The 2016 Desert Bowl will be contested between the Dubai Barracudas and Abu Dhabi Wildcats after they won in the Emirates American Football League (EAFL) semi-finals at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi on Friday.
Dubai Barracudas 33 Al Ain Desert Foxes 0
The league’s No 1 ranked offensive and defensive team in the regular season easily beat the Al Ain Desert Foxes in the first of Friday’s semi-finals at Zayed Sports City.
The Barracudas finsih the regular season undefeated and will make their second straight visit to the final, but unlike last season, they will start as favorites on March 18 when they take on the Abu Dhabi Wildcats.
“When you reach the playoffs, the regular season counts for very little,” Barracudas coach Kyle Jordan said. “Everyone starts at 0-0 again. We needed to get off to a fast start and put the game away early.”
Dubai’s ground attack once again did the bulk of the damage on Friday as the league’s leading rusher Luke Norrey amassed more than 125 yards. He reeled off two big gains to set up fellow running back Quinton Collins for a one-yard score on the game’s opening drive, and then followed that up with a 77-yard touchdown burst of his own.
Al Ain’s hopes of reaching their first Desert Bowl started to fade with a minute left in the first quarter when Dubai quarterback Zavier Cobb found Milos Dimitrijevic in the end zone for a 22-0 lead.
Despite an indifferent year, the Desert Foxes showed glimpses of a bright future by taking the Wildcats and Stallions close in recent weeks. However, they struggled on both sides of the ball on Friday and the Barracudas took full advantage by extending their lead mid-way through the second quarter courtesy of Daniel Robinson’s first career touchdown – a 12-yard scamper behind a dominant offensive line.
“My team never quits,” Foxes coach Johnny Sharp said. “We fight for 60 minutes, but we’re rebuilding and need to learn how to finish.”
Abu Dhabi Wildcats 18 Dubai Stallions 8
The second semi-final featured the only two teams to ever win the Desert Bowl.
Under the Friday night lights at Zayed Sports City, the two-time winners from the capital ended the Dubai Stallions’ reign as current EAFL champions, booking their place in this year’s final.
The Wildcats got out of the blocks fast when all-purpose back Vivaldi Tulysse took the home team’s first offensive snap to the end zone for an explosive 39-yard score and an early 6-0 lead.
Tulysse then set up a close-range touchdown for quarterback Jermaine Lattimore in the second quarter.
“It was certainly part of our plan to establish the run game,” Wildcats coach Tony Robinson said. “The Stallions are a solid defensive team, and we knew we had to try to wear them down throughout the game.”
Another Lattimore touchdown run from two yards out put the Wildcats in command as a third Desert Bowl appearance in four years looked inevitable for the Abu Dhabi club.
But the Stallions were not finished yet and ensured a nervy climax as quarterback William Robinson burst in from a yard out to reduce the deficit to 10 points. But that was as close as the Stallions would get.
“I’m proud of my team and the way we fought, we never gave up,” Stallions coach Anthony Daniels said. “It’s disappointing because I’ve never been able to field my full team this season. We’ve had to deal with a lot of injuries and even tonight we had key players missing.”
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