The battle between the two high-scoring, undefeated teams promises to be a fitting classic that will bring the curtain down on another successful BUAFL campaign that has seen more than 4,000 players and coaches take part in the league this term.
The Lions will be playing in their fourth consecutive championship game and will look to go one better than last season. Trailing the Portsmouth Destroyers by a single point with just seconds remaining, Birmingham rolled the dice and went for the game-winning two-point conversion. Star running back Dan Conroy was knocked out of bounds at the one-yard line, handing the title to Portsmouth in the most dramatic fashion.
Birmingham have been strong throughout this 2011-2012 campaign, working behind the quarterback trio of Jonny Glover, Sope Dirisu and Alex Warlow, the dynamic rushing duo of Conroy and Eni Osonaike, and a reliable receiving corps led by veterans Ben Brown and John Zinkus, and the exciting Will Hussey.
But Birmingham are not without defensive strength and have several playmakers on that side of the ball, including converted wide receiver-turned defensive end Josh Vines, middle linebacker Greg Pearson and a talented secondary featuring cornerback A.J. Crabbe and safeties Greg Freeman and Jose van Oosten.
The Lions roared to an 8-0 regular season record before dispensing with Sheffield Hallam and the Southampton Stags in the playoffs. Now they will look to put the finishing touches to their perfect season in front of an expected crowd of 2,000 in Yorkshire.
Lions head coach Wayne Hill expects his tough-minded team to rise to the task as he said: “I have been pleased with how focused we have been throughout the season. No matter what hurdle we have faced we have just got on with the football.
“We have some exciting young talent on this team but we can also lean on the leadership of our veterans. We need to be prepared for each game and focus on us. If we are prepared and play at our level then we will be happy with that, whatever the outcome.”
The Hertfordshire Hurricanes also stormed through the regular season with eight straight wins. They then beat the Cardiff Cobras and Loughborough Aces to move within one game of lifting the Neil Reynolds Trophy.
The Hurricanes will also be keen to complete the job this season, having lost 42-35 to the Lions at the semi-final stage last year.
Like Birmingham, Hertfordshire also like to play an exciting brand of American football, as head coach Jim Messenger explained: “We’ve become a more wide-open passing team this year and before that we’ve been predominantly a running team. This year, we have become very balanced and our passing game has improved an awful lot.
“We’ve got a really excellent squad of receivers in Dominic Husband, Gareth Davies, Andy Thompson and Nick Bagnell. And with Joe Thompson (former Farnham Knights Youth) as our quarterback, we have a really good group of pass athletes.”
When you add explosive London Blitz running back Temi Oduyemi to the Herts roster, you can see why the Hurricanes have been scoring points for fun this season. Messenger expects a nail-biting end to the BUAFL season but also predicts that both teams will put on quite a show in Leeds.
“I do expect it to be a close game,” he concluded. “It will take either team to score five times at least to win. I’m expecting it to be that kind of game. We had a great semi-final with them last year and just failed to win after a massive second half comeback.
“But that made us feel confident that, whatever the situation, we can come back. It doesn’t matter if we get behind because we know we can always come back.
“But Birmingham present a big challenge for us. They are the outstanding team of the last few years and they are a dynasty now. We know what we’ve got to do to beat them and we feel confident we can do that.”
Prior to the BUAFL Championship Game, the Sheffield Sabres and Bath Killer Bees will compete for the National Challenge Trophy. The contest kicks off at 1pm.
Both clubs have enjoyed fine seasons in the BUAFL.
The Bath Killer Bees went 5-3 in the regular season and then knocked off defending national champions Portsmouth 27-6 in the first round of the Challenge Trophy playoffs. Further post-season victories came against the Plymouth Blitz (14-12) and Nottingham Trent University Renegades (23-21) to book a place in the final.
The Sheffield Sabres went 6-2 in the regular season to finish second in the Northern Conference. They beat the Edinburgh Predators 10-0 in the second round of the Challenge Trophy playoffs before defeating the UEA Pirates 34-16 in the semi-final.
BUAFL Finals Day takes place at John Charles Stadium, Middleton Grove, Leeds LS11 5DJ. The National Challenge Trophy Final kicks off at 1pm and the National Championship Game kicks off at 5pm. Fans can buy tickets on the door. Tickets are priced at £3 for adults and £1 for under-18s.
The Game Day Programme is available as a download from this site.