Wroclaw HC Val Gunn prepares Panthers for 6th straight Polish title game

As Wroclaw Panthers head coach Val Gunn prepares his team for Poland’s Liga Futbolu Amerykańskiego (LFA) title game this weekend, the Panthers sixth consecutive trip to the final, he shared his thoughts on returning to Europe to coach, coaching in a championship game again and the state of his team.

The 51 year old, former Texas A&M quarterback and best selling author (In the Shadow of Swords), has coached extensively in Europe prior to this. He had two stints coaching Norway’s Oslo Vikings (1997-98, 2006-2008) and in 2007 they defeated German semifinalists that year, the Berlin Adler, in EFAF Cup play. He also coached the Norwegian national team, France’s Aix-en-Provence Argonautes, the Paderborn Dolphins from Germany, when they played in the German Football League as well as Poland’s Wroclaw Devils.

The Panthers have won two of the last three Polish titles, losing the 2018 game narrowly to the Bialystok Lowlanders in Poland’s Liga Futbolu Amerykańskiego (LFA) title game.

American Football International: In your first year back in Europe after three years, you have taken your team to the championship game. How does that feel?

Val Gunn: We have worked so hard as an organization to put ourselves in a position to play for a championship and certainly I’m pleased with what has been accomplished this season.

AFI: The Wroclaw Panthers went through some upheaval after last year’s loss in the championship game. How did that affect your season this year?

VG: Really we haven’t looked back much at all. You learn from mistakes, move forward, and only focus on what you can control. We’ve been motivated from day one to bring back the title to Wroclaw.

AFI: When was the last time you coached a championship game? How does that compare to this year?

VG: In 2012. It’s hard to compare because the age groups are different (U19 vs senior). There are some similarities in that both team know exactly what they want to accomplish and competed to the task of winning it all.

AFI: What are the Panthers key strengths?

VG: We’ve got a great mix of players, those who have been very successful to go along with young and talented guys. It’s also nice to have quality and depth at nearly every position. The strong coaching staff and excellent facilities here are big advantages well.

AFI: Since arriving partway through the season, your QB Tony Dawson has been phenomenal. How do you think the Lowlanders will try to stop him?

VG: Tony’s been fantastic since coming in and fits very well in our system. Certainly he stresses a defense with what he can as a quarterback. It’s tough to focus on just on him since we’ve got a number of playmakers who can hurt you, so the Lowlanders are in a tough position to try to balance it out.

AFI: Although you have an outstanding offense, what do you have to improve on in this game?

VG: Even though we average nearly 44 points a game, we could still be more effective at finishing drives and protecting the football.

AFI: Although not as spectacular, the Lowlanders offense has steadily improved. How do you put pressure on Dausin and defend their leading scorers, RB Krzysztof Czaplejewicz, WR Tomasz Zubriycki and RB Mikolaj Pawlaczyk? ,

VG: Skip Albano has done a wonderful job with the defense. He’s got an attacking philosophy that really puts pressure on opposing offenses. We did an excellent job of getting to Rex in the season opener and limiting the opportunities for their wide receivers to make plays

AFI: Your final thoughts?

VG: We’re excited for Saturday night to play in Wroclaw in front of our fans for the Polish national championship.

AFI
American Football International is your source for news and updates about American Football outside the United States!
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