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The first 4 Gameweeks in the 2022 AFI Kitted Football Season have come and gone, and last Sunday’s action has certainly left a big impact on the rest of the season. Division 2’s two games from Sunday have already started shaping that division’s playoff picture, Division 1 has had a wild start due to a forfeit, and a Premier Division team’s chances at a playoff run may be more up in the air than many would have predicted at the start of the year…
AFI Premier Division
South Dublin Panthers (1-0) 42 – 13 Belfast Trojans (0-2)
Hands up if you predicted this scoreline?? A Panthers win was absolutely within the realm of possibility here, but even the Panthers themselves must be beyond excited about this win. With a bit of uncertainty going into the game regarding their head coaching situation, there was even a bit of an excuse to expect a Trojans blowout here. What actually happened was quite the opposite, as Panthers QB Ian Cahill threw for 4 TDs (3 to WR Ray Burke), while RB Ben Arulogun added 2 TDs on the ground. The Panthers defense smothered the Trojans offense in the second half, stopping multiple 4th down attempts and DB Sean Carrick picking off long-time Trojans QB James McKelvey late in the game.
The Panthers come out of their season opener with a big momentum-starter leadinng up to their game this weekend @ Belfast Knights and for the year ahead, and have silenced a lot of critics with this win alone. The bigger story here, though, may well be the Belfast Trojans, and where they go from here. The Big T have started their 2019 National Championship campaign 0-2, and have conceded 7 passing TDs in those 2 games. While they have a month to prepare for their next game (an away trip to the Dublin Rebels), shutting down QB Ty Henry will be vital to the national champions’ hopes of getting their season back on track — a loss to the Rebels (who themselves shutout Cork 2 weeks ago) would likely set the #4 seed in the playoffs as Belfast’s ceiling for the season, and would make missing the playoffs altogether a genuine possibility.
AFI Division 1
Westmeath Minotaurs (1-0) 30 – 0 (forfeit) Wexford Eagles (0-2)
Not much to preview on paper, as the Eagles elected to not travel to Mullingar for their game with the Minotaurs. This comes after the Eagles tight 12-6 loss @ UL Vikings in Gameweek 1, and ahead of their hosting of Trinity (2-0) this weekend.
This currently leaves Division 1 in what can only be described as utter chaos. Officially, Westmeath have the best points difference in the division and currently sit in the #2 seed in Division 1, without actually playing a game yet. Trinity (having shutout their 2 opponents so far this year) sit atop the division, while the highest-scoring offense — Donegal/Derry Vipers (1-1) — sit in the #4 seed, with UL above them on points difference. The Eagles have some work to do to push themselves back into a competitive position on the standings, as Sunday’s forfeit leaves them with a -36 points difference and 0 wins on the season so far.
AFI Division 2
Louth Mavericks (2-0) 52 – 8 North Dublin Pirates (0-2)
The Mavericks jumped ahead early in this one and never really took their foot of the gas. QB Nathan Hearty added a score through the air via Kaelin Dunne for Louth, but the star of the day was clearly Brendan Simms in at RB, tallying up 4 rushing TDs for the Mavericks. A Rian Molloy passing TD to Mark Hughes made sure the Pirates were not completely shutout, and an Adam Pyne interception helped provide another positive for the North Dublin outfit to pull from the day, but it was certainly a much better day for the Mavericks.
The Pirates fall to 0-2 after their loss to the Causeway Giants in Gameweek 2, but can look forward to the return fixture of that game on April 24th when they host their first game of the season. The win leaves Louth in the driver’s seat in Division 2, having beaten the Antrim Jets (1-1) in Gameweek 3. You would have to expect the Mavericks maintain that position through to the Division 2 final in July, but as we’ve seen in the
divisions above, stranger things have happened…
Antrim Jets (1-1) 14 – 8 NI Razorbacks (1-1)
The most competitive match of the week, the Jets came away with their first win of the year at home against a much stronger Razorbacks team than we’ve seen in previous seasons. The Jets offense ran through Scot McLean as it usually does, though instead of adding scores through the air, McLean ran a TD and 2pt in himself. The Jets were aggressive on defense, forcing 5 turnovers. This included a forced fumble by Kyle Fenton (recovered by Kenny Pollin), and 4 interceptions — 2 by DB Patrick O’Connor, including 1 he took to the house.
Antrim’s win helps even out their loss to the Mavericks the previous week, and puts them back into the mix for hosting a playoff game in Division 2, currently sat in the #3 seed. The Razorbacks, due to points difference, still sit at the #2 spot, though will surely be focused on keeping better control of the ball moving forward to keep themselves in the playoff picture. There are no Division 2 games until April 24th, when the Razorbacks travel to Louth. They have a quick turnaround after that game, as they host the return fixture of last Sunday’s game on May 1st, hosting the Jets at Newforge Country Club.