Towards Maple League 2018: Helsinki Roosters vs. Stockholm Mean Machines, Game Preview

Off season is over, pre season starts

The long and hardworking off season is over. The base of the team is build and now there is fine tuning ahead. And what is better way to start it than take measure of former Swedish power house Stockholm Mean Machines on Saturday March 24th in Tikkurilan Urheilupuisto. 10 Swedish championships in their pocket, the Mean Machines has been shadowed by Carlstad Crusaders last years, but has been on the rise back from the regress to be a championship contender.The beginning of Swedish championship league, the Superserien, starts in two weeks and Stockholm’s head coach Fredrik Pihlbäck will have valuable information from Saturday’s game.

– We have signed a lot of great players. Now we have a challenge to get this group to become a team. We have had two camps during the last weekends. Thanks to Roosters we got a couple of game films that we are working with.

Coach Pilbäck is glad to have an opportunity to play a hard game before new season.

– I think we will see a lot basic plays. We are two weeks away from season opener so we will try most of the players that we thing needs playing time. Roosters on their side have more time. We expect a top team with great players that are well coached. It is a great opportunity for us to play vs. Top 7 in Europe.

Roosters’s off season ended with second minicamp in Klaukkala and head coach Juha Hakala was satisfied of what he saw there.

– Team looks good, our coaching staff and especially our physio team Mika Murtoniemi, Mika Mäkynen, Olli Jussila and Kimmo Valariutta  have done great job of getting the team ready to play. We have had solid off-season program of 69 practices, so far.

The game is first for both teams this season and it gives its own effects for game preparations.

– There has to be always a first time for everything, we try to limit our mistakes and play our best. Stockholm opens their season in Superserien in two weeks, so they should be more ready than us, but we have done our best to be ready to compete too, Juha Hakala thinks about Saturday’s game.

Roosters offense vs. Mean Machines defense

Hesinki Roosters seasoned offensive assistant coach Jens Holmström had little mixed but mostly positive feelings after Klaukkala Camp. He liked the attitude of his players during the end of long practice session.

– Second camp we started off a bit sloppy in the first session of the football part of it. We actually had a very good practice on Thursday before camp, so considering that we, could have been sharper in the first session in our camp. When that happens it comes back to us coaches. We need to make sure guys are ready from the start of practices. It was still decent, not as sharp as Thursday though. Big credit to the players, that the other part of practice at Camp 2 was much better. The guys really stepped it up even if already a bit tired. That was nice to see.

At this point preparation for the game has its difficulties, but Coach Holmström assures that Roosters have a good game plan for Saturday.

– SMM’s season has not started so we have film from 2017 season. Hard to say how much they still run the same schemes, but on offense we have an answer for whatever scheme they try to play us. Football though is very much a game of match-ups. They have a bunch of new players from last season so hard to say how good they are,  but there are some familiar names on their defense we need to keep an eye on, like NT Noghor ”Gladiator Killer” Jemide and LB Pontus West. But I bet they also have a bunch of other good players we don’t know about yet.­

– In the end it is about us and I feel we have playmakers all over the field that can make plays and our offensive line under Coach Daniel Stanzel’s guiding looks better and better every practice. So with Brandon (Connette) as our QB and our playmakers and OL getting better, I feel we should be able to move the ball and most important but points on the board, Holmström believes.

To stop the Roosters offense Mean Machines defense has to win the battle in lines says Fredrik Pilbäck.

– Roosters offense is led by a Big and good OL. This game is won upfront. To have a chance vs. Helsinki our box need to have a great day.

Roosters defense vs. Mean Machines offense

Mean Machines are moving the ball more by ground than air, so to win in offensive side of the ball the Roosters’s defensive box has to be opened. Fredrik Pilbäck sees it a good challenge for his players.

– SMM’s O is more running based than before. Roosters DT and LBs are solid. We need to get them to move to be successful. Defensive back wise Roosters are well coached and good at tackling. It will be a great test for our young team.

Roosters’s defensive coordinator Kalle Karppinen sees that the base of the defense is ready and now it’s time for finishing touches and kicking the rust out of players.

– We feel our defense started to come through really well at the last minicamp. We have our full defense installed with our official season still two months away, so there’s still good time to keep working on execution and fundamentals.  We keep our eyes on the big picture and have not spent much time preparing specifically for the Mean Machines. But it is a good measuring stick of where we are as a team defense and our ability to adjust during the game, as well as an opportunity for many young players to show what they’ve got and for the whole team to get any remaining ”winter rust” out of the system.

An unstoppable force

First game of the season is always a little guessing game for the players and coaches. However wide receiver Miro Kadmiry thinks the team is ready for the challenge.

– It was a really good minicamp. We took big steps forward in Klaukkala. Team is ready for the first game. I really don’t have much information of what kind of team we are playing against, but it probably doesn’t matter very much at this point. Our coaches are so good that they can react for whatever they see immediately.

Wider receiver Adam Connette joined his brother in the ranks of Red this winter. He’s happy how the off season has passed.

– Off season went well, learned the offense. I expect big things for the game come Saturday. Offense will be an unstoppable force, he predicts Saturday’s game.

On defensive side of the ball veteran line backer Santtu Äyräväinen was impressed by the next generation players emerging during the camp.

– Camp went great and we got a lot of reps. Young players showed that they can adapt a lot of new stuff in a small period of time.

Line backer Sami Toivonen had one year off from football, but returned back to the gridiron and joined the Roosters. He’s impressed how his new team has developed during winter and waits a good result from Saturday.

– The team has progressed very rapidly during the offseason. Kalle Karppinen has been putting new plays in for the D every week and now we got to rehearse the playbook. Seems like all the pieces are falling into place. Our offence also looks solid. It’s definitely gonna be exciting to see where we stack up against the Mean Machines at this point of the year. I feel that we are very much ready to beat the Swedes.

We are ready for Swedish Tim Tebow

Stockholm Mean Machines quarterback Anders Hermodsson is familiar face for many Finnish players, and not always in good means. Santtu Äyräväinen says that Roosters defense is ready for him and he expects very physical game come Saturday.

– Expecting very physical game in this upcoming Saturday. Stockholm has good quarterback who can be a threat in many ways. Although we have played against Brandon the whole winter, we are ready for the Swedish Tim Tebow.

 

Helsinki Roosters vs. Stockholm Mean Machines will be played at Tikkurilan Urheilupuisto, Vantaa on March 24th. Kick off 12:00, gates open 11:00. Tickets 10/5 €, children under 12 years free.

 

 

 

Text: Pekka Lylyharju

Photos:Jarmo Vehkomäki