Swedish champion Carlstad Crusaders open NEFL season facing Copenhagen Towers

The defending and seven-time Swedish champion Carlstad Crusaders start the 2017 season on the road against the 2016 Danish finalists the Copenhagen Towers in the opening game of the Northern European Football League (NEFL) Saturday.

The last time these two met was in 2016 when Carlstad handily defeated the Towers 34-9 in a Champions League game in Copenhagen. The Crusaders also downed Copenhagen in 2014, that time by a score of 34-24.

The game wiill be live streamed via zibrasport.dk.

The Crusaders have struggled through an unusually turmoil-filled preseason with the signing and then departure of both American imports. Wide receiver Willie Tucker left after receiving an invitation to an NFL tryout while offensive lineman Ben Eli left for personal reasons.

Carlstad Crusaders QB Philip Juhlin Photo: Tommy Andersson

The good news is that powerhouse running back Brett Koepp, who won four Swedish titles with Carlstad, is back for the NEFL games and will give the offense a boost. Philip Juhlin was the top quarterback in Sweden in 2016 returns behind center. Sweden’s best offensive lineman, Niklas Johansson, has also returned after parting ways with Germany’s Braunschweig New Yorker Lions.

There are a number of new faces on offense this year. Wide receivers Jamie Staniford and Robin Juhlin are former Crusaders making a comeback for 2017 and will join André Holgård and Marcus Johnsson. Pontus Persson is an offensive lineman from Östersund who is returning to Carlstad. John Lindgren is another offensive lineman who transferred from STU late in the off-season while running back Christian Forsman has come back after missing most of last year with injuries.

The defense is mostly the same as from 2016 anchored by Christian Kuylenstjerna. Joseph Nguzo is a new face on defense this year having moved over from wide receiver.

Copenhagen Towers QB Kasper Skyum

The Towers enter the game with Danish national team quarterback Kasper Skyum behind center. He will be complemented in the backfield by tough running back Anton Witmeur. Also anchoring the offensive line will be Joachim Christensen who has moved over from the Søllerød Gold Diggers.

On defense, defensive linemen Mikkel Stilling and Michael Kayser anchor a front seven now charged with stopping Brett Koepp and the big Carlstad offensive line.  Defensive backs Martin Ballegaard and Simon Maak will have their hands full as Juhlin can put pressure on the secondary.

Although Carlstad enters the game as slight favorites given their past records, the Towers are a quality football team and not easy to beat at home. That could be the deciding factor.

Tune to tomorrow to watch these two nations kick off American football in Denmark & Sweden. The game wiill be live streamed via zibrasport.dk.

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.