Game Preview: Nordmen vs. Falcons

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After a strong start to the 2019 season, the Warriors of the Four Winds return home in search of their third win of the season.

Two games down, two convincing wins for the Rovaniemi Nordmen. Jyväskylä proved to be a pesky opponent, but lacked the stamina to keep up with the Nordmen to open the season in Saarenkylä. A week later in Kuopio, the final score told a story of one team that was far superior to the other –and could have been even worse, if not for a few drops– as the Nordmen wiped the floor with the Steelers’ development team, the Veljmiehet.

Prior to the season opener, both of these opponents were thought to be the stiffest competition in Rovaniemi’s group, but as we approach the end of the first month of the of this summer’s campaign, neither presented a truly great threat at any point. How will Rovaniemi handle the Hyvinkää Falcons this upcoming Saturday at Susivouti? Let’s break down some of the key factors and players heading into this match-up to find out.

What to expect from the Falcons

Hyvinkää is set to make the very long road trip to Rovaniemi this weekend, after opening their season at home last week against the Oulu Northern Lights. Hyvinkää came out on top against Oulu, winning 26-6. According to Oulu’s game wrap-up, Hyvinkää has a strong passing game and was able to render the Northern Lights’ running game completely ineffective, en route to a season-opening victory. The week prior, Oulu shut-out Kuopio by a final of 20-0 on a rainy, windy day at Castrén Field. Maybe the long road trip left Oulu’s roster depleted and outmatched, or maybe Hyvinkää really does have a solid defense and formidable passing attack. There’s reason to believe both of these, but how will they stack up against Rovaniemi?

One of the advantages that many of the southern teams have is their youth development programs. Hyvinkää is included in this discussion, as they have consistently had members of their youth squads joining the national team ranks over the past few years. What does this tell us? It tells us that Hyvinkää has young talent that cannot be ignored, but how much of that talent will be eager to make the trip to Rovaniemi? If they do, then Rovaniemi could have their hands full with a younger and faster roster than expected. That is a big “if”, though, as the long, 10-hour-plus road trip will absolutely have an impact on the Hyvinkää roster.

What to expect from the Nordmen

After an opening win over the Jyväskylä Jaguars to open the season, the Nordmen kept right on a trucking when they made the trip down to Kuopio nearly two weeks ago. After their road game loss to Oulu, many believed that the Veljmiehet would be better-prepared for their home opener when Rovaniemi came to town. That was not the case. Not at all. In fact, by all accounts, the game could have been much worse than the 0-53 final score told; with Rovaniemi coming out as the clearly superior team against a squad with Maple League-level coaching. After chatting with many of the players, at least three, would-be touchdowns slipped through their fingers on the day. The Nordmen will be looking to get them back –and even more– when Hyvinkää makes the journey to the Arctic Circle, this weekend.

A lot has been made about the Nordmen offense after two impressive showings, thus far. QB Rafael Piñeda and WR Alfonso Ikäheimo worked out their issues and got back on the same page again in Kuopio with the combo connecting for four TDs and about 120 yards through the air. Welcome back, Ralfie & Alfi. We missed you guys. On the ground, Axl Isaksson continued his strong start to the season by adding two TDs on the day and tallying about 80 yards against Kuopio’s defense. The speedy and shifty Kaarle Silander also added his first TD of the season; adding to an already potent Nordmen offensive attack. With no injuries suffered for the second game in a row, two weeks to game-plan and prepare and gaggle of weapons eager to show that each of them can carry the load when needed, expect the Nordmen offense to be fresh and ready to burn up the field at Susivouti.

The unsung hero of the 2019 season has been the Nordmen defense. Well, maybe not “unsung”, but as is usually the problem in American football, conversations tend to gravitate to discussions about the offense. As the saying goes, “offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships.” The Nordmen proved this last year and this defense is out to do the same again. 12 points is all that the Nordmen have given up this season. Take away two, big plays that were a result of mental errors, and the Nordmen wouldn’t have given up a single point this season. The Nordmen are better in every defensive position this year, and it shows. Rookie Elmeri Sillman has had a brilliant start to the season on the defensive line and DB Oskari Kurtti bounced back for a solid performance in Kuopio, giving opposing passing attacks reason to lose sleep the night before a game. Although a handful of defensive starters didn’t make the trip to Kuopio, the defense still walked away with a shutout and even greater confidence in the abilities. With OLB Juhana Pelkonen and S David Kreuzhuber returning to the starting roster for this next game, expect the Warriors of the Four Winds to continue their domination.

Players to watch: Falcons

With no roster listed online, we’re gonna go with positions that are going to be key to watch this Saturday at Susivouti. The first one that we have to look at is the quarterback position. If the Nordmen defensive front seven continues its dominance against Hyvinkää, we will likely see a fella in a red jersey running for his life for most of the game. If their starting QB can run and scramble well, then it could make for a minor speed bump for the Nordmen rush. Whether or not Hyvinkää’s QB can manage the game may not matter if they can’t move the ball on the ground, though, which no one has been able to manage against the Nordmen, going back to last season.

The Falcons defensive secondary is the other group to watch in this game. Rovaniemi has a stable of stud wide-outs that are going to be extremely difficult to stop. If they can’t cover well or make the tackle upon first contact, then they are going to be in for a long afternoon of watching blue jerseys running away from them. Focusing on one player will only lead to getting burned by another, so if the Falcons have depth at DB, they may be able to make a game of it.

Players to watch: Nordmen

Teemu Nätynki, Axl Isaksson & David Kreuzhuber.

A full year removed from knee surgery, Nätynki has returned to solid form along the Nordmen offensive and defensive lines. Linemen don’t get the praise they deserve –unless they pile up sacks or force turnovers– but Nätynki is having a great season and is pumped to get back on the field. It’s guys like him doing their jobs well that allow us to have stand-out players on both offense and defense.

I’ve got to think up a good nickname for Axl Isaksson. This kid went through a body transformation over the last year and is quite possibly the strongest pound-for-pound player on this roster. Where last year there was hesitation or uncertainty, there is now confidence and authority. Isaksson runs like a freight train, but with the potential speed of a Pendolino. Consistently breaking tackles, if he gets some open field we could easily see him break off a big run and a huge score. I’m hoping for that this Saturday.

Safety David Kreuzhuber makes his season debut this Saturday at Susivouti. When we spoke with him before the season, he was excited to get back on the field and pick up right where he left off last year. We’re hoping for the same! He brings even greater experience, strength and depth to an already impressive Nordmen secondary that will be even scarier with him suiting up. Kreuzhuber‘s instincts and knowledge of the game makes him a dangerous adversary for any offense; whether they’re running the ball or trying to move it through the air. He’s got great hands and hits like Rocky Balboa. He may not be the biggest guy out there, but he will make his presence known. You can count on that.

Prediction

Where to begin?

Two convincing wins to start the season. 88 points scored and only 12 allowed. A rotating stock of play-makers and standouts in all facets of the game. To be honest, I’m afraid that I’m going to just sound even more biased here than I did last game. Oh well, confidence is key and I’m confident that this game will end in the same result as the previous two.

Final score prediction: 39-6. Nordmen win.

Important info

Kick-off is at 2pm, Saturday June 29th at Susivouti. Additional information can be found in our Facebook event. The forecast for the day is expected to be in the mid-teens and possibly rainy, so consider bringing your umbrella and rain poncho along. Admission is 5€ for adults and everyone under 18 is free of charge. Food and refreshments will be available at the snack bar, as well.

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