Bulldogs, Celtic Tigers, Sentinels, and Black Knights
Ironic, isn’t it? The busiest time of year for any sports organization is dubbed “the offseason.” For the RFL, the offseason represents movement, building, and growth. None of these are words you would associate with being “off.” In fact, no one has a chance to relax during the RFL offseason, as they would on their days off. For the Coaches and fans, the RFL offseason could be considered the most exciting time of the year. The offseason presents struggling teams with a chance at redemption, great teams with an opportunity for optimization, and those in between with the prospect of improvement.
We will explore several moves made by RFL teams throughout the offseason, in an effort to get you caught up on what’s to come for Season 6. We’ll briefly touch on moves made through Free Agency, Trading, and The Draft. We aim to highlight key acquisitions and departures, who may impact the future of a team. We will take a statistical approach to analyzing the teams’ Season 5 performances. And, we will look to analyze a team’s avenues to success for the upcoming RFL Season 6. We hope to touch on each team and their endeavor to obtain an elusive Relo Bowl.
The London Bulldogs finished Season 5 with a 9-7 record, tied with the Black Knights for last in their division. Having an opportunity late in the season to find a playoff berth, the Bulldogs failed once again to make their way back to the playoffs. Though they haven’t been back to the playoffs since claiming the Relo Bowl in Season 1, the Bulldogs are gearing up to do just that. The Bulldogs began the offseason by parting ways with aging veterans such as DE Roland Kaiser, WR Eric Myrick and CB Karlos Ghent. Though these players contributed substantially to the team’s Season 5 efforts, the Bulldogs were seeking top-end draft capital. The cornerstone of Coach Reid’s strategy culminated in the acquisition of Picks 1, 11, and 20. Selecting franchise-defining players like DE Drew Brewer, CB Shaquille Tiller, and TE Reggie Streeter, the Bulldogs are retooling their team to give QB Timmy Merritt a shot to return to the Relo Bowl. With one season under his belt, the only thing that may be standing between Coach Reid’s Bulldogs and the playoffs might be the right gameplan.
The Dublin Celtic Tigers amassed 15 wins in their Season 5 campaign; handedly claiming the ARC East as their own once again. Though they would ultimately fall to the Cougars in round two of elimination play, they fought admirably. Led by MVP QB, and first-ballot hall-of-famer, Dre Crowell, the Celtic Tigers had a season to remember. Amassing 5,550 passing yards, 41 touchdowns, and only 9 interceptions, Crowell showed no signs of aging in Season 5. The major test for this team as they move into season 6 is withstanding the test of time. Though they did not make splashy moves to bolster their roster, they took steps in the draft to infuse youth into their defense. With draft picks like CB Joseph McCrary of Penn State, the Celtic Tigers may be on the final leg of their Relo Bowl hunt for Dre Crowell. With retirement potentially on the horizon, the Celtic Tigers will look for their defense to improve from Season 5 to compliment their league-leading offense. With one of the oldest rosters in the rfl, if it’s going to happen, many believe it has to be this season.
At 11-5, the Orlando Sentinels snuck into the playoffs as the sixth seed. We use the term “snuck” loosely, because they boast an offense that was third only to the Celtic Tigers and Cougars of the ARC. They would inevitably lose to the Relo Bowl champions in wild card week, 16 to 6. They only lost by 10 points to the Relo Bowl champs, but their offense will be seeking improvement from that performance this year. Coming into season 6 however, the Sentinels loaded up even further on the offensive side of the ball. With additions like expert route-runner Erick Myrick formerly of the Bulldogs and rookie speedster Rob Schultz of Alabama, the Sentinels are looking to dominate their opponents on the scoreboard. Led by electrifying quarterback DeAndre Wilkins Jr, the Sentinels path to the Relo Bowl will no doubt be through their offense. Meanwhile, the real test for the Sentinels may be their chance at claiming the ARC East as their own. With the Celtic Tigers continuing to age, and the Black Knights and Bulldogs building up to compete, this may be the perfect season for the Sentinels to claim a playoff bye. The Sentinels and Coach Tor Armstrong are a hot team to watch going into Season 6.
Much like the Bulldogs at 9-7, the London Black Knights were unable to capitalize on their opportunities to secure a playoff spot. The Black Knights have one of the more interesting stories of Season 5. This team had the 2nd lowest offense in terms of yardage in the ARC, behind only the Pioneers, and their defense didn’t provide a lot of support either (6th most yardage allowed in the ARC). The strength of the Black Knights lies with their ability to not give up points. While they did allow teams to move the ball against them, they were able to hold opponents and outscore them in points-per-game (22.4 ppg vs 21 ppg allowed). This shows a lot of promise for a team under the new regime of Coach Cody Carter. The Black Knights didn’t have a bold offseason, but they got stronger with the additions of MLB Roland Carter on defense, and WR Hunter Gregg in the passing game. If the Black Knights can squeeze a bit more production out of their stars on offense like QB Holden Wolfe and HB Langford Cloud, they could certainly make their way into playoff contention. Improvement from just one side of this team could mean a run at the Relo Bowl.
Keep an eye out for more division write ups as we get closer to the RFL regular season!