It all comes down to this moment. The endless amount of hours spent training and working in the offseason; the tiring hours at practice working as a team to go where everyone wants to go- The Championship.
For most, this is the end-all-be-all of the season, the so-called “championship or bust” mentality. However, for others, this is a completely expected outcome. The 2021 Junior German Football League (GFL) season was an exciting and thrilling ride that thousands of fans across Germany and all of Europe had the pleasure of watching. Now, as the season is wrapping up, all that is left is the championship. The weekend before last, the Cologne Crocodiles routed the Schwabisch Unicorns in epic fashion, with an astonishing score of 49-0. On the other side of the bracket, the Fursty Razorbacks squeezed by the Dusseldorf Panthers with a score of 10-0. The teams are set, the fans are ready, all that we can do now is watch. But before we watch the stunning showdown, let’s look at a preview of what we can expect from both teams, from offensive and defensive breakdowns, to predictions for the 39th installment of the GFL Junior Championship .
In August of this past year, we put out a ranking list of the top 25 youth programs in Europe, and with no surprise, the Cologne Crocodiles came in second place, right behind the U19 Vienna Vikings. A well earned ranking, the Crocodiles have overly proved why they are one of the best teams in Europe. Led by a stout offensive line, the Cologne Crocodiles offense runs an old fashioned I-Formation, complete with a fullback and a powerful running back. As a run heavy team, the Crocodiles do not usually deviate out of their trust I-Formation, however when they do, they mainly just move into a wing set, offsetting their fullback to the wing position behind the offensive line. The offensive line, as it should be, is the anchor of the offense, consistently reestablishing the line of scrimmage on nearly every play. Even going against a stacked Schwabisch D-Line, Cologne showed nearly no weakness up front when it comes to being physically dominant. Behind the reins of the offense is the quarterback. Playing in a run-heavy offense, the quarterback does not always get a chance to shine, but when his number is called, he is able to make the most of it. Showing stout athleticism, the Crocs QB is able to make runs by himself on the boot actions that they run out of the I-Formation, while also showing the ability to step up and make the deep play action passes that the run heavy offense sets up. Leading the offense, Cologne’s running back will be the most dynamic and explosive player on the field in the finals. Showing a strong ability to run hard downhill, while maintaining the ability to be shifty and get to the outside, the Croc’s RB was able to run all over the Unicorns and should face no problem in the finals against the smaller Frusty defensive line.
Moving to the opposite side of the ball to the defense, Cologne proved to be a dominating force on the field, completely shutting out Schwabisch. Mostly running a 3-4 defense, with shifts into the occasional 4-3, the Crocodile’s defense was effective in all facets of the game this past weekend. With two out of their three defensive linemen being ranked in the top 10 of our Top 150 Players list for the class of 2022, their D-line is absolutely dominating. Tall, strong and quick, the line is able to penetrate just about any offensive line and shut down both the run and pass. Overall, the defense is a highly capable unit, showing their ability to force turnovers with two coming in the first half over the Schwabisch Unicorns. Their main weakness came on the second level, allowing for the short passing game to gain some significant ground through the course of the semifinals. Overall, Cologne’s defense is a powerful unit that has the ability to completely shut down the Fursty Razorbacks in the GFL Junior Finals..
Moving to the opposing side, the Fursty Razorbacks are a different story altogether. While the Razorbacks did not find their way onto our Top 25 Youth Program list, they were just on the fringe at number 26, so they’re a well established team that has tons of potential. The Razorbacks were able to take down our sixth ranked Dusseldorf Panthers with a low scoring game of 10-0. Let’s take a look at their defense. While their defense shys in comparison to that of Cologne, I would not count them out by any means. Running a 4-2-5 defense, the Razorbacks are able to bring their Safeties and Nickelback down into the box to account for the run, while also maintaining their pass integrity at the same time. While their D-Line is not as big or powerful as that of Cologne, what they lack in size, they make up for in playmaking ability. In the run, the line has shown that it is able to shed the offensive line and swarm to the ball, wherever it is on the field. On the second level, the linebackers are the strongest link in the Razorback defense. Average sized for linebackers, they are fast, physical, and smart. Knowing exactly when to play the run and when to play the pass, their vision on the field is second to none and they will be a key component to shutting down the Crocodile’s strong run game. Led by #33, the linebacker corp shows blazing speed when flying to the ball, and also shows the ability to force turnovers, forcing one on their first drive against the Panthers. On the perimeter, the corners have shown a great ability to cover almost any receiver that is thrown their way, forcing a tip-drill interception late in the second quarter against the Panthers.
Fursty’s offense however, is a different story entirely. Running a few different spread formations, they struggled to get anything going early on against the Panthers this past weekend. Their offensive line is average sized, led in most part by their two large tackles who show great blocking in the inside and outside run game, along with great integrity in passing situations. The Razorback receiving corps is fast and shifty, creating ample opportunities to get open in the midrange and deep passing game, hindered only by their quarterback’s inability to throw accurately. And this is where the main struggle for Fursty’s offense comes in; their quarterback. While he seems to want to throw the ball all over the field, he lacks the necessary accuracy to do so effectively. He is often sporadic in his throws, not taking the time to properly set up and throwing off his back often. This ineffectiveness resulted in several interceptions against Dusseldorf. This is not to discredit him at all, because he has had some shining moments on the field, converting on second and third and long when needed; he is simply the weak spot in the offense going into the Championship game. The offense failed to come up with points this past weekend, their only touchdown coming off a fake field goal late in the third quarter. To put up a fight against Cologne, Fursty’s offens will have to find a way to produce points early on.
For the most part, this Championship matchup could go one of two ways: We could see a one sided dominating performance by the Cologne Crocodiles; or we could see a surprising action-packed back and forth game that is entertaining on both sides of the ball. I believe the former to be the most likely outcome. Cologne simply has too strong of a running game that is likely to absolutely overwhelm the Razorbacks’ defensive line. Do the Razorbacks stand a fighting chance against the most dynamic team in the GFL this year, or will they crumble early on leaving the Crocodiles to run away with it all.