Written by Parker Rogers
Main Photo by Eric Mühle
Article Photo by Marcel Heinisch
Week one of the 2023 ELF season is in the books which means the season is now in full
swing, and we are already seeing massive explosions of talent and skill. Some of these flashes
have been more than surprising; mainly that of the Wroclaw Panthers coming out of Week 1 with
a win against the Hamburg Sea Devils, setting them up with a solid 1-0 record going into week
two where they will face off against the Vienna Vikings (who won the 2022 ELF Championship)
Not surprisingly, the reigning back-to-back defensive player of the year, Kyle Kitchens
came out Week One in stunning fashion with another All-Star performance. Kitchens racked up a
total of four sacks and a touchdown against the Fehervar Enthroners in his week one debut.
Kitchens is coming in hot after his first season with the Thunder in 2022 and hope to be the
driving force that propels his team to a championship.
Concluding the 2022 season, Berlin finished with a 7-5 record and placed second in the
Northern Conference, sitting right behind the Hamburg Sea Devils who finished second in the
league after losing to the Vienna Vikings in the 2022 European League of Football
Championship. Kitchens finished his second ELF season and first season with the Berlin
Thunder, tallying an impressive 16 sacks, 58 total tackles, four forced fumbles with one fumble
recovery, one interception, four pass breakups, and one touchdown. During the end of the
season awards, Kyle Kitchens was awarded his second consecutive Defensive Player of the Year
award. Racking up two back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year campaigns, Kyle Kitchens has
become the royal standard for defensive linemen in the ELF, and has been crowned the
proverbial “best defensive player in the league”.
Opening up the 2023 season with such an impressive stat line, is it too early to say that
the 2023 Defensive Player of the Year award is Kitchens’ to lose?
The easy answer, of course, is yes. Kyle Kitchens has been the best defensive player in
the league since its inception and he has not shown any signs of stopping soon. In only one
outing so far this year, Kitchens achieved a fourth of his total sacks in 2022 (4) and has totalled
his total touchdowns from last year (1). Coming back for a second season with the Berlin
Thunder, with second-year head coach Johnny Schmuck and defensive coordinator Christopher
Kuhfeldt, it is apparent that Kitchens are more comfortable and more at home than ever before.
Returning with a familiar coaching staff is one of the key components to having a
successful season, no matter what position you play. In his case, Kitchens is returning under the
same staff and team that bolstered him into a Defensive Player of the Year season in 2022, which
means that Kitchens has now created good chemistry with his fellow defensive teammates and
has undoubtedly earned the trust of his coaches. Consequently, the defence is now more centred
around Kitchens’ ability to break through any offensive lineman and cause disruption in the
backfield, whether by pressuring the quarterback or annihilating the run game.
In Week One’s match against the Fehervar Enthroners, Kitchens caused massive
disruption, despite being constantly double-teamed while coming off the edge. Playing with such
a high motor and relentless effort, Kitchens should expect to continue to be double-teamed
throughout the entirety of the season. Even while being double-teamed, Kitchens can be a
game-changing force in any match. Putting more bodies on Kitchens will free up gaps in an
offence and allow other players on Berlin’s defence to shine, such as Ludvig Myren, who had 8
total tackles and a long fumble recovery touchdown in the match against Fehervar.
The season ahead looks bright for Kitchens as he looks to secure a third consecutive
Defensive Player of the Year award, which would cement himself as the best defensive lineman
in the European League of Football and possibly in Europe as a whole. Be on the lookout for the
havoc that Kitchens is more than certain to bring to your favourite team’s backfield.