Stallions have best players
When everyone turns out, as they did for the 30-6 rout of the Dubai Barracudas on Friday, the Dubai Stallions are by far the best team in the Emirates American Football League (EAFL). They have a top-tier player at nearly every position.
The standout is Davion Miller, the bruising running back who was named MVP of the third Desert Bowl after scoring three touchdowns.
The Stallions also possess the league’s best passing quarterback in Chris Wentzel, as well as two tall and fast receivers in Askia Horne-Pierre and Jeff Nicolson.
Ali Al Hossana, the Iraqi, is an NFL-size tight end. Running back Mike Rubino, a UK native who would start for anyone else, came off the bench to carry four times for 50 yards.
The defence is strong enough that the former NFL linebacker Andre Sommersell hardly played and few noticed.
Trent Blackburn took over making big plays, with a blocked punt that created a safety, a sack and two tackles for loss.
The Stallions conceded only 90 yards in the game, 5 in the first half, and won the turnover battle 2-0. The Stallions’ victory was so emphatic that it prompted onlookers to wonder how this veteran collection of talent contrived to lose the first two Desert Bowls.
The explanations came in two flavours: 1) bad breaks and 2) Vivaldi Tulysse, the Abu Dhabi Wildcats star who made most of the big plays in 21-12 and 14-13 victories in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
The EAFL continues to have problems with penalties.
The Barracudas were hit for 85 yards on seven flags, but they got off lightly compared to the Stallions, who saw the officials step off 130 yards on 16 penalties. The most common infractions were delay of game, illegal procedure and personal fouls.
“It hurts the tempo of the game,” said Dustin Cherniawski, the EAFL general manager. He said the league needs to help coaches teach the rulebook to players, particularly those who did not grow up playing the game.
New stars in college?
Many of the top players during the league’s first three seasons will need to be replaced in the near term.
The average age of the league’s players is 31.
As in the case in Canada and the United States, new blood may be found in or around colleges, Cherniawski said.
Some UAE universities have recreational, non-contact teams, and many other residents are aware of the American game from attending universities in the US, and future EAFL players could come from either source.
Pushing to expand
The league would like to add to its four men’s teams and strengthen the Al Ain club, which has one victory in three years. A second Abu Dhabi team is being mooted, and Sharjah could be another expansion area.
In addition to hoping local Europeans and Asians take up the game, Cherniawski said the league could find former players already in the country.
“We have reached hundreds,” he said, “but we think there are thousands out there.”
EAFL Falcons up next
The league goes mostly quiet until October, but the EAFL’s all-star team, the Falcons, could have another game or two this summer, Cherniawski said, mentioning the possibility of match-ups with clubs in Europe.
“To get the guys playing international football would be huge for them and a great way to keep American football activities going during the summer,” he said.
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