West Coast Teams Dominate West Coast Nationals

The 2017 USAFL Nationals were the largest in history; nearly 1200 players, 53 teams representing over 40 clubs competed on October 21-22 at the San Diego Surf Cup Park in Del Mar, CA.

In the first Nationals held in California since 2000, it wasn’t much of a surprise that the West Coast teams dominated.  Six of the seven divisions had at least one California team in their top two finishers, and the Men’s Division One final was an all-Golden State affair.

Up and down the ranks, there was a plethora of great footy played on the weekend.  You can read the Men’s D1 and Women’s D1 recaps, and then check out the rest of the weekend from Del Mar:


Showing that their 2015 blanking of Sacramento was no fluke, the Quebec Saints picked up their second Division 2 premiership in three years over a resurgent Orange County Bombers by 29 points.  It marked the third straight year that a Canadian Club had taken out D2, with Calgary’s victory last year sandwiched between the flags from the boys from le Belle Province.

Quebec’s road to the final saw them through with double digit wins over Portland (20 points), Chicago (39), and Houston (18).  Orange County, playing in Division 2 for the first time in almost a decade after dropping down from D1, advanced in a similar manner, accounting for Sacramento (20 points), Boston (39), and Minnesota (19).  Both sides were the only ones in the D2 field to top 100 points in their group matches, and the game would look to be a battle of who could control the other team’s offense.

A tough opening stanza began with Quebec getting the front foot against the wind, and using their skill to pace themselves in the opening minutes.  Patrick Effting’s flying scissor kick with the first major score of the match, then Chris Shee converted from a nice mark to put the Saints up 13-0.  The Bombers had issues cutting through le Quebecois’ zone defense, and when they finally did, they were unable to take it to the bank and cash in.  O.C. was winning the ball off of the stoppages, and looking for find vets Adrian Heffernan and Brad Weatherall, but the Saints would press them down. 

Quebec’s third goal came through Evan Riddle on transition, and nearly got a fourth at the end of the half but was beaten by the hooter.  The pace of the game picked up as the Bombers finally got on the board, albeit in minor fashion, but Quebec were still 21-1 to the good at recess.

Second verse, same as the first, and Arthur Marchal opened the scoring with another Saints major, and Quebec continued pressuring the OC backs into near suffication.  The Bombers would finally get a goal, their only one of the game, but it was a pretty set shot from Heffernan, who played the Pacific fed cross wind perfectly to draw his team back to within 22 points.  But from there, the Saints held the ball and forced OC to come at them, and despite the best efforts of the California side, the northern invaders were too good, and were, in fact, the goods, by 29.

Efting’s efforts netting him the Roos-Cann Medal double, having played a sparkling tournament.  The Saints class continues to be evident, but also as such was the effort from the ever improving Orange County Bombers, who have served notice that their appearance in Division 2 may well and truly be a cameo in the hopes of playing well enough to gain promotion back to D1 in 2018.

FINAL: Quebec 5.6.36 def Orange County 1.1.7


Having continued the momentum gained by their rapid expansion in 2016, the Portland Sockeyes provided the core for the favored side of Women’s Division 2.  Led by returning Roos medalist Simone Shepherd, they would do so alongside the Philadelphia Hawks, who brought five women to San Diego; among them, USA Liberty players Amy Arundale and Erica Sacci.  Despite the challenges from four competitive sides marking the ongoing growth of women’s footy, the “Hawkeyes” combo ran the table at 4-0 to clinch the premiership.

The victory was fairly straightforward; as Shepherd, Lucy Parrington, Jess Blecher and the rest helped engineer 203 points, the defense managed to allow just one goal in 160 minutes of football, that against the Jillaroos in game three.  The road to the premiership was not just paved by the stars of the team, however, but by newcomers such as Holly Petrie and Jessica Detweiler, who put the pressure on up and down the field, and whose athleticism gave their team an extra edge.  Philly newcomers Barb Dempsey, Lauryn Kelly and Michelle Megill all played well over the weekend as that club looks to build its women program in the same vein as Portland.

But there was another story behind the “Hawkeyes” success, and that was of the performance turned in by the new and developing sides of the women’s game.  The LA Dragons’ Nationals debut on the women’s side was successful, as they teamed with Arizona, Des Moines, and reserves from San Francisco to finish second at 3-1.  The future of the Dragons looks bright behind Aussie Shayla Chalker and Americans Larin Sullivan and Leilani Silvio.  Veteran Melissa Armstrong from Arizona and Des Moines’ Emily Rice kept up their consistent turnouts in support.

The surprise of the tournament may very well have been the Texas Heat, who went 2-2 on debut and came in third place.  Made up of players from Houston, Dallas, and one from Wisconsin, the Heat began the tournament with a very hard fought 4-3 win against Columbus, and got up over Baltimore-Washington for their second W.  Considering that most of the team have only been playing footy for about three months, one couldn’t ask for a better start to women’s footy in Texas.  Aubrey Bagley took out Most Consistent honors and came darn close to taking out the Roos Medal on debut, and fellow rookies Sarah Pulliam, Jaclyn Sparling, and Taylor Ballinger all impressed as the Heat look to build.

Baltimore-Washington’s ladies brought their biggest ever contingent to Nationals, and teamed up with Boston to finish fourth.  Karen Stablein’s defense shone for the combo as did Cailin Deal.  Molly Halberstadt continues to impress at the club level, and put in a memorable effort.

Despite finishing 0-4 for the weekend, there were many positives to take out of the Columbus/North Star/Chicago outfit.  The Blue Ox debuted their new jumpers, and their quintet, led by Marie LaVictoire, played hard all weekend.  Chicago’s Amy McGuiness was most consistent for her side, and Jillaroo Bronwyn Smith kicked the only goal that Portland let up all weekend.  Most impressive, however, was Katrina Scherer taking out the Roos medal in her second full season, capping off a memorable campaign for her.


It took nine seasons for the Seattle Grizzlies to hoist a trophy, but they did it in magnificent fashion, hanging onto a thrilling seven point victory over the San Diego Lions.  Though it spoiled a possible fairytale ending for the Lions to win in their first tryst as Nationals host, their performance on the weekend signaled a return to their halcyon days of the 2000’s.

The Grizzlies came a-roaring into Sunday afternoon’s final with a head of steam in pool play.  Featuring a vaunted defense led by Revo players Max Depina and Kiel Rasp, Seattle kept all three of their group foes from kicking goals, turning back Columbus, Nashville, and Philadelphia by a 165-5 margin.  The Lions’ had a tougher road to hoe – after beating Baton Rouge by 60 points, they outlasted Arizona by 13 and North Carolina by two straight kicks to finish their Pool B sweep.

Frenetic paced footy with the wind blowing the ball and the players around punctured the opening few minutes.  Seattle’s defense continued to stand tall with Jessup and company parrying away early chances from the home side, but they weren’t able to stop Brian Nickel from kicking the first goal of the game, and the first major kicked against Seattle.  James Conrick would get the Cascadians on the board in reply after James Conrick banged home a free kick moved closer on a 25-yard penalty, to make it 7-6 Lions.

Max Depina has emerged as a star for club and country, and after back and forth play muddled the first half, he broke out from a pack and placed a picture perfect kick towards the goal square where Tex Edmonds reached up and plucked it, then went back and converted to give Seattle the lead for the first time right at the siren.  Halftime, and it was Seattle up by that goal, 13-7.

San Diego came out trying to roar their way back, and at the start of half number two, Jessup, Justin Yee, Kiel Rasp and the Seattle defense calmed the sound to a mew.  Gab Denton’s shot went wide to cut it to within a goal, and after Jessup took the mark of the game to save a goal on the line, but the hard work paid off with a Carpenter goal to give the Lions a 14-13 year.  The goal energized the Grizzlies, and the hitting and intensity picked up, and Seattle’s pressure would put them on top when the Lions got sucked into a chase for the ball, leaving Depina wide open in the goal square for an apple pie goal.  More pressure applied won Jason Clifford a free kick, which he converted to extend to lead even more.

Seattle tried to put the game away, but San Diego wasn’t done, as Rob Liwanag found a teammate who split the sticks and cut the lead down to 27-20.  But time was not on their side in Rolling Stones fashion, and the Grizz had their first title since the won Divvy 2 in 2008.  San Diego fought hard, and their performance in 2017 should be a springboard to sustained results, but for game MVP Alex Jessup and the black-and-green, it was a complete victory deserved of a team on the rise.

FINAL: Seattle 4.3.27 def San Diego 3.2.20.


Footy in Oklahoma began with the Tulsa Buffaloes 2010 and expanded with the Oklahoma City Flyers in 2016.  Just weeks after the two sides announced their coming together to form Oklahoma Footy Club, the boys from the Sooner State combined with the Little Rock Coyotes and ripped through the Divvy 4 field and took out the New York/Portland combined reserves side by 46 points.

Knocking back Golden Gate, Des Moines, and the defending D4 champions from Cincinnati, the Oklahomans won their games by a combined 246-19.  They did so on the backs of Aussies Lachlan O’Callaghan and Jake Goodrick, and American veteran Dustin Brasel.  They would face Roos Medal winner Allistar Evans and the Magpies-Sockeyes combine in the final, and though the NY-PDX side was tough, OFC was much the best on the day.  Staking themselves out to a big lead early, Oklahoma used the strength of Brasel, Shane Hood, Jeremy Ingram and Chris Cox to muscle off the Steel-Pies, and saw through the win.  Oklahoma won its first USAFL title, and the new club will be primed and ready to do some damage in 2018.

FINAL: Oklahoma FC 6.11.47, New York/Portland 0.1.1


The 2017 Nationals saw the launch of the Reserves Division, exclusively for teams who brought standalone B-sides with them.  It was a mixture of old names and new, and the depth in which teams travelled was in abundance.  So it was no surprised that the two biggest teams of the last decade, the Austin Crows and Golden Gate Roos, met in the final.  Austin has a pretty straightforward route to the final, while the Roos had three hard fought games, including a 9-7 opener against San Diego on Saturday morning.

The Crows got up on top, however, as 2008 DIII Roos Medalist Noor Jehangir led the Texans to a five goal victory.  For the Roos, however, the final showing in “D5” made history, as Golden Gate AFL became the first club to play in three Grand Final matches during the course of one Nationals.

FINAL: Austin Reserves 7.6.48, Golden Gate Reserves 3.0.18


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