Stockholm Mean Machines looking to three-peat as Swedish champions

The reigning Swedish champions, the Stockholm Mean Machines are poised to defend the Swedish Superserien title they have won for the past two seasons as the league prepares for a “post COVID-19 lockdown” season.

The Superserien will be the third league in the world to play a season of football since the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe.

The Superserien will kick off the season with four teams – Örebro Black Knights, Carlstad Crusaders, Stockholm Mean Machines and Uppsala 86ers – and will play a shortened season with each team playing a total of six games starting August 22 with the regular season winding up September 26.

Stockholm enjoyed another outstanding season under the leadership of head coach Fredrik Pilbäck in 2019, going unbeaten through the regular season reaching the final where they faced the Carlstad Crusaders – again. They downed Carlstad 49-35 to capture their record 12th Swedish title and second in a row. Since Pilbäck took the reins in 2015, the Mean Machines have undergone a remarkable turnaround. The Stockholm squad, winners of 10 Swedish titles, had fallen on hard times and not reached a final since beating Carlstad in 2009. Under Pilbäck, the transformation began and suddenly in 2018 they not only reached the final but won it, shocking the powerhouse Carlstad Crusaders, beating them by one point. This season, Stockholm has to be considered one of the favorites.

Still, as much as he wants to win a title, Pilbäck is just thrilled to see football being played again:

“We are excited to get this started. This was longest preseason ever.”

The COVID-19 pandemic obviously threw a wrench into everyone’s plans, and it wasn’t even certain there would be a season but Pilbäck and his staff took a slightly different approach, treating the situation as another obstacle to be  overcome for the team:

“As one of our coaches said the other day, ‘Handling Corona is just another thing that we need to be great at’. In other words, the team who can keep staff and players healthy will have a great chance to be be performing well come playoff time.”

The defending titleholders have undergone one big positional change, at quarterback, as Tim Morovick has signed to replace the departed Alex Thury with Cologne Crocodiles (German Football League) quarterback Jan Weinreich also stepping in.

“Quarterback is a battle in between Jan and Tim. Both have great arms and good leadership.”

Stockholm will rely on veteran Timmy Göransson at running back  who played for the Orebro Black Knights in 2019 while the receiving corps is led by returning  Pär Lindelöf  who was a key member of the  the offense last year:

“Timmy Göransson is in his prime. With many seasons under the belt the can rely on knowledge and routine. He has really helped the young group to develop.  Our  group of receivers is a nightmare for defenses. The group is very talented and the coaches will have a hard time to tell you who they will start. Pär Lindelöf is having a great year. He is bringing skills and great attitude.”

The offensive line, which allowed the fewest sacks in 2019 is anchored by Adam Fondak and according to Pilbäck he has added more muscle and speed.

Defensively, the front seven will again be led by defensive lineman Malcolm Engström, who gave offensive lines fits in 2019. Robin Prevolnik is the anchor of the linebacking corps.

“Our defensive line is led by Malcolm Engström as always.  He is always prepared,  and has as great work ethic and tons of energy. Robin Prevolnik has never looked better. He has speed, leadership skills and a great feeling for the game.”

Stockholm enters the season with a young defensive secondary but according to Pilbäck, veteran Denny John, who has returned, will provide the leadership the squad needs:

“Denny is the leader of the pack. Our young squad has been handling the pressure very well thanks to his leadership.”

In 2019, one of the keys to the success of the Mean Machines was their special teams, and in particular the return game. Although, it may not be as spectacular without Alpha Jalloh, who is playing in Finland, Pilbäck is confident in his returners. He also has paid special attention to his kickers.

“Our kickers/punters Robin Miranda and Jan Weinreich are doing a great job. We have been able to add seven yards and 4/10th of a second in hang time per punt. Add to that, returners Denny John and Ben Van Jagow who are lethal weapons back there  as well as Team Sweden’s Edvin Aleida and we have an intimidating set of returners. There will be a real dogfight back there for playing time.”

All in all,  the Mean Machines look formidable in 2020 and will not make it easy for any team to dethrone them in this very short season.

AFI
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