WORLD LEAGUE – Week 15 was the semi final round in the World League, where both the Eastern and Western Conference Championships were both Association Top 25 match-ups as the AF#9 Old England Patriots (10-3-0) hosted rival AF#21 London Falling (6-7-0) for the East while AF#11 City of Champions (9-4-0) hosted #22 Mexico Aztecs (9-4-0) for the West. The winners of each game would be crowned 2018 Conference Champion in their respective conference and be headed for Week 16’s World Bowl 7, while the losing coaches would get the consolation prize of assmebling their Conference’s All Star team for the first ever Week 17 East-West Game.
City of Champions Rolls over Aztecs
Playing in the Western Conference Championship for the second consecutive season, Mexico found themselves on the road this time around, after losing the Championship at home to Buenos Aires last year, while the home team, was the most unlikliest of WFL franchises to have made the run they’ve had this year. Playing in Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium, City of Champions pulled off a last-to-first turnaround from the 2017 season to this year’s playoffs, and entered the post season as the West’s #1 seed for the first time in franchise history. The Rollers won just 2 games through all of last season before coming into 2018 to post a 9-3-0 record and secure the first round bye and homefield advantage. The Aztecs though, had been their achilles heel, beating them in their last 3 meetings, including accounting for two of CoC’s 3 losses in the regular season. The frozen tundra of their home field, though, and sub-freezing temperatures proved to be key as Mexico appeared sluggish throughout the match, like a cold engine on a frozen morning, they simply couldn’t get anything going. Taking advantage of the Aztecs’ missing one of their dynamic duo runningback tandem, Melvin Gordon, to injury, and Mexico’s general inability to move the ball through the air, CoC’s Viking defense pinned their ears back and blitzed all afternoon, racking up 9 sacks and 19 points. The Rollers’ offense, meanwhile, also used the conditions to their advantage, moving the ball on the ground with halfback Dalvin Cook (136 rushing yards/2 TDs/30 points) and relying on their kicker, Ka’imi Fairbairn to come through for them with 5 fieldgoals and 17 points. In the end, it was a onesided affair with City of Champions living up to their name in the 89-49 rout to win their first ever Western Conference Championship
London Falls as England Advances
The 2018 Eastern Conference Championship was, predictably, a shootout between a pair of rivals with a long track record of success in the league. London and England, both WFL charter members, have been perennial powerhouses, with the most playoff appearances in the league, regularly topping the standings and scoring totals. This season, The English Patriots claimed the #1 seed in the East for the second consecutive season, insuring that the championship would have to go through their home turf, while London returned to reprise the role of Wild Card as they did last season, both years because of their outstanding scoring totals. The Patriots remain the winningest franchise in World League history, and came into the 2018 post season having won 21 of their last 27 matches over the last two years and were hungry to return to the World Bowl from a 5 year hiatus after being upset by Scandinavia last year. They enjoyed a 5-3 advantage in their all-time series with rival London, including the last 4 consecutive times the teams have played. London however, entered the match laying claim to a victory in the only playoff match the two had ever played, 110-100 all the way back in the 2012 semifinals, and were running 3rd in the league in total scoring this year, right behind England who was in 2nd. From the opening play, this meeting looked like it was going to come down to whichever team had the ball last as the British rivals went score for score with each other, neither team pulling very far from the other at any point in the day Sunday, until finally, England took a 3 touchdown lead by the end of Sunday night. But each team had a pair of stud starters scheduled to play Monday night, and the fireworks weren’t over yet. The Falling’s kicker accounted for 6 points of their score, and star halfback and flexback, Mark Ingram and Christian McCaffery racked up almost 200 all purpose yards combined to help them close the gap and even retake the lead. The Patriots weren’t out of it though, as the game entered the 4th quarter of the last game of the week, and although their stud receiver Michael Thomas was limited by London to just 3 points, their lead halfback Alvin Kamara gave them 15 points to take the lead back for the final time. This one could literally have gone either way in the final minutes of the game with opposing halfbacks battling for supremacy, but in the end, it was the English Patriots with the final possesion, leaving London defeated and half of the UK football fans dissapointed over England’s 106-97 victory, sending them to Sweden for World Bowl 7.