Led by running back Taylor Spears who scored twice and rushed for 129 Yards in 11 carries and quarterback Taylor Tharp the Panthers lived up to the expectations of their devoted supporters in the stands. In its second game in the preliminaries the Panthers will now get a shot at German champion Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns who will host the Panthers on May 5. The game should be the decisive battle for the spot in the quarterfinals in Division 3.
In total 14 teams from nine nations battle for this year’s Eurobowl trophy. The early game at Parma will be followed by the opener in Division 4 on April 7 between La Courneuve Flash from Paris and last year’s EFAF Cup champion London Blitz. Paris vs. London, France vs. Great Britain – this everlasting rivalry will finally return to the European Football League. Thanks to the London Blitz who earned their spot in the elite league by defeating Denmarks Sollerod Gold Diggers in last year’s EFAF Cup final game at home. In recent years French teams certainly were more often in the headlines than British sides – the national team won the silver medal at the European Championships, La Courneuve was a strong contender in EFL – but perhaps London may be able to bring back some of the Eurobowl memories from the 90’s, when British clubs were amongst the favourites year by year.
The 2012 EFL season will of course be another one in which Germany and Austria continue their battle for the top spot in Europe. Three Austrian teams including defending champion Tyrolean Raiders are joined by Germany’s Berlin Adler, the winner of Eurobowl 2010 and last year’s runner-up, as automatic qualifiers for the quarterfinals. The Danube Dragons from Vienna are the only Austrian club that has to take the route through the preliminaries where it will face AFL rival Prague Panthers. Prague last year surprisingly had to accept defeat in the Czech national final, but reacted in hiring former CFL coach Adam Rita as new head coach. In the AFL season debut the Panthers had the Dragons on the brink of defeat before giving up too many points in the third quarter – you’d better expect them to be very well prepared for the EFL showdown on April 29.
The second club from Germany of course is champion Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns, in the competition for the first time, but surely determined to play a bigger role than Kiel in 2011. In case the Unicorns perform the same way as in 2011 a quarterfinal game between the Vienna Vikings and the Unicorns would be the first direct encounter in 2012 between the two nations that share seven Eurobowl titles each. The winner of that game will move on to face the winner of a Berlin semifinal where the Adler await the Division winner of the La Courneuve/London/L’Hospitalet group. Defending Eurobowl champion Tyrolean Raiders this time will meet a German opponent no earlier than in the final game – the Innsbruck game in the quarterfinals on the last weekend of May will feature an AFL battle of the Raiders against the winner of the Danube-Prague match.
The winner of Division 2 – formed by Swiss and Finnish champions Calanda Broncos and Helsinki Wolverines, will head to Graz that weekend. Calanda and Helsinki will meet twice on April 21 and May 5, and Helsinki is hoping to replicate the surprising 2011 playoff performances that led the team to the national championship. Calanda’s national title in Switzerland was not much of a surprise, the team out of Chur in Graubünden is built with a purpose – to win the first Eurobowl trophy for Switzerland. Last year the Broncos only lost a very close battle at Vienna, now they enter the preliminaries as the favourite and hope for their chance for further matchups with AFL team in the playoffs.
EFL preliminaries this year will conclude on May 5. The quarterfinals are scheduled for May 26/27, the semifinals for June 16/17 and the Eurobowl final will be played on July 21/22. THe four EFL semifinalists are automatic qualifiers for the quarterfinals of next year’s competition. Home field advantage for the semifinals and for the final game is determined by EFAF in a standardized bidding process amongst the competing teams.