Spanish League Kicks Off 2016 Season

The Spanish league (LNFA) season kicks off its 10-game regular season this weekend in a pared-down version. Only five teams will be in the hunt for the Spanish title, down from six last year.

Defending champions, the Valencia Firebats return along with the Badalona Dracs and the Valencia Giants. With the demotion of Madrid’s Osos Rivas as well as the L’Hospitalet Pioners and Mallorca Voltors the Barbera Rookies and the Reus Imperials climb up into the top division.

The semifinals take place June 4/5 while the Spanish championship game is scheduled for June 20/21.

Valencia Firebats

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The Firebats enter the 2016 campaign looking to secure their fifth championship title and have made some changes.

New head coach Alvaro Quezada brings a wealth of experience. As a player in Mexico, he was a member of the Aztecs at the University of the Americas (UDLA), winning three consecutive championships. He began coaching with the  UDLA Los Aztecas in various positions, and from 2006 to 2008 served as the offensive coordinator and receivers coach at the University of Tepeyac. In 2009, he joined the Spanish Granada Lions and now joins Firebats to serve not only as head coach but also offensive coordinator.

Quarterback Thomas Murphy (William College) has joined the Firebats, replacing Chris Debowski. Fellow alum defensive back/receiver Josh Helmkamp who played for the Firebats two years ago has returned. They will be joined by lineman Ryan Seaberg (Southern Mississippi).

Badalona Dracs

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Head coach Oscar Calatayud returns to the sideline for the Dracs in 2016 for his 10th season. The team is in the hunt for its record seventh championship title. They have signed quarterback Mike Box from Indiana University of Pennsylvania along with veteran receiver Drew Clausen (U. of Whitworth) who played in Germany in 2015. Versatile defensive back/receiver Robbie Jackson has signed as the third import while duel passport player Kevin Duley is back for his third season.

Valencia Giants

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The Giants, who made it to the semifinals in 2015 have also made a coaching change as Jeffrey Roy has signed as the new head coach of the club. Roy spent the 2015 season in Germany with the Leipzig Lions.

Returning to the Giants is key defensive linebacker Ralph Pineda (San jose State) one of the top tacklers in Spain in 2015. Canadian Cody Enman joins the team at quarterback.

The Giants, 2015 semifinalist, were the only team to defeat the Firebats last year and are looking to improve in 2016.

Barbera Rookies

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The Rookies are looking to surprise in 2016 as one of two newcomers to Spain’s top division. They have signed championship head coach Teo Polanco who won six titles with the L’Hospitalet Pioners before taking a year’s sabbatical in 2015.

American Michael Van Deripe has signed as the new quarterback of the Rookies. Van Deripe hails from Southwestern Oklahoma State University (Division II). Another addition is offensive lineman Dashawn Johnson, from William Paterson University (Div III).

Reus Imperials

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The Imperials enter the top division in Spain as the undefeated Serie B champions. Reus defeated the Rookies 24-20 in the Serie B final.

Iaccarino Bart returns as head coach of the Imperials and he has signed quarterback Allan Bridgford (UC Berkely). Receiver/defensive back Vailele Peko from Idaho State University will give Bridgford a reliable receiver.

Defensive lineman Blake Beresford (Holy Cross) joins the club along with Jonathan Ashton from Great Britain who played in Finland in 2015. Also joining the club is Japanese import Junya Suzuki.

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.