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Hohenfels running back David Vidovic runs through a Schweinfurt/Bamberg tackle in Hohenfels' season-opening 38-14 victory at Schweinfurt, Germany. Vidovic scored four touchdowns on the day and leads the Tigers into Saturday's championship game.
Hohenfels running back David Vidovic runs through a Schweinfurt/Bamberg tackle in Hohenfels' season-opening 38-14 victory at Schweinfurt, Germany. Vidovic scored four touchdowns on the day and leads the Tigers into Saturday's championship game. (Gregory Broome/Stars and Stripes)
Hohenfels running back David Vidovic runs through a Schweinfurt/Bamberg tackle in Hohenfels' season-opening 38-14 victory at Schweinfurt, Germany. Vidovic scored four touchdowns on the day and leads the Tigers into Saturday's championship game.
Hohenfels running back David Vidovic runs through a Schweinfurt/Bamberg tackle in Hohenfels' season-opening 38-14 victory at Schweinfurt, Germany. Vidovic scored four touchdowns on the day and leads the Tigers into Saturday's championship game. (Gregory Broome/Stars and Stripes)
SHAPE running back Conner Manning has led the Spartans into the Division II championship game with big plays all season.
SHAPE running back Conner Manning has led the Spartans into the Division II championship game with big plays all season. (John Vandiver/Stars and Stripes)
Ramstein running back Tevin Johnson hasn't been easy to take down and is one of the Royals top weapons heading into Saturday's Division I title game.
Ramstein running back Tevin Johnson hasn't been easy to take down and is one of the Royals top weapons heading into Saturday's Division I title game. (Ed Aldridge/Special to Stars and Stripes)
Wiesbaden's Daivon Poole and the Warriors have fought their way into the Division I title game against unbeaten Ramstein and will look to avenge a regular-season defeat at the hands of the Royals.
Wiesbaden's Daivon Poole and the Warriors have fought their way into the Division I title game against unbeaten Ramstein and will look to avenge a regular-season defeat at the hands of the Royals. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

What a difference a year can make.

At this time a year ago, DODDS-Europe was preparing for a Super Six football championship series at Baumholder’s Minick Field. Underdog Patch was in the Division I title game. Goliath Bitburg loomed over Division II. Two small schools squared off in Division III.

This year’s final football Saturday will dawn on a vastly different landscape. The Super Six has slimmed down to a Final Four with the abolition of Division III. The games have moved from the history-laden field in Baumholder to a shiny new one in Kaiserslautern. The Division I title game features the field’s two unequivocal best teams coming off decisive semifinal wins. Bitburg’s reign has ended, leaving a pair of fresh upstarts in the Division II final.

That’s the new reality of DODDS-Europe football. But for all of these changes, the game itself remains the same. Four teams will vie for two European championships Saturday. Here’s a look at their chances:

Division I – Ramstein vs. Wiesbaden RamsteinHow they got here – Clinched the division’s top seed with an unbeaten regular season and routed Patch in last weekend’s semifinal.

Players to watch – RB Tevin Johnson has emerged as one of DODDS-Europe least-tackleable ballcarriers; versatile DB Gabriel Moreno is a constant threat to pull off a game-changing play; LB Branden Simonson is a key part of the Royal defense.

Strengths – Huge roster provides unparalleled positional depth, and players know and fulfill their roles; the Royals are proven performers in big games and won’t succumb to championship pressure.

Concerns – While effective, the Ramstein offense is predictable; the Royals’ almost-exclusive reliance on the run could pose a problem if they fall behind.

Bottom line – Ramstein is locked into its chosen game plan, and it will take outstanding strategy and execution for Wiesbaden to overcome it.

WiesbadenHow they got here – The Warriors shook off a midseason upset loss to Vilseck to earn the division’s No. 2 seed, and advanced with a semifinal blowout of Kaiserslautern.

Players to watch – Two-way standout Andrew Murray has been the Warriors’ unheralded star all season; athletic WR CJ Pridgen presents major matchup problems; QB Reymoi Lewis capably helms an offense rich with weapons, himself included.

Strengths – Wiesbaden’s European-champion track program lends a number of speedy athletes to the football roster; K John Arnold is automatic on extra points and touchbacks and one of DODDS-Europe’s only threats to nail a long game-winning field goal.

Concerns – The Warriors kept up with Ramstein for only half of the Royals’ 20-7 win Oct. 12; Ramstein’s superior depth and rugged style threatens to wear out Wiesbaden’s two-way stars.

Bottom line – If they can mitigate Ramstein’s physical advantage and stay close, the Warriors have the offensive personnel to stage a late-game drive.

Division II - Hohenfels vs. SHAPE HohenfelsHow they got here – Scrapped to a No. 2 seed in the south and outlasted International School of Brussels in the divisional quarterfinals before pulling off an epic semifinal upset of four-time champ Bitburg.

Players to watch – Newly-arrived WR Jeantony Saintmelus has quickly blossomed into an elite offensive force; RB David Vidovic remains one of DODDS-Europe’s most dominant running backs; underrated QB Clayton Pinheiro keeps a dynamic offense moving.

Strengths – Saintmelus and Vidovic are the two most talented players in most Tiger games, including last weekend at Bitburg; the team’s confidence is off the charts after shocking the DODDS-Europe world.

Concerns – An effective game plan to suppress Saintmelus would leave Vidovic to again carry a huge load; they’ve promised to avoid it, but a letdown is certainly a possibility after last week’s euphoria.

Bottom line – No team traveled a tougher road to the Final Four than the Tigers; it will take a huge effort to deny them at this point.

SHAPEHow they got here – A 4-1 regular season and a quarterfinal win over Vicenza set up a thrilling 23-22 upset win over previously-unbeaten Ansbach.

Players to watch – RB Conner Manning is the heart of the Spartans’ accomplished offense; DB Austen Eperjesi is one of DODDS-Europe’s best at hauling in interceptions; WR Kristjan Lozar is a big-play threat.

Strengths – SHAPE has displayed a knack for winning close games with fourth-quarter heroics; the Spartans have played three games decided by seven points or less this season, and won them all; a strong two-way line gives the Spartans a strong physical presence.

Concerns – Most of SHAPE’s best players play both ways, so fatigue might become an issue; their penchant for close games might eventually catch up to the Spartans.

Bottom line – If the Spartans can tame the Tigers’ weapons and slow the pace, they’ve proven they can find a way to win a nail-biter.

broome.gregory@stripes.com

Twitter: @broomestripes

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