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USAFL - United States Australian Football League Inc.

05/04/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/04/2019 02:02

Season Preview Part VI - Mens West Region North

The Northwest United States is known for its mountainous terrain, towering over the rest of the countryside in its picturesque beauty.

It is an adequate metaphor for the teams based in this area, as they have been a cut above the rest of the field over the last decade. From the Cascadia teams on through Northern California, teams from the region have won or challenged for trophies on Sunday afternoon at Nationals on a regular basis.

While Golden Gate and Sacramento are firmly established, Seattle, Portland and Las Vegas have enjoyed renewed interest and growth, and the great state of Utah finally gets a side to call its own and grow big and strong like the mountain ranges that dominate it.

WEST REGION - SOUTH

2018 Record: 7-0
Nationals: 3-1 Runners Up, Division 1

2018 Recap: In 2016, the Roos made their first D1 Grand Final in seventeen years. As 2017 played out, one could see the Gaters gaining momentum with each passing game, also building belief that they were the best team in the USAFL. That led to their first top-tier flag, and as 2018 went on, the confidence grew, and so did the wins. A third straight Western Regional premiership was pocketed, and sound victories at Denver and at home against the Dragons sounded them as repeat favorites. They blew with the Wisconsin wind into the semi-finals, where they accounted for LA in a '17 Grand Final repeat; arguably the game of the tournament. Their third straight Grand Final would be against Austin, a team on a mission, and the team that dispatched the Roos in the '16 Granny. The Crows looked fly-away winners late in the second half, but the Gaters managed two goals in the final three minutes to draw within five, and were painfully unlucky to not get a chance at the winning goal. - BB

2019 Outlook: Golden Gate will come into 2019 boasting equal parts Australian weaponry and American skillfulness. But the Yank corps has oodles of experience, something that Americans on most other teams don't have. They are led by Kyle 'Manly' Johnson, Revolution captain and defensive-slash-midfielder prestidigitator. Ruck option Tim Lindfeldt, forward sniper Dan Levy, and swiss-army-knife utlity David Franco are also slick operators for the Roos, and all have represented well for club and Country. The young American talent is there too, including Cody Burman, who is looking to keep his stock rising on the Revo Radar. The Roos are still in the top two-three teams in the league until someone knocks them off, and if they bring the bodies to Sarasota, they'll be looking for Grand Final number four. - BB

Nationals Seeding Prediction: High Seed, Division 1

2018 Record: 1-1
Nationals: 3-1 Runners Up, Division 4 (w/ Arizona Outlaws & Seattle-B)

2018 Recap: A club that had been breathing breaths and staying alive over the past several seasons got a big spur in the side with the addition of the Arizona Outlaws. They played to a split of their season series with their down-south friendly rivals, and the Gamblers were alongside Arizona during regionals and Nationals. Vegas's Matthew Anderson, Adam Smith, and Patrick Millea were all instrumental in their combination side's run to the D4 Grand Final. - BB

2019 Outlook: A split at the Rob Dollar Cup has gotten Las Vegas off to a bustling start to 2019, and trainings and recruiting has been good in the early going this year. The Andersons, almogside Smith, Millea, and Jason Nunes have been rocks for the club as they build back towards their halcyon days of the 2000's, and will be competitive through regionals and Nationals again. - BB

Nationals Seeding Prediction: Division 4

2018 Record: 9-0
Nationals: 2-2 Runners up, Division 2

2018 Recap: While much of the attention in the USAFL men's competition was paid towards the likes of Austin, Golden Gate, and Los Angeles, it was the boys from the Rose City who put together a perfect regular season at 9-0. The Steelheads swept through the regular season, through Western Regionals (with the help of the Arizona Hawks) and flick off all comers at the Stumptown Throwdown. They came to Racine with a bit of a spring in the ol' step, and were widely fancied to take out the D2 premiership, which would've been their third title of any sort in four years. But fish don't like ice, and ultimately the undoing of Portland's run would be the Minnesota Freeze. A resounding 23-point win over Calgary in the opener was followed by a 10-7 tug-of-war defeat to Minnesota, but the closeness of the win allowed the Steelheads to advance to the semis on percentage. There, Portland put an emphatic footprint on their season series with rival Seattle, upending the Grizzlies and forcing a rematch with the Freeze. Portland had courageous performances from Martin Coventry, Scott Wagoner, and Peter Doyle, but the Freeze were just too good in the second half and ended up premiers. - BB

From the team: 'After our best season to date (11-2, division 2 runners up), we will be looking again to improve this year after a strong preseason of training and recruiting. The steelheads are locked in for the 2019 season' - Tyson Okely, head coach

Key Matchup: 'Having Western Regionals in our home State gives us the opportunity to have our full squad on display in this mid-season hitout. Football is very strong in the West right now and we expect it to be a great tournament.'

2019 Outlook: Portland's prowess and their back-and-forth battles with Seattle, another club which has surged in the last two or three years, has been entertaining. Despite not getting the bikkies in D2, the Steelheads' 2018 season was the best in club history, and coming into this year, there is an air of resolve emanating from those in the sky-and-salmon. Most of the team returns in '19, and local recruit Javon Mason pairs his speed in the midfield alongside the nearly uncatchable Alex McPhee on the ball. Captain Erik Anderson keys a stingy backline for the Steelheads, and Wagoner, who was one of the best on ground at regionals and had a key opening goal in the final despite the loss, looks to have another big year. The last time they made the trek to Florida, they won the D3 title for the second time. They should travel well and if they bring a full squad, they're a good chance to finally capture the D2 trophy. - BB

Nationals Seeding Prediction: High Seed, Division 2

2018 Record: 2-9
Nationals: 2-1 5th Place, Division 3

2018 Recap: The only way you can't see the sun shine is if there are clouds in the way, and though the record would have one imagining an overcast season for Sacramento, the Suns developed momentum for the 2019 season and were in just about every game on the way. They gave the home fans at Western Regionals some excitement in the NorCal heat, taking Portland and Orange County to their limits and notching a win over the talented Arizona Outlaws. The other win was in their last game of the regular season over the Golden Gate reserves, leading them into their first appearance in D3 since they beat Philly to win it in 2014. Their showing in Racine typified their season; always in it. A seven-point win against Carolina, an eight-point loss to Boston, and then a heart-stopping one-point win over Des Moines in the 5th place game. Saleh Tyebjee, who has moved onto Seattle this season, picked up the Most Consistent medal. - BB

From the team: 'After a strong recruiting year and a good showing at Nationals, we are hoping to continue to build on last season's momentum, further developing our massive group of sophomores. Overall, there is a lot of excitement buzzing around the Suns team this pre-season. It is shaping up to be another solid year of recruitment to match last year's batch of athletes. There is a lot of high expectations with this young & developing team...again, mostly Americans, but the Aussie contingent is growing.' - Kendall 'Rabbit' Hutchings

Key Players: 'The Suns are most looking forward to playing the Seattle team. Its time for redemption after the sore loss at the Stumptown Throwdown in 2018. In addition, Seattle has picked up one of the Suns' elite players, so we'll be excited to see how the Seattle team shapes up with the addition of Saleh Tyebjee.'

2019 Outlook: The departure of Tyebjee will not leave Sacramento high and dry, for they have an omnipotent class of sophomores coming up the pike to complement their vets. One of them is Todd Goodwin, who proved himself to be a quick learner of the game, and will compliment hard-hitting Julian David and veteran Australian fullback Toby Simmons and American high-flyer Kendall Hutchings. The midfield is patrolled by teenager Casey Campbell, electric Facundo Lay, second year studs Cameron Fairchild and Jared Kay, quick man Kelly Meriano and Revo prospect Aaron Gray. Up front, there is goalkicking and strength to spare, as the forwards are led by Colby Campbell and Robert Kwoka, two big guys with big kicks. The Suns will get the bounces this year and that win number will be higher, and they'll be a threat in D3 come October. - BB

Nationals Seeding Prediction: Middle Seed, Division 3

2018 Record: 2-6
Nationals: 2-1 3rd Place, Division 2

2018 Recap: Four years ago, the Seattle Grizzlies played at the Western Regional alongside San Diego, one year removed from having just two players represent them at Nationals. In 2017, those two teams met for the D3 National title, the Grizzlies winning a classic. Seattle played a lot of competitive football, including seven full BCAFL games against Canadian foes, and their eight USAFL matches. Despite winning just four-from-fifteen, and being swept by regional rival Portland, the local stars, even the established ones, shone through for the black-and-emerald. Led by Revo Max Depina and new recruit James Kinder, Seattle was still thought of as a chance for a repeat title. Brushing aside San Diego and Dallas in the group stage, the Steelheads again got the better of the Grizz despite Austin Cox having one of the best games of his young career. On the plus side, the depth of the team was apparent as the Grizzlies' reserves, backed by Vegas and the Outlaws, went to the D4 Grand Final and lost to Baltimore. - BB

From the team: 'The Seattle Grizzles have established an excellent foundation in terms of numbers and culture and expect to continue to build in 2019. The men's team competed strongly at US Nationals in 2018 and would like to take another step this year, although in a close competition we realize that any progress will take a lot of hard work. The Grizzlies do expect to field two full men's teams at US Nationals in 2019, which is a great step for the club. With a number of regional tournaments and games against Canadian teams scheduled, we look forward to getting game time into some exciting prospects and playing hard, tough, attacking football every time we take the field. The Grizzlies will not be beaten for effort in 2019.' - Andrew Donlen, Coach

Key Matchups: 'Our inaugural Cascadia tournament is sure to be a ripper! All games should be extremely competitive with Portland, Arizona Outlaws, and Sacramento currently confirmed.' [Authors note: The Grizzlies have since confirmed that they will be travelling to Honolulu to play the Hawai'i Eagles on September 7th]

2019 Outlook: This is another instance where you have to throw away the record when talking about how good this team can be at full strength. DePina is in Australia playing for Melbourne Uni, but he should be back for Nationals and when he does, he'll combine with another premier Revo defender: Saleh Tyebjee. 'Salad''s impact on the team cannot be understated, as it takes a side of all around talent and brings it up another level. Kinder is going to be competing for a spot at IC2020 as well, and his potential is pretty high. The Australian contingent isn't as flashy as the other teams on the West Coast, but when you look at players like Tex Edmonds, Karl McCough, and a few of the others up front, the attack supports all of that speed and athleticism coming from the back. If Seattle can rattle the cages of Portland, Seattle, and Golden Gate, have a good season in the BCAFL, and bring a deep team to Sarasota, they will have a legitimate argument for a D1 at-large spot. - BB

Nationals Seeding Prediction: Low Seed, Division 1

2018 Record: n/a
Nationals: n/a

2019 Outlook: Utah finally has a USAFL team, and the War Gulls are already bringing in a dozen-ish people to their weekly trainings which is a great site to see. With former Des Moines Rooster Danny Cowser and former Baton Rouge Tiger Allen Cameron leading the way, Wasatch's goal will be to get a match against neighboring Denver, Las Vegas, or one of the Arizona clubs in this season with the hopes of bringing a more complete side to Nationals next year. Either way, there are steps being made forward for the league's 45th club and that's always a good thing.

Nationals Seeding Prediction: Division 4

Photo Credit: Ray Kwan Photography