Game Preview: Jaguars vs. Nordmen

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The first of back-to-back road games to end the regular season, will see the Nordmen travel to Jyväskylä to take on the Jaguars and their lofty, upset hopes.

Let’s just get this out of the way right now. About two weeks ago, the Jyväskylä Jaguars posted their game preview and brought up the fact that the Warriors of the Four Winds have won 14 straight games. They then proceeded to say that they will break that streak in Jyväskylä on this upcoming Sunday, August 11th. Just take a second to let that sink in.

Rather than talk trash back, we’re gonna address the other things that were brought up in that article. Although we’re a vocal bunch, the Nordmen have let their play do the vast majority of their talking this season; so we’ll just dive right into what we’re looking forward to and what you can perhaps expect to see from this game.

What to expect from the Jaguars

The Jaguars are a talented team. We are not going to argue that point at all. They have two very talented wide receivers that have seen action at the U-19 national team (Kaapo Peurakumpu) and Maple League (Kalle Leppänen with the Tampere Saints) levels this year. These guys showed great promise against Rovaniemi, but despite their best efforts weren’t able to have a profound impact on the game because of the overwhelming pressure applied by the Nordmen front 7. Aleksi Syrjänen was effective in evading the rush with his athleticism, but the Rovaniemi secondary also shut him down very effectively. Will the subbing in of Toni Bärlund have a positive impact on the Jaguars passing game? We’ll see soon enough.

The Jaguars have stated that they have the best secondary in the division. Not just Group 1, but then entire division. They’ve stated that Kristian Luukkonen & Mathias Suutari will be prepared to shut-down the Rafael Piñeda to Alfonso Ikäheimo connection, which they very well may be able to do. The only problem is that the Nordmen’s offense is way more than just two players so they had better prepare for a spread-out, high-speed attack from virtually anyone playing a skills position on offense.

The Jyväskylä offensive and defensive lines will be solid and they’ll likely be well-rested and prepared for this game, but can the will of the Jaguars trump the skill of the Nordmen? They’ll need to be good to both move the ball on offense and stop the run on defense.

What to expect from the Nordmen

14 straight wins. That’s a really nice number, but if you ask the boys in blue, they’ll tell you that it’s not good enough. With a strong roster of over 25 players making the trip, the Nordmen will be prepared to keep this streak going. Here’s how.

The Nordmen had their weakest offensive performance against the Jaguars to start the season. Piñeda and Ikäheimo were on different planets and the defense stepped up and even put points on the board for Rovaniemi. This team still has yet to play their best on the offensive side of the ball and that should scare Jyväskylä. The fact that the Jaguars also said that they will snap Rovaniemi’s winning streak has lit a fire that this team is ready to feed and watch it burn. Expect the offense to come out fast and aggressive on the strength of their hard-hitting and versatile running backs.

I saw a message from a Nordmen coach that said, “They’re claiming their defensive backfield is the best in the series and they boast with stats. When the DBs shut down the offense, there are less stats as you don’t get balls thrown at you.” I’m beginning to wonder if they have considered this, because although they have the numbers, they have given up many more passing yards and touchdowns than the Nordmen have. In short, Rovaniemi has the better defensive secondary. We won’t go so far as to say that it’s the best in the division, because we haven’t seen what Porvoo or Helsinki have in Group 2; but we’re looking forward to who will be the better one at the end of the game on Sunday.

Players to watch: Jyväskylä

Toni Bärlund, Kaapo Peurakumpu & Kalle Leppänen.

Bärlund will face undoubtedly the most aggressive and talented pass rush of the season when Rovaniemi comes to town. A fast release and quick decision making will be essential to his success — or failure — to lead the Jaguars.

Peurakumpu has a big upside and a bright future. Having played against some of the best in his age group in Bologna will have certainly helped him evolve his game. If Bärlund can get him the ball, containment will be the name of the game for the Nordmen secondary.

Leppänen caught his first Maple League TD last month against the Kuopio Steelers. He’s gotten in a lot of playing time and will be a dangerous threat, if he’s able to reel in a pass or two.

Players to watch: Rovaniemi

Tommi Uusitalo, Adrian Rodriguez & Tomi Väänänen.

Uusitalo has been a fixture with the Nordmen since the club was founded. He’s not the fastest or most skilled, but his motor is always running and this LB can hit. Watch for him to get his chances when Jyväskylä doubles Piñeda.

Rodriguez has proven to be one of the greatest additions to the Nordmen roster this season. His rugby background has made him incredibly strong and fearless in his play and he has continued to expand into a bigger role in the pass rush every week. His hands are like a crocodile’s jaws too. Once he’s got a hold of you, he’s not letting go.

Väänänen has been all over the defense this year, but he will move up to LB this week. No worries, though, because at 184/90 he can absolutely handle his own at the OLB position.

Prediction

Do you honestly think that I’m going to bet against the Nordmen; especially after someone has challenged to break their winning streak? Come on, man.

Final score: 12-38. Nordmen win.

Important info

Kickoff is at 17:15 at Viitaniemi. General admission tickets in advance are 6€ and 10€ at the gate. Student, retirees and children (ages 7-17) are 4€ in advance and 5€ at the door. Under-7 year-olds are free if accompanied with an adult. Limited seating is available, due to construction, so if you’re going either get the ticket ahead of time or show up early.

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