WORLD LEAGUE – Aztec warriors are heading north on their way to invade Canada after the AF#25 Mexico Aztecs (9-4-0) survived the overtime period of fantasy overtime to defeat the AF#14 Buenos Aires Blue Dogs (8-5-0) by just a 0.67 point margin in the Western Conference Wild Card Game. The match was a rematch of the 2017 Western Conference Championship, both games held at Mexico City’s Aztec Stadium, but with very different outcomes. The 2017 game saw the Aztecs routed and embarrassed by the visiting Blue Dogs, 106-49, but in their return visit to MXC, Buenos Aires encountered an Aztecs squad ready to fight for each and every yard. The Blue Dogs got off to a good, early lead, but Mexico kept themselves in it, their back up halfback Doug Martin doing well enough in his role replacing an injured Melvin Gordon and accounting for 9 points with 32 rushing yards and a touchdown, but it was their lead back, Ezekiel Elliot, that carried the load as the team’s workhorse, scoring 20 points for his 192 all purpose yards. By Sunday night, Mexico had taken the lead, but just slightly, holding onto just a 7 point advantage as Buenos Aires had only 1 player left to take the field on Monday night. Adam Thielen, an impoertant part of the Blue Dogs’ talented receiving corp, had been averaging 13.9 points per game on the season, and Buenos Aires needed just 7 and a half from him; another 5 yards receiving plus 2 more yards on his lone rush would have done the trick, but Thielen finished the day with 70 yards receiving and 8 on the ground for 5.47 total points, his lowest scoring performance all season. At the final gun, the score was so close it went into fantasy overtime, awaiting the week’s stat corrections and leaving the Blue Dogs with a slim chance as fans across Mexico held their breath. The Aztecs lost a point to corrections, but no more, eventually coming away with a 72.71-72.04 victory to avenge last year’s loss.
Advancing in their all time series with Buenos Aires to 7 wins and 4 losses, the Aztecs now set their sites on a trip to the frozen north of Edmonton, Canada where the AF#14 City of Champions (9-4-0) has been the cinderella story of 2018. The Rollers finished 2017 last in the league with just 2 wins and the second lowest scoring total of the season, but just a year later, they’ve parlayed the first overall pick in the draft (Saquan Barkley), along with the 8th overall pick (Brandin Cooks) acquired in trade as well as an additional 4th rounder, into a 9 win season, the Western Conference #1 seed and first round bye as the second ranked team in the World League. The league’s Edmonton franchise ranks 4th in the league in scoring through the regular season, just 2 points behind London who’s in 3rd, and a full hundred ahead of Mexico, giving them a 112 point per game average to the Aztecs’ 105 clip, and City of Champions have exceeded their average in 4 of their last 5 matches, including 3 games where they topped 130 points. Mexico however has beaten the Rollers in their last 3 match-ups, including in two meetings this season, accounting for 2 of CoC’s 3 losses on the year. Both of these teams are anxious to advance to World Bowl 7 in Stockholm, for City of Champions, this is their first experience as part of the World League final four after two prior playoff trips where they were eliminated in the first round, while for Mexico it’s a return from last season and they’d love to add a second Atlas Trophy to their 2013 World Bowl 2 victory. Already off to a 21 point lead after Thursday night’s game, the Aztecs are 7 point underdogs in the latest line, insuring that this one is likely to come down to a close finish like the Wild Card Game did.