A great opening of the season

On March 23rd the new season of LFA begins. The 2019 campaign will start from the competition between the Polish champion and the runner-up this means Lowlanders Bialystok against Panthers Wroclaw. Both crews have made major changes in their squads before the season thus it will be very difficult to point the favorite of the match. This without a doubt means a game full of emotions at the Olimpic Stadium.

In the history of their participation in the LFA, the teams have faced each other three times already. In the first two games last year, during the main part of the season, players from Wroclaw were better. Both games were quite equal, but the Panthers were able to dominate the Lowlanders in the second halves. This allowed them to win 37:12 and 62:27. Soon before playoffs though, Panthers lost both their American players and the most important games they had to play with 100% Polish line-up. Lowlanders, however, were getting stronger and stronger with each game and the desired, first semifinal win in four years finally came. After the match against Seahawks Gdynia, the team from Bialystok definitely caught the right wind. In the end, even Panthers weren’t able to stop them and as a result, Lowlanders are holding the champion’s title.

– It was a very unlucky season for us. A plague of injuries and at the end, an unexpected departure of the American players caused, that we missed the set goal literally by one point. We’ve changed the defeat into motivation though and we’re approaching the new season with our heads up high – said Michał Latoś, the president of Panthers Wroclaw.

The team from Lower Silesia after losing Polish Bowl XIII 13:14 decided to finish the cooperation with the head coach Nick Johansen, who moved to the Austrian league. On his place, came already experienced and known in Wroclaw, former supervisor of Devils – Val Gunn, who will, among others, get help from Skip Albano – the defensive coordinator. Major changes took place also in the club’s line-up, although they were mainly transfers into the club. Panthers decided to pull some of the top players from other Polish teams. Among them are Piotr Golacki – the best kicker of the last season, Przemyslaw Banat – wide receiver, the best player of Olsztyn Lakers in 2017 season, or OL Daniel Jagodzinski from Tychy Falcons, who was in the best eleven of the previous year. From Olsztyn and Tychy three players came to Wroclaw. It’s impossible to miss talented Antoni Idziak, who has played in Kozly Poznan (now Armia Poznan) for years. Most importantly, the defensive lineman Adrian Brudny has to be mentioned. The player has spent the last time in the European’s best German Football League, where he reached the final of the last season. The vice-champions of Poland have decided also to make use of the change in the league’s regulations, which allows having one European player in the squad. As a result, Rodrigue Aligenes came to the capital of the Lower Silesia. He assists Skip Albano in the coaching crew, but he can also play as the defensive back. Additionally, the squad has been strengthened with a significant number of junior players who reached the vice-championship of Poland. The goal for Panthers before the opening season was not only strengthening the line-up, but also getting as many players as possible to face the challenges of a very tight schedule. The two times winners of Polish championships will also, apart from LFA1 matches, participate in the Central European Football League, where during the group phase they will face three champions – Calanda Broncos (Switzerland), Istanbul Koc Rams (Turkey) and Kragujevac Wild Boars (Serbia).

– Panthers have always liked challenges. Time will show if we can successfully combine playing both in the country and on the international level, but we strongly believe so. As always, we open the season with conviction, that it is Panthers who are the best in Poland. If we weren’t strongly convinced of our abilities and our squad, it wouldn’t make sense to even start the competition. I can say that our goal is the championship of Poland and we’ll do everything to defeat Lowlanders in the upcoming game – said Szymon Adamczyk, the captain of Panthers Wroclaw in Monday’s American Football League Magazine at radio Weszło FM.

Panthers, with many developments, can’t complain having many holes in the squad. Mateusz Szefler finished his career as a player last year. A talented defensive back Grzegorz Lary is getting ready to move to the current vice-champion of Germany – Frankfurt Universe. It is also not a secret, that there were two candidates for the league’s MVP title last season – Tomasz Dziedzic from Panthers and Mikolaj Pawlaczyk from Lowlanders. In the end, the prize went to the running back of the champions, but it is worth mentioning, that none of the most valuable players of the last season will be present on Saturday at the Olimpic Stadium. Missing Pawlaczyk will definitely not be convenient for the champions. The team from Bialystok, however, got some interesting reinforcements before the season. Konrad Paszkiewicz or Piotr Sitek are experienced players performing not only on the national fields but also in the Polish national team. Straight from Warsaw Eagles, Lowlanders managed to get as many as six top players, which similarly to Panthers, visibly will improve the competition within the team. The team from Podlasie also has a very talented junior team, which reached for the bronze medal of the Polish Championships. For sure the more talented players will get their chance to play with the national elite.

– Many veterans from Panthers for sure remember that not so long ago it wasn’t only a geographical distance that was between the teams. Additionally, the major line-up problems and losing the final with just a point must be a bad memory. For sure the team from Wroclaw is much stronger than in July 2018. What’s more, run on the desire for revenge, they can become the best versions of themselves. It is us though, that currently hold the championship and the gold that hangs on our walls motivates us every day to work even harder to prove, that the last final in Wroclaw wasn’t just a lucky shot. On the backs of our heads we know, that our champion line-up got changed. Missing Marcin Kaima or Mikolaj Pawlaczyk might have been a problem at first, but the recent training sessions have proven, that Lowlanders are now strong enough to deal even without those top players. We know, that we are much stronger a year ago. It is both thanks to transfers and to the titanic work we’ve made in the offseason. We go to Wroclaw with a calmness of mind. It is just one of the eight matches of the main season which is a part of the plane “Polish Champion 2019” – said Konrad Marianski, the wide receiver from Lowlanders Białystok.

Apart from the MVP of the last season, the yellow-blacks will miss also Marcin Kaima. The Defensive back, who entered the best eleven of the 2018 season, decided to move to German Football League for this season. Kaim will be representing Berlin Rebels again. Another player who will not wear the team’s jersey this year is Mateusz Szczęk. The defensive lineman moved back to the capital, where he will try to help Warsaw Mets in their debut season. Lowlanders managed to keep Zachary Blair, who after the final received the title of the best linebacker of the season. The change takes place at the Quarterback position though. Ryan Kasdorf, who got both touchdowns for Lowlanders during the Polish Bowl XIII will be replaced by Rex Dousin. Similarly to the team from Wroclaw, Lowlanders decided to change the head coach. Despite winning the title, John Douglas Harper stopped working for the club. His place takes just 26 years old Alex Burdette. The American has though a significant experience already. He gathered his knowledge in the current champion of the college league Clemson University. He has also worked as the defensive coordinator in German Hildesheim Invaders and current champions of France – Flash La Courneuve. He will get help from the new defensive coordinator Bob Conroy.

– Nobody in the league missed the fact, that Panthers, just like Lowlanders are under the care of brand new coaching crews. It’s hard to predict the course of the game. For sure, however, we will see a solid and hard, yet balanced match. I don’t think that the game will be more difficult than the last final. First quarter can be a trial of feeling the opponent. Only then, when both teams catch the rhythm, we will start the real show. We don’t lack talented players. What’s important is, however, how well the coaches and the players will use those talents during the upcoming games – Said Sebastian Kojkol, the offensive lineman from Lowlanders.

Without a doubt, the clash between Panthers Wroclaw and Lowlanders Bialystok is the most interesting game of the first round of LFA1. This will also be the inauguration of the 2019 season, which is underlined also by the presence of a very important guest of the game – Consul Joshua Crabtree from the General Consulate of the United States of America in Cracow. The match will start after playing both Polish and American national anthems and raising flags of both countries. It is connected with a special celebration which takes place this year – one hundred years of diplomatic relations between Poland and the USA.

Mariusz Kańkowski
LFA Press Office

Translation: tricitynews.pl
fot. Piotr Piekut/Interception