Spanish season kicks off with 10 teams vying for title

The Spanish American Football League kicks off its 2020 season this weekend with eight of the 10 teams scheduled to play.

The league has changed its format and moved from a 12 team, three-division format, to two, five-team, North and South divisions.

The Badalona Dracs, who have won the past four championships, have to be the heavy favorites to win their fifth in a row but could face stiff challenges from the Murcia Cobras, Las Rozas Black Demons and, surprisingly, Osos Rivas. Another dark horse could be the Mallorca Voltors, who have revamped their lineup. The Coslada Camioneros could also pose a challenge for another semifinal berth as could the L’Hospitalet Pioners. The Zaragoza Hurricanes, Fuengirola Potros will be looking to improve on their records from 2019 as will the Gijon Mariners.

Badalona Dracs (2019: 11-0, Spanish champions)

The defending champions under the guidance of head coach Oscar Calatayud, have won the last four titles and 10 overall and look poised to defend their crown. Calatayud will bring back Sergi Gonzalo as his starting quarterback. He has signed wide receiver Marquese Surrell (Adams State) along with Danish National Football League MVP Niko Lester (Triangle Razorbacks). Calatayud has also added big offensive/defensive lineman Matthias Stockamp, also a member of the Danish title-winning Razorbacks.

The Dracs will again have to be considered the heavy favorites for the crown.

Las Rozas Black Demons (2019: 9-2, Spanish finalists)

Black Demons head coach Sebas López has opted for continuity and for the second consecutive season will have the same Americans, quarterback Trenton Jones (41 TD passes last year) and receiver Evan Altizer, who was the leading points getter in Spain last year with 156 points. Las Rozas reached the final in 2019 but were thwarted by Badalona 47-6.

They will no doubt challenge for a finals berth again.

Murcia Cobras (2019: 7-3, Spanish semifinalists)

Under head coach Daniel Iniesta, Murcia made it to the semifinal last year where the Dracs were too much, beating them 40-20. Still, the Cobras have been contenders every year since arriving in the top league in 2017, reaching the semifinals in 2017 and the final in 2018. Iniesta has re-signed his quarterback from last year, Adam Salvadori (American International College) who threw for 2,287 yards and 28 touchdowns. He has also brought in wide receiver Curtis Holden.

Look for Murcia to again be battling for a spot in the final.

Coslada Camioneros (2019: 8-2, Spanish semifinalists)

The Coslada Camioneros have surprised since advancing to the Spanish top league two years ago, qualifying for the playoffs both seasons. Last year, the Camioneros were knocked out in the semifinals by the Black Demons.

This season, head coach Fernando Guijarro has signed Belgian quarterback Willem Vancompernolle (Izegem Tribes, Belgian national team) and brought back big Mexican lineman Luis de las Heras (Águilas Blancas IPN, current captain of Spanish national team) for a third season. Also added from Mexico is linebacker Marco Zárate (Águilas Blancas IPN) and offensive lineman Efrén Tapia Islas (Burros Blancos IPN).

Coslada is aiming beyond the semifinals thi syear.

Osos Rivas (2019: 6-3, Spanish quarterfinalists)

Madrid’s Osos Rivas head coach Jesus Sanchez has made perhaps the biggest signing in Spain for 2020 in bringing in World Champion quarterback Kevin Burke. Burke won the 2015 World Championship with Team USA and helped the Dacia Vienna Vikings win the 2017 Austrian title and was named Austrian Bowl MVP. Sanchez has also added two Mexican players, free safety Jorge Luís Juárez and lineman Juan Antonio Escobar. Other key additions include defensive back Jorge Juárez and defensive lineman Johnny Escobar, both from Mexico. Spanish wide receiver Mario Flores who played for both the Schwabisch Hall Unicorns and Hildesheim Invaders in the German Football League, could be an impact player for coach Sanchez.

With Burke behind center, Osos Rivas could contend for the Spanish title.

Mallorca Voltors (2019: 4-5, Spanish quarterfinalists)

New head coach Andrés Gelabert is definitely looking for a vast improvement from last year’s record. He has signed Ty Henry (Western State Colorado University) as his quarterback. Henry spent the last five years playing in Brazil and Australia.  Veteran wide receiver Jeremy Cornelius (Lock Haven U.) played for Austria’s Amstetten Thunder for the past two seasons. Robert Brice ( Georgia Southern) will play both running back and defensive back. The Voltors have also added two European receivers, Germany’s Max Siemssen (Frankfurt Universe) and Slovakian L’uboš Paprčka (Bratislava Monarchs).

Expect a much improved Mallorca squad and a possible dark horse contender.

L’Hospitalet Pioners (2019: Regional Spanish league)

Bart Iaccarino is in his second year as head coach of the Pioners after taking over in late 2018. The team underwent a restructuring last year and decided to move down to the regional league in Spain. Iaccarino now looks for a major improvement in the Barcelona-based club and has signed championship-winning quarterback Joey Bradley to lead it. Bradley’s credentials are impeccable. He won the Portuguese crown two years in a row with the Lisboa Devils and went to Poland where he quarterbacked the Gdynia Seahawks to the Polish final in 2017 and semifinal in 2018.

Along with Bradley, Iaccarino has signed defensive back Jabri Guy (Augsburg U.) as well as defensive lineman Danilo del Prete and Austrian offensive lineman Manuel Schabel.

Iaccarino has an excellent track record as a head coach. He guided the Reus Imperials to the Spanish final in 2017 and then took the newly-formed Lazio Ducks to the Italian semifinals in 2018.

Gijon Mariners (2019: 2-6)

Daniel Castañón, head coach of the Gijon Mariners is opting for an all Spanish lineup and will be testing the skills of the club’s junior players who will move up. In other words, the Mariners will be playing without imports in 2020.

Zaragoza Hurricanes (2019: 2-6)

The Hurricanes won only two games in 2019 but are looking to move up. Head coach Isaac Bujan has signed Mexican quarterback Alan Macedo and linebacker Bobby Cortés, also from Mexico.  German lineman Marvin Röben (Munich Cowboys) will give added stability. The receiving corps has been bolstered by Mexican Edgar Arguello, who is returning, and Brazilian lineman Gabriel Raeder further strengthens the offensive and defensive lines.

Although Zaragoza struggled in 2019, their first year in the top league, they may well surprise in 2020.

Fuengirola Potros (2019: 2-6)

The Fuengirola Potros enter their second season in Spain’s top league and the offense will be powered by Finnish running back Jarno Elo. The team has also signed Noah Drake as well as linemen Arttu Immonen, Joonas Kolka from Finland and Britain’s Mario Haberthardt (the last two are returning).

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