The Hertfordshire Hurricanes will enter Saturday’s BUAFL Championship Game in Leeds full of confidence despite having to face a Birmingham Lions squad playing in a fourth consecutive title showdown.
Head coach Jim Messenger has presided over a perfect season to date and confidently insisted it was the very least he expected of his talented squad during the 2011-2012 season.
“We had a very strong team this year,” Messenger admits. “So we always knew we would do well and, right from the start, we felt very comfortable that we would get to the quarter finals. Going into the semi final, that’s when we felt we needed to step up and we were able to do that this year.
“The response of the players has been the most pleasing thing for me this season. The quality of people we have managed to attract has continued to rise and there’s a nice feeling around the team. It feels like we’re improving and progressing all the time.”
The Hurricanes have been exciting to watch this season behind the passing of quarterback Joe Thompson and the rushing of Temi Odeyemi. They marched to eight straight wins in the Southeastern Conference and then recorded a 63-0 victory over the Cardiff Cobras in the post-season before booking a berth in the final with a 24-13 success over the Loughborough Aces in the semi-final.
Next up for the Hurricanes are the Birmingham Lions, who will also play an exciting, attack-minded brand of football.
“The Lions are the outstanding team of the last few years and they are a dynasty now,” Messenger insists. “They’re a big challenge for us but we’ve played them the last couple of seasons and we know what we’ve got to do to beat them. We feel confident we can do that.”
The Lions and Hurricanes met at the semi-final stage last season with Birmingham emerging as victors in a 42-35 thriller. That game featured a furious second half comeback in which Hertfordshire scored 29 points but came up just short.
Messenger explains: “Scoring 29 points in the second half made us very confident that, whatever the situation, we can come back. The guys feel that – it doesn’t matter if we get behind because we know we can always come back.
“I do expect it to be a close game. It will take either team to score five times at least to win.”
The BUAFL Championship Game will kick off at 5pm at John Charles Stadium in Leeds, England, on Saturday April 21. Regardless of who wins the final game of the year, it has been another outstanding season of growth for the league.
“I think it’s been fantastic,” Messenger concludes. “The rise has been awesome and I’m surprised every year by the number of new people we get into the league. It has been phenomenal and we’re the fastest-growing part of the sport in this country right now.
“There are more people crossing over from other sports as people realise there is a chance to play American football in this country. We’ve had a couple of very good athletes come in from other sports this year and that’s very good to see. I think the BUAFL has a very bright future.”
Photo c/o GLN Photography