When Andreas Ehrenreich takes the field Saturday in Stockholm as the head coach of Sweden’s national team, it will be his third game in charge of Team Sweden. He and his team will be facing Team Finland in the annual grudge match – The Viking Line Bowl – between the two countries, and this time his purpose goes beyond simply winning a game against a bitter opponent.The stakes are a little higher. This game is important in helping him prepare Sweden for the World championship qualifiers in 2018. The next world championship tournament is scheduled for 2019.
“This feels a little strange. Since we may have to play Finland next year in a qualifier for the worlds, we have to decide how much we show them. Do we stick with our base offense and defense or throw in a few wrinkles. I am sure they are feeling the same way.”
The former head coach of the Tyresö Royal Crowns, took the job at the head of Team Sweden in 2016 after a career with the Royal Crowns as a player and coach that stretched back to 1990. His debut was against Poland, a game Sweden won 27-21. Then last year in Helsinki, Finland defeated Sweden 31-17.
“You can’t look back too much. This year’s team is very different from last year. Getting a national team together is getting harder and harder it seems. Players can’t always find the time, especially to make it to a training camp. We held a camp in Karlstad a couple of weeks ago but we were missing some key players who could not make it and will be missing from the roster, including our two quarterbacks, Philip Juhlin and Anders Hermodsson.”
Ehrenreich says they will be using this game to try out a number of new players, up to 10 of them with no national team experience at all. The 48 man roster will be a good mix of veterans, second year starters and rookies. The coaching staff, which also includes offensive coordinator Aaron Fiddler, head coach of the Orebro Black Knights and defensive coordinator Greg Gibson, head coach of the Limhamn Griffins, has worked together with the junior national team as well. The juniors won the IFAF NY version of the European championships earlier this year defeating both Denmark and Finland in the process.
“Both Aaron and Greg have made a huge difference for me. I can focus on being a true head coach, managing the team, making the right decisions during games. And the fact that we also work together on the junior national team is a bonus.”
As a head coach at Sweden’s RIG Academy, a secondary school dedicated to American football, Ehrenreich is kept busy with football throughout the year so he doesn’t miss coaching club football as much. With a busy family life, the combination of the national team program and RIG, enables him to spend more time with his wife and three children.
“Yes, I am not sure I could handle coaching a club team right now with the countless hours of preparation and studying film every week between games. This is ideal for me although the amount of time I spend going to games during the season, both senior and junior games, is still extensive.”
According to Ehrenreich, the presence of Fiddler and Gibson on both coaching staffs really helps in making the transition from the junior team to senior as seamless as possible for the players.
“The players know the system and what to expect when they graduate from the younger team and that makes a big difference.”
What is he expecting this Saturday against Finland?
“This is a fierce rivalry, maybe the only one of its kind in football anywhere. I expect Finland to come out with a complex offense still based on the running game which hurt us last year. We have two solid quarterbacks in Ludwig Persson from the STU Northside Bulls and Jonathon Andersson of the Gothenburg Marvels. They both have different styles but bring a great deal to the table. This will be another exciting game.”
Finland now has an 11-10 lead in the series which has been played on a regular basis since 1992. But the Finns have won the last two including a 14-10 victory in Stockholm two years ago.
Ehrenreich and his team are determined to reverse the trend of Finnish victories this Saturday.