Bells and Badgers - Previewing the Summer Series Week 2

Week one of the Summer Series is in the books.  And we still have two more weeks and four more carnivals to go.

From Cincy and Sac-town we now go to the Mad-House and Philly.  The keystone of our early nation, and the center of the USAFL mid-atlantic region, the Philadelphia Hawks host their second USAFL event with familiar foes for the hosts.  The Wisconsin Wombats, based in Madison, will welcome in new and old rivals as they build up their own reputation against some of the league’s best.

Here’s what’s on tap for Saturday, August 14th.

USAFL Summer Series -- Philadelphia

Lower Perkiomen Valley Park, Oaks, PA
First Game starts at 10am EDT
Full Schedule and Event Page

Men’s Division
DC Eagles (3-0), New York Magpies (0-0), Baltimore Dockers (1-3), [Philadelphia Hawks (1-2)/RVA Lions]

It’ll be a familiar song with one new musician this weekend at the Hawks nest.  For the third time this season, the Hawks, Eagles, and Dockers will gather for battle.  But this time they’ll be joined by the New York Magpies, who will make their 2021 debut.  The Hawks are the two time defending D1 regional champions, but this is a wide open field.

This tournament will have a slightly different format.  In the first round, DC will play Philly, while the Magpies take on Baltimore.  In Round 2, the winners of each game will play the losers from the other.  The top two teams based on record, then percentage if tied, will play off in the Grand Final.

DC might be one of the hottest teams in the country right now, and they come to Philly with a ton of momentum in seeking their first regional title since winning the Eastern Division 2 crown in 2016.  They have a full, strong roster, with strongman Sam Rowley able to rack up the goals and speed in the form of players like Paul LaShier and former Columbus Cat Tom Mathew.  Their only defeat this year is to Thor -- lightning halted their first tilt against the Hawks in June.

New York may be playing their first league game for the year, but they have been keeping quite busy with their NYCAFL metro league in the shadow of the RFK Bridge on Randall’s Island.  They went winless in D1 at Nationals in 2019, and are hoping for some redemption and to retake their crown as the beasts of the East.  New coach Adam Franklin has a delightful mix of vets and new players, and they’re paced by midfield utility Troy Danilo.

Jake Moyer and the Dockers have a thorn in their craw, and that thorn is an Eagles’ claw.  They have lost both matches this season to their Beltway rivals from the capital, and have revenge on their own minds.  The Dock Show is an uptempo style of footy and the local talent that flanks Moyer, such as leaping Nick SIsca, strong tackling John O’Connor, and former Dallas Dingo Patrick Pryor, are hoping for a more successful crack at the field, and the opposition.

Two years after winning two straight regional flags, the Philly Hawks are hoping that the momentum hasn’t cooled from the long break.  Their only win so far, an eight point squeaker against B’more in DC last month.  The Hawks are full of athelticism and experience, through the Hinchen Brothers, the old scholar in John Loring, Revo veteran Ryan McGettigan, ruckman Chris Gough, and developing stars Alex Coren and Tysen Bravo.  The Hawks will also have reinforcements from the RVA Lions, led by their founder, Darren Green.

Women’s Division:
DC Eagles (2-0) vs Philadelphia Hawks (0-2)

Each year, it seems as though there is one women’s team that surges ahead in development and comes to the forefront of the league.  The DC Eagles, after rumblings of being such a team in 2019, are headed to the Summer Series in search of their first regional title since 2018.  Players that were once promising rookies are now key cogs of the team.  Morgan Daugherty and Brooke Pye are two of the new class of rookies who have excelled in the first two games of the season alongside veterans like Mariam Mehter, Christina “CC” Sobral, and Mackensy Medlin.

It’s been a difficult go for the Hawks women in 2021, off the backs of their D2 title two years ago. They’ve struggled to make numbers, but should have a good core that may be topped up for the weekend.   The addition of ruck Jess Mayer, a former Eagle, give the team a new dimension in the middle of the ground, and the defensive tandem of Jackie Kershaw and Barb Dempsey should give the Eagles’ forwards fits.

USAFL Summer Series -- Madison

Reindahl Park, Madison, WI
First Game starts at 11am CDT
Full Schedule and Event Page

Men’s Division:
Minnesota Freeze (0-0), Denver Bulldogs Reserves (0-0), [Chicago 1-0/Wisconsin 1-2], [St Louis 1-3/Des Moines 3-0/Kansas City 0-3]

The quality of play across the midwest is achieving the levels that it enjoyed fifteen or so years ago, and we see traditionally strong clubs in Minnesota, Denver, and Chicago be joined by up and comers.  St Louis and Kansas City top the bill as they play their first regional tournaments in club history.

Minnesota played in Division 1 at the last nationals after an memorable D2 championship run in 2018.  It will debut in 2021 with most of its American stars returning, and the veteran firepower of Brent Mergen, Dan Stephens, Steve Fashant, and Ryan McLuen.  Youngster CJ Adams is one of the truest products of the USAFL youth system and he is one of several rising stars that should be on display in WIsconsin.

With its senior team having gone 2-1 last week in Sacramento, it’s up to the Denver reserves to step up and bring home hardware.  The Bulldogs’ 2nds have traditionally been a mix of new players and legends from their halcyon days as rulers of the USAFL world.  Geoff Shakespear and Luke Durkin were amongst the players who led the side to the Central Regional D2 title in 2019 at home, and they’ll try to bull-doze the competition this time ‘round.

They’re separated by a few hours of highway, but the Chicago Swans and hometown Wisconsin Wombats will join forces for Saturday’s play, having already faced each other earlier this season.  Chicago is led by German international Christoph Odenthal, who is a strong tall presence.  He’ll be flanked by a number of highly fancied recruits playing on familiar turf, including Chris Humes and Dakota Latimer.  Venerable Milwaukee Bombers players Brenton Riggall and Paul “Plugger” O’Keeffe round out the side.

St Louis, Des Moines, and Kansas City all took part in a three way battle in BBQ town last month.  In Madison, they’ll be one unit of veterans and newbs, and might be a good dark horse to sneak away with the weekend’s chocolates.  The Blues are excited about the quick decision making of Whyatt Whewell, and he should pair well with Des Moines’ veteran Peter Bailey, and KC’s Michael Brookshire.

Women’s Division
Minnesota Freeze (0-0) vs Denver Lady Bulldogs (0-0)

2-game, total point series

Denver’s dominance over the women’s game here in the USAFL has been long documented.  But it’s been Minnesota who have been on the precipice of breaking through in recent times.  The Freeze knocked off two Denver sides to win the 2019 Central Regional in Denver, and have made it to the semi-finals at Nationals two straight years.  Both sides have added new players during the long break, but which ones will make the difference?

Minnesota brings with it a strong influence from the gridiron game, in the personage of players like Connor Lewis, Grace Cooper, and Kaiya Sygulla.  All three are swift and tough, and the team is also excited about rookie Indi Conover and what she can add to the seasoned vets.  Catherine Georgiadis is back for another season, and her reputation as one of the best rovers in the league will boost those who look to impact the Freeze quickly.  The team will also have the services of Jesse-Linn Masters and Emma Castellari of St Louis who both excel at shepherding off the footy.

Denver’s 6-in-a-row days are long behind them.  But they did extremely well to recruit during the long break, and that should help them build numbers towards Nationals.  The team that they’ll bring to Madison is chock full of veterans, however.  Freedom alumni Allison Bremner and Anna Thexton lead the way, but there are quite a few new Dogs who have come over from other clubs since we saw them last.  Al Leonard, Katya Hewitt, and Marisa Poorboy all played in Grand Finals for Seattle, and Leilani Silvio joins the team after stints in Boston, Sacramento, and Los Angeles.

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