The views and opinions expressed in this article in no way reflect those held by American Football Ireland. The below article is intended to be entertaining and promote around American Football Ireland games.
… everyone take a breath and calm down…
Gameweek 12 provided the smallest slate of games we’ve seen from a gameweek this season, but what a thrill ride it was. Between AFI Division 2’s Bowl game slots being all but filled, and the wild back and forth we witnessed in the game at the top of the Premier Division, a lot happened in last Sunday’s 2 games. How do they impact the rest of the season? Let’s have a look.
Record: ¹ = Secured Playoff Appearance
² = Secured Home-Field Advantage
³ = Eliminated from Playoffs
AFI Premier Division
#2 UCD (6-1)¹ 30 – 34 #1 Dublin Rebels (6-0)¹
Talk about game of the year. A surprising first half saw the Rebels take a 22 point lead at one stage, but a fantastic second half saw UCD slowly claw back that lead, making it a one-score game by midway through the fourth with the a strong rushing attack through QB Arun Mooney and RB Jack Finnegan, along with the UCD defense impressing by keeping the Rebels out of the endzone. The game had an ending fitting of the hype surrounding it: Mooney threw for his second TD on the day inside the 2 minute warning (his first to WR Sean Douglas, this one to WR Cian Lawlor), only for Rebels WR Dave King to come down with a clutch catch in traffic in the endzone on a deep ball from QB Ty Henry just seconds later.
Henry himself had 2 passing TDs (King, Cathal Keane) and contributed to 1 of 3 Rebels rushing TDs — the others coming from King and RB Wello Omorodion. On defense, Kenny McCarthy had himself a day with a sack, a forced fumble and a recovery, while rising star CB Rex Harding came away with an INT. Not to be forgotten about, the UCD defense had some great individual performances on top of the effort that led to the almost-comeback, with Larry Doyle coming away with a sack and a safety and James Twomey totaling 2 sacks.
The #1 seed currently lies in the Rebels hands, but that could change between now and July 10th. UCD have a date @ #3 Admirals (3-2, July 2nd), where a win or less-than-20-point loss will still guarantee home-field playoffs. The Rebels travel to #6 Cowboys (2-4, June 26th) — who will be fighting for their playoff hopes — and host #4 Panthers (3-2) on the final day of the season.
#4 Causeway Giants (2-4*)³ 0 – 32 Antrim Jets (4-2)
From a tight, game of the year candidate to one that was in total control for one team. The Giants fell to the Jets 32-0 at the Forum, a result that sees the Causeway side fall out of playoff contention. With QB Nathan Chapman unable to get going on offense due to a relentless pass rush — Mark MacFadyen (3), Dean McNeill (2) and Kevin Montague combined for 6 sacks — opportunities were few and far between for the Giants, with Chapman eventually throwing an interception to Jets LB Ryan Beckett. As has been the case with the Giants this season, some incredible efforts were put in by the defense despite the scoreline: oft-praised defender Ross McKenzie had an absurd day, finishing with 2 blocked kicks, a forced fumble and an INT, while DL Francis D’Souza also shone bright, collecting 2 sacks and a forced fumble. The Giants season, at least in terms of playoff contention, may be over, but there is certainly a lot to be excited about when they compete in Division 2 in 2023.
For the Jets, it’s a result that sends the Antrim side even closer to the Division 2 bowl game. With 4 rushing TDs for the offense the Jets ground-and-pound approach proved very effective. QB Scot McLean ran one in himself but also added a score through the air, with Joey Howe on the end of it. The aforementioned pass rush swarmed all over the Giants O and never really relented, pitching their 3rd consecutive shutout. With their defense truly stepping up since their 20-16 loss to the Razorbacks and some fantastic offensive performances all season, the Jets have put themselves in great position to upset the #1 Mavericks (6-0)¹ in the last Gameweek of the season and, potentially, the Division 2 Bowl. A win in either of their remaining 2 games — @ #6 Pirates (0-6*)³ June 26th, @ Mavericks July 9th — OR a Razorbacks loss — vs Pirates July 3rd or @ Giants July 16th — will send the Jets soaring to the bowl game.
The end of the regular season is just around the corner, and with all the different scenarios for relegation and playoff qualification starting to shape up, the next few weeks of AFI football are set to be the hottest gameweeks yet! Check in later in the week for our preview of Gameweek 13, where 4 games across Premier Division and Division 1 can seal anything from a relegation head-to-head at the end of the season, to playoff qualification and even home-field advantage!