2022 USAFL Nationals - Men's Div 2, 3, 4 Preview


The climax of the USAFL Nationals may be the Men’s Division 1, but the other three divisions are full of talent, intrigue, and skill.

There’s also that carrot of moving up automatically to the next division in 2023, and for teams to take home a cup of their own at the end of the weekend.

Here are the 22 teams to contest Men’s Division 2, 3, and 4:

Men’s Division 2

POOL A: Boston Demons, Minnesota Freeze, Portland Steelheads, Baltimore Dockers

Something about Demon teams and breaking droughts; twenty years after hoisting the Men’s D1 trophy in 1999, the Boston Demons won their second title, besting Columbus in D3.  Last season they ran all the way to the D2 Grand Final before being stopped by powerful DC.  With the Eagles moving up to D1, it’s the Dees turn to be the favorites in Divvy 2.  The experience of former West Coast Eagle Jeremy Humm and former Oklahoma Buffalo Jakob O’Meara-Gill combines skillfully with the height of Aaron Tenbuuren and the fluid midfield play of Ari Joniec.

The Dees should be penciled in as favorites, but this is a delicious looking pool and should produce some fantastic matchups.

Minnesota’s had success at Division 2 in the previous fifteen tournaments.  Winners in 2007, 2012, and 2018, the Freeze have put together a solid resume that includes the Central Regional D1 final, where they hung with the Austin Crows just about every step of the way before going down to defeat.  Young Revolution player C.J. Adams has helped the Freeze attack with an injection of youth alongside former Cann medal winner Ryan McCluen.  The usual roster of Minny mainstays will be there too, with Brent Fischer and Brent Mergen pacing play and setting up the ever-burgeoning talent of Josh Friday.

We certainly missed Martin Coventry and the Portland Steelheads last year.  They make the trip down the coast with a team full of athleticism and with a lot of Nationals under their belt.  They’ve been a perennial contender ever since being promoted in 2017, and they have players who can excel through the air and with the short game.  PDX’s American talent headlines the men in light blue; Terence Brasch comes back from Australia along with basketball-convert Anthony Golden.  Javon Mason and captain Erik Anderson, back from Revos duty over the summer, will try to take the Steelheads to their first title in six years.

Two tournaments removed from almost doing the D4-D2 double in consecutive years, Baltimore’s Dockers racked up another seven-win season while logging their usual share of frequent flier miles.  They went from Maine to Nashville and all points in between in the process.  Patrick Pryor and Nick Siska lead a fearless Dock Show into a group where they matchup well with their three opponents.  Val Kafexholli’s tireless workrate will be a vital tool if the Dockers are to repeat their 2019 heroics and make another daring run towards Sunday afternoon glory.

Pool B: Sacramento Suns, Orange County Giants, Houston Lonestars, Columbus Cats

Facundo Lay has his Sacramento Suns playing some of the best football they have in some time.  They were solid winners of the Western D2’s, led by Chilean utility Nico Carpignano.  Kendall “Rabbit” Hutchings possesses an almost interminable engine, as does Tristan Boyer out of the defense.  Toby “Sheik” Simmons anchors things for Sactown out of the back, and they’ve gotten a real shot in the arm through the play of the Hauptmann brothers, Lucas and Matt.  It’s been a relatively low-key rise to Divvy 2 contenders but playing so close to home with a deep bench, the Suns look poised to win their first Grand Final since their 2014 D3 triumph.

Home field advantage is a rare commodity in the USAFL Nationals and our version of “The Orange Team” has it in 2022.  The Giants’ record includes a huge home win against Sacramento and a battling record against San Diego and Los Angeles throughout the season. They’ll have their full compliment come across Route 91 in search of their first cup since D2 in 2002.  The addition of Gabe Martin del Campo, one of Tommy Ellis’s Revolution guns, has congealed an already balanced team into a good challenger for D2 supremacy.  Adam Shanks and Kelson Mustoe are amongst those who played in those back-to-back D1 finals in 2014-15 and they’re eager to get back there again.

The Houston Lonestars being in Division 2 is about as reliable as sunrise.  Since winning D3 in 2013, they’ve hovered in the 3rd-to-6th place region, but playing the tough schedule that they do down in Texas tempers them for whatever the draw brings them when we get to October.  Carey Nolan’s booming kick has been a feature of the ‘Stars clearances, as has Sean Smyth making room for offensive chances in the forward line. Danny Garcia, fresh from his breakout performance with the Revos in Canada, gives Houston a ruck platoon with consistent performer Chance Mire.

Combining quick ball-closing skills with silky passing, the Columbus Cats will pose a threat from the 4-spot in this pool.  They’ve been to the top of this particular anthill before, having taken out D2 back in 2013.  C-bus is a mostly American lineup, and fit the same mould as their captain, Clyde Simpson.  There is a lot of National team experience here, and a number of players who were contributors in the US’s victory in Canada this summer.  Eric Politz was a key member in the Cats’ D3 run in 2019, and alongside fellow quicks Rob Adams and Dean Panik, should put a bit of a fright into the rest of this field.


POOL A: Nashville/Chicago, Arizona Hawks, North Texas Devils, Austin Crows Reserves

Twenty-four years after they appeared in the inaugural USAFL Nationals Grand Final — there was only one division back then — the Nashville Kangaroos hopped their way to their first-ever Championship.  They’re not here to stop at D4, however, as they come in as the top seed in D3, accompanied by the Chicago Swans and Louisville Kings.  The Kangas and Bloods teamed up at the Central Regionals and bonded quickly, giving a tough field the proverbial red-hot crack.  Mo Howell and Ajani Crossley were the perfect one-two midfield punch that weekend and look to do it again.

It’s one of those “Only in the USAFL” things — In 2004, the Arizona Hawks defeated the Philadelphia Hawks to take out D2.  In 2021, they combined to lift the D3 cup.  This year they’re on their own, as Darren Henderson’s team brings a full squad to Ontario.  And… there’s a chance they may face each other in the final.  But first things first — Jason Wilhelm, Alex Fernandez, Kade Barney and the rest need to swoop their way through this competitive group, and that Sunday match against the Kangaroos may just be for that matchup.

It’s always great to see a new team hit the ground running, and good things are happening with the North Texas Devils.  Three wins in season two, and almost a guarantee that they’ll improve on last season’s winless finish.  They’ll have the rare treat of having a team they’ve already beat in their group, the Crows reserves.  Tim Dingness and Greg Kirkland have been two standouts for the Devils this year, and they’ll see the debut of experienced Japanese footballer Seiji Nara.  

Speaking of those Crows reserves, they round out this pool with the hopes of themselves and the D1 club doing a rare Nationals double.  They haven’t had much success at the D3 level, but there are players here who have helped the Crows become their current juggernaut.  Players like Simon Boyce, Hamish “Hammer” Pellew, and Seb Augiari haven’t lost a step and provide the pulse for a team that includes both height and good ball matriculation.  Lalo Harrerra, Jesse Aguire, and Keith Vosgerau will be ones to watch, as they look to make mince meat of opposin defenders.

Pool B: Quebec/DC Eagles*/Ft Lauderdale, Philadelphia/Virginia/Tampa Bay, Oklahoma/Dallas, Denver Bulldogs Reserves

How can you tell nature is healing?  The Quebec Saints have returned to Nationals, and it’s great to have our mates from La Belle Province back in the fold.  Winners of two D2 finals, they’ll lineup aside the DC reserves and a couple of Fort Lauderdale Fighting Squids.  There’s a few exciting rookies coming down from the North, including Philippe-Jacques Zaor, James Clock, and Youssef Abouzaid.  Couple that with Northwind vet Morgan Whyte and tall man Bogdan Rotaru, and the Saints might be again go marching in. 

Eight Philadelphians came to Austin in 2021 and, with Arizona and Virginia’s Darren Green, walked off with the club’s second D3 crown in three seasons.  They’ll form the core of a side that includes Mr. Green and three of his Old Dominion cohorts, as well as three from Tampa.  John Hinchen and Chris Gough, dangerous weapons in their own right, will be augmented by 20+ veterans Jon Loring and Dustin Jones, while Green and the defense look to put the clamps on another title.

Oklahoma, then known as the Okies and now back with the Buffaloes moniker, are licking their chops at a bit of payback in their own right.  Vanquished by the Hawks/Hawks/Lion team in 2021, the Buffs and Dallas Dingoes pair up to form a formidable, hard-hitting combo.  The Rasbolds and Caleb West will be there to help spur the attack and work the ball wide, and we’ll also get to see Dustin Brasel and his glorious mustache.  

Denver’s reserves team, despite being the fourth seed in Pool B, will be no pushover.  They got more run than their seniors team this year, and feature many a name from their halcyon days when they took eight National D1 premierships home from eleven seasons.  The names of Vanica, Garthright, Mann, Camping, and Posey still roll of the tongues of the commentators, and players like Carrington Beard and New Zealander Erin Sullivan give this team a winning punch.


Pool A: Golden Gate Reserves, Des Moines/Kansas City/Wisconsin/Milwaukee/Boston*, Las Vegas/St Louis

Conventional wisdom says that full teams usually perform the best in this mixed bracket, and which would give Golden Gate the inside track on winning Pool A and the D4 title.  Again, playing football on paper can be dangerous.  Des Moines, Wisconsin, and Kansas City have played together before so cohesion may come quickly, especially with the addition of an experienced Boston outfit to compliment Josh Curtis and the Roosters.  Las Vegas and St Louis, having rebounded quickly to bring good groups in 2021, have done so again in 2022. Jason Nunes and the Andersons will link up with Dave Zitko in the Blues to round out what should be a fun group to watch.

Pool B: Orange County/San Diego/Los Angeles, Sacramento/Wasatch/Atlanta/Baton Rouge, Denver 3rds/Seattle

Though they’re not a full side like Golden Gate the SoCal combo will have the advantage of knowing each other’s skills and playing right in their backyard.  Vets like William Crandall, Bradweatherall, and Blake Canfield will provide a good amount of skill.  Sacramento is bringing its deepest men’s contingent to Nationals, led by Jared Kay and Jim Blocko, and will compliment the skills of Finnish ruck Frederik Romar from Wasatch and Atlanta’s dependable Johnathan Rosenfeld.  Denver also is bringing the most in their hstory with enough for three (!) sides to go with Seattle’s talented reserves.


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