Can Stuttgart, Naples and Brussels do it again?
Stars and Stripes September 8, 2023
Friday night lights (and Saturday afternoon games) begin again this weekend for DODEA European football.
After eight weeks, champions across Divisions I, II and III will be crowned, with Stuttgart, Naples and Brussels all looking to repeat as champions. Division II’s title game will be played on Oct. 21 at a location to be determined later, while Divisions I and III will have their championship games will take place Oct. 28 in Kaiserslautern.
Here’s a breakdown of the team based off responses from coaches:
The Raiders took their lumps last year with a roster 80% full of underclassmen.
Those players are one year older and improved, according to fifth-year coach Duke Allen. The team also is seeing higher participation.
Junior Rueben Todman and senior Trygg Bredlow are set to be Kaiserslautern’s signal callers, while the running back rotation will be young again. Sophomores Andy Etchell and August Crisp are ones to watch, according to their coach.
The wide receiver corps has plenty of speed and experience. Senior Brelan Barnes tops the depth chart after sprinting to the 100-meter title during the track and field season, while junior Logan Bell was a second-team all-conference player last fall. Other returners are juniors Aaron Potter, Noah Worthington and Sevastian Quiles.
Senior Connor Kelly and junior Freeman Allen, a second-team all-conference selection last year, will anchor the offensive line. On the other side of the ball, senior Kemka Okoroafor brings speed and strength to the defensive line.
Senior Connor Kelly captains the defense from his linebacker position, while Potter is a hard-hitting force.
The Raiders have plenty of speed in the secondary, which received a welcome transfer in senior Kemory Wilson from Texas.
The Lancers won the National Conference last fall before losing to runner-up Vilseck in the semifinals.
Lakenheath will hope to build off that success in 2023, with 19 players returning, including 11 seniors, from a team that went 6-2. Coach Gabe Feletar said the team still has some work to do to accomplish what it wants.
Leader Nico Marchini returns under center. The senior went 64-of-134 passing for 1,139 yards, 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Marchini added another 101 yards and four scores on the ground.
The Lancers lost their top two running backs to graduation, but senior Lucius Bowman is set to take over. Bowman had 256 yards and four touchdowns. Aaron Valiente, a junior transfer from Yokota in Japan, also will take some carries.
Three seniors – Tyler Bane, Brian Miles and Dante Thompson – highlight the receiver corps. Thompson and Miles were named to the second-team all-conference team, and the trio combined for 29 receptions, 581 yards and 10 scores.
Senior center/guard Witt Hennig and sophomore transfer Caiden Graves at tackle anchor the offensive line.
On defense, Bowman had five sacks from his defensive end spot to earn all-European honors. Fellow senior Vincent LaStarza also posted five sacks as he received a second-team all-conference nod.
Bowman and LaStarza also will play at linebacker, which will be full of new faces after losing last year’s starters to graduation. Joining them is Hennig.
Bane, Miles, Thompson (second-team all-conference), Valiente and sophomore Kahle Zerbe highlight the secondary.
The Lancers also have a secret weapon in the kicking game with Sophia Yorko, who went 16 of 20 on extra points in 2022.
The Royals went 2-6 last season but did manage to qualify for the playoffs.
A good nucleus of that team is back and looking to improve on that record.
Senior Lucas Hollenbeck returns as QB, and he will have plenty of options to whom to throw. That includes senior Liam Delp and junior Caden Nims at receiver.
Senior Landon Torroll returns to play a role in the backfield, as will new arrivals in junior Kydan Echard and senior Jackson Arthaud.
Senior transfer J.Q. Estell and sophomore returner Javier Harrington will play tight end, while senior Matt Rutlege is the leader of the offensive line that includes senior Alex Belote and senior new arrival Roman Eves.
Rutlege, Belote, Harrington, Eves and Estell will anchor the defensive line.
Torroll, Echard and Arthaud will go two ways by playing linebacker, while Nims will anchor the secondary from safety.
Twice the bridesmaid the past two seasons, the Falcons bring back many starters this fall to get over that hump.
At quarterback, senior Aron Atakuzi and Parker Wayland are battling for the top spot.
Elsewhere in the backfield, Gabe Mallard is coming back from a season-ending injury last year. Coach Eric Mead praised his talent and said Mallard reads his blocks well. Senior Junior De Jesus is switching from receiver to running back, and Mead mentioned he is dangerous whenever he gets his hands on the ball.
In the receiving corps, junior Sam Broyles and senior Andre Hardy are expected to make a statement this season after hitting the weight room hard.
The offensive line should be a strength for Vilseck, having lost just one starter from last year. Mead anticipates a few all-European selections from the group that includes seniors Abuid Rivera, Miguel Cepeda, Garrett Hyten and Simon Poveda, Brett Faraason and sophomore Jack Kerin.
Like the other side of the trenches, the defensive line will be tough. Junior Colton Faulkenberry, Poveda, Rivera and Broyles will be the big names for that unit.
Returning all-European player Hyten will set the tone for the defense from his middle linebacker position, while De Jesus, junior Shereace Scott and Hardy will provide speed in the secondary.
Senior Chris Wissemann returns to placekicking duties for the Falcons.
The Saints advanced to the final last fall, but all three of their losses came against champion Naples.
This fall, coach Benjamin DuBenion said his team is working on growing their understanding of the sport.
At quarterback, Andrew Walker is expected to be under center, while running backs Julius “Juju” LaSalle and Deon Walker will see most of the carries. Colin North and Joshua Barthold will give Walker options to whom to throw.
The Wildcats have repeat on their minds after dominating Division II in 2022.
Quarterback Camden Kasparek was named the most outstanding offensive player in the championship game.
Robert Oliver, whose brother Gary graduated, moves from receiver to take over his brother’s role at running back.
The receiver corps is the bunch with the most turnover. Turner Baggett, Jeramiah Robinson and Kyson Fromm will lead the position.
The lines will be toughest units for Naples, as the offensive line has four out of five starters back and the defensive side brings everybody back. The linebacker corps will use that tough defensive line as it gets its feet wet, with the Wildcats having a new core for the position.
In the secondary, safety Oliver and cornerback Liam Hicks return, and last year’s backup Robinson will play a more prominent role.
The Admirals struggled in 2022, and this year’s squad is young again. According to coach Luke Spencer, though, the team has more players on the roster.
Under center, junior Anthony Romero and senior Zander Helvey are fighting for the starting job. At running back, Rota has a thunder-and-lightning setup with sophomore Daniel Guido and freshman Jonahtan King. Spencer said Guido is a strong and tough runner, while King is fast and elusive.
Freshman Evan Snider offers a good catch radius and blocking on the outside from receiver.
On the line, senior left tackle Donovan Lenhard leads a young but hard-working group, while Spencer described freshman defensive lineman Jonathan King as relentless.
Sophomore linebacker Ethan Anderson has grown into his role, and Romero tackles well in space and runs downhill, Spencer said.
At kicker, Guido has great leg strength, but accuracy needs improvement.
Coach Jesse Woods says the team has some work to do heading into the season.
He mentioned the running back group should be competitive and the linebackers should be strong.
Steve Casner enters his first season coaching both Alconbury and six-man football, but he’s high of this roster.
Sophomore Jacob Stuhler provides good leadership under center, according to Casner. Senior JuJu Brazoban and freshman Jonah Hardesty will carry the load in the backfield.
At receiver and fullback, freshman Ayden Hinsey and sophomore Grant Cumming have shown potential in camp.
On the offensive line, juniors Steven Lacy and Alejandro Reyes and senior Ben Schroeder will hold down the trenches. Lacy, Schroeder, Brazoban, Hinsey and junior Kaden Vankirk will be part of a strong rotation on defense.
Reyes, Stuhler, Cumming and freshman Letula Te’o will rotate at linebacker. Hardesty will be a force in the secondary.
On special teams, Hardesty, Schroeder, senior Sean Lorton and freshman Jacob Leas Cruz are expected to contribute.
The Brigands lost 11 players, including three-sport star William Pierce, from last year’s championship squad, leaving behind a young and inexperienced squad for coach Kevin Fremgen.
Brussels will turn to players such as junior Sawyer Ter Horst and senior Georgi Dzneldze. Fremgen predicts Ter Horst will take over as the best player in the league, using his football intelligence, tough running style and vicious tackling. Dzneldze is a two-year starter and will play center.
Also retuning are juniors Rio Rogers, a shifty runner who will see time at quarterback, running back and in the secondary, and Antonio Pranjic, who will go both ways and switch to running back this campaign, and sophomore Conrad Admas.
Others to make an impact are junior Filip Goricanec and sophomore Tamas Kapanadaze.
Newcomers expected to play a role are senior Lucas Adams, who will see time under center and on defense, and sophomore Arslon Khakimov.
The Tigers enter this year with a clean slate, as the program makes its return. Coach Robert Deverick praised his club for its determination, grit and good attitude.
The Jaguars return 10 players from last year’s playoff team – five starters and five backups.
This fall’s team is two deep at all positions, and Sigonella can run both a power running game and a spread offense. The defense plays aggressively, according to coach Shannon Burcham.
This has Sigonella thinking a championship could be in the cards.
As the signal caller, senior all-conference selection Jaydon Reed and sophomore Everett Eggen will see time. Eggen and Reed also are members of a three-headed monster at running back along with senior John Berry.
Described as a “stable of horses flying out the gates,” juniors Noe Gomez, Isiah Wilson, Sebastian Hedemand and C.J. Tenorio make up the receiver corps.
The offensive line consists of senior Isaac Amaro, juniors Andrew Buelow and Kris Rawlings, sophomore Scott Moran and freshman Hudson Bircham.
Amaro, a three-year player, anchors the defensive line. Backing him up at defensive tackle are Bircham, Blake Parker, Rawlings and Buelow. The defensive end rotation includes sophomore Braydon Hayley, Berry, senior Tyler Luckenbaugh, Wilson and Tenorio.
Tasked with grounding aerial assaults are Reed, junior Sebastian Hedemand, Gomez, Wilson, Eggen, freshman Sladen Hader.
Hedemand will be the kicker and punter.
The Sentinels are returning most of the team that advanced to the Division III championship game, and coach Terry Hoffman said the team is expecting at least a repeat this season.
A pair of all-European players are back in senior quarterback Casey Supinger and senior receiver/defensive back Robert Leggett. Senior Michael Landers will play at nose tackle, and senior Markario Drummond will man the secondary.