands full in the contest. Although the Rookies enter the game with a 3-5 record, they let one game slip late this year to the hapless Valencia Giants. Otherwise their maiden year in the top league in Spain has been successful.

The Firebats had a tough time against Barbera at home in Valencia in the opening game of the season, having to score a last-play-of-the-game touchdown to win 32-26. In the return game in Barbera though, the Firebats made no mistake beating the Rookies 26-8. However, Barbera head coach Teo Polanco is one of the most successful coaches in Spanish league history and could be the difference maker.

The Firebats are a well rounded team as the passing attack led by quarterback Thomas Murphy (20 touchdown passes) and receivers Alejandro Silvestre and Javier Martinez was supported by the rushing of running back Hector Pertegaz who scored 10 touchdowns on the ground in 2016.

Rookies quarterback Mike Van Deripe has been steady all season (10 touchdown passes, 7 rushing touchdowns) and although his favorite receiver Tim Pape was hurt in the final game of the year against Badalona he has other weapons. Nevertheless the health of Pape could be crucial to the outcome of this game.

Kickoff: Saturday, June 4, 5 PM (11 AM EDT)

Badalona Dracs (8-0) – Reus Imperials (2-6)

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The Badalona Dracs have steamrolled their way through the Spanish league regular season. They have scored 422 points in eight games while allowing only 73. However, there is one hiccup. The departure of quarterback Mike Box late in the season due to a visa problem has forced Badalona to turn to Sergio Gonzalo. However, Gonzalo is no stranger to center stage as he led the Dracs to the Spanish title in 2014.

Since being eliminated in European Football League competition by the Frankfurt Universe, Dracs head coach Oscar Calatayud has his troops focused on winning the Spanish title.

Gonzalo has weapons as receivers Robbie Jackson and Drew Clausen as well as Raul Cernuda and Javi Fernandez give Spanish secondaries fits. The Dracs handily defeated Reus in their two encounters in 2016, 62-18 in the season opener and 67-6 later in the season.

Imperials head coach Bart Iaccarino has been focused on simply surviving this season their first in Spain’s top league. With a nail-biting 21-20 win over the Valencia Giants in the final regular season game of the year they did just that. But it has been a rocky ride.

Quarterback Allan Bridgford left the team midseason to play for the Amsterdam Crusaders in Holland so Iaccarino has been scrambling, rotating quarterbacks and juggling lineups.

Whoever Iaccarino tabs as his starter they will be in for a long afternoon. Although receivers Nazih Essalhi and Darian Yahyavi have done an admirable job this season, the ball still has to be delivered to them.

Kickoff Sunday June 5, 11:30 AM (5:30 AM EDT)

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.