American Football International

Swedish Season Kicks Off This Weekend: Who Will Topple the Carlstad Crusaders?

[tps_title]PREVIEW: Svenska Amerikansk Fotbollförbundet[/tps_title]

The Swedish season kicks off this weekend after a somewhat tumultuous off season which saw the departure of the IFAF World Championships to Canton, Ohio, leaving Sweden’s American football community wondering what would happen next.

Nevertheless, all nine teams are eager to hit the field for the 25th edition of the Swedish Super Series. Heavy favorite, defending and five-time champion the Carlstad Crusaders lead a group of teams which have undergone a number of changes.

Carlstad Crusaders

Carlstad won a historic fifth straight gold last year after going unbeaten throughout the Super Series. The only loss for the year came in the IFAF Europe Champions League against the Helsinki Roosters. Otherwise not one other team was close.

The Crusaders are definitely the team to beat this year. Admittedly they have lost 17 players but signed 24 new ones and the core of 2014’s championship squad is intact. New head coach Duke Iverson and assistant Malik Jackson have a wealth of talent to  choose from.

Quarterback Anders Hermodsson  –  Sweden’s leading quarterback – returns as do key imports running back Brett Koepp and defensive back Jack Moro both of whom played prominent roles in 2014.

Among the losses was receiver Fredrik Isaksson who has gone to Carlstad’s main rival Tyreso. However, he will be ably replaced by Danish national team receiver Markus Stinger Olesen who along with the rest of Carlstad’s outstanding receiving corps, which includes Brit Harry Routledge, will make them constantly dangerous on offense. Hermodsson will have the protection of arguably Sweden’s best offensive line anchored by Carl Romlin.

On defense Billy Enfjäll, the team’s top pass rusher, and linebacker Christian Kuylenstjerna lead a group of talented players including super athlete Olof Flemström.  Jack Moro anchors a solid defensive secondary.

All in all, despite the changes, the Crusaders will have a powerhouse of a team in 2015. Their sound defeat of Danish champions the Copenhagen Towers is evidence of that.

[tps_title]PREVIEW: Svenska Amerikansk Fotbollförbundet[/tps_title]

[tps_header]Uppsala 86ers[/tps_header]

Head coach Mike Mitchell‘s squad were underachievers in 2014 and aim to rebound from a season which saw them miss the playoffs after entering the year with high hopes.

The club has added veteran signal caller Jeff Welsh who played for the Dresden Monarchs (German semi-finalists) in 2014. He will be throwing to super Serb Strahinja Stepovic who transferred over from Orebro and is always a threat when on the field.

The running back duo of Jonathan Wikström and John Nilsson, who combined for almost 800 yards in 2014, return and with an offensive line including stalwarts Rasmus Andersson and Rasmus Karlsson, they could well surpass those totals.

On defense import linebacker Cameron Grad (Menlo College) will be looked to to fire up a squad which has lost a few veterans. Australian Jared Stegman is an interesting addition. The gifted Joshua Akena will help at linebacker. Henry Green and Philip Palmquist anchor a solid defensive line.

The 86ers will be in the playoff mix, but it remains to be seen if they have enough talent to challenge for the title.

[tps_title]PREVIEW: Svenska Amerikansk Fotbollförbundet[/tps_title]

[tps_header]Västerås Roedeers[/tps_header]

This year’s newcomers, the Västerås Roedeers, have advanced from Sweden’s Division 1 without having lost a game in two years in the lower series. This will not make their elite journey any easier though.

Long-time coach Thomas Willen can count on team stability and there is no question this is an important factor for any football team.

The core group of players who helped the team reached the elite level are returning including running back Philip Haag who recorded more than 1,000 yards rushing in seven games last year. Quarterback James Boyd (UNLV) will give defenses fits because at 6’5″ and 250 lbs with a rifle for an arm he can run and pass. He played defensive end in college and could do so again for the Roedeers if they need him to do so.

The offensive line has been bolstered by the arrival of two Serbs from the Serbian championship team, Vukovi Belgrade – Nemanja Djordevic and Dusan Stosic – and Hungarian Zsolt Zetenyi. Teamed with brother Niklas and Robert Andersson, they give Boyd and Haag much needed support.

On defense, import Josh Smith (Southern Utah University) is an excellent addition to the secondary and can also play wide receiver. The linebacking corps includes veteran Patrick Edstam along with new arrival Oscar Lavesson (STU Northside Bulls). Add to this both defensive lineman Christer Gangstad and defensive back Sebastian Gauthier and the Roedeer’s defense can hold its own.

Nevertheless, this will be a learning year for Västerås, but if they surprise some people and win a couple of games, they could make life difficult for teams aiming to make the playoffs.

Watch their opening game against the Limhamn Griffins live here. Kickoff 3 PM local Swedish time (9 AM EDT).

[tps_title]PREVIEW: Svenska Amerikansk Fotbollförbundet[/tps_title]

[tps_header]Tyresö Royal Crowns[/tps_header]

The Tyresö Royal Crowns suffered through a disappointing season in 2014. Tabbed as a possible successor to the Carlstad Crusaders as Swedish title holder, they were bounced in the semi-finals by the Black Knights, again.

New head coach, Andreas Ehrenreich, and his nine man staff are determined to develop into a contender this year. They have had a busy off season, perhaps their busiest ever.

After the departure of starting quarterback Billy Greene to France, Tyresö  turned their sights on Colby Kirkegaard, a two-year starter at the University of Wyoming with impressive stats. Add to this the addition of top flight receiver from the Carlstad Crusaders, Fredrik Isaksson, along with Amat Jobe (Uppsala 86ers), Carl Kamm and the Royal Crown’s offense will not lose a beat. Emil Knutsson will see more action at running back along with running mate Joseph Saker, along with Richard Ahlenius and fullback Erik Beck.

The offensive line will have quality if not depth. Led by Pablo Valenzuela and Adriano Abbate, they will protect Kirkegaard and open holes for Knutsson and company. But injuries will hurt as there is not much behind the starters.

Returning on defense will be Noghor Jemide, Victor Hagman and Andreas Jonsson along with Finnish big player Okko Outinen and defensive lineman Benjamin Banks Egbudiwe who previously played at the University of San Francisco.

The secondary returns with hard-hitting Philip Minja while import linebacker Andrew Preston will also be back.

The Royal Crowns could prove this year that they can play with the Crusaders and challenge for the Swedish crown.

[tps_title]PREVIEW: Svenska Amerikansk Fotbollförbundet (SAFF)[/tps_title]

[tps_header]STU Northside Bulls[/tps_header]

New head coach Johan Sedin takes over a team that had the same leader in Todd Ferguson for five years. The Bulls then watched 20 players walk away although the void was quickly filled as a number of players from the Arlanda Jets who dropped out of Sweden’s top division moved over.

A key move was the signing of 6’3″ 210 lb quarterback Isaiah Kempf from Georgetown. He will have plenty of quality receivers to throw to including Michael Sander who led the team in total yards and receptions last year along with speedy Damien Scanella and Denny John as well as lanky receivers Jesper Hermodsson and Sebastian Albinsson. The offensive line needs continuity as 11 different linemen started last year. Fredrik Persson, Jacob Carlsson and Anders Johansson were frequent starters but that issue must be settled in order for the running game, which was off and on last year, to succeed.

On defense, the linebacking group looks strong as John Kersbergen will return for another season and is joined by Emil Westrin (from the Limhamn Griffins) and Christoffer Willén. The defensive secondary has lost a few players so national team corner Anton Bengtsson will be expected to step up and lead a young group of defensive backs.

The defensive line looks thin but the trio of John Lannefors, Oscar Bengtsson and Christoffer Livebrandt will see most of the playing time.

The Bulls will battle to survive this season but with a quality quarterback in Kempf, they could sneak into the playoffs.

[tps_title]PREVIEW: Svenska Amerikansk Fotbollförbundet[/tps_title]

[tps_header]Stockholm Mean Machines[/tps_header]

Head coach Rik Parker has taken over a club that was in total disarray in the offseason and will have his work cut out for him.

The team has not had a winning season since 2010 and their record over the past three years is a combined 4-26. A far cry from the championship years for a team which has won more championship titles than any other in the history of American football in Sweden (11).

And there is not much hope for a major turnaround this year either.

This year’s team, a mix of young and old, will start the year with Swedish quarterback Emil Sundström-Edland, who moved over from the STU Northside Bulls. However, he will only play the two first games of the season before having to depart for personal reasons. So the club is scrambling to find a replacement at this late hour.

The receiving corps is decent with veterans Leopold Toldy, Joakim Mårtensson and Tshilumba Tapila leading the way. The offensive line is also seasoned as Jesper Johansson, Thomas Lohr, Michael Lohr, Carl Backstrom and Jimmy Lundquist-Kuusine are all in the forties.

New head coach Parker likes the run game and has brought in Marcus Hudritsch Eriksson and national team linebacker Filip Jönsson from Örebro.

Stockholm’s defense will also revolve around Jönsson and it will have to. His merits in Sweden are unquestionable and he will bring up the level of play in the defensive squad with his roving, extremely physical style of play.

The defensive line lacks any kind of depth so probable starters Elias Gröön, James Gorecki, Richard Thunström and Jonas Soderberg will see plenty of playing time this year.

The secondary looks slightly better. Both Jonathan Westny and Erik Siljeholm have returned and are talented and together with Johan Mellström and Brit Thomas Parks provide a solid starting lineup.

This year’s version of the Mean Machines will offer glimpses of good play this year but every victory will have to be considered a huge success.

[tps_title]PREVIEW: Svenska Amerikansk Fotbollförbundet[/tps_title]

[tps_header]Örebro Black Knights[/tps_header]

Örebro is entering its fifth season after returning to Sweden’s Super Series in 2011. So far the team has been a success having reached the playoffs all four seasons and the championship game the last two, unfortunately having had to face Carlstad both times. But  behind the entrepreneurial leadership of Micael Jönsson they have set a new marketing and recruiting standard for American football in Sweden.

However, the off season saw Jönsson take a step back for personal reasons and relinquish his leadership role to Ida Jensen. Nevertheless the team has continued recruiting and brought in a number of highly talented imports, both Swedish and otherwise.

New head coach Randy Beverly Jr., has been busy for the past week getting to know his team having just arrived from Norway. His new quarterback should please him as Grant Welp was a USA College Football D-III 1st-TEAM All-American at Franklin College. He threw for almost 3,500 yards in 2014 and 32 touchdowns.

In fact, the Black Knights have become a mecca for import players. No fewer than 10 players with experience from other countries have joined the club including Welp and American linebacker Mike Kagafas. The club has also found the Murphy twins, linebackers Eric and Joshua Murphy, who hold both Swedish and American passports. Fropm Serbia Dusan Radojevic, Milos Lisanin and Nikola Savic have arrived joining veteran Black Knight Serbian wideout Marko Nesovic who returns for a third season. Two other returning players include Cesar Hebel from France and Finnish two-way lineman Veikka Lehtonen.

Welp will have plenty of quality receivers to throw to including veteran and leader Johan Stål along with Jacob Grufman, Mike Hadley, Jimmy Palmborg, Nati Habte and Cesar Hebel. This is as good a receiving corps as there is in Sweden. At running back Veikka Lehtonen and veteran Anton Källvik will see a lot of playing time. They will be running behind an excellent offensive line led by the Serbian trio Nesovic, Radojevic and Savic.

On defense the Murphy brothers at linebacker will be joined by Kagafas. The defensive line will rely on Aleksi Nystrom, Serb import Milos Lisanin and Erik Törnblom. Defensive backs will include Philip Berglund and Johan Lindahl but Johan Stål,  who will be playing both ways, will bolster the secondary.

Despite not signing head coach Berverly until last week, the Black Knights seem poised to challenge for the Swedish title again.

[tps_header]Kristianstad Predators[/tps_header]


This will be the third year that head coach Jon Walker leads his team into the Swedish Super Series. After demonstrating improvement in the previous two years, making the playoffs last season, Kristianstad seems ready to take the next step and challenge the elite three.

Coach Walker’s pass crazy offense will again be led by Philip Juhlin, the Swedish-American signal caller who has truly matured and grown into his role. As the second leading quarterback in the country in 2014, he will again have an outstanding group of receivers in Marcus Johnsson, Benjamin Hörnquist, Sorin pandrea and Mattias Mårtensson.

The Predators’ ground game has not matched their aerial game but both Timmy Göransson and Anders Larsson have shown flashes of what they can do. The group of offensive linemen who will make the holes for those two running backs include import Bubba Rylance and Serbian Nemanja Graovac. Charles Ryan returns and will play both on offense and on the defensive line.

The Predators’ secondary played well in 2014 and this year the same group of Aklexander Nilsson, Markus Persson, Robin Dahl and  veteran Magnus “Krutas” Hansson will patrol the defensive backfield. Sacarias Hörnquist and Tommy Moström will leading the linebacking group while Albin Dahl, Charles Ryan and Gustav Svensson will play leading roles on the defensive line.

The Kristianstad U19 squad won the Swedish championship and there is no doubt coach Walker will look to those talented group of rookies to step up in 2015, among them Adam Bloom.

The Predators have the shortest roster in the Super Series this year – 30 players – so it remains to be seen whether the two-way players, and there will be many of them, will be able to survive the punishment for an entire season. The club made the playoffs last year and could well do so again this year. As long as they stay healthy.

[tps_header]Limhamn Griffins[/tps_header]

The Limhamn Griffins made a highly acclaimed comeback in the Super Series in 2014 but like most new teams had a tough time early on adjusting to the faster tempo. Nevertheless, by the end of the season were playing even with most teams and even snagged a victory.

They will face the Västerås Roedeers, this year’s new team, in their home opener and it will likely be a good litmus test to find out how far they have come in a year.

Head coach John Trana returns for his second year and will again rely on his Swedish quarterback Hampus Kristensson. Although Kristensson had a tough rookie year in the top series in Sweden, he improved dramatically and has grown into the role.

His main target will likely be Fredrik Eklund, the veteran Swedish receiver who is still playing at an all star level. Eklund’s teammates including Elias Hallbäck and Anton Kristensson will enable the Griffins to stretch the field. The addition of Fredrik Karlsson will certainly make a difference.

The ground game relied heavily on Greg Robinson at tailback in 2014 and will do so again this year. The University of Connecticut alum was converted from linebacker which makes him a punishing running back as well.

Like so many other teams in Sweden this season Limhamn has plumbed the talents of Serbia for its offensive line. Branko Mutic and Vladimir Uzelac arrived after playing last season in Germany and will strengthen a group that includes Maximilian Malander from Kristianstad and Vidar Onsberg.

Most of the defensive starters have returned including Simon Nilsson, national team starter David Strobel, Adam Martin and Henric Mårtensson. It will also be interesting to see what Joakim Johansson can contribute. Greg Robinson was a force at linebacker in 2014 and will be counted on again to help Oliver Persson and Marcus Anderson.

The secondary has seen the loss of two starters so Johan Ingerman, Kenny Lundborg and co. will have their work cut out for them.

The Griffins will have benefited from last year’s return to the top series and should enter the year well adjusted to the speed and physicality of the game. They have set lofty goals for 2015 and with a core group of players, not to mention coaches, returning, they may well surprise people.

Watch their home opener against the Västerås Roedeers live here. Kick off 3 PM local Swedish time (9 AM EDT)

Many thanks to the Swedish Football Network and Johan Von Zweigbergk for the information in this article.

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