WORLD LEAGUE – “London Explodes!” That was one of the more colorful headlines Tuesday among the London papers, a reference not only to AF#21 London Falling’s (7-7-0) steamrolling of the Jerusalem Cheesheads (7-7-0) in the WFL Eastern Conference Wild Card Game, but also to the impending match-up between the local cross town rivals in the Conference Championship that has London’s World League fans exploding with excitement. After managing to rise just one game above the field on the strength of a final week, 1 point victory over Milan, Jerusalem punched their ticket to host the week 14 match, and Israeli fans were hopeful despite being 19 point home underdogs. The Cheeseheads had beaten London in 2 previous Wild Card Games – once on the road and once at home – in 2014 and ’15, had split the teams’ head to head meetings in the regular season this year, and held a 9-3 head to head advantage in the pair’s historical series, but on game day, Jerusalem could get absolutely nothing going. Their quarterback, Jared Goff, averaging 21 points per game this season, threw 4 interceptions and went the wrong way, statistically, finishing with a negative 5 points, while their only touchdown of the day came from halfback Lamar Miller who squeaked out a 10.57 score to be their only starter to top 5 points in this one. The Falling, however, went off like a rocket, racking up 8 touchdowns in the game with 7 of 10 starters reaching double digits and 2 of them topping 20 points on their way to the 124-36 victory.
The loss by Jerusalem, was the lowest scoring pwerformance in World League playoff history and will end their 2018 campaign while, for London, the victory means a trip into the hostile territory of Ashburton Grove for the Eastern Conference Championship Game. These two are the Jets and Giants of the WFL, fierce rivals, splitting the rabid fanbase of their Metropolis, and have faced off with one another 8 times over the years, with the AF#9 Old England Patriots (10-3-0) leading the series 5 games to 3. Both teams are post season veterans, sharing the record for most playoff appearances in the league, they’ve each made an appearance in every World League playoff except for 2015 for England and 2016 for London, though they’ve only faced each other once after week 13. That match was the league semi-final all the way back in the league’s 2012 inaugural stadium, and was also held at Emirates Stadium with London coming out on top 84-73 on their way to winning World Bowl 1. The following season, The English Patriots made the cross town trip to the Falling’s Wembley for their first and only World Bowl appearance, losing 61-94 to Mexico.
This time around, the Patriots are the Conference #1 seed for the second consecutive season while London is taking their second turn as the Wild Card. In 2017, they were the #1 (1273) and #2 (1256) scoring teams in the league through the regular season, and this season, being just barely edged out by Buenos Aires, they were #2 and #3, with England averaging 115 points per game and London right behind them at 112 per game. The last 4 consecutive meetings between these two have been won by the Patriots who are currently in the midst of a 7 game win streak, while London has suffered 2 losses over that same span – one of them to Scandinavia who knocked them out of the playoffs last season, and the other to England themselves in week 9, however they are 4 point favorites in the latest line on this one. It’s set up to be a real battle of the ages with lots of player action lined up from start to finish in games on Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, AND Monday, and likely won’t be decided until the very end of Monday night football when the 2018 Eastern Conference Champion will be crowned on on their way to Stockholm for World Bowl 7.