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AFNORTH, Brussels separate, but still have a lot in common

AFNORTH quarterback Lasse Bohlen takes a snap in the Lions' preseason scrimmage against Brussels on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. The teams are playing six-man football this season as part of DODEA-Europe's new Division III.

COURTESY OF VICKIE BLANKENSHIP

By GREGORY BROOME | Published: September 10, 2018

Seventeenth in a series of looks at high school football camps around Europe.

No programs better represent the zeitgeist of DODEA-Europe football than the AFNORTH Lions and Brussels Brigands.

In 2015, the effects of shrinking enrollments were continuing to be felt in earnest around the organization, and the Lions and Brigands were among the hardest hit. The chosen solution had the two programs merge, much the way Bavarian programs Bamberg and Schweinfurt had pooled their resources in the final years of their existence.

That decision salvaged both schools’ gridiron program, but it came with considerable side effects in the form of travel concerns and limited practice time. And it offered limited on-field success, with the Division II AFNORTH/Brussels squad posting an overall record of 2-15 over the three seasons it fielded a combined team.

Now AFNORTH and Brussels are at the vanguard of another DODEA-Europe adaptation.

The Lions and Brigands are distinct entities this fall for the first time since 2014, fielding competing entries in a new five-school Division III league playing six-man football. The teams shared the field again last week for a scrimmage that saw both teams tackling the game’s unfamiliar nuances. In short, the six-man game is played on a field rendered wide open by the smaller lineups, emphasizing basic skills like passing, catching, running and open-field tackling in lieu of the 11-man game’s physicality.

The process is full of challenges to be dealt with ahead of this weekend’s regular-season openers. But it’s also full of rewards.

“Our kids are having a blast,” Brussels coach Tim Mobley said, adding that his players “enjoy the quickness” of the six-man game. “We are adjusting to some of the rules but will get it done.”

AFNORTH coach Greg Blankenship was equally pleased with the early returns.

“I think we found out we love the six-man game of football for small schools,” Blankenship said after the Friday scrimmage. “It was a high-scoring and fun game.”

Fittingly, AFNORTH visits Brussels on Friday in each team’s Division III regular-season debut.  Lions senior quarterback Lasse Bohlen is a “very accurate passer,” Blankenship said, and is supported by a stable of speedy receivers.

Senior Ryan Smith and DODEA-Pacific transfer Troy Erwin headline the Brussels offense. 

broome.gregory@stripes.com

Twitter: @broomestripes

AFNORTH and Brussels players contined their adjustment from 11-man to six-man football in a preseason scrimmage Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. The teams face off again twice in the regular season.
COURTESY OF VICKIE BLANKENSHIP

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