Weekend games will do a lot to determine playoff spots
By GREGORY BROOME | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 10, 2019
The DODEA-Europe football season restarts this weekend, and with it the races for the 10 coveted spots in the 2019 postseason.
The Stuttgart Panthers did the bulk of their heavy lifting before the DODEA-Europe hiatus last weekend, most notably an impressive 37-17 road defeat of the reigning champion Ramstein Royals. Only the sixth-place Vilseck Falcons, who host the Panthers on Saturday, and the fifth-place Wiesbaden Warriors stand between Stuttgart and an undefeated regular season.
While the Panthers are heavy favorites to keep the Falcons winless, the weekend’s other two large-school games are more compelling.
Friday night’s showdown between archrivals Kaiserslautern and Ramstein will break a tie for second place between the 2-1 teams. While the victor will assure itself of a playoff berth and a winning conference record, the loser is likely to advance to the final four also.
Saturday’s Lakenheath-Wiesbaden matchup appears to represent the demarcation line for the playoffs, with both teams entering with a precarious 1-2 conference record. The host Wiesbaden Warriors desperately need the win with the frontrunning Panthers awaiting in their regular-season finale. A win over Lakenheath this weekend would give the Warriors two conference wins, a tiebreaker edge over the Lancers and a puncher’s chance to get back into the playoffs after a year on the sidelines.
The Aviano Saints and Rota Admirals defend their undefeated first-place turf on Saturday against challengers still scrapping for their own spots in the semifinals.
The defending champion Saints have the tougher task in the form of third-place Vicenza Cougars. A loss at its northern Italian neighbor Saturday will drop Aviano into a second-place tie with its host.
Rota, meanwhile, will welcome the SHAPE Spartans to southern Spain. SHAPE is fighting idle Naples to avoid being the odd team out in a five-team league that sends four teams to the postseason.
New arrival Spangdahlem has grabbed the small-school division by its figurative collar this fall, trouncing all challengers by mercy-rule margins and emerging from DODEA-Europe’s off week with the division’s only perfect record. The AFNORTH Lions, runner-up in last year’s inaugural six-man campaign, take their shot at the frontrunners Saturday.
The Baumholder Bucs and Hohenfels Tigers are the current favorites to meet Spangdahlem in the European championship game, the only of DODEA-Europe’s three to not be preceded by a semifinal round. Both 2-1 teams can clinch winning records this weekend with victories on their respective home turf. Baumholder has a visit from Alconbury set for Saturday, while Hohenfels will host reigning champion Ansbach.