Triangle Razorbacks ready to defend title in Denmark

Perennial contenders for the Danish title, and the defending champions, the Triangle Razorbacks again look like they will be in the running as the Danish National League gets set for its ‘post COVID-19 lockdown’ season.

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

The National League will kick off the season with five teams who have all been practicing in pads for the past three weeks. The Danish top division will play a shortened season with each team playing only four games apiece starting August 8 with the regular season winding up September 12.

The Triangle Razorbacks open their season on August 18 when they face the Aarhus Tigers.

Last season, the Razorbacks posted an 8-4 overall record including an upset win over the Copenhagen Towers in the Mermaid Bowl. In fact, since winning their first Danish title in 2006, the Razorbacks have reached the Mermaid Bowl 12 times, winning the title eight of those times, a record unsurpassed in Denmark.

Razorbacks head coach Peter Nicolajsen enters the shortened 2020 campaign with more or less the same squad that won the title a year ago but has added junior players.

“I’m excited that we’ve had a good group of youth players join the team which really helps address our biggest concern from last year which was the size of our roster. We had really good players, but a lot of the players were asked to do so much work that it impacted our consistency, so getting a handful of young players up who can contribute immediately, really helps address that.”

Returning players include veteran quarterback and Mermaid Bowl MVP Reed Gottula, who is in his third year with the team and is a proven winner and League MVP Niko Lester.

“Last year, we relied very heavily on our top players, and a lot of those return this year, including League MVP Niko Lester, and Mermaid Bowl MVP Reed Gottula.”

Although the offense has lost some key players, the “replacements” should be able to make up the loss according to Nicolajsen:

“I hope we can stay the course on offense, we’ve lost Geoffrey Lewis, but will rely on Adrian Jimenez and Johan Bang in the run game, and we’ve had some good additions to the WR group after losing Jairus Moll and Ben von Jagow. We’ve definitely improved up front as well.”

Key names on the offensive line include tackles Matthias Stockamp and Peter Møller, guards Kristian Holst and Nicholas Møller-Hansen as well as center Mikkel Hansen.

Defensively, Nicolajsen and defensive coordinator Kim Ewé are looking to see a major improvement over last year’s team.

“Defense is where I expect to see the biggest jumped compared to the regular season last year when we were really decimated at DB, relying on a lot of non-defensive backs filling in. We’ve had a good long offseason of preparation, and personnel wise, the secondary group has now gotten to be a real strength.”

Expect a starting front seven consisting of defensive ends Allexsander Klose, Wael Nasri and Henning Bøge Hvidtfeldt, tackles Anders Holm Jørgensen and E.J. Parnell as well as linebackers Mathias Reimer and Jonas Hellmann Petterson. The upgraded secondary will see Martin Jepsen and Simon Knudsen at the corner spots with Henrik K. Dinesen and Niko Lester at safety.

Nicolajsen understands that this coronavirus shortened season makes each game that much more important, and above all intense. He is careful about his expectations regarding the season and his opponents due to this.

“In terms of expectations, people are playing with their cards a little closer to the chest, so I am actually really curious to see the first game, and get a sense of everyone’s levels. Last year we had a tournament format where 5 of 7 teams made the playoffs after a 10 game season. This year, 4 of 5 teams make the semis, but with four games, and home field being a genuine advantage, the games will be much more intense considering both the stakes, and the fact that all five teams are established teams of high quality. I think the top three teams have all improved and although I’m less informed about Aarhus and Aalborg, it should be really competitive at the top.”

Razorbacks Athletic Director Henning Bøge Hvidtfeldt is expecting a highly competitive season.

“Our goal is the same as always, to reach the Mermaid Bowl and win it. It is going to be a very short and competitive season and there is very little room for mistakes. In my opinion there is no clear-cut favorite to win the Mermaid Bowl as I think all teams have what it takes to go all the way. But we will do whatever we can to defend our title.”

Regular Season Schedule

August 16: Triangle Razorbacks @Aarhus Tigers

August 22: Copenhagen Towers @Triangle Razorbacks

August 30: Triangle Razorbacks @AaB 89ers

Sept. 6: Søllerød Gold Diggers @Triangle Razorbacks

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.