USAFL - United States Australian Football League Inc.

05/01/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/01/2019 17:23

Season Preview Part IV - Mens Central Region South

The Southern part of the USA is known for its open spaces, its hard working attitude, and its barbecue. No, seriously, there's a lot of it down there.

But the Southland is also loves its Aussie Rules, and in the expansive Central region, the teams down along the gulf and across the Sun Belt have played each other in some monumental clashes and represented themselves well. The Texas Cup teams -- Austin, Houston, and Dallas -- are the definition of a cornerstone rivalry. Nashville, Baton Rouge, and Oklahoma, varying backgrounds all, are on the way up and have culitvated local talent into growing their club on and off the field.

All of these clubs seek hardware at the end of campaign in Sarasota. For the Crows, however, they want another D1 trophy to top off their Team of the Decade status.

CENTRAL REGION - SOUTH

2018 Record: 10-0
Nationals: 4-0 Premiers, Division 1

2018 Recap: After going down to Los Angeles on Sunday morning at the previous Nationals in San Diego, the Crows made up for it by pretty much taking everyone they played out to the woodshed. Austin coolly won the Rob Dollar and South Central Metros, smashed their way to the Texas Cup over Dallas and Houston, scampered off with the Central Regional title to the tune of 194-1 in six quarters of football, and came to Racine as the number one ranked team in the country. Led by American stars Nolan Cox and Benjamin Carpenter-Nwanyanwu, the Crows staved off the Dragons then accounted for Quebec and New York to reach their third Grand Final in four years. What looked like a decisive victory with three minutes to go in the decider turned into mild heart palpitations when Golden Gate kicked two goals in ninety seconds, but the Crows parried away the final Roos offensive to hang on by five crucial points. The win capped off a double for the boys from the capital, as they had won the Reserves Division earlier in the day. - BB

From the Team: 'Obviously we were proud of our results from 2018 and when you come off that success, it's important not to get complacent, we're excited for the year ahead for both of our sides.' - Stefan Barr, head coach

Key Matchups: 'Our development squad is playing Oklahoma & Dallas in the Red River Cup for the second year in a row. It's pleasing to see this group, led by Ben Altman, continue to build, play some competitive footy and represent the depth of the club.' - Stefan Barr, head coach

2019 Outlook: With the decade coming to a close, it's no question now that the Crows are the USAFL's Team of the Teens. Despite falling to Los Angeles in the Rob Dollar Cup championship game, the Crows don't really show any signs of slowing down. Their sustained success is not just because of Aussie talent like Kenrick Tyrrell and Sam Gigliotti, but also due to the constant churning out of American talent like some sort of football champion machine. Brian Malesa, an undersized ruck who platoons with Cox in the middle, and defender turned midfielder Avram Rampersaud, augment an already strong local class. Add the reserves' success to that, and you have a team that should at the echelon of the USAFL into the '20's. - BB

Nationals Seeding Prediction: High Seed, Division 1

2018 Record: 1-2
Nationals: Did Not Attend

2018 Recap: The battlers from Baton Rouge trudged through last season and played their familiarly fluent football. Going 1-2 in standalone games, they went to Regionals and assisted Des Moines to a 2-1 record in the Central Regionals at Nationals. The Tiges sent just one player, Neil Stebbing, to Nationals to play with Atlanta and provided key support to the Kookas D4 effort at Nationals.

2019 Outlook: Though Baton Rouge's opener this year was a loss to Houston, the Tigers are already off to a roaring start, and will look to their veterans Stebbing, Brady Moran, and Matt Heintze to carry them. Their American recruits will be important too, a congregation led by tough utility Garret Remson. Baton Rouge's recruiting campaign will be important as they look to bring enough people 'round the Gulf of Mexico down to Sarasota for Nationals and challenge for the D4 crown.

Nationals Seeding Prediction: Division 4

2018 Record: 7-7
Nationals: 0-3 9th Place, Division 2

2018 Recap: Big D continued to be one of the toughest nuts to crack in USAFL play last year, despite the loss of gun forward Chris Willis. They asserted their toughness with a 3-1 record at the South Central Metro, solid wins over Houston and competitive games against Austin in Texas Cup play. At Regionals, they put in another torrid performance, going 2-1 and coming within a bee's diaphragm of making the final, losing out by just one point. They stepped back down to Division 2 for the first time in seven seasons, and though they would come in ninth from nine teams on the weekend in that grouping, they played tough football throughout the weekend, led by key defender Ben Collins. - BB

From the Team: 'The 2019 USAFL season marks a new chapter of footy in Dallas, TX. Season 2018 saw Dallas take a step backwards after a solid showing in 2017 and losing coach/big man Chris 'Willow' Willis due to visa issues, but the 2019 Dallas Dingoes are poised for many steps forward this year. A focus on recruitment for both the men and the women has added a plethora of talent around an already dedicated core of footballers, and everyone wants to ensure the inaugural Dallas Dingoes season is a success in every way.'

Key Matchup: 'The Dallas Dingoes have circled on their calendar the first round of the Texas Cup on June 1st in Dallas. This will be a great opportunity to use home field advantage to jump out to an early lead in the three game series against formidable neighbors, Austin Crows and Houston Lonestars. Success in the early round of the Texas Cup is a perfect way to jump start a premier season that will undoubtedly hold many challenges.'

2019 Outlook: A new era in North Texas football gets underway as the Dingoes take to the ground in blue and gold, and though Collins and captain Clay Roy have departed back home to Australia, the strong recruiting class will keep Dallas as competitive and sharp as the BBQ sauce they make down there. Vets Zach McKinney and Jay Duncan return to keep opponents guessing across the ground, while youngsters Dylan Murray and Ben McIntosh try to light up the scoreboard. Queenslander McIntosh is of particular interest, as his prolific goal scoring from last year should carry over to lift the Dingoes in 2019. - BB

Nationals Seeding Prediction: Middle Seed, Division 2

2018 Record: 6-7
Nationals: 2-1 5th Place, Division 2

2018 Recap: Houston is a city known for generating energy, so much so that it's their nickname. Their footy club sparked a good deal of it in 2018 with good victories early in the season over Baton Rouge and Oklahoma. The story of the regular season was their rivalry with Dallas - the Lonestars and the then-Magpies saw each other a lot last year, playing seven times and though Dallas won six of those matches, each of them was competitive. Three of those games were decided by less than a goal, including the one Houston victory, which put the Lonestars into the Regional D1 Grand Final. They lost to Austin in the final, a recurring theme through the season, but the work load gave Simon Craig and the gang plenty of momentum in Racine. - BB

From the team: 'The Houston Lonestars are looking forward to kicking off the 2019 USAFL season after finishing the 2018 season strongly with a 2-1 record at Nationals and Central Regionals runner-up against a strong Austin team. With a large group of new American (and Canadian) blood added to the team in the last 12 months and a number of key players coming back from injury including Coach/Captain Simon Craig & backman Sean Smyth, 2019 looks to be a positive year of growth for the Houston Lonestars.'

Key Matchups: 'The Lonestars are excited to be travelling to Denver for the 2019 Central Regionals Tournament for the chance to kick goals from deep in the thin Colorado air against a number of teams from outside Texas including Minnesota and regular mid-west rivals Chicago.'

2019 Outlook: It seems that the Lonestars have been around forever, but in fact 2019 will be just their tenth season of existence. Their success in building a club has been an all-around triumph, and on the field, the Lonestars will be donning new jumpers and a new logo to celebrate their next chapter. They also will gain some athletic tall timber to chop down opponents as former NCAA Division II basketball player Vin O'Beirne, all 6'8' of him, steps into the ruck and looks to become a feared part of the Lonestar attack alongside Canadian second year Phenom and aptly named football player Steven Johnson. Other Americans who look to continue their own individual upward surges include Mike Monahan, Jeff Jamnik and former Boston Demon Aaron Tenburren; they all take after the mold of David Restrepo, who will again be playing for the Melbourne University Blacks this season. - BB

Nationals Seeding Prediction: Middle Seed, Division 2

2018 Record: 4-5
Nationals: 2-1 3rd Place, Division 4

2018 Recap: Irrespective of what the record says about the Kangaroos in 2018, the boys from the Music City put together a consistent season from start to finish, one that gained them high praise across the Central Region. Their first crack at hosting regionals was winless, but they played three tough teams really well, and only managed to lose out to Dallas by four points. They were hot coming into Nationals, having dusted off North Carolina, Columbus on the road, then Ohio Valley. Playing in Division 4, the Kangas topped their three team group with wins over Wisconsin and Houston/Ft. Lauderdale. Nashville looked smooth in their two games, led by Saul Camarena and eventual Roos Medal winner, Logan Monday, but would bow to eventual champion Baltimore in the semi-final. - BB

From the team: 'Outsiders acknowledge our Men's and Women's teams had a successful 2018 rebuilding year, fielding the men's first all-Nashville National's squad in years as well as fielding our inaugural women's team. For the men, the talent and grit are there, question will be how quickly the boys can up their footy IQ and adapt to 18-a-side tactics. That said, I wouldn't bet against us.'

Key matchups: 'Baltimore. We love playing the Baltimore boys, but they edged one past us at home last summer and simply outclassed us and ended our season at Nationals. They exploited our weaknesses and now it's up to us to improve, adjust and return the favor on them.'

2019 Outlook: Nashville will be without two of their main sparkplugs, Mo Howell (Achilles) and Bradford Chamberlain (shoulder) due to injury, but this is a team with talent, heart, and desire in reserve. Team captain David 'Frosty' Harris, one of the toughest players in the region let alone the USAFL, is coming off a Revo tour appearance in Ireland last season and has been hard at work in the off season, impressing all and sundry with his fitness levels. Two second year guns return off the impetus of stellar first campaigns from Carlos VillicaƱa and team rookie of the year Kersei Davis. The hope is that the 'Roos will be able to bring a full side and be able to compete in Division 3, where they would be a good bet for a top-two group finish.- BB

Nationals Seeding Prediction: Low Seed, Division 3

2018 Record: 2-10
Nationals: 1-2 7th Place, Division 3

2018 Recap: In their first full season as an official congealed USAFL entity, the Okies set forth on defending their 2017 D4 crown. This is another case where their record totally belied the effort on the field, or their potential as a club. Their wins were over Des Moines and Atlanta, while their best performance of the year was arguably against Dallas, where the Buffs managed to keep the talented then-Magpies side to within a four goal margin. At Nationals, Oklahoma went three-and-out, losing to Ohio Valley, Philadelphia, and North Carolina, but earned admiration for its play behind big tall strong dude Chris Cox and warhorse coach Alex Mirakian. - BB

2019 Outlook: As mentioned above, the Sooner boys are growing and playing very good football, even if the results haven't been there. They always seem to bring it when coming to tournaments and on the road. They already have a hard-fought loss to Houston on the books, but will be making their furthest road trip to Philadelphia in September to try and avenge their Nationals loss to the Hawks. They're one of the physically strongest teams in the completion boasting the likes of Cox, Ben Walker, and Shane Hood, but they have skedaddlely speed with the Andrew Rose, Caleb West, and Jakob O'Meara-Gill running the field. - BB

Nationals Seeding Prediction: Low Seed, Division 3