Season Preview Part I - Mens East Region North

Treats from Oz

Spring has finally begun to thaw all of us out in the Eastern part of the United States, where the will of the winter wisp forced the clubs to take matters indoors.  But now that there are buds on trees and the teams are ready to fire things up, the beasts of the east are aware from their vernal slumber.

2018 marked changing of the guard for both the men and the women in the Eastern Region.  The Philadelphia Hawks, usually feisty but overmatched, had the best year of them all, but a new era of league play – the return of the EAFL – saw a familiar sight as the New York Magpies were the best over the pod format.

This is the first of two parts in our look at the fourteen teams from the Eastern Region.  Here, we look at the teams from the northeast, from the capital clubs all the way up to the rocky shores of Maine, from old institutions to a scrappy bunch of felines.

EASTERN REGION – NORTH


2018 Record:      5-11
Nationals:           3-1          Premiers, Division 4

2018 Recap: No USAFL team played more games than the Dock Show in 2018, in what was Charm City’s first season as an independent club after the Baltimore-Washington Eagles’ fission into two clubs.  Led by talls Ben Crenca and Ian Payne, and by speedy on-baller Travis “Rocket” Flight, the Dockers picked up two key wins against archrival DC and a huge road win early in the season against Nashville.  They held their own against Philly and New York, and came to Racine with a fair bit of confidence in taking out Division 4.  That confidence was shaken (not stirred) in a close Saturday morning loss to the Outlaws/Vegas combo, but after two straight wins, Baltimore avenged their loss in the Grand Final to clinch the city’s first premiership in eleven seasons. – BB

From the team: “We are very excited for our 2019 season. Winning the Division IV National Championship was the best result we could have asked for in our inaugural season. The camaraderie and winning-attitude created during the 2018 season has brought back a strong core of 25 or more players. And we are happy to announce that we’ve already recruited a handful of new players who are developing very quickly. With those things considered, the Baltimore Dockers expect to compete for a Division III National Championship in 2019 and we hope to knock off some strong competition along the way! #Road2Repeat” – Ian Payne, President

Key Matchups: “Hawks on September 21st. At that point, we will have faced the Hawks twice during the season – at Eastern Regionals and on August 24th at home, but Philadelphia will be prepping for Nationals, which will be just around the corner. Since the Hawks were Division III National Champions in 2018, we know that playing a hard-fought match against their well-coached team in September (and hopefully pulling out a win) will put us in a good position going into Nationals.” – Ian Payne, President

2019 Outlook: With their conquest of D4 out of the way, the Road to Repeat will take them pretty much to every corner of the eastern seaboard, from Maine to Virginia.  Their matchups against D3 champion Philly will be super fun.  While the heavy game load sometimes wears teams out, the Dockers seem to thrive on it, which will again give them a bit of a launch pad heading into Nationals, at the very least in D3.  Fit teams win more often than not, and with Crenca, Jake Moyer, Nick Tyson and Nick Sisca leading a key American core, they’ll be ready to challenge up the ladder in whatever conditions Florida throws at them. – BB

Nationals Seeding Prediction: Middle Seed, Division 3


2018 Record:      7-6
Nationals:           2-1          4th Place, Division 3

2018 Recap: A club that usually is ambitious with their schedule scaled things back a bit last season, and it seemed to do the Dees a lot of good.  They racked up six wins against teams called the Cats – one against Columbus and five against their new next door neighbors from Maine.  They finished second in D2 at the Eastern regionals, just falling to Columbus on percentage.  After seven seasons in Division 2, Boston made the drop to Divvy 3, but they relished the cold conditions in Wisconsin, making it to the semi-final.  A tough, two goal loss to Ohio Valley ended the dream, but there was plenty to be optimistic about in Beantown.- BB

From the team: “The Demons had one of the strongest showings at Nationals in a decade and looking at 2019 as the year to secure the division three title.” – team statement

Key Matchup: “We are most excited to play Philadelphia Hawks and NYC Magpies at home in Boston. 2017 was the time in several years that the Demons beat the Magpies. That same season, the Demons lost to the Eagles as well. Both games will be strong challenges for the Demons but exciting to play on our home field. Last season, the Demons joined Quebec Saints and the Maine Cats in Shelburne, Vermont to welcome interested Vermont players in a friendly day-long round robin series of games. This season, the Demons are looking forward to another opportunity for a fun day up in Vermont with the same clubs working on expanding the players in New England.” – team statement

2019 Outlook: Boston will do a lot of travelling in 2019, heading to every Eastern Regional city north of South of the Border (the one with all the billboards).  Local heroes Sam Barnett and Mat Young headline a team that, while augmented with Aussie veterans, has a number of good American workhorses as well.  Geoff Hamshar and Ross Drukenmiller have been familiar names on the Demons roster for some time, and with recruiting in good nick, they’ll be in the thick of things with a good draw in Division 3. - BB

Nationals Seeding Prediction: Middle Seed, Division 3


2018 Season:      4-5
Nationals:           0-3          9th Place, Division 3

2018 Recap: While the Eagles didn’t win a National Championship like their rivals from up I-95, they did put together a strong effort from beginning to end, and though they came in ninth from nine teams in Division three, there was much to be proud of.  Led by two veteran Aussies in coach Dannie Seow and lightning forward Harrison Griffiths, the Birds of the Beltway put in a solid first effort as a new standalone club. – BB

From the team: “The goal for 2019 is to build on the solid foundation laid last year and continue to forge the identity of the DC Eagles. With strong recruiting and a focus on developing homegrown talent, the Eagles are looking to improve on last year's showing and soar to the top of the EAFL. New coaches Olivia Tritschler and Ryan Raybould are bringing crispness and intensity to training while captain Matt Woodruff leads the charge on the field.” - team statement

Key matchups: “The Eagles have September 21 circled on our calendars. After a long stretch away, we return home to host EAFL rivals Columbus and Boston in our last hit-out before Nationals. It will be a true test of our skills, fitness, and structure against quality opponents. The Denis Ryan Cup series against the Baltimore Dockers is always special, with this year's rubber match being played on a neutral ground in Annapolis, MD.” - team statement

2019 Outlook: Recruiting has been a strong point for DC over the last two seasons, and how well they do will be tested, mostly on the road.  The Denis Ryan Cup matches against Baltimore should be a joy to watch, and will be a good bearing of where the team is during the year.  Though big ruck Sam Rowley and scrappy rover Jay Levesque are gone, the recruiting game has been solid for the big birds of the Beltway.  Rookies, including ruckman Adam Bartkoviak, winger Stephen Seage, and brothers Craig & Clint Zarnoski will be key in the success of the Eagles in 2019.   The club will also rely on the burgeoning  growth from defenders Scott Williams and Bill Schmidt in the backline.  – BB

Nationals Seeding Prediction: Low Seed, Division 3


2018 Record:      0-6
Nationals:           Did Not Attend

2018 Recap: The Pine Tree State’s entry into the USAFL got a running start in 2017, and concentrated on playing matches locally through New England.  Bolstered with reinforcements from Nova Scotia and led by Revolution alumni Tim Fulwider, the Cats performed as well as can be expected in their opening matches against neighbors Boston.  They did take out their first club win on Labor Day weekend, as they defeated developing club Vermont Black Diamonds in Burlington. - BB

From the team: “The 2018 Maine Cats inaugural season was the beginning of a footy boom in Maine.  The club grew from a trio of footy Maine-iacs to over 15 players, many of them American newcomers to the sport.  The recruitment efforts have only increased over the offseason as the Cats eye a Nationals run in 2019.  Intraclub cooperation around the region has been boosted by the enthusiastic Mainers as their 2019 fixture includes matches against Nova Scotia, Vermont, Boston and Baltimore.  Home games in Portland have drawn crowds and players from neighboring New Hampshire where footy enthusiasts from the Granite State have come out to support the nearby club. All these trends point to a promising sophomore season for the Cats.” - Tim Fulwider, president

Key Matchup: “A key matchup on the Maine Cats 2019 fixture is the August 10thhome game against the Baltimore Dockers.  This marks the first time a non-New England team has traveled to Maine to play footy. The Dockers have a lot on the line as the defending Division 4 Champions and the plucky band of Mainers look to test their mettle against tough competition on their home ground.” – Tim Fulwider, president

2019 Outlook: Things are optimistic at the Cattery (or perhaps we can call it the Kittery, after the quaint harbor town in the southern part of the state), and they’ll face more tests as they too build their side.  New England has long been Dees country, but with the Cats getting their paws on the ground, and developments in New Hampshire and Vermont coming thick and fast, it’s a great time for footy up there.  Hopefully Maine will be able to pull together support and make their first Nationals in Sarasota. - BB

Nationals Seeding Prediction: Division 4


2018 Record:      9-2
Nationals:           1-2          4th Place, Division 1

2018 Recap: Though the Magpies would rack up their sixth EAFL title during that competition’s return, they would fall in the Eastern Regional D1 tournament for the second straight year and find themselves challenged by teams in the region they once lorded over.  Their only two losses came at the hands of Philadelphia, but after a 9-2 showing, Mike Murphy and company went to Racine to challenge in Division 1, and just barely got through to the semifinals after a 15-12 struggle over Denver.  Golden Gate ended the run with a convincing win, but Shane Lowry’s side showed depth throughout the entire campaign, and the Magpies remained a much optimistic group through the weekend and through the winter. – BB

From the club: "Everyone enjoyed the season, and the camaraderie that we built at the club this year is undeniable. We'll take that into 2019, and grow to become an even better team on the field."

Key Matchups: “The travel game to Nashville will be an enjoyable one, however the final games against Montreal and Denver right before Nationals will really prepare us for the tough Florida campaign ahead. We look forward to competitive games like these to really tell us where we're at, but we also hope to have success throughout the year with the EAFL season and the Eastern Regional Tournament.”

2019 Outlook: It’s been five years since the boys from the Big Apple lifted the John Harrell Cup, and even though it’s been a lean period in that respect, they have managed to maintain their spot among the top five teams in the USAFL.  Recruiting has been strong; the ‘Pies have continued to sweep in good recruits of both the Australian and American variety, and these new players look to accelerate back into the D1 Grand FInal.   Former West Adelaide (SANFL) veteran Pete Nelson joins his former Bloods teammate Kane Pedler in the black and white, and former Richmond VFL player Tyson Kruse takes his place alongside returning Australian guns Adam Marr and Marcus Jankie.  Sophomore New Jersey native Tim Arakelian will be one to watch this year alongside American keystones such as Murphy and Ojas "Juice" Desai.  Teams still have trouble defending against their well spread ball movement, and that keeps them a step above most teams.  With most of the senior squad back and these recruits adding to fuel to the fire (give me that which I desire), we might see the cup go back to Gotham in 2019.

Nationals Seeding Prediction: Middle Seed, Division 1


2018 Record:      7-4
Nationals:           3-1          Premiers, Division 3

2018 Recap: In a year that saw the city’s gridiron team win a Super Bowl title, it’s only fitting that Philly’s Aussie Rules team take one out too.  What a way to celebrate the Hawks’ 20th Anniversary.  A season series win over New York, something that had never happened in two decades of play, as well as three-from-four against Baltimore and the Eastern Regional title put Coach Jon Loring’s team in as the top seed in Division 3.  A win over Oklahoma was followed by a Saturday afternoon loss to Ohio Valley, which wobbled their title hopes.  But their win in the morning was enough for them to secure the wild card spot.  Led by brothers John and Robert Hinchen and with 21-year league veteran Dustin Jones in toe, the Hawks turned aside Columbus for their first ever win over the Cats, then got revenge over the Rats to bring back their first cup to the Delaware Valley in sixteen years. - BB

From the team: "In one word, BRIGHT. My outlook on the Philly Hawks future is so damn BRIGHT other clubs will need to wear shades when they watch us come October in Sarasota. Coming off a long awaited Men's D3 win and our clubs most successful season we are looking to compete heavily at D2 Nationals this year. However, knowing that winning another Championship for any club is even harder than winning the first one, we are taking a different approach to the season. Most of our games will be on the road with only three scheduled home games this year. We are taking a Road Warrior mentality as well as adding a second training to the weekly schedule. There will be much adversity facing us this year and I relish the opportunity to overcome" - Jon Loring, Head Coach

Key Matchups: "Really looking forward to hosting Tulsa on 9/7 in Philly!! They are a great bunch of guys and there are some long lasting relationships between some of the players from each club. It is going to be a great game and even better time at the pub that Saturday night with those boys. Cheers Tulsa for scheduling the trip to Philly." - Jon Loring, Head Coach

2019 Outlook: The Hawks did what they did in the final without veteran Ryan McGettigan, who moved to Los Angeles in August, and key forward Jon Ginsburg, who did his ACL just two minutes into the decider, was a show of how far they have come in the past six seasons.  The addition of the Hinchens, Chris Gough, Tristan Webster, and Damien Holland has given the team a fresh injection of talent up and down the oval alongside fixtures Loring, Bradd Gower, and Pat Miller.  This group needs at least one season of D2 under their belt, but If everyone stays healthy, and they can stay in form down in Sarasota, they might just continue the eastern resurgence. - BB

Nationals Seeding Prediction: Middle Seed, Division 2


2018 Record:      3-1
Nationals:           1-2          5th Place, Division 1

2018 Recap: Following their second D2 title in three seasons, the Saints’ would take part in four games against USAFL competition in 2018.  Their only loss of the year came on the road against New York in Yonkers, which has proved quite difficult for travelling teams.  They held true in the PJ Devine Cup with a huge win over Boston, then knocked back the Demons and Maine Cats in the Vermont tournament over Labo(u)r Day weekend.  The schedule, successful as it was, didn’t really give a barometer as to how the Saints would do in the competition’s top level, but they brought a deep side to Racine to test their meddle.  Behind former Roos Medal winner Patrick Effting and Northwind rep Morgan Whyte, the “Blue-et-Blanc” bowed gallantly to Austin and LA before accounting for Denver in the Consolation match. - BB

From the team: “Looking to compete and win against the “big boys” in Sarasota, while continuing to showcase the Quebec footy talent” – Chris Shee, Head Coach

Key Matchups: “The Saints are looking to be even more competitive at Nationals with more game time together late in the season. This year, the planned trip to New York City is going to give the Saints a chance to hone their skills together against quality first division teams.” – Chris Shee, Head Coach

2019 Outlook:  Similarly to Golden Gate, the Saints are the representative unit of AFL Quebec, a 9-a-side metro league comprised of teams from the Montreal area.  With the addition of the Montreal Blues, the competition expanded to a five-team circuit, showing how potent the recruiting side has been for the men and women.  They’ll have a similar schedule to last season; they’ll face Boston at home, then go to Burlington to face New England foes, then to New York on the road in September.  When they do get together to play 18-a-side, the Saints are beautifully consistent.  It will take something special for them to challenge the likes of the top three Sarasota, but the players that Quebec brings down are always up to the challenge. - BB

Nationals Seeding Prediction: Low Seed, Division 1

Cover Photo: Tim Koen Photography

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