Scores will be settled, rivalries furthered and champions crowned Saturday as Baumholder hosts the 2012 DODDS-Europe football championship games. The Super Six squads vying for titles in Divisions I, II and III represent an intriguing mix of defending champions and promising upstarts ready to seize their opportunity. Here’s a look at the contenders:
Division I: Ramstein v. Patch
Signature wins: Sept. 22, 28-14 over Vilseck; Sept. 29, 27-0 over Patch.
How they got here: Calmly handled visiting Bristol Academy 34-0 on Saturday, successfully running its diverse offense through consistent snow flurries.
Player to watch: Ramstein succeeds based on a roster overflowing with offensive weapons, preventing opposing defenses from locking in on a single star. Senior Zachery Boswell is among the most reliable of the group, with the skills to break open a short run from scrimmage or catch up to a deep ball down the sideline. He’ll make real contributions on defense, too.
Storyline: The Royals are supremely confident, and with good reason; they cruised into the title game and now look across the field at a foe they’ve already whipped once. Poise might be an area of concern, as they let last week’s semifinal devolve into a chippy sea of yellow flags before getting off the field.
Signature wins: Sept. 15, 20-6 over Heidelberg; Oct. 20, 31-8 over Lakenheath.
How they got here: Pulled off the shocker of the season with a 30-8 semifinal win over Vilseck on Saturday.
Player to watch: Reigning Stars and Stripes athlete of the week Curtis Hobson was heroic in Patch’s conquest of Vilseck, The undersized running back ran through and around Vilseck to spark the Panthers into the championship game. As the Panthers’ designated kick returner and featured running back, the senior will have plenty of opportunities to make a similar impact against Ramstein.
Storyline: Are the Panthers satisfied to have reached the title game, or is an even bigger upset within their grasp? The Royals beat Patch soundly in the regular season, but both teams have made strides in the meantime, and a title game is an entirely different animal than an early-season September tilt.
Division II: Bitburg v. Naples
Signature wins: Sept. 15, 50-36 over Ansbach; Oct. 6, 44-0 over Shape.
How they got here: Steamrolled another overmatched opponent Saturday in Hohenfels, winning the semifinal 56-14.
Player to watch: RB C.J. Evans. The point man of Bitburg’s backfield contingent hoarded yardage and touchdowns throughout the regular season and was in peak form Saturday before an ankle injury finally succeeded where countless tacklers have failed. The depth is certainly there to get by without him, but the Barons would prefer to ride their workhorse to the finish line.
Storyline: History is Bitburg’s constant and most formidable foe these days. Saturday’s semifinal win was the program’s 29th consecutive, bringing it to within two victories of Ansbach’s all-time record. But the Barons understand that championships are the firmest foundation for legacies, and this would represent their fourth straight. That’s the streak of concern on Saturday.
Signature wins: Sept. 15, 45-6 over Hohenfels; Oct. 20, 35-20 over Ansbach.
How they got here: Emerged on the right side of last weekend’s most intense semifinal game, a rugged 21-16 win over SHAPE.
Player to watch: Quarterback Joseph Pitts was named Stars and Stripes athlete of the week Oct. 25, and he confirmed that status with an exemplary effort against SHAPE. The senior has emerged as one of Europe’s best pure passers, and his ability to scramble out of the pocket and complete throws on the fly allow him to pull positive results out of broken plays.
Storyline: Naples is the undefeated regular-season champion of the Division II South Conference. Fairly or not, the Wilecats are also a decided underdog to the juggernaut Barons. On paper, a battle of undefeated champions suggests and epic clash; in reality, the game has all the indicators of another Bitburg coronation. Can Naples summon the righteous indignation to make this a memorable title game?
Division III: Baumholder v. Rota
Signature wins: Sept. 15, 29-13 over Sigonella; Sept. 28, 26-23 over Rota.
How they got here: The host school became the first member of the 2012 Super Six with a 42-14 rout of Sigonella on Oct. 20.
Player to watch: QB Ben McDaniels brought his considerable playmaking gifts under center for his senior season, and the transition has made the 2011 All-Europe wide receiver among the most dangerous offensive players in DODDS. Rota will need a sophisticated scheme in place to slow Baumholder’s McDaniels-led marches down the field.
Storyline: This is likely Baumholder’s last chance to play for a European title on its home turf, as the event is ticketed to move to the sparkling new field at Kaiserslautern for 2013 and beyond. Beyond the obvious championship aspirations, the motivation is there to end the era in celebratory fashion.
Signature wins: Sept. 8, 42-0 over Sigonella; Sept. 21, 44-10 over Menwith Hill.
How they got here: The Admirals squashed host Bamberg 36-0 in Saturday’s semifinal, avenging one of their two losses on the season.
Player to watch: K.C. Mason is referred to as fullback on the roster and referred to frequently in the box score. A worthy counterpart to Baumholder’s McDaniels, Mason is a threat anytime and anywhere on the field, whether offense, defense or special teams, and is a safe bet to turn in a game-changing play or two as the Admirals look to defend their title.
Storyline: The faltering defending champions broke a two-game losing streak with their postseason win over Bamberg, and now Rota has all the trappings of a team that is playing its best football at the most opportune time. One of those two setbacks was a narrow 26-23 loss to Baumholder on Sept. 28, an evenly-matched grind that the teams should reenact on Saturday.