Game Preview: Nordmen vs. Steelers Veljmiehet

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A tale of two very different seasons will continue in Rovaniemi on Saturday, when the winless Steelers Veljmiehet travel north to take on the undefeated Nordmen.

Four games played. Four big wins. We could just leave it at that, but that wouldn’t be very much fun. That’s one thing this season has had plenty of, too — fun.

After starting the year with a big red X on their backs, the Warriors of the Four Winds have handily dispatched all of their challengers by a final score average score of about 38-8, with a total point differential of +122. Damn, I remember only a few years ago when the Nordmen offense failed to score 100 points for the whole season, let alone through just the first 3 games.

I suppose it’s easy to stick your chest out and lift your chin up in the air when you haven’t faced any real challenges on the year, but that doesn’t mean that the Nordmen will be taking this game lightly at all. What can we expect come Saturday? Let’s dig in and take a look.

What to expect from the Steelers Veljmiehet

After being shutout and surrendering a total of 73 points in their first two games, the Veljmiehet have gotten better and put up a solid fight in their last two matchups, losing both games by a combined total of 12 points, while holding their opposing offenses to only 26 points. What does this tell us?

Simple. It tells us that the Veljmiehet can play defense and that they have had success at containing two very mobile quarterbacks from Jyväskylä and Hyvinkää. Although neither of those teams have much in the way of a passing attack, being able to stop the run is essential to a successful defense in the 2nd Division. They’ll need to play very well against the run to have a chance at slowing down the Nordmen.

Kuopio’s offense is their sore spot. You’re not going to win many games if you are only able to put up 14 points through the first four games of the season. Facing a fast and strong Rovaniemi defense will not make that any easier, but the Nordmen have allowed a few big plays on the defensive side of the ball that has allowed their opponents to get some points on the board. Will Kuopio be able to strike if the opportunity presents itself? We’ll see, but the likelihood that they’ll get enough opportunities to come away with the win, is very unlikely.

For most of the guys on this roster, this is a learning and feeling-out season. Growing pains aren’t easy, but they’ve held their heads high to this point and I don’t expect them to make the long trip and then roll over and take a beating with out a fight. They’ll be out to prove something, so Rovaniemi will need to be prepared.

What to expect from the Nordmen

4-0. 153 points scored and 31 allowed. 5 defensive mistakes away from not allowing a single point on the year. A couple handfuls of drops and other missed opportunities from what could have been an additional 50+ points on offense. This team is dominant and scary and they haven’t even played their best football yet. Yep, I said it, and I’m not taking it back.

After a game against Oulu that was packed with emotions and energy, the Nordmen find themselves in the driver’s seat for the playoffs in their group. If they emerge victorious on Saturday, they will have the top seed in the group and will qualify for the semi-finals, already. Think they’ll be playing just to win, or to make a statement to the rest of the division? If you said the second one, you’re right.

This team is the embodiment of the last 18 months of hard work, learning, growth and determination. Many trolls and haters –yes, I’m talking to you that cowardly don’t include your names on Gridiron.fi, but love talking trash–, have said how Rafael Piñeda IS the Rovaniemi Nordmen and that without him, we wouldn’t be worth anything. There’s no discounting that Piñeda is an outstanding player and his experience and skill help us in every aspect of the game, but did you ever take a moment to think about how that makes all the other guys on the line-up feel? How much that makes them want to play harder to prove that they are just as intimidating and formidable?

Last time I checked, there were 11 guys on the field at a time. Not just one. Those guys are the reason why this club has come so far. Because they have learned and grown together. Not just because of one guy. Expect that to be on full-display this Saturday too.

Players to watch: Kuopio

With still no roster for this team online, and very minimal having been said about them on the Steelers’ own social media (come on guys, seriously. These are the players you want to encourage and build to hopefully get on your Maple League team. Give them some love!), it’s hard to say who to watch in this game. As has been the case all year, who ever will be under center will be the player to watch. The Nordmen rush is punishing and their secondary has very good hands. If Kuopio can move the ball on the ground, they may have some success, but they’re going to need to have a deep roster with them if they want to compete with Rovaniemi for the whole game.

Players to watch: Rovaniemi

Nordmen starting Offensive Line.

Apparently, even if you’re doing this stuff for free and because you like it, you can still get hollered at by the big linemen for not showing them love! Ha ha! In all seriousness, though, the un-sung heros of these wins have been the guys that battle in the trenches every weekend. So let’s chat about them a bit.

Taneli “Magic Mike” Koskenniemi has has been playing football since before Justin Bieber was potty trained (probably), but he’s still out there laying down blocks and holding off defenders on almost every snap in the game. Although he gets called for holding more than we’d like, Ibraheem “Ibo” Shaker has continued to let the guys across from him know that he won’t go down without a fight and he rarely loses those fights, either. Teijo Keränen has been the man snapping the ball for the Nordmen since the beginning and his knowledge of the game is something that you just can’t put a value on. Janne Kellokumpu is a strong and effective guard that has been integral in opening up running lanes and protecting against would-be blitzers. Petri “The Pulverizer” Korhonen gets his name called more for defense, but his strength, speed and skill are things that would make any team giddy and excited to have on their roster.

These guys are a huge part of the Nordmen’s success the last two seasons. Without solid and consistent pass and run blocking, the offense doesn’t score. If you don’t score, you don’t win games; so do me a favor and show the linemen some love on Saturday. They’ll appreciate it.

Prediction

The Veljmiehet have had two weeks off and are rested, but how many will make the trip north? Have they gotten better enough to actually put up a fight against Rovaniemi on their home turf? I wish I could say that I think it will be close, but I just can’t bring myself to do that.

Final score: 58-6. Nordmen win.

Important info

Kick-off is at 4pm, Saturday July 20th at Susivouti. Additional information can be found in our Facebook event. The forecast for the day is expected to be in the low-20’s and mostly sunny. 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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