There’s too much from Big Bowl XIII to restrict it to Five Things – here’s your review of this year’s bumper tournament!
While the “London” Ex-Pads were at the top of the podium, the team was primarily built of players from the States. Players from all over America hooked up with Tariq Dag-Khan to take home the gold. While they almost certainly had the most talented side in the tournament, all the credit should really go to Tariq and his ability to steer the ship in the right direction. The final victory over the Walldorf Wanderers was proof positive of that – with flags flying and tempers flaring under the hot sun, Tariq ensured that his side maintained their composure in order to finish the job. He thoroughly earned his MVP award!
Meanwhile, in the ladies bracket, the WFFN USA side took the trophy home after a tense final against the Hyde Park Renegades! Both sides played out a thrilling 27-27 tie during the group stages, and emerged from the Group of Death together. In the end, WFFN just had too much for HPR to overcome!
Congratulations to both sides on their excellent achievements over the weekend! It wouldn’t be superlative to say that this was the most stacked fields we’ve ever see at Big Bowl, making these victories even more impressive! Will they be able to defend their trophies next year?
LONDON IS LOADED
One thing that will catch your eye when you look at the final standings is the immense number of teams from the UK’s capital in each of the competitions. We’ll discount the Ex-Pads (although resident blitzer for that side, Bill Ammons, is a member of the London Rebels), but even without them you have the London Rebels, London Smoke and Baker Street Buttonhookers all occupying spots in the top eight. All three sides had some difficult groups to deal with, but they came through in style. The Rebels actually ousted the Smoke from a higher placing after their Hail Mary throw at the buzzer gave them a narrow win over their compatriots during the playoff stage of the competition.
Baker Street themselves lost to the eventual winners, before dispatching of the Lizzards to take home 5th place – their best effort for years. The future is bright for the sport in the UK with performances like this.
The London representative in the Women’s bracket also excelled this year, as the Hyde Park Renegades came in 2nd. They had some international help, but the Opal Series side put doubters to shame with an excellent showing over the course of the weekend. They overcame some favourites such as the Coventry Cougars and San Juan Dolphins on the way to the final game. A spirited effort against the WFFN USA side earned them plenty of plaudits.
With home-field advantage, we saw a ridiculous number of German based squads defy expectations. Starting with the obvious, we had the Walldorf Wanderers pegged for a spot in the middle bracket, but an early win over the Buttonhookers had them primed for a run at the top prize. We saw a laser-focused Benjamin Klever guide his side to wins over the Allerod Armadillos (the first in their history), London Rebels and Lizzards on the way to the final where they lost by a solitary score. As usual, Fabian Achenbach couldn’t be stopped, and showed by he’s one of the top players in Europe. Second place was a massive accomplishment for the Wanderers, who just seem to get better and better as the years go by. They also deserve massive credit for organising another incredible tournament that went by without a hitch.
The aforementioned Lizzards and Mainz Legionaries also made their way to the top 8, showing that the level in Germany is increasing as the years go on. Germany boasted 4 teams in the top 16, as the Dortmund Devils rounded this bracket out.
In the Women’s competition, the Mainz Elecorns coming fifth above sides like San Juan and Mexico shows that there’s strength in the Women’s side also. The Walldorf Wanderers Ladies came in 10th, above teams like the Foxes 82 and Salamanders.
While London had lots of pop in the top 10, it was the Novo Mesto Knights who arguably punched the hardest above their own weight. The reigning Slovenian champs came into the playoffs after coming second in their group, but despite facing (on paper) some more in-form teams, they rocketed all the way to the semi-finals. After keeping up in the early exchanges with the Ex-Pads, they eventually succumbed to a loss, but a contentious OT victory against the London Rebels gave them their first podium place at the tournament!
Meanwhile, the Ljubljana Killer Bees acquitted themselves well with a 12th place finish – much higher than some teams we predicted to do well this year. Elsewhere, the Wild Hogs came in 26th after sending a side that resembled the Kaiserslauten Eagles more than it did the Slovenian side.
Russian football has taken several strides forward in recent years, and seems close to finally having a national program competing at international level. To gauge how that might go, we often have to look at how the Russian sides perform at Big Bowl, and this was a banner year for them.
The Tough Nuts progressed as the top team from a somewhat straight forward group. They lost to the Novo Mesto Knights, before finally beating the Valencia Firebats to set up a game against a familiar foe…
Meanwhile, the Moscow Zzombies came through group B with a little more fuss than they would have liked. A humbling from the Ex-Pads followed a questionable draw against the Maichingen Mustangs, but their dismantling of the Atlantic Devils gave them a spot in the sweet sixteen. They were literally a yard away from forcing the Kelkheim Lizzards to overtime…twice. Top eight was within reach for the Zombies, but after losing to the Armadillos and beating the Dortmund Devils, they knew their fate would be to take on the Moscow Tough Nuts in the 12th/13th place playoff.
The Tough Nuts would win a cagey match by a single point, but both sides put in excellent shifts through the whole weekend. The future of Russian national team looks in excellent hands with the amount of talent available.
The Russians also had three representatives in the Ladies bracket. The Unicorns were the top performers, coming 6th in the strongest field we’ve seen. The Salamanders came in a respectable 11th, while the Moscow Lynx picked up at 14th place finish and valuable experience to take forward.
A new sight for those who frequent Big Bowl was the inclusion of neutral referees. Normally, the tournament follows the familiar format of having players from other teams taking up officiating duties, but a decision was made to inject some neutrality and experience into proceedings.
We’d say that, overall, this was a major success. The standard overall was far higher, and there was more consistency in decisions from our observations. More importantly, there was far more respect shown to referees, which is always a plus.
We had high, high hopes for the Danish contingent at this year’s Big Bowl. With their own season in full swing, and some straight forward groups, the Towers, Gold Diggers and Armadillos were our tips to occupy at least one of the podium places. Instead, all three teams ended up outside the top eight. So what happened?
The Armadillos fell to the Walldorf Wanderers in shocking fashion; the first Danish domino fell. Next up, the Towers couldn’t keep up with the athletic and energetic Mainz Legionaries, while the London Ex-Pads were too much for under-manned Sollerod Gold Diggers.
After dominating both the club and international scene in Europe for so long, are we starting to see a shift? Their lacklustre showing at the AFFL tournament in Madrid had us concerned already, but the excuses were out early. Each side had their own issues with player availability to deal with, but so did several teams who finished above them. For now, we’ll go for the knee-jerk take and get excited about a competitive Euros taking place in Israel later this year!
GROUP OF BAD PREDICTIONS
We’ll take ourselves to task on a couple of predictions we made before a ball was snapped. Namely, we were positive that the USA Warriors and Kalikakou were destined to advance from the Group of Death. The Warriors side, on paper, had an insane level of talent, while Kalikakou had priors for playing their best when the pressure was at its highest. The USA Warriors did well on the Sunday, going undefeated, but their sluggish Saturday resigned them to the middle bracket of teams in the competition. That’s a far cry from the top eight that we thought they’d get at minimum. Kalikakou meanwhile might have done well at the Beer Pong table, but they had to settle for 25th overall.
It could well have been us putting too much pressure on the sides, but both probably had a good shout of winning several other groups at the competition – Big Bowl XIII was a lost year for both sides. Will they be back for another swing in 2020?
DE BAJO RENDIMIENTO
Team Mexico are always going to be firm favourites at Big Bowl. Their electric pace and ability to field five girls who can throw keeps defences guessing. Their 8th place finish this year was far lower than many would have expected before the start. While they were in the worst group, we figured their cohesiveness would have them taking the top spot, and probably end up with a final place against the WFFN or Austrian sides. Instead, a middle-of-the-pack finish was a disappointing final placement for the Mexican side.
We also had high hopes for the San Juan Dolphins, who had impressed at Pink Bowl. They took Mexico to the limit in the final of that tournament, but looked out of sorts after an early loss to the Hyde Park Renegades in the playoff rounds. Their defence stopped after hearing the final buzzer, however the ball had been snapped with one second left in the game. After much debate, the score was awarded, and the XP meant the Dolphins’ dreams of winning the tournament were dashed.
Finally, Foxes 82 appeared to approach the tournament with a far more expeditionary side than we had hoped for. In such a strong field, they could never hoped to contend with such limited resources, and wound up 12th overall.
The Valencia Firebats were a tipped to do well after a strong Champions Bowl campaign on in Spain led to them finishing 4th overall. They came through their group, one lone win over the Dortmund Devils on Sunday meant the Firebats had to take 15th spot – we’re sure they would have fancied a chance at a much higher finish.
The Altantic Devils did an exceptional job at Big Bowl XII, finishing 12th overall. They had a pretty straight-forward group on paper, with only the Ex-Pads to realistically look up to. They got eaten alive by the Moscow Zzombies though in the battle for the top 16, and finished 27th after Sunday’s action – 15 places lower than last year.
FEELING HOT, HOT, HOT
Some thrive in it, some wilt under it; The sun was a big factor in some game-plans going out the window as unprecedented 30+ degree heat was endured all weekend long. You needed to have plenty of rotation and hydration to stay competitive throughout proceedings.
The weather also had the last laugh in Frankfurt, as several planes were grounded or outright cancelled on the Monday due to storm clouds. This year’s Big Bowl will be one remembered for incredible games and unbelievable weather, can it be matched in 2020?
If you fancy a break from the sun though, there’s always the indoor facilities at Flagging New Year V to look forward to…More details coming soon…
Flag Football World (FFW) is comprised of team dedicated to providing all the most relevant and up to date flag football news from Europe and beyond. We aim to publish regular features, such as interviews, opinion articles and event information from around the globe.