AFI’s Europe Top 20: 2018 Coaches Poll – May 31

The last two weeks of exciting football in Europe have produced a few more shifts as AFI presents the fifth edition of the 2018 Top 20.

AFI is proud to have the input of some of the best coaches in Europe. Our  panel has grown to nine and will continue to grow. We’ve aggregated the choices of these top European coaches and executives and present them along with our own choices.

The AFI Coaches Poll is conducted bi-weekly throughout the European regular season using a panel of coaches from European clubs. The panel is chosen by election, country by country plus independents, from a pool of coaches who have indicated to the American Football International their willingness to participate. Each coach submits a Top 20 with a first-place vote worth 20 points, second place 19 and so on down to one point for 20th.

This week’s panel includes eight coaches from seven nations, many of whom lead teams in our poll and special football ambassador, Johannes Woudenberg:

  • Stan Bedwell – HC Allgäu Comets (Germany)
  • Dan Levy – HC Prague Black Panthers (Czech Republic)
  • Dave Likins – DC Braunschweig New Yorker Lions (Germany)
  • Nick Johansen – HC Wroclaw Panthers (Poland)
  • Geoff Buffum – HC Calanda Broncos (Switzerland)
  • Shuan Fatah – HC Swarco Raiders (Austria)
  • Malik Jackson – HC Vukovi Belgrade (Serbia)
  • Juha Hakala- HC Helsinki Roosters (Finland)
  • Johannes Woudenberg – Ambassador at large (Holland)

With all the countries in Europe now in action, there are a lot of games to monitor and our panel does their utmost to keep up.

We continually work to improve and always welcome your comments and insight.

If you are interested in being a part of the AFI Coaches Poll in 2018 please email [email protected].

Now, for the rankings!

1. Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns (5-0 GFL1) – Germany (Last poll #1)

The Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns  continue to assert their dominance and justify their number one ranking in Europe. After whipping the Munich Cowboys in the opening game of the season the Unicorns have  trounced the Allgäu Comets, Stuttgart Scorpions, Kirchdorf Wildcats and Ingolstad Dukes. They are averaging 45.2 points a game while giving up 9.4. As one rival coach put it after watching a game. “This is the best team I have seen this year. Period.” The Unicorns started the year in top spot after last year’s German championship win over the Braunschweig New Yorker Lions in German Bowl XXXIX. They finished the season undefeated with a 17-0 record. Until they are unseated, the Haller fans will continue to claim #1.

Next up: Frankfurt Universe, June 3.

Unicorns WR Nathaniel Robitaille Photo: MANFRED LÖFFLER

2. New Yorker Lions (4-0 GFL1; 2-0 Big6) – Germany (Last poll #2)

At #2, the defending Eurobowl champion Braunschweig New Yorker Lions continue to march through the German Football League North earning four lopsided victories beating both the Hamburg Huskies twice and the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes and Hildesheim Invaders. The Lions opened the season with a tight 10-6 win over the La Courneuve Flash from France in the Big6. They followed that up with a 60-0 trouncing of the Amsterdam Crusaders to qualify for the Eurobowl final.  The perennial challengers for both the number one spot in Europe and the German title were undone in the 2017 German championship game losing to the #1 ranked by a last second blocked field goal. 

Next up: Frankfurt Universe, June 9 (Eurobowl final).

3. Helsinki Roosters (2-0 SAJL;1-0 Int.) – Finland (Last poll #3)

The Roosters continue to display their dominance in Finland and justify their lofty ranking. They overwhelmed the Porvoo Butchers last weekend. They opened their season in Finland with a one-sided victory over their Maple Bowl opponents, the Wasa Royals, beating them 48-7. They had surprised everyone by beating the Dacia Vienna Vikings in Vienna four weeks ago, 41-37.  The shocker of a win under new/old head coach Juha Hakala put Finnish football back on the map. Last season, they defeated Sweden’s Carlstad Crusaders to win the Northern European Football League (NEFL) title. AFI expects the Roosters to dominate 2018 in Finland’s SAJL and possibly beyond.

Next up: Tampere Saints, June 2.

Adam Connette Photo Jarmo Vehkomäki

 4. Swarco Raiders (6-1 AFL1; 2-0 CEFL; 1-0 Int.) – Austria (Last poll #4)

The Swarco Raiders have played outstanding football since our last poll crushing the Dacia Vienna Vikings and then beating Central College (NCAA Div. III) and the Modling Rangers. With the win over their arch rivals in Austria, the Raiders look to regain the top spot in the Austrian Football LeagueSwarco had demolished the Wroclaw Panthers from Poland, previously Europe’s #6 team and have looked impressive midway through the Austrian season.

Next up:Ljubljana Silverhawks, June 2.

Photo: Markus Stieg

5. Frankfurt Universe (4-0 GFL1 2-0 Big6) – Germany (Last poll #5)

The Frankfurt Universe remain in our Top 5 after blanking the Stuttgart Scorpions 42-0 last week and downing Ingolstadt 40-26 the week before.  They had started the GFL regular season by blanking the Munich Cowboys and overwhelming the Marburg Mercenaries 63-7. Then they whipped France’s La Courneuve Flash 48-6 in the Big6 thus qualifying for the Eurobowl final for the second year in a row.  With all the coaches and players signed and on-field success so far, it seems that Frankfurt is weathering the financial storm that had engulfed them.

Next up: Braunschweig New Yorker Lions, June 2 (Eurobowl final)

Photo: Frank Baumert

6. Milano Seamen (9-0 IFL; 2-0 EFL) – Italy (Last poll #7)

Italy’s defending champion Milano Seamen are on a mission to prove the strength of football in Italy and they continue to impress our panel. Last week they crushed the Milano Rhinos 49-12 and they remain unbeaten in Italy. Two weeks ago, Milano unleashed on the top team in France, the Thonon Black Panthers in EFL play, whipping them 49-3The Seamen defeated the only other unbeaten team in Italy last week, the Parma Panthers in decisive fashion.  They also defeated the Badalona Dracs in EFL play. They move up another spot to the #6 position.

Next up: UTA Pesaro, June 3.

Milano QB Luke Zahradka Photo: Dario Fumagalli

 7. Carlstad Crusaders (5-0 SAFF; 2-0 NEFL) – Sweden (Last poll #8)

The Carlstad Crusaders continue their dominance in the Swedish Superserien with two one-sided wins since our last poll. They beat the Örebro Black Knights and Stockholm Mean Machines with relative ease. Three weeks ago the Crusaders comfortably handled British champions, the Tamworth Phoenix in NEFL action. The Crusaders remain undefeated in Sweden and inn Europe. Last month, Carlstad manhandled the Norwegian champion Oslo Vikings.

Next up: Uppsala 86ers, June 2.

Photo: Mike Ashton

8. Dresden Monarchs (4-0 GFL1) – Germany (Last poll #9)

The Dresden Monarchs have marched out to a 4-0 record in the German Football League after manhandling the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes and Hamburg Huskies since our last poll. They opened their 2018 season by earning back-to-back wins over the previously undefeated Potsdam Royals 4. A perennial contender for the playoffs in Germany,the Monarchs finished 2017 as the #10 team in Europe after losing two of their last two games including the quarterfinal game to the Frankfurt Universe. 

Dresden WR Mitchell Paige looking for daylight

Next up: Berlin Rebels, June 2.

9. AFC Dacia Vienna Vikings (6-2 AFL1; 0-1 Int.) – Austria (Last poll #6)

The Vikings lost another game in the Austrian Football League last week 24-21 to the Ljubljana Silverhawks and are still playing without injured starting quarterback Garrett Safron. Three weeks ago they were crushed by their arch rivals in Austria, the Swarco Raiders. Although they defeated the Modling Rangers 25-20 the week prior, Vienna was shocked by Finland’s Helsinki Roosters four weeks ago at home in Charity Bowl XX., losing 41-37. Our coaches panel has dropped them another three spots to ninth. Prior to that the Vikings had jumped out to a 5-0 record in the Austrian Football League including a 35-28 win over the Swarco Raiders. In 2017, the Vikings enjoyed a resurgent year and finished back on top of the Austrian league, winning the Austrian title with a decisive victory over the Swarco Raiders. 

Vienna WR Maruice Wappl Photo: Peter Kramberger.

Next up: Bratislava Monarchs, June 3.

10. Wroclaw Panthers (6-0 LFA; 1-1 CEFL)) – Poland (Last poll #10)

The Panthers are holding their own at the #10 spot after thumping arch rivals, the Gdynia Seahawks 35-7. They had rebounded in the CEFL  earlier in May by downing the Prague Black Panthers 39-22.  Although that game was for pride alone, it helped atone for the lopsided 63-21 loss to Austria’s Swarco Raiders the week before. The result of that loss was the biggest drop in rankings thus far four weeks ago. Nevertheless the Panthers have now won six straight games in Poland’s LFA including two decisive wins over the Gdynia Swahawks. They won the 2017 Polish championship in dominant fashion. They surprised the Raiders in Central European Football League last year, forcing the Raiders to come from behind to win the game. The Panthers were undefeated in Poland and soundly beat Denmark’s Triangle Razorbacks in CEFL action.

Next up: Bialystok Lowlanders, June 2.

11. Copenhagen Towers (3-0 DAFF; 2-0 NEFL) – Denmark (Last poll #14)

Denmark’s Copenhagen Towers have climbed another three spots since our last ranking after overwhelming wins in the Danish American Football league. They started their rise in the rankings in April after whipping the Tamworth Phoenix 50-7  in NEFL play and winning two straight in Denmark. The Towers also traveled to Oslo, Norway in the Northern European Football League a month ago and defeated the Oslo Vikings  21-10. In 2017, the Towers won the Danish crown by dominating  the Sollerod Gold Diggers in Mermaid Bowl XXIX. 

Next up: Triangle Razorbacks, June 3.

Copenhagen Towers down Gold Diggers 70-46

12. Cologne Crocodiles (2-0-1 GFL1) – Germany (Last poll, #13)

The Crocodiles remain unbeaten in the German Football League after winning their two opening games beating the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes 32-14 and Potsdam Royals 42-41.and then tying the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes 22-22. They also trounced Holland’s Amsterdam Crusaders in an exhibition game. The Crocodiles finished just our of the playoffs in 2017 and look much improved this year.

Cologne RB Shayeen Edwards Photo: Marc Seefeldt

13. Berlin Rebels (4-0 GFL1) – Germany (Last poll, #11)

The Berlin Rebels have won three of their first four games in the GFL season but their loss to the Potsdam Royals two weeks ago seems to have knocked them down a couple of spots according to our coaches. Nevertheless, under head coach Kim Kuchi the Rebels look poised to reach the playoffs again in 2018. In 2017, they lost in the German quarterfinals to eventual champions the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns but pushed the Unicorns to overtime. The club has signed a number of international stars including Lauri Vanio (Finland), Mamadou Sy (France), and Chris Smith (Netherlands) and will complete with the top GFL North clubs.

Next up: Dresden Monarchs, June 2.

 14. Badalona Dracs (8-0 LNFA; 1-1 EFL) – Spain (Last poll, #15)

The Dracs have climbed one spot thanks to a convincing 48-0 semifinal win in the Spanish playoffs over Madrid’s Osos Rivas.They have previous won  their quarterfinal game in Spain 78-12 against the Gijon Mariners. They are 1-1 in EFL play after they recorded a stunning 37-20 victory over France’s leading team, the Thonon Black Panthers in EFL action a month ago.

Next up: Murcia Cobras, Spanish championship game, June 2.

15. Potsdam Royals (1-3 GFL1; 2-0 EFL) – Germany (Last poll, #20)

The Royals have made the biggest climb in the rankings, moving up from #20 to 15 this week following their thrilling 33-31 European Football League win over Switzerland’s Calanda Broncos.  They had knocked off the Berlin Rebels the week before. This  obviously had an impact on our coaches panel.  They opened their season with a 56-0 blowout win over the Hildesheim Invaders but then fell twice to the Dresden Monarchs 45-34.   Potsdam is playing in the German Football League for the first time in its history this season.

Next up: Milano Seamen (Italy) EFL championship, June 9.

Frederik Myrup Nielsen scores winning TD vs Calanda Croncos Photo: Sergio Brunetti.j

16. Calanda Broncos (7-0 SAFV; 1-1 EFL) – Switzerland (Last poll, #12)

The Calanda Broncos lost the lead three times in their EFL game against the Potsdam Royals last week and fell 33-31 in a thriller. That clearly impacted the panel who have dropped them four spots. Still, the Broncos are unbeaten in Switzerland with a 7-0 record. In April, they crushed Belgium’s Brussels Tigers 39-0 in European Football League play. They won the Swiss league in 2017 after recording a lopsided win in the championship game over the Basel Gladiators.

Next up: Luzern Lions, June 3.

Calanda RB -Steffen Haenelt scored TD vs. Potsdam Photo: Sergio Brunetti

 17. Koc Rams (7-0 TFL; 2-0 CEFL) – Turkey (Last poll, #20)

Turkey’s defending champion, the Koc Rams have climbed three spots in the last two weeks after finishing the Turkish season undefeated (a loss to the Yeditepe Eagles was erased when the Eagles were disqualified from the TFL) The Rams won both their CEFL games, overwhelming the Moscow Patriots 63-21 and outlasting Serbian champions, the Kragujevac Wild Boars  in CEFL action, beating them 47-41 in a shootout. They have now moved on to the CEFL final against the Swarco Raiders.

Next up: Bogazici Sultans, Turkish semifinals, June 2.


18. Prague Black Panthers (6-0 CAAF; 0-2 CEFL) – Czech Republic (Last poll #18)

The Prague Black Panthers hold onto their #18 spot after winning two straight in the Czech League since our last poll. They had dropped a 39-22 decision to Poland’s Wroclaw Panthers, in the CEFL prior to that. The Black Panthers blanked the Pardubice Stallions 50-0 in the Czech league the week before. They have won six straight in league play with an overwhelming 259-22 points difference. Prague dropped a 44-21 decision to Austria’s Swarco Raiders last month in CEFL play.

Next up: Pilsen Patriots, June 3.

Prague Black Panthers down Brno Alligators 50-0 Photo: Libor Vočadlo Photography

19. Marburg Mercenaries (2-1 GFL1) – Germany (Last poll, #19)

The Marburg Mercenaries hold onto the #19 spot after eking out a 33-30 win over the Munich Cowboys. They had suffered a big slide in the rankings dropping six spots from #13 after being crushed by the Frankfurt Universe 63-7 three weeks ago. Marburg had opened their season by  whipping the Kirchdorf Wildcats 33-7 in German Football League play. Marburg reached the German quarterfinals where they lost to the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes. Marburg finished the year in the German Football League South with an 8-7 record marking the biggest improvement of any team in the league. For 2017, the Mercenaries signed Austria’s top domestic quarterback, Alexander Thury and dangerous receiver Peter Jinkens.

Next up: Kirchdorf Wildcats, June 2.

Marburg Mercenaries with Andrecus Lindley & Phil Lanieri

20. Allgäu Comets (2-1 GFL) (Last poll, unranked)

The Allgäu Comets have entered the list at #20 after two spectacular victories featuring an aerial attack dubbed the Flying Circus. With quarterback Justine Sottilare leading the GFL in passing yardage with 1,323 yards after only three games, the Comets have sparked a great deal of attention. Allgau lost their opener badly to the Unicorns but bounced back with two 50+ point games in beating the Ingolstadt Dukes and Stuttgart Scorpions.

Next up: Stuttgart Scorpions, June 2

Honorable Mention: Kragujevac Wild Boars, Serbia; Parma Panthers, Italy; Murcia Cobras, Spain; Thonon Black Panthers, France; Gdynia Seahawks, Poland.

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