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2/18/2023 3:30 pm  #51

Re: Avornian Football League

Avornian Football League, Year 71, 1st Division Team by Team Previews

Silagnak (Black and Blues) (Owner: Dortka of House Shillmer) (Manager: Mitt of House Mickar) (4-3-3 Formation):
After Shonnie’s arrest and removal as Silagnak’s owner, the Avornian Football Committee had to endure some major grilling from King Mikelangel III and other high ranking members of royalty regarding their knowledge about Shonnie’s criminal activities.  For the most part, the Committee managed to hold their own okay, but by the end of the meeting, the good king made the decision to replace Silagnak’s owner himself, the Committee would get absolutely no say so over Shonnie’s replacement.   He hand picked Dortka of House Shillmer, a royal official with an impeccable track record for honesty.   Dortka is a rich enough man to have paid the Committee for the right to own the team, but the Committee basically letting him have the team for free, no doubt wishing to avoid any more of Mikelangel’s wrath.  He won’t be the only royal official joining the Black and Blues.  As many had expected, Mendo of House Tydent did indeed retire from coaching after Silagnak’s League and Cup championships, having accomplished everything he ever wanted to.  Dortka selected fellow royal official Mitt of House Mickar to replace Mendo.   Mitt has never played football before (he’s rather out of shape, though nowhere near as fat as Petorvale’s Hammen of House Tong) but he does enjoy watching it a lot and feels he has the knowledge to bring the team its second straight championship.  He introduces the standard 4-3-3 formation, meaning the classic 5-2-2-1 that Silagnak was famous for is no more (though in truth, most managers use more than one formation during a season, so it could come back a game or two someday). 

The offense still features Boba of House Coldsteek (Center Forward) and Varner of House Patracks (Right Forward) as the primary attacking weapons.  The new formation may take a little getting used to, but in theory, these two should be just as effective as ever.   

Borky of House Silvor is gone, which mean Wels of House Portler (Right Fullback) takes his starting spot permanently.   Wels is still the same ol’ hot head he always has been, though at least he’s playing cleaner than usual.  This is good, because it sounds like Mitt isn’t taking any non-sense from him, Wels has already been benched during training camp for exploding at another forward after being shoved a bit too much during a tussle for the football.   Hopefully Wels can keep his cool throughout the year, because he can be a solid defender.   Lenzlo of House Amburs was a bit hobbled by injuries towards the end of last year and worryingly, it doesn’t appear as though he’s fully recovered from the injuries, he may have done some real damage by trying to play through the pain.  The hope is that he does eventually get back to 100% because when healthy, he’s one of the most skilled defenders in all of Avornia. 

Silagnak will definitely be worth watching.   The new regime alone will at least ensure that games will be safer, as the usually rowdy crowd will have to behave more with added security being put into the stadium during games.  But the real intrigue is the “Champions Curse” the so called bewitching of Avornian Football League Champions who seem to regress greatly the year after being champs.   It’s happened to pretty much every non Earch FFC champion up to this point and with new owner and manager, many think that Silagnak might well be no different.   However, this is a highly talented team that’s consistently finished in the top 4 for several years now.   Surely the curse couldn’t affect them too, right?

Leorux (Elves) (Owner: Herrad of House Hoopmeister) (Manager: Eddark of House Hoopmeister) (4-4-2 Formation):
Leorux very nearly won their first ever League Championship, but after getting blown out by Dobo in the season finale (and then losing their first King’s Cup matchup, also against Dobo), it was going to be interesting to see how the Elves would bounce back coming into Year 71.  Early reports haven’t been good at all.   It’s been the talk of the small town that the Hoopmeister brother, Owner Herrad and Manager Eddark, got into a huge yelling match over Eddark’s game planning during the offseason.   Both men are highly passionate (and opinionated!) football fans, so it’s perhaps not surprising that they’d butt some heads over Eddark’s overly aggressive offensive approach at the end of the year.  However, the real concern so far is with the players.    They seem… off during training camp, seemingly still a bit shell shocked by how badly Year 70 ended.   Eddark is a smart coach, but he doesn’t seem to be very good at soothing his athletes’ emotional issues at all, how the Elves perform mentally is looking like that could play a big role in their success (or failure) in Year 71.

There aren’t too many new players on the team aside from one new defender.   The new guy being so new at football means that Kade of House Nush (Left Centerback) and Azaroth of House Belock (Right Centerback) will have some added pressure to perform well.   There is some worry with Azaroth, he’s always been seen as the weaker link of the two anyway and apparently he suffered some injuries from a house burglary while trying to defend his home and family.   The perpetrator was easily caught, but while Azaroth got his possessions back, he didn’t get his health back, he’s been slow to recover from a stab wound to his side and an injured back.   Hopefully that doesn’t impact his ability to play football.

The offense still featured Carles of House Yalmount (Right Forward) as its main weapon.   He does seem to be slowing down a little too, but he’s still a solid footballer.   That does mean that the team is going to need Joezas of House Nook (Left Forward) to step up more than ever.   He’s definitely improved as a player, but he’s never been able to really make teams respect him the way Carles has, which has allowed them to try to bully Carles around more and make Joezas beat them.   At least Hemly of House Raber (Right Midfielder) is still one of the best two way athletes in the sport, being able to score or assist on offense while also being a crafty defender too, so he’s usually able to help with adding another scoring threat to the team. 

Ultimately, this team does have a couple of big concerns going into Year 71.   They aren’t exactly old, but many of their players have been in the Avornian Football League for several years now, they aren’t getting younger.   So it does feel like they need to capitalize on their window of opportunity soon.   But with the team struggling to play well in training camp, there’s real worry that they’ll come out of the gates slow.   If they fall behind early in the Divisional Standings, once has to wonder how that will affect the team’s psyche, would they be the type of team to rise above their problems and perform at its best?   Or would they completely wilt, and possibly become a relegation threat?    Nobody knows for sure how this team’s year will play out, but these early games may be the key to the Elves year.

Henix (Firebirds) (Owner: Caltan of House Zakariah) (Manager: Quant of House Tivers) (4-4-2 Formation):
Henix’s Year 70 was its best season up to this point, having finished in 5th place, good for their first ever top half appearance in the Divisional Standings.   However, last year was a strange one for many good teams, the question is whether the Firebirds can keep up the improvements and move up further in the standings this year.   Quant hasn’t hyped up this year, treating it like any other season, which could be a good idea to avoid working his players up too much.   But one has to imagine that with the very competitive Caltan watching his team’s every move, that Quant has to at least have some pressure to get the Firebirds up to a top four finish.  

If that’s going to happen, then the team’s defense, (which had its best ever performance last year) may be the key.    Carlin of House Fandanno (Left Centerback) has always been a highly quality defender, though his reputation took a big hit last year after several questionable outright cheap plays knocked multiple big names out of many games.   That comeback trail begins this year, and it’ll have to, because by now, the referees know to watch him very closely.   It helped that Tiffery of House Cunnard (Left Fullback) had a fantastic rookie year on defense, which really helped Carlin not have to do too much.   There is some concern with Tiffery during training camp, though.   He seems to be playing worse than he did last year.   Hopefully, he’s not goofing off or something, because the team needs him to play at a high level for them to really have a chance at contending for the League Championship.

As usual, Ewick of House Poulser (Right Forward) is the star of the show on offense, being quite possibly the biggest name in the sport (thanks in no small part now to his confirmed relationship with Lady Anika of House Earchina, a close enough relative to the king to where anyone dating her was going to be famous).  He’s playing even cockier than ever now, which Henix fans will love to see, he doesn’t appear to have lost his hunger to finally win his first championship.  On the other half of the field is Roh of House Quake (Left Forward).   The timid man has improved each year since joining the Firebirds, but some people wonder if his mental state will be okay after he blew Henix’s chance at the King’s Golden Cup in Year 70 during Penalty Kicks.   He’s always been a feeble and timid guy, but hopefully Ewick’s several years long guidance has toughen his mindset up enough to get over it.    Endru of House Adib (Right Center Midfielder) has worked hard on his shooting, and it looks like he’s taking more shots at the goal during training camp.   He’s not quite all that accurate yet, but if he keeps working on improving, the Firebirds would have three legitimate scoring threats, which would a real nightmare for opponents to deal with.

Overall, there’s some real excitement in the air in Henix.   This team, on paper, should be as strong as its ever been, with quality play on both offense and defense, there’s every reason to think that they could make a real run at the title.   If there are issues, though, it would be from the team having to promote a couple of players from the Youth Academy earlier than they’d have liked to due to the Firebirds having to deal with multiple retirements.   The star players might be at a high level, but the depth is lacking.   In addition, other than Endru, the midfield has looked suspect so far.   That unit is going to need to pick up the pace big time, otherwise, Henix will have to get used to losing the ball control game badly.   That will put a ton more pressure on the defense, and with Tiffery having a crappy training camp, that’s a huge worry.   Still, while a worst case scenario (relegation) is certainly possible, it would take a lot of bad things happening to the team for that to be a reality. 

Forest Rangers FC (Rangers) (Owner: Hanck of House Forker) (Manager: Slaide of House Booshka) (4-3-3 Formation):
All eyes will be on the newly promoted Forest Rangers during Year 71.  They are the first ever Federation of Avornian Football team to have earned promotion to the 1st Division and how they perform will likely determine how seriously people will take the former Federation teams.    Failure to play well (or even getting relegated right back into the 2nd Division) would be disastrous to both them and to the 2 Division format in general.   Luckily, the Rangers have Slaide as their manager, a drill sergeant type that refuses to let his players get distracted and is very good at keeping them properly motivated to play well.   He’s beaten fear out of the team, so at least they won’t be scared of the big boys of Avornian Football.  

The offense is led by Canton of House Bendakic (Center Forward), who lit up the 2nd Division with his marvelous dribbling ability and skill at making space to allow him to pass or shoot, (usually shoot, as he’s easily the best scorer on the team).  He’s pretty mentally tough too, like his manager, and he pushes his teammates hard to perform their best.   Experts have doubts that he can embarrass the top level goalies like he could in the 2nd Division, but if he can prove them wrong… we might have a new best forward in football.   New starter (and 2nd year player overall) Wallah of House Anherty (Center Midfielder) is an extremely athletic speedster with enough stamina to make a horse jealous.   He’s good at getting open for passes, great for getting drives kick started.   Having a high quality midfielder to help Canton on offense definitely makes that part of the team a threat to be respected. 

The defense… is mostly just average at best.   Slaide has done admirably at coaching up a squad that really doesn’t have any stand out players on that part of the field.   That is, except for Vocher of House Ancha (Goalkeeper).  A highly aggressive goalie, Vocher loves charging for the football, doing it fearlessly.  He didn’t get burned very often last year, but one has to wonder if he can get away with doing that this year, considering the number of elite level playmakers that the 1st Division has on offense.   Vocher will definitely get tested early and often, that’s for sure.

With all eyes on Forest Rangers FC, the prediction for how well they’ll play is a difficult one.   At times last year, they were dominant in the 2nd Division and even if they should expect more resistance from the Avornian Football League’s best, this is still a capable, well coached, club that should be able to give teams fits.   However, at times last year, they were also playing at the level of a mediocre 2nd Division club.   If they play like that too often, they’ll end up more likely to compete for relegation than for a championship.   It really does depend on how well their star players can handle the pressure that playing in the 1st Division brings.

Baelanholme (Pirates) (Owner: Candor of House Blusal) (Manager: Gavonne of House Richnam) (4-2-2-2 Formation):
To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Candor did fire Danotto of House Fongo as manager of Baelanholme’s football team.   The young manager had started brilliantly, getting the Pirates to within just one point of the League Championship in Year 68.  However, two straight years of narrowly surviving relegation was enough for Candor to pull the trigger and bring in a new leader.   Gavonne is going to be an improvement on some level, he doesn’t nitpick his players the way Danotto did, which has already made him significantly more popular within the player’s suite.   He’s also a bit of a yes man, which makes Candor, a notoriously difficult man to deal with, very happy.   At Candor’s request, Gavonne has come up with a new formation scheme, an odd looking 4-2-2-2 set up that requires the 2 wingbacks (in the defensive four) to act as a hybrid style of player, being able to assist on offense, and also be able to run all the way back to provide help on defense too.   These players absolutely must be in excellent conditioning for this to work. 

These defenders will have more pressure than ever due to Traxton of House Blackharth’s (Goalkeeper) retirement, as he finally gave up on football after struggling for the last two years.    The new goalkeeper is a fresh prospect from the Youth Academy, but isn’t expected to be a big star.   Jekeyta of House Kooselandwehr (Right Wingback), also a rookie from the Youth Academy, is the prospect that’s drawing some excitement in Baelanholme.   Jekeyta has to be one of, if not outright, the best athlete in football, and he's in wonderful shape.   Already a good defender, he has the ability and stamina to run up and down the field several times in a game to assist on offense too.   He’s pretty decent at shooting at the goal should he get the opportunity, but because he almost never gets right up the goal, he usually has to shoot from far out, which hurts his accuracy a lot.   Still, a defender that’s also a threat to score is a nice little weapon for the Pirates indeed.    Even if the opponents try to get a quick drive off of a turnover, they still have to get around Shanto of House Sayloor (Right Defensive Midfielder), a solid two-way player that has good enough football IQ to know how to slow an opponent’s drive down enough for backup to arrive.   Get past Shanto and it’s time to deal with Tyfir of House Angelbacc (Left Centerback), who’s very physical without being dumb.   Tyfir likely doesn’t get the recognition he deserves due to having to deal with Traxton being a terrible goalkeeper, but he really is a solid defense that can shield the new goalkeeper from having to face too many shots at him. 

The Pirate’s offense is going to be tough to watch this year.   Waen of House Harbage retired after a couple of long years where he just couldn’t recapture the magic that his Years 67 and 68 had brought.  It didn’t help that he was now in his mid 30s, but since those first couple of seasons, he’d declined badly.  This leaves Mehcka of House Bhasah (Right Forward) as the only real threat on offense now, not that you could do all that much better if picking just one man to be your best forward.   Mehcka at times looks like a magician out there, weaving the football in and all about on scoring drives.   It’s just that he’s going to be getting a lot of attention from defenses now, (something that was already starting to happen anyway as Waen declined in quality), so his effectiveness is going to be determined by how much the other forward and offensive midfielders can step up to the challenge.   It’s not expected that there will be much help coming his way, so Mehcka could be in for a very long year…

Ultimately, the new manager brings some much needed energy back into the club, but most experts would agree that this team isn’t likely to be one of those squads that experiences a huge jump up in the standings after two straight years of poor play.   Losing multiple big names stinks for them too, as it’s going to take time for the new players to get the level they need to play at in order to replace them fully.   Realistically, Baelanholme is a prime candidate for relegation, they’ll have to pull out all the stops (or at the very least, the defense is going to have to make up for Mehcka being the only scoring threat on the team) if they want to have a chance at surviving another year in the 1st Division.

Petorvale (Hammers) (Owner: Benwah of House Ailian) (Manager: Hammen of House Tong) (4-4-2 Formation):
There’s no other way to say it, Year 70 was a gigantic disappointment for the Hammers, who are looking to bounce back to the form they displayed when they won the League Championship and King’s Cup in Year 69.    Interestingly, Hammen hasn’t really changed anything up, insisting that last year was just a bad season and that the core of this team is still a legitimate contender to win the championship once again.  It’s an interesting strategy, but one that could be well founded.

Coming back from his year-long suspension is Garrend of House Jackleton (Left Forward).   He had a very strong rookie year back in Year 69 and he was missed dearly on an offense that dropped from 40 goals scored in Year 69 to just 24 last year.   He seems to have matured a bit since his ugly controversy involving him striking a relative of King Mikelangel III’s, but he also hasn’t faced the stress and triggers that the long season of football brings.  Svontal of House Dors, the long time star Right Forward, will certainly be grateful for his return as he certainly didn’t enjoy being targeted by defenses all year long.  Svontal is probably still one of the top five biggest scoring threats in the Division, but as one of the last remaining stars that played back in the League’s first season in Year 64, it’s fair to ask how much longer can he play at his standard high level.   As usual, Ceecil of House Ackerberry (Right Center Midfielder) provides additional help on offense with his high level passing game.  He missed time last year with a broken ankle, hopefully that doesn’t impact his ability to play going forward.

Petorvale’s defense wasn’t as stellar as it had been lately last year, but it’s believed that the team should expect a bounce back in quality play going into Year 71.  Norty of House Peaweedle (Left Centerback) had a pretty rough season last year, but reports say he worked very hard on being more patient on defense and not over committing while trying to slow down opponents, something teams took advantage of last year.  He’s still assisted by Zephyr of House Emmends (Right Fullback), who’s probably one of the best overall defensive players in the league.   It was thought that Hammen would move Zephyr to a centerback role, seeing as he has the physicality to handle the role, but he’s kept him as a fullback for now.   That’s probably because he feels Zephyr is athletic and conditioned enough to assist more on offensive counter strikes, (Hammen noticed the success Leorux has had with Hemly of House Raber being a two way player and wanted to try to utilize Zephyr in a similar way).  At goalie, Petorvale got a bit of shocking news, as Cooma of House Niccagua surprised everyone by retiring from football, admitting that he felt burned out from the stress of the position.  His 6’8” frame and good instincts are going to be missed big time, (as evidenced by Hammen trying for the entire offseason to get him to reconsider the retirement).  For now, the team is running with a backup goalie, but if Cooma really doesn’t come back, that’s a potentially big weakness that could get exposed.

Overall, it seems like the fans (as well as team owner Benwah) are far more nervous about the upcoming season than Hammen or the players are.   The team truly seems to believe that they will bounce back big time from last year’s disappointment.   They certainly have the talent to do so, and have strong points on both offense and defense.   If the right players improve their form from last year and if Garrend can keep his cool for once, Petorvale could easily contend once again for the League Championship.  If they fall well short of the title again, one has to wonder how much longer Benwah will keep Hammen employed as manager of the Hammers.

Dobo (Claymen) (Owner: Jephard of House Obuis) (Manager: Mothrew of House Greenbend) (3-4-3 Formation):
Dobo’s improvements last year were one of the bigger stories of Year 70.   A team that was used to being one of the weaker teams in the league, Dobo had stunned everyone with an explosively great offense (and equally horrid defense) and nearly won the League Championship.   The question is, of course, can they do it again, especially with their risky 3-4-3 offense?  Mothrew certainly seems to feel like they can, as he’s been mouthing out loud his predictions that the Claymen fans should expect the team to finish in the top three for a second straight season, something they have never done before. 

It's easy to see why Dobo’s offense can be trusted, as Axsan of House Sleigh (Center Forward) had a huge bounce back season last year and along with the highly promising Sahasha of House Bethel (Left Forward) produced a one two punch that defenses dreaded guarding against.  It’s only natural to expect the two to continue to display their natural chemistry as they connect with each other with quick, decisive passes near the goalie box.   It also helps that the midfielding game is as strong as ever, with Kocha of House Nabu (Right Center Midfielder) being a great field commander and efficient with his passing.   Mothrew worked hard with him to improve his defensive skills, which have been somewhat okay at best up to this point of his career.  Sindol of House Hattmen (Right Side Midfielder) will take on more responsibilities as an attacker, as Mothrew wants him to get more involved on offense.   He’s a solid passer, so it makes sense to try to expand his game more.   

Defensively, there is really only one standout player.   Deason of House Amabastan (Left Centerback) is a focused defender, but his small frame is causing concern within the organization that he could turn into a very injury prone fella.  Missing time last year with nagging knee problems didn’t put anyone at ease, they really need him to stay healthy.   Otherwise, expect mostly the same problems to plague the team on that half of the field unless Mothrew changes something drastically, (which he’s fully capable of doing).

Claymen fans are expecting another great year from their team as last year really showed that, at their best, Dobo has the potential to be one of the best football teams in all of Avornia.   It’s very exciting to watch this young team (no starters have played more than three years up to this point) do so well at such a young age.  The defense does bear watching, though.   There really isn’t much talent there, especially if Deason can’t stay healthy for the entire year again.   Still, with the offense Dobo has, experts believe that they should be able to win most shootouts, so as long as the Claymen are scoring, they’ll be winning games.

Hanuna (Bluefins) (Owner: Cyboar of House Eliason) (Manager: Lellochatnim of House Gull) (5-2-2-1 Formation):
Hanuna has had a couple of long years, having been forced to be aware of a rogue mage, who had been striking several coaches, players, and fans with a nasty starvation curse that left the victim almost literally rotting away as they suffered from a near incurable hunger.    Now that he’s finally been caught, Hanunans can finally relax for once and get back to rooting for their Bluefins, who no doubt are the most focused they’ve been in years coming into Year 71.  The new 5-2-2-1 formation seemed to do some good as Hanuna did improve their play from the year before, so the hope is that they can rise up the Divisional Standings once again.

The offense is still led by Alfenz of House Mohr (Striker), who looks determined to once and for all end all nay saying about his skills as a footballer.    He definitely took some unfair heat last year, as he was clearly distracted and worried that he’d be a target for the starvation curse and it showed in his gameplay.   He’s had the best training camp that he’s had since his epic Year 68 masterpiece of a season, when he led the Avornian Football League in goals scored.    It’s good that he’s looked so good, because he's going to be on his own for a while.   Osnardo of House Zahn (Right Forward) was hit with the curse last year and he withered away rather badly.   His recovery has been slow, but he’s determined to play football again.   However, don’t expect him to come back for a long time, it may be near the end of the year before he returns.   One player that’s worth watching is Ullie of House Ran, who’s back in the big leagues after a disastrous Year 69 that was so awful, he got demoted back to the Youth Academy to regain his confidence.   It probably helps that he’s playing a new position (no way is he overhauling Shend of House Illard for the starting Left Centerback role), now playing Left Center Midfield.  Ullie’s an athletic kid, so running around pulling double duty on offense and defense should be no problem at all.   He’s worked very hard on his ball control and passing game, if it translate to success on the field, that will help Alfenz greatly.  Ullie needs to work on his shooting, his accuracy is currently terrible, but at least he’s trying.  It’d be a nice story if he could hack it this time.

Hanuna’s defense was far improved during Year 70 and the hope is that it wasn’t just a one year wonder.    With Shend and Garlen of House Richenaan (Right Centerback) both being very good, physical players that have great tackling technique.   It’s hard to drive down the middle with those two patrolling the area.   Plus, if Lellochatnim is feeling frisky, he’s been known to have Garlen, (a solid offensive threat with his good passing game, on top of his elite defensive skills) sometimes surprise opponents by having him assist on drives, that usually is when the 5-2-2-1 gives way to a 4-3-2-1 or even a 4-2-3-1 depending on how Garlen is feeling. 

Cyboar, the team’s owner, recently made a surprise public appearance right before the season started (the hermit of a man had missed all of last year with the curse and even before then rarely made himself seen), showing off his surprisingly chiseled and healthy body.   In a surprisingly passionate (if very slurred, Cyboar’s never been an easy man to understand) speech, he proclaimed proudly to his team “Mah boys!  We finally have no durn things ter worry bouts!   Na mages, na theats o’ violence!  Wur healfy (he forgot about Osnardo being sick still), wur hungry (ironic comment of the day), and wur gonna win da champyship!  Na go, mah boys!   Make me a proud mahn!”  It was a nice moment for the team and there’s certainly a legitimate hope that they can win the League Championship, but there are some sour fans who’ve bitterly wondered how good this team could have been the last two years if the rogue mage hadn’t been attacking various members of the team?   Could they have won another championship?   Is it too late now to pull through again?  We’ll never know, but at least this is still a good team that has the talent, the drive, and hopefully for once, the luck on their side.

Tomen (Rivermen) (Owner: Knoan of House Whitley) (Manager: Loeb of House Gammiz) (3-7-0 to 3-6-1 Formation):
It's quite possible that no team’s season rides so much on just one player the way Tomen’s Year 71 depends on how 5th year player Cragnus of House Sammsoon (Left Center Offensive Midfielder/Striker) bounces back from what was likely the scariest looking injury in league history.    After a remarkably fast start to Year 70, Cragnus took a cheap shot to the head that left him near paralyzed, missing more than half the season.    He’s returned for training camp and looks… okay.   Technique wise, he’s doing fine.  However, he does seem to be playing a bit more scared than usual, but that’s probably not a surprise given the nature of the injury he’s coming back from.  

Luckily, Cragnus has Loeb, the league’s most gung ho manager, there to help hype him back up.   Loeb has always been a highly charismatic and popular leader, but fans are starting to turn on him, seeing as the Rivermen haven’t finishing above 6th place in three years and he still insists on running the strange 3-7-0 to 3-6-1 formation that puts all that attention on Cragnus, someone who desperately needs another forward to help put more pressure on defenses.  Loeb really needs to get his team on point, because another mediocre season could have the fans tune the team out in favor of Sporting Club (who also play in Tomen). 

The defense, after a couple of bad years, seemed to have gotten back on track in Year 70, and experts believe this is at least an average squad, which is probably all that could be asked of this team.  Mishakl of House Floddergrove (Center Midfielder) is more known as an offensive threat, but he can help on defense when needed.  Argill of House Sammsoon (Right Centerback), Cragnus’ brother, is still a solid physical force on defense, pushing opponents around just enough to get them away from the football without outright getting penalized.    When those two aren’t enough, the short goalie, Stilston of House Amago has proven over the last two years that he’s a far better goalkeeper than anyone actually expected him to be.  It doesn’t really make sense how the 5’9”, overly cautious guy could do so well at the position, but his high agility does help.   Loeb has tried to teach him to be more aggressive, to take more chances at leaving the goalie box to charge after a nearby football, but as they say, you can’t teach courage. 

This really feels like a crossroads kind of season for the Rivermen.   The days when the team kept improving year after year have long gone, and what the fans have gotten is mediocrity.   With two teams in town, there’s always that temptation to jump ship and root for the other team.   Knoan has been a hands off owner, but money talks.   If the team plays poorly again, attendance is likely to drop.    Then Knoan will have to make a decision on whether he should keep Loeb, the first ever manager in Avornian Football history, or if it’s time to make the difficult decision and switch managers.  Of course, if Tomen bursts out of the gates and has their first top 4 finish in years, all will be forgiven, no doubt, and Loeb will be the praised hero once more.

Chalmblaank (Knights) (Owner: Pyppan of House Steelow) (Manager: Deagu of House Sanchor) (4-3-3 Formation):
After two straight top four finishes, the Knights fans are excited about the possibility that Chalmblaank might finally win their first ever League Championship.  It’s been that way with the fans, Chalmblaank gives them juuust enough hope to make them believe a title can really be had, then the Knights find a way to disappoint at the last minute.   Could this finally be their year?

The Chalmblaankian defense, already a very strong unit, is looking like it could be near unbreakable in Year 71.   Going into training camp, the Knights had a good problem on their hands, two very capable goalkeepers in Piggan of House Vuvutaila (who displayed great leadership filling in last year) and Matrick of House Cattlebottle (a good athlete with an annoying cocky persona that returns from a year long suspension).   Deagu decided to have the two of them compete for the starting job, not wanting to just give Matrick the job, he’d have to earn it.   He had the team’s best shooter, Sirge of House Einna (Center Forward) shoot a series of shots at each goalie.   The better performer would win the job.   Sirge, having plenty of issues with Matrick and his irritating finger wave taunt that he’d been on the wrong end of too many times, purposely slacked on his shots at Piggan, but went all out against Matrick.  However, neither allowed a single goal and Deagu had noticed the discrepancy in Sirge’s effort.   He awarded Matrick his job back, while noting that Piggan could always step in at a moment’s notice if need be.   With that settled, he could focus on the offense.   Knowing that Arlo of House Pixsan’s best asset was his speed, and not necessarily his physicality, Deagu decided to gamble and move Arlo to the Right Wingback position to better utilize his quickness on offensive drives.  Arlo’s going to need some time to learn his new responsibilities, just as he did when he became a starting defender (he had little football experience before wowing Deagu with his quickness while chasing a goat), but if he pans out, he could add a real threat to the offense.   Not that Arlo’s move will live the center of the field completely exposed.   Deagu promoted Youth Academy prospect Nacholas of House Morbury (Right Centerback) to replace Arlo.   Nacholas has the traditional attributes that coaches love at the position, good physicality, tall (he’s 6’3”), and good communication skills.   Being so young, Nacholas will likely get penalized a few too many times trying to get too aggressive when tackling, but he seems like a really solid footballer overall.    Chalmblaank’s defense should be scary good this season.

That’s good, because the offense is likely to suffer with the retirement of Alajandrus of House Capeburgh.   An elite ball handler that could really do it all, Alajandrus was a solid leader that will be missed greatly.  That leaves Sirge as the only real threat on offense, a situation he wouldn’t have any other way.    Being so egotistical, Sirge is loving that he’s being relied on so much by his teammates to shoot at the goal nearly every chance he gets (Deagu hates this), but defenses know they can just hone in on him to neutralize Chalmblaank’s offense.   There’s a real fear that the Knights could have one of the worst offenses in the 1st Division, which is a scary thought.

Ultimately, this one sided team is definitely going to be an interesting one to watch.    The defense has the potential to perform at an elite level, which will absolutely keep them in every game.   But you gotta score goals to win games, and there is real concern that with only one threat on offense, that Chalmblaank is going to have to win a lot of 1-0 games to have a real shot at the League Championship.   Still, Deagu’s a smart coach and isn’t afraid to switch things up if he feels it’ll help his team win, it just remains to be seen what he has in mind.

NEXT: Avornian Football League, 2nd Division, Year 71 Season

Last edited by Stickman (2/18/2023 3:32 pm)


3/01/2023 8:56 pm  #52

Re: Avornian Football League

Avornian Football League, Year 71, 2nd Division Season Review

As kickoff began during Week 1 of the second season of 2nd Division football in Avornia, there was the usual excitement amongst the country as passionate fans argued amongst each other regarding which team would earn promotion into the 1st Division, naturally every fan base believing that theirs would be the one to do it (with one notable exception).   Who would be the lucky team to follow Forest Rangers FC into the top level?

Meshalketh: Fans at Meshalketh had been cautiously optimistic that Adiq of House Pentuna (Manager) could find some way to get a lot out of the very little talent that he had on his team.  After all, last year they had finished in 7th Place despite being no more skilled at football than this crew was.   Unfortunately, it sure didn’t look like his team ever really had a chance in Year 71, very quickly being left in the dust as the team would occasionally earn a draw, but would often lose.   Weeks passed, then months, but by Week 13, the Wraiths were STILL winless, (easily a new record for the longest winless streak in Avornian Football history).    However, in that Week 13 game, Meshalketh would finally stun the football world by winning what, up to this point, was the biggest upset in league history, given who they defeated.   For one glorious day, the fans had something worth cheering about, their screams echoing all throughout the hilly city.  Local legend claims that even the dead were literally awaken by the all the yelling.    It was good for the Wraiths to have that moment, because it would be the only victory that they would obtain this year (which is the new record for the least amount of wins a team has ever obtained in a full season).   Meshalketh finished Year 71 with just 9 points, another new Avornian Football League record worst.   So bad was the year that by the end of Week 16, the Wraiths had clinched last place, (they were eliminated from becoming Division Champions after Week 12, just over halfway into the season). 

The offense simply couldn’t get anything going this year, with Dacki of House Noto (Offensive Midfielder) being the only player on the team to score more than 3 goals during the campaign, with just 4 (Guess what?  Another new record!  This time for the least amount of goals scored by a team’s leading scoring threat).   With defenses focused on him, near the point of disrespectfully ignoring other players, it's a miracle Dacki even earned one goal.   Overall, the Wraiths scored just 15 times, tying the all-time mark for the least amount of goals that a team has earned in a season, a mark not seen since all the way back in Year 64, the first ever Avornian Football season. 

With no talent on the other side of the field, it’s no shock that Meshalketh’s defense was terrible, allowing a division high 33 goals.   However, there is some real optimism here.   Despite setting yet another embarrassing League record (this time for goal differential, at -18, meaning the Wraiths averaged a loss of one goal per game), it’s highly worth noting that other than a humiliating 6-1 blowout loss to Rammsten in Week 18, Meshalketh never lost a single game by more than 2 goals, an indication that despite being out of their depth, Adiq kept his troops motivated and playing hard for the entire season, which actually kept them alive in most of their games. 

There’s not many ways to sugarcoat it, Meshalketh was overall terrible this season, a team simply doesn’t set so many bad records without having a rough year.   However, the team gave it their all, which pleased their awesome fans, (despite being terrible, the Wraiths fans still showed up in decent numbers, a testament to their loyalty).    There’s every reason to believe that it’s going to be really tough for Meshalketh to even sniff promotion anytime soon without sweeping changes being made, (starting most likely with revamping the Youth Academy, which is pretty bare bones, talent wise) but tomorrow is always another day, right? 

Earch FFC: Year 71 started out fine for the Falcons, when they defeated a very game Earch City to earn themselves a tie for 1st place.   The fans probably should have appreciated it more, because it’d be the closest to the Divisional Championship that Earch FFC would be.   A swift (and scoreless) three game losing streak quickly put them 7 points back, and they’d only fall further and further back.   Eliminated in Week 13 and with nothing else to hope to obtain besides not finishing in last place, Earch FFC turned their attention on themselves.   More specifically, they began to fight amongst themselves constantly.   By the end of the embarrassing season, Ryckard of House Greaza (Manager) had completely lost control, as reports are that there was at least a few fist fights occurring in the player suite.  Lucky that nobody was ‘fessing up, because after the way King Mikelangel III had cracked down the law on Chalmblaank and Petorvale last year, he’d have likely gone ballistic on his hometown team. 

To be fair, the Falcons defense was pretty solid as a unit overall, tying for the 4th least amount of goals allowed, at 23.  If there was a bright spot, it was team enforcer (both on the field and in the player suite), Beenju of House Namacka (Left Fullback), who made life hell for any attacker who dared cross his path, crunching them with brutal tackles made with ill intent.   He’s still getting called on fouls too much, but the fans don’t mind.  While the noble heavy fanbase might pretend to be the civilized members of the community, deep down they love a good hit when they get to see one.   Despite not being a noble himself, Beenju has quickly become a beloved athlete within the kingdom’s capital.  Along with tall Hobbs of House Vinicius (Left Centerback), (who also had a pretty solid season), the Falcons’ left side of the defense looks to be secured for years to come. 

Unfortunately, Earch FFC’s offense was terrible.   Aili of House Fendeleeni (Hole Striker) had likely his worst season as a player as opponents focused on him during the several games when he had to do all the offensive work by himself.    Not that Rhantony of House Vivilyn (Striker) can be blamed for that.  During a Week 2 game against Jahnsel United, Rhantony got tangled up with Jahnsel’s Casby of House Danners in a leap for a corner kicked ball and landing awkwardly on his head and shoulder.   He would miss the next few weeks and never really returned to the improved form he had displayed in Year 70.   However, the worst was Neuten of House Claybill (Right Center Midfielder).   While his play was okay, the problems he has with non-nobles was more than just a distraction, (to the point where a couple of savvy teams flat out wouldn’t guard them when Neuten had the ball, so confident they were that he wouldn’t pass to them… he didn’t disappoint either) it was a full blown problem.  His refusal to cooperate or even tolerate his “lesser” teammates created a toxic player suite situation.  Nobody’s admitted who did this, but it’s widely believed that Beenju finally got fed up with him and got into several fights with the supposed “Player Captain” and the two very likely got into most, in not all, the fist fights that were rumored to have happened.   Neuten would sit out the last few games, supposedly due to “injuries”, but most people believe that he just refused to play anymore for the team after the entire club turned on him.   Maybe it’s a coincidence, but Earch FFC did win the first two games Neuten sat out, the only winning streak they got to enjoy all year.   It may be time to cut him, despite his relatively good skillset.

Overall, this was an awful year for the Falcons.   Beyond the drama, the ineffective coaching, and the anemic offense, was a team that seemed to just be going through the motions.  That’s a reflection on Ryckard, which is strange, as he’s had a solid reputation as a coach from his time managing both Earch FFC and Earch City.   That reputation may be just enough to keep his job, but with the competitive (and increasingly angry) Seesar of House Romi (Owner), one truly doesn’t know for sure if he’ll be brought back for Year 72.   After falling six places in the Divisional Standings, one would say that this might just be the lowest point in franchise history, even moreso than when the Falcons earned relegation in Year 69.

Naide: Cardinals fans had been highly anticipating Year 71, believing their dramatic owner, Artchen of House Villasammahl, in his claims that Naide would earn promotion this season.   Unfortunately, while Artchen is a visionary when it comes to the art world, he’s not at all one at sports.  Naide struggled all year long to gain any real traction and usually could only manage the occasional two game winning or tying streak, mixed in with plenty of two game losing streaks.   Eliminated in Week 14, the only real act to watch at Cardinals games was Artchen’s temper tantrums after each failure to win.   Attendance started to dip a bit and by the end of the year, Naide games were among the least watched in the 2nd Division, despite Naide being a fairly large city.   It’s not a good look at all and there will certainly be plenty of pressure on the team next season to turn things around.

Scoring was a real issue for the club.  Syman of House Dilson’s (Center Midfielder) prediction about young striker Coti of House Manna turned out to be correct.   Coti struggled to gain any momentum, finding out real quick that dominating the Youth Academy was a whole lot easier than overwhelming professional opponents and he did seem to get discouraged as the year went on.   He’s lucky to have Syman on his team, who’s been great at mentoring the young kid to keep his spirits up, because club manager Rockstan of House Sanjo hasn’t been particularly supportive.   Overall, Naide still got 20 goals, which while definitely worse than last year, was still good for 7th place.  

The Naiden defense was average, allowing 24 goals.   Much of that good work can be attributed to Syman, who had to focus more on defense (to the point where he couldn’t help the offense out nearly as much as he wanted to, another reason for that side’s weaker performance).   Syman is great at reading passes and being athletic enough to intercept them, but there was only so much that he could do seemingly by himself.

Truth be told, while Year 71 stunk for the Cardinals, they probably aren’t as far off from bouncing back and contending as one might think.  If they could just get more help from the Youth Academy and if Coti bounces back next year, it’s always possible that Naide could surprise the country.   However, their immature owner and weak manager are definitely holding the team back from being the best it could be.  Syman probably should be acting as a player captain, he’s got the team’s respect as it is.   However, with Rockstan being good at kissing Artchen’s bottom (and acting as his unofficial babysitter), a managerial change seems unlucky at this point in time.

Jahnsel United: Going into Year 71, the belief was that the Jackrabbits had the star power to legitimately compete for promotion, but getting to that point would require the team to avoid injury issues as the team’s depth was lacking.   For the first half of the year, Jahnsel United did well to stay healthy, though they were tying a lot of games that they really should have been winning.  Still, after Week 9, Jahnsel United stood at 13 points (3-4-2 record), seven points out of 1st Place in the Divisional Standings.   If they could just turn a couple of those draws into victories, they could make a real run.   However, Week 10 was when their season effectively ended.  Against Shadoma, Bili of House Yelbow (Center Forward) was driving towards the goal.   He made a juking move to throw a defender off, but his ankle slipped and twisted as it broke violently.   Bili would miss the rest of the year and the Jackrabbits would miss him dearly as their form slipped.  Struggling to shoot goals, Jahnsel would only earn 8 more points in the season’s 2nd half (for a 2-2-5 record) and would usually only win if the defense played excellently.   Eliminated in Week 14 during a three-game losing streak, the Jackrabbits fans could only watch helplessly as their beloved small town team played hard, but just couldn’t break through in their games.

The offense just never got it together after Bili’s injury.   Jimm of House Tamacka (Right Wing) had a decent showing, once again being able to make it through the entire year without missing any time, but after Derrec of House Smyt (Manager) retired and Bili missed the rest of the year, Jimm was unable to carry the club on his back.   As a result, the Jackrabbits only scored more than one goal only once in the 2nd half of the year, which made winning games nearly impossible.

Overshadowed by the general disappointment of failure, was the fact that the defense actually played reasonably well, finishing with 23 goals allowed.   Nedham of House Velcross (Goalkeeper) was decent enough, but was helped by a full season of Casby of House Danners (Left Centerback) defending him.  Casby had his best season to date, successfully making up for losing time in Year 70 after an off field injury, proving to be a real menace to opponents with a newfound aggressive style that made getting around him without a fight unlikely. 

Ultimately, this is another disappointing season for the Jackrabbits, who have underwhelmed each year since entering the 2nd Division.  The expectations have been that they can make a real run at promotion, but even accounting for unlucky injury issues, the fact is that Jahnsel needs more help on both ends of the field.  Derrec has put a lot of effort into rebuilding the Youth Academy, but hasn’t had a lot of luck so far in finding new stars.   Ryne of House Ewickson (Owner) hasn’t made Derrec’s job any easier, publicly complaining about his newly promoted manager after each defeat.  Normally one would assume his seat has already gotten hot, but given that Ryne is a good one for complaining at next to nothing, he appears to be acting like he normally does.   That Ryne has never attempted to hire a full time manager throughout his reign as owner suggests that Derrec’s job is safe… for now.

Shadoma: The Desert Roses had hoped that a strong finish in Year 70 would be a sign that the team’s positive momentum would continue, possibly to conclude with a chance to earn promotion.   Unfortunately, this year proved that hope was nothing more than a mirage, as once again, Shadoma had a rough start to the season that set them back way too far behind in the Divisional Standings to have any chance at winning promotion into the 1st Division.  By the halfway point of the season, they were in 9th Place, only ahead of winless Meshalketh.  By this point, humiliated at her bold (and very public) predictions about contending being proven wrong, team owner Pharrah of House Patra held a private meeting with Momo of House Chadrack (Manager) and the players.   Nobody’s ever confirmed what was said, but whatever the young owner said clearly had an impact.  The Roses would only lose three of their remaining nine games as they steadily moved up the Divisional Standings, eventually finishing 6th Place. 

The offense was pretty disappointing, not helped by Hansa of House Yahas (Left Forward) getting himself into some trouble in an off the field incident.   It’s believed that he got into a pretty nasty brawl with another man over a woman at a bar one night and was even arrested over it.   In a lucky break, and perhaps unfairly, his status as a football player likely was what gave him a slap on the wrist by local authorities (though Pharrah ripped him a new one in a meeting after he was let out, while Momo suspended him for a full month- likely to appease the Avornian Football Committee and a watchful King Mikelangel III).   While on the field, Hansa was quite effective as a striker, leading the team with 10 goals scored.   If he could ever get his personal act together, Hansa has all the potential in the world to become a legitimate star player.  However, he tends to get into his own way too often.   Bogley of House Aevia (Right Center Midfielder) showed some improvements on offense with his better passing game.   His strong leg keeps goalies honest, but Shadoma needs more than just him and Hansa on the attack.

Bogley’s a great asset on offense, but his defensive efforts are almost laughably bad and sadly, he’s not even the worst player on defense.   The Roses have a solid goalkeeper in Wilosauro of House Cen, but Wilo faced way too many shots on goal thanks to his leaky defense.  That he “only” allowed 26 goals is a testament to his athleticism, but if being honest, Wilosauro did decline from his rookie season.  Thankfully, he hasn’t lost his confidence, because when he’s having a good game, he’s near impossible to get the ball past, even despite his defense around him failing.  

There were some fireworks this year for the Roses, something that Pharrah was not happy about (she’s even less happy that she had to personally get involved at yelling at the coach and players more than once).  It’s believed that she’s starting to feel like Momo might be too lax on his players and rumors are that she’s thinking about a switch at manager if he doesn’t tighten the reigns soon.  However, while a bit of a softie, Momo has drawn some praise for having an eye for spotting talent in very young athletes.   It’s just a matter if he can survive being the manager of Shadoma’s football club long enough for him to see his prodigies move up into the big leagues.

Elkstrom: Going into Year 71, the general expectation was that the Rapids weren’t going to surprise the 2nd Division like they did early in the season last year.   In fact, Elkstrom was a fairly popular pick, along with Meshalketh, as the team most likely to finish in last place.   Imagine everyone’s shock when, after a Week 1 loss to Rammsten, they suddenly went on a six game winning streak to take over 1st Place.   At this point, Elkstrom had already earned as many points as they had all season long in Year 70.  While the offense was exciting, it was the Rapids’ defense that was wowing everyone.  Despite having only one key player on that unit, Elkstrom was proving hard to score against and the offense being just good enough to make people start to wonder.   Could they actually do it for real this time?  Could the goofy hillbillies of Elkstrom actually earn promotion into the 1st Division?  The answer would come in a big matchup in Week 9 against Anjocca, in a battle of the two teams at the top of the Divisional Standings.  While certainly not helped by Tum of House Leven (Right Fullback) injuring his left knee, Anjocca simply smoked Elkstrom 3-0.   That proved the turning point as, for the second straight year, Elkstrom collapsed badly.   Starting with the Anjocca game, the Rapids would lose seven out of their next eight games to immediately fall out of contention, being formally eliminated after Week 15.  Ah well, hope was fun!  At least the fans were usually too inebriated at games to care too much.

Jab of House Wyver (Right Striker) proved to be the real deal as a scoring threat.  He’s got a LOT to learn about the finer points of the game of football.   But for someone who’s only recently gotten into the sport, Jab quickly proved to be a real nightmare to defend against, with his cannon of a leg blasting footballs into the net quickly and often.  He ended the year with 9 goals scored and most experts believe that with more seasoning, he could one day lead the Division in goals. 

Tum’s injury really ruined Elkstrom’s defense, which had been looking great early in the year.   Tum had been doing a much better job at tackling cleanly, which is definitely helping his reputation with the referees.   Unfortunately, the knee injury would derail his year, he wouldn’t return from it until Week 17, after the team had already been eliminated from contention (though it’s worth noting that Elkstrom did win those last two games).    He’s clearly the heart and soul of the defense, as without him, the Rapids had only two games where they allowed less than 2 goals (allowing 4 goals in back to back games during a really rough stretch).

No doubt, the pattern of being a real contender for part of the season, then falling apart spectacularly, is not a trend that Elkstrom wants to keep going.   It’s pretty clear at this point that Korb of House Hilloppolo (Manager and brother of team owner, Jatson) is proving to be really good at squeezing water out of a rock, somehow getting a ragtag bunch of goofballs to play a halfway decent game of football.   So far, opponents have figured their simple strategies out midway into the seasons, but if Elkstrom ever gets some real support from the Youth Academy (Korb is hard at work, developing it), perhaps Korb could graduate into inventing more complicated gameplans.   Once that happens, it’ll be real interesting to see if the Rapids can actually sustain a full season of good play, they could legitimately contend for promotion one day if that ever happens.

Earch City: Going into Year 71, there was a ton of optimism being displayed by the Commoners fans.   The team, judging from training camp, was looking well organized, discipline, and in the case of rookie Jass of House Kondal (Center Midfielder) and Dabu of House Namacka (Center Forward), electric.   Could the lofty expectations of the fans to possibly earn promotion come true?   A sluggish start put paid to that idea, as the team started out 2-1-4 (7 Points), losing three straight games from Weeks 5 to 7 after new goalie Horner of House Tennfold missed all three games due to a minor concussion suffered when one of his own defenders accidently ran into him when both ran out for a rolling football, (new manager, the hardened Wan of House Chespar, would punish that defender by benching him in all three games Horner missed, a harsh lesson taught swiftly).  However, upon Horner’s return, Earch City caught fire, going 6-1-1 in the next eight games (20 points) to technically stay alive in the Divisional Standings race, all while outscoring their opponents 17-7 during that stretch.  However, the slow start to the season would prove to be too much to overcome and with a Week 16 draw to Anjocca, the Commoners would officially be eliminated from contention.

Horner proved to be the truth as a legitimate top tier goalie, only allowing 18 goals in the 15 games he played in.   He especially proved instrumental in his ability to direct traffic to put his fellow defenders in the right position.  This was best shown after he’d make a save and immediately start barking orders to his teammates to help get a counter strike kick started.  If he just stay healthy, Horner will be the cornerstone of Earch City’s defense for years to come.

The offense lit the entire division up, tying for the lead in goals scored, with 32.   Certainly a big part of that was because of rookie Jass, whose highly aggressive play by near the goalie box rewarded him with several key opportunities to try for a long score with that strong leg of his.   However, he showed off a hidden talent on corner kicks, where his accuracy proved very useful in getting the ball to just the right person to head the ball into the net.    While obviously not every (or even most) of the corners were that productive, Jass’s kicks seem to be hitting paydirt for Earch City more often than it does for most players.  However, the biggest story was Dabu.   Undoubtably the first true superstar in the Avornian Football League, Dabu had been declining for a couple of years now, making one wonder if retirement was on the horizon.   A year with his friend Wan there to push him as hard as he’d ever been pushed before did wonders for Dabu’s productivity.   He would have likely the best season he’s ever had as a professional football player, scoring a league high 13 goals and suddenly looks like one of the best players in the 2nd Division.   The career turnaround has been exciting to watch and fans are just salivating at the thought of Dabu putting up this kind of performance for at least another couple of years.

Overall, this was a highly successful season for the Commoners, whose 4th Place finish in the Divisional Standings was better than expected and whose offensive output really shows the potential for greatness that this team has.   Even better, for the first time ever, Earch City was able to defeat hated foe Earch FFC in the Earch Classic (as games between the two teams have come to be known as).   How quickly things have changed for Earch City, a team who had finished in last place last year, and who now look like a real contender to watch out for in Year 72.

Sporting Club: It seems like there’s that one team every season who starts out playing poorly at first, but then as the year drags on, they suddenly catch fire and change the trajectory of their entire year around. In Year 71, that team was Sporting Club.   The start to this season was as poor as it could get for a non-Meshalketh squad.  Failing to win any of their first six games (at one point, Sporting Club was actually in last place in the standings), the Athletics were probably lucky to have even earned 3 points by the end of the first third of the season, as their form was all kinds of awful.   Player Captain Jaxson of House Dharbell (Center Midfielder) had to miss some time as he still hadn’t completely recovered from the back injury he had sustained in Year 70, Nandes of House Guataduras (Left Forward) was struggling to learn the ropes in his rookie year, and Shuka of House Erlong (Left Centerback) had finally gotten himself suspended for a game after getting caught blatantly shoving yet another forward right in front of the referee.  After barely surviving a Week 6 game against Anjocca (2-2 score), Jaxson had finally seen enough.   Holding a players meeting, he pushed some tough love on his teammates over their efforts up to that point.  Already 12 points out of 1st Place, Sporting Club was probably already way too far out to have a real chance at contending for the Divisional Championship, but they wouldn’t worry about that anymore, only about winning each individual game from here on out.  

The offense certainly got the message, as it would catch fire, scoring 27 goals during the remaining 12 weeks of the year (more than seven of the 2nd Division teams would score all year).  Jaxson, no doubt still playing through some pain, absolutely stepped up his game dramatically.  He would end the year with 8 goals and would assist in many more of the team’s scores.  However, the team was most excited about Nandes.   With his natural speed, he was certainly open on many a pass close to the goalie’s box to take a shot at scoring, but where he excelled was after the defense took the ball over.   So quick and aggressive was he at attacking the defenders, that on several occasions he’d force a bad pass out of them.   This often allowed Jaxson or another midfielder to snatch that football right back to completely turn the tide of the game.  The Athletics would like to see Nandes work more on his shooting, as he was often inaccurate, but if he improves on that front, Sporting Club will have a real star in their hands. 

Sporting Club’s defense has never been its strong suit and this year would be no different, allowing 27 goals, “good” for a tie for 2nd worst in the 2nd Division.  However, they’d only allow 18 of those in the final two thirds of the year, to they clearly tightened things up.  Shuka, while still a rather cheap player, at least had the decency of trying to clean up his act, at least when the referee was watching.  He’s still a highly physical player, so it’s not like he doesn’t have the natural skills to deal with opponents anyway, but he’s always been the type to feel that little extra something really makes the difference in a tight game.  He may be right.

The team’s refocused energy paid dividends, as Sporting Club would end the year with a 9-1-2 run, good for 28 points.   If the Athletics had played at this pace all year long, they would have earned promotion, which has to be seen as something of a potential sign for things to come next year.   Of course, regression is always a threat too, as critics pointed out that Sporting was awfully streaky this year in starting so badly and then suddenly playing fantastically.  Streakiness is never a trait to count on, they say, so there are those who expect the spirited energy that Sporting displayed to be gone by next year.  Then, it comes down to their actual talent, as which there are limitations.   The offense seems to have come alive, but the defense is still fairly terrible.  Unless that changes, most experts don’t believe that the Athletics will find a way to the 1st Division. 

Anjocca: For much of Year 71, it appears as though this was going to be Anjocca’s year, as they dashed out of the gates blazing.   Unbeaten until a Week 8 match against Jahnsel United, Anjocca looked neigh untouchable otherwise.  Going into their Week 13 matchup, the Sabercats had outscored their opposition 20-5 up to that point (yes, allowing an average of less than half a goal per game), with 27 points and an 8-3-1 record.   True, they were only three points ahead of a very tough Rammsten club, but Anjocca seemed to be the far more dominant team to this point.  Besides, they were playing winless Meshalketh at home, another spanking by Anjocca was practically guaranteed.   Only, the Wraiths from Meshalketh decided to stun the entire kingdom by pulling off what has become known as the single greatest upset in Avornian Football history, beating them 1-0 in a game that didn’t even feel lucky.   The silence from the shocked crowd was such, the oft overused expression of being able to hear a pin drop might actually have been possible.   The players were completely dejected, the Sabercats would never recover.  Winning only one more game (a meaning victory over Jahnsel United after already being eliminated by surging Rammsten.   Even avenging that loss did little to improve morale), Anjocca utterly collapsed in ways rarely seen, even getting outscored 5-10 in those final six games.   A truly stunning affair to witness.

However, when looking deeper into the situation, one has to be truly impressed by the Sabercats defense, which for the most part played incredibly.  Incredibly, Anjocca didn’t even allow a goal until Week 5, (ironically, it was Rammsten who scored the first goal of the year against the Sabercats.   Anjocca still won that game) and would shut out opponents in 10 games during the season.  Gailor of House Omakyt (Left Centerback) has long held a well-deserved reputation for being among the best in football, but in Year 71, he was something else.   More physically dominant than ever before, Gailor made offensive players pay dearly for trying to get past him.   Yet, thanks to manager Ticeson of House Banbapp’s teachings, he was able to also play cleanly, making him truly the scariest defensive player in the kingdom.  Even when people avoided Gailor and somehow got the football near the goal, Edwin of House Gnat (Goalkeeper) lived up to the hype he had generated during training camp.   Making full use of his first starting opportunity, Edwin’s fast reflexes really it extremely difficult for opponents to score on him.   Even a slight dip in quality towards the end of the year are hardly anything to worry about, nobody expected him to keep the half-a-goal allowed per game rate to really hold up the entire year.   Edwin really has given Anjocca something to be excited about at goalkeeper, he won’t ever replace former goalie Xaxi of House Pentuna in terms of fan adoration, but if he can keep his performance up, he'll get close.

The offense had started out playing so well.  Shaggu of House Khaldrem (Center Forward), feeling rejuvenated with a new manager, was impressive for most of the season, he’d end scoring 12 goals throughout the year, a new career best.   Dunne of House Werewilf (Center Midfielder) also had a career year, his hard work on shooting had paid off, scoring more than 3 goals for the first time in his life.  Dunne also stayed healthy, which was so nice to see after his career started out so injury prone.   His skills on defense certainly don’t hurt either.   Unfortunately, it seems these two suffered the most mentally after the Meshalketh loss.   Neither quite got back into the game like they had early in the year.  Ticeson will have to work on their confidence some more during the offseason, though he seems quite talented at pumping someone up.

Overall, what a heart breaker.  After playing so dominantly throughout the year, it took just one (admittedly crushing) upset to completely derail the Sabercats.   One has to wonder how the collapse will affect the team mentally.  Ticeson seems like a great coach overall, so much so that even the overly competitive owner, Connavonn of House Duvaloi, has still praised his efforts even after the collapse.  He’s not on the chopping block for now, but Ticeson will have his work cut out for him if he wants to get his athletes back on track emotionally.   Collapses can derail more than just a season, it could have a lasting affect that ruins a club, so he’ll have to keep his team focused on next season and, despite there being plenty to love about Year 71, to forget about how it ended.

Rammsten: The Bighorns left their Week 7 loss against Shadoma with a record of 4-1-2.  With 13 points, there were trailing Elkstrom for 1st Place in the Divisional Standings by five points and behind Anjocca for 2nd Place by four.  They certainly weren’t behind by much, but they would need to get on a winning streak soon if they wanted to catch up to the red hot Rapids and Sabercats.  They wouldn’t have realistically expected Week 7 to be the last time they’d lose a game, but that’s exactly what would happen.   As dominant as Anjocca was during the first 2/3rd of the year, Rammsten would be during the final 2/3rds.  As if a switch had been flipped, the Bighorns began to dominate, outscoring opponents by the same 20-5 differential in their final 11 games that the Sabercats got to enjoy during their first 12.   The parallels between the two are fun to compare, but the main difference is that Rammsten played better and better as the season went on and by the time Anjocca began to crumble, the Bighorns’ were white hot.  Whereas Anjocca only won one of their last six games, Rammsten would only fail to win one in that span (a 1-1 tie with Earch FFC, for those curious).  They ended the year with 40 points and an incredible 12-4-2 record, the two losses becoming a new Avornian Football League record for fewest losses ever by a team during a full season. 

The offense, the weak point of Rammsten last year, was impressive in Year 71, scoring 30 goals.  Chellen of House Weinrong (Right Wing) dazzled as a rookie, playing at a level usually reserved for the best veterans.   He would lead the team with 12 goals, and that’s only because he proved to be a surprisingly selfless teammate, handing several assists to Tarky of House Aglond (Center Forward).   It’s said surprisingly, because Chellen’s also proving to be such an unbearably annoying ass to opponents with his arrogance and non-stop trash talk that one would have expected him to be a ball hog.   There are some people who can trash talk a lot and get away with it with charismatic personalities (Ewick of House Poulser from Henix comes to mind).   Chellen has exactly none, which is likely why he often drew penalties from overly emotional defenders that allowed him to get Penalty Kicks (where he get a nice chunk of those goals from).  Nonetheless, while even the Bighorn fans can’t stand him, they at least respect Chellen and acknowledge that he’s going to be a big star and soon.

Everyone knew the Bighorn defense was formidable and they did not disappoint.   In fact, in allowing just 14 goals for the entire season, not only the best in the kingdom this year, but is in fact another new record that Rammsten has accomplished.   Doog of House Tapperton (Goalkeeper) was already highly respected as a goalie, but the effort he put out in Year 71 was ridiculous, being nearly impenetrable.  Even getting the football close to him was a near impossible task, with the giant Kackeron of House Baoba (Left Halfback) being tough to get around.  Kackeron’s work with his dribbling paid off greatly, as it would be he who would kick start the most successful drives after stealing a pass.  His work in becoming a true two way player has been a joy to watch (more-so than one of his annoying pranks-he’s become especially fond of playing tricks on the annoying Chellen, to the delight of everyone else in the player’s suite).

Just an amazing performance overall by the highly skilled Rammten, who’ve earned that promotion to the 1st Division that they fell just a bit short of last season.  With two consecutive highly productive seasons behind them and going 3-2-1 against the former 1st Division teams (Anjocca, Jahnsel United, and Earch FFC), there’s plenty of reason to believe that the moment won’t be too big for Bighorns.  With their intelligent manager, Dove of House Clissard, having already announced a warning to the 1st Division teams to be ready for the formation he has planned for them, it appears that he’s as hungry to keep improving as his players are.   Times are wonderful in Rammsten, with the fasting growing city in the kingdom getting even busier, the loudest fans in the kingdom getting louder than ever, and with a still young club with plenty of real top level talent everywhere on the field, experts believe that these guys are going to be a real threat to win the League Championship.   Only time will tell…

Next: Avornian Football League, Year 71, 1st Division, Season Review

Last edited by Stickman (3/01/2023 8:58 pm)

     Thread Starter

3/05/2023 11:18 am  #53

Re: Avornian Football League

Avornian Football League, Year 71, 1st Division Season Review

The weather for the opening day of the 8th season of Avornian Football’s top tier couldn’t have started off much uglier.   For the games in Tomen, Petorvale, and Henix, several downpours drenched the spectators, players, and especially the fields.   No surprise then, that these were among the sloppiest games ever played in Avornia (though interesting, the scores in these games were really high, in particular a 5-0 Henix win over Leorux, the biggest blowout win in an opening game ever).   Perhaps the ugly Week 1 would be a sign of things to come, as there would be some unexplainable collapses, surprise teams, and one of the saddest tragedies seen yet in the young league’s history.   This would not be a year quickly forgotten.

Leorux: For Leorux, that 5-0 loss to Henix was a sign of how Year 71 would go for last year’s runner ups.  After a nice rebound win against Petorvale in Week 2, Leorux wouldn’t win another game during the first half of the season, going 1-2-6 for just five points going into Week 10.   They were in the relegation zone by four points and already seven behind 8th Place in the Divisional Standings.   Nothing seemed to be going right for the Elves, already outscored for the season 7-17 in goals.   The offenses was sluggish and the defense, normally their strong suit, was embarrassingly weak.   Things got pretty heated in the Hoopmeister household, as Eddark (Manager) and Herrard (Owner) reportedly got into several fights over Eddark’s style.   Perhaps feeling some heat (and wanting to shut his brother up), Eddark decided to start mixing up the team’s formations, switching to using multiple during the second half of the year in an effect to find something that would stick.   It seemed to have work, as since the halfway point, Leorux has gone 4-4 and gotten themselves into a position to have a Week 18 game worth playing for.  

Worryingly, Carles of House Yalmount (Right Forward) is clearly declining as a player and even worse, Joezas of House Nook (Left Forward) has been unable to pick up the slack.   While he’s not a bad player and Eddark has worked hard with him to improve, Joezas ultimately is proving that he’s can’t be trusted to carry the team on his back.  In truth, the best shooter up to this point has been Hemly of House Raber (Right Midfielder), who’s probably been the only player on the entire team who’s had a good season.    However, his skills on both ends of the fields have been overshadowed by the team’s general poor play and there’s only been so much that he can do.

The collapse of Leorux’s defense can be blamed on injuries, it’s actually been ridiculous how unlucky the Elves have been.   Kade of House Nush (Left Centerback), generally the team’s best defender, has been limited to only playing 3 games this season due to a stunning multitude of injuries.  Even when he was on the field, he was far from his best.  There was a huge concern with Azaroth of House Belock (Right Centerback) going into Year 71.   He had gotten hurt from a stab wound suffered during a home robbery and also seemed to struggle with his back.   He’s also had easily the worst season of his career, struggling the stay on the field, the back pain being too much at times and required him to sit out a few contests.   With both him and Kade playing poorly (when they even did play), the center of the defense, for years now an ironclad stronghold for the Elves defense, was flimsy and easily broken through.  Going into Week 18, they’ve allowed 26 goals, tied for 2nd worst in the division. 

While this has been a nightmare of a season, relegation is not guaranteed, in fact Leorux could actually finish as high as 7th Place if all goes right.   But one would have to be blind to see the effect that Year 71 has had on the fanbase, as the attendance has dipped greatly since last year.  It appears that Elves fans are somewhat fickle.   So too has been the athlete’s spirit, as ever since their heartbreaking Week 18 collapse last year that blew their chance at becoming League Champions, nothing seems to have gone right for them.  Even if they survive, Eddark has his work cut out for him next year, as there seems to be a need for retooling the offense and hoping that the defenders bounce back.  They may have to take a chance or two at players from the Youth Academy, maybe before they feel the kids are fully ready for the professional league.  If he doesn’t do something soon, it will get mighty interesting to see how Herrad handles things.   He’s a competitive guy and there’s already been arguments between the two brothers.   One would think family ties would prevent a quick termination, but in football, nothing is guaranteed.

Dobo: There’s no way that anyone could have ever guessed what kind of tragedy that the Claymen would go through, or for any football team for that matter.   At 2-2-1 after their 2-1 victory over Forest Rangers FC, Dobo found themselves just one point out of 1st Place in a very competitive 1st Division (in fact, only Leorux wasn’t within three points of the top of the Divisional Standings).    With the offense playing as well as it had last year, when it scored 36 goals, the league record in an 18 game season, it seemed that Dobo would be in for another exciting season as they would fight to compete for the League Championship.  

On the night of that Week 5 victory, the club had decided to celebrate their win, and they got a bit out of control at a bar.   Especially Sahasha of House Bethel (Left Forward), who got into a dispute with another patron, though it seemed that Axsan of House Sleigh (Center Forward) was able to break it up without incident.   It appeared that everything would be fine and eventually everyone would go to their homes.   However, the next day, when it became time to get ready to leave for the Week 6 Leorux game, it was discovered that Sahasha was missing.   Remembering what had happened last night and fearing the worst, the team quickly got local authorities involved to try and find him.   His body would be found not far from the bar, having been murdered.   The entire city would quickly learn of the horror, leaving everyone in a state of shock and grief.   Sahasha, beyond being known for being a promising star in the making at football, was also well known as a kind, big hearted personality that just loved a good time.   And now he was gone forever.    Worst of all, months have past since, and his killer has not been found. 

There never would have been enough time for the team to recover emotionally, though Leorux was gracious enough to immediately offer to postpone the game indefinitely until Dobo was ready.   After sitting out a week, the match would be had.    Dobo would win the emotionally charged game, 3-1 and for just a moment, it seemed that the Claymen might be able to ride the season out with a never before seen passion and possibly even win the League Championship in a story book styled ending for their fallen brother.   Sadly, life often doesn’t play out like it does in fiction.  The Claymen have won just one game in the three months since that Leorux game, going 1-3-7.  

Not that anyone is really keeping track of statistics given the enormity of what’s happened at Dobo, but not surprisingly, everyone has been off the game, understandably distracted and struggling to cope with Sahasha’s death.  Axsan, in particular, has clearly been devastated, likely feeling a remorse for not keeping an eye for his friend after the confrontation at the bar, (of course, nobody blames him, who would have guessed this could ever happen?) and his play has of course suffered for it.   If there’s been any high points, it’s been Kocha of House Nabu (Right Center Midfielder) and Mothrew of House Greenbend (Manager), whose leadership has helped the team be able to get through each day.  They’ve helped this team build a bond that very likely will never be broken even after everyone is done playing football many years from now. 

While football has rightfully taken something of a backseat for the team, they’ve hung in there and even appear to be gaining some slight momentum, having earned 4 points in the last three games.   With just one more game to go, the Claymen has a daunting task ahead of them.   They are currently in 9th Place in the Divisional Standings, tied with Leorux with 17 points for the season and in a battle involving four teams that are trying to avoid relegation.   Playing on the road, against a very strong team that still has a chance at the League Championship, absolutely nobody would blame Dobo if they lost that game and got demoted.   However, one has to imagine that Mothrew and Kocha are doing everything in their power to get the team as motivated as possible.   Can the Claymen pull it off and stick around in the 1st Division?   Nobody knows for sure, but there’s no doubt that everyone in the kingdom is rooting for them to have something nice go right for this club after everything they’ve been through.

Baelanholme: There wasn’t much expected out of Baelanholme in Year 71, given the club losing a couple of big names and being forced to bring up multiple new players into the starting rotation.  Indeed, at times it’s been a long year for the Pirates as their fans have been forced to watch this team often play at a snail’s pace and suffer through multiple winless streaks (one three game winless streak and two four games runs, including one they are currently struggling through going into Week 18).   To be fair, Baelanholme did play fairly well in the first half of the season, going 4-1-4 for 13 points, good enough to keep within four points of 1st Place.  However, critics point out that the Pirates benefitted from some shoddy officiating, getting late game Penalty Kicks on disputable calls in their home games against Henix (Week 3) and Leorux (Week 8) that led to two of those victories.   As bad officiating is never something a team should count on, it was inevitable that eventually, that tide would turn.   And turn it has, the Pirates have been terrible during the season’s second half, scoring exactly 6 goals in that run and going 1-3-4 since, falling out of League Championship contention quickly and now being in a position where a tie or loss in Week 18 could result in their relegation from the top flight.

In fairness, Baelanholme’s struggles aren’t the fault of their defense, which has played at a mid-tier level, allowing 22 goals so far.  Tyfir of House Angelbacc (Left Centerback) had a lot of pressure put on him this season due to the team having two new starters on the defensive end of the field.   He’s responded very well, displaying excellent instincts on where the opponents were looking to pass the ball without being too overly aggressive.   Shanto of House Sayloor (Right Defensive Midfielder) had a bit of an up and down year, but generally was great on defense.   New wingback Jekeyta of House Kooselandwehr dealt with the general struggles that most people expect out of rookies, but he wasn’t terrible and seemed to adapt well to the demands that his two way position expected of him.  He’ll definitely be someone to watch for as he gets more experience.  Overall, Baelanholme can at least be happy about the progress the defense has made, as they’ve allowed far fewer goals this year than they did last season.

The Pirates offense… the less one speaks of it, the better mood a fan will be in.   It was hoped that Mehcka of House Bhasha (Right Forward) could carry the offense in the hopes that someone else would step up to provide defenses someone else to respect, but that never happened, allowing defenses to pick on poor Mehcka the entire season.  When he could break free, he at times could look like a genius with his dribbling and attack routing, but those times were few and far between in what ended up being a very frustrating season.  Shanto was too inconsistent this year and Jekeyta’s first season on offense, while at times fun to watch, definitely proved he’s got some improvements to make on decision making while on the attack.   As a result, Baelanholme enters Week 18 having only scored 14 goals.   If they get shut out this week, they will set a new low for the least amount of goals ever scored in an Avornian Football League season.  Considering they’ve been shut out six times this year already, that’s a real possibility.   Even if they do score, it’s not likely to be more than one goal.   Incredibly, the only times that the Pirates have scored more than once in a game have been in the two games they played against Henix’s league worst defense.   Since they aren’t playing Henix this week, the statistics suggest they’re in a lot of trouble.

Nobody has been happy with Baelanholme’s progress this season, least of all Candor of House Blusal (Owner).  He had hoped that new manager Gavonne of House Richnam (Manager) could turn the club around.   Gavonne had pushed his team to play at a slower pace for several reasons, including keeping the defense from being exposes and to allow his wingbacks to have a shot at being able to play on both ends of the field for the entire game.  While he’s been successful keeping the defense playing well, it’s looking like Gavonne has no real gameplan for offense, which is a big part of the reason why they’ve played at a historically bad rate.  He absolutely needs to find more offensive talent to supplement Mehcka.   Still, right now the focus is on Week 18.  Win and he’ll get another chance next season to make the necessary adjustments to have a better offensive showing.   Lose, he risks the team being relegated, which quite possibly would result in his firing after just one season.

Henix: After the Firebirds demolished Leorux 5-0 in Week 1, fans were salivating at the idea that Henix could live up to the promise that Year 70’s team had made after improving greatly.   The next game would be a big one, against another expected contender in Chalmblaank, at Chalmblaank.  Win that game, and the Firebirds would already have 6 points against two of the top four teams of Year 70.   However, during a drive toward the goal, Ewick of House Poulser (Right Forward) get slid into roughly by Chalmblaank’s new centerback, Nacholas of House Morbury, injuring his kneecap falling awkwardly.   While Chalmblaankian fans cheered the clear penalty, Ewick rolled about on the ground and would need help hobbling off the field.  He wouldn’t return until Week 17.   With their star athlete out of commission, Henix’s season would quickly fall apart.   Starting with the Chalmblaank game, the Firebirds would go on a four month run where they would only win three of the next fifteen games, a putrid 3-3-9 run (12 points).   While Leorux’s rough season has been enough to keep Henix mostly out of last place in the Divisional Standings (aside for after Week 14, but they only stayed there one week), this has been a far cry from the high expectations that the fans (and owner Caltan of House Zakariah) had on the team.   They did just win last week, a 2-0 shut out over Dobo, which was enough to put the team in 7th Place in the Divisional Standings at this point, but after the previous season they had, that’s still a drop off in quality.

Despite Ewick out for most of the year, Henix’s offense has actually played alright, they currently have 25 goals going into Week 18 (though they only scored 18 of those in the 15 game run without Ewick), good for a tie for 3rd most in the division.  There were a lot of concerns that Roh of House Quack (Left Forward) would wilt under the pressure of being the guy on offense, but to everyone’s delight, he appears to have mentally bounced back nicely after choking last year’s King’s Cup final away.  He leads the team with 10 goals, a new career high.   It also helps that Endru of House Adib’s (Right Center Midfielder) hard work trying to improve his shooting accuracy has paid off, he’s also gotten a career high in goals scored while still being great at opening the field with his passing accuracy.    Sure, the team would be a whole lot higher in the Divisional Standings if Ewick hadn’t missed so much time, but it’s comforting to know that without him, the Firebirds can still hold their own.

The Firebirds defense has been a massive disappointment, allowing a division high 30 goals.   Tiffery of House Cunnard (Left Fullback), having been so promising as a rookie in Year 70, has regressed badly, getting outsmarted by the top level forwards way too often and blowing coverage at the worst possible time by playing too aggressively.  Worse, he’s developed a bit of a unfavorable reputation within the player suite by being a goof off, not taking practice seriously, and even getting into arguments with respected veteran Carlin of House Fandanno (Left Centerback) on several occasions.   Quant of House Tivers (Manager) had been patient with his young player at first, being one to be less strict on good players.   However, with Tiffery playing at the level of a poor backup, Quant finally had enough of the immaturity and has sat him for the past month.   Tiffery doesn’t appear to be likely to play again this year, one hopes the humbling experience has taught him a lesson he won’t soon forget.   For his part, Carlin, has continued the more physical approach that helped his team prevent scores (and also hurt his reputation), but he has tried to tone the cheap hits down.  Unfortunately, he’s faced a lot of drives from opponents, who have taken full advantage of Henix’s very weak midfielder, the football has spent an awful lot of time on Henix’s side of the field.   That sort of pressure is very difficult to overcome without allowing a lot of goals and Henix has never exactly had the bend without breaking type of defense.  It’s been a tough year and Quant will probably need to spend all of Year 71’s offseason working to fix that unit.

Henix is another team that really needs a win this week, with only 18 points in the standings, they are just one point out of the relegation zone, and they are playing the 1st Place team, albeit at home.  If there’s any solace, at least Ewick came back last week and didn’t appear to have any hint of rust on him.   In fact, Henix has won two of its last three games, so it does appear that they’re playing at their best at the end of the year.   Still, they may need to win this game, a draw won’t be enough to survive relegation if Baelanholme, Dobo, and Leorux all win their games. 

Tomen: There hadn’t been a lot of enthusiasm from the fans going into Year 71.  They had started to feel like the team was stagnated, not improving in multiple seasons.   To be fair, the Rivermen had started last season well, but after Cragnus of House Sammsoon’s (Left Center Offensive Midfielder/Striker) season ending injury, the team had collapsed.   The fans were hoping that this season, they could actually play quality football for the entire year.   For a while, that appeared to be the case, as Tomen had a nice 3-4-1 start to the season.   With 12 points, they were only one point out of 1st Place.   Fans were starting to get excited and thinking that, just maybe, Tomen might have figured it out.   Unfortunately, as has happened for what is now the third time in the last four seasons, the Rivermen have found out how to choke a promising season away, only going 2-3-4 in the last nine games for just 9 points.  They did have a nice two game winning streak in Weeks 13 and 14, shutting out Chalmblaank and Henix, but other than that, it’s been the same ol’, same ol’ at Tomen.   Play really good football for one half of the year while playing inconsistently or outright bad the other.   Experts feel that may feel a bit of a harsh criticism of the Rivermen who, to be completely fair, have only lost 5 games the entire year so far.  But the fans are getting impatient with the team showing some promise only to disappoint them as the year goes on, pinning the blame on Loeb of House Gammiz (Manager).

With Cragnus able to play for an entire season, it’s probably no real surprise that Tomen’s offensive output has increased greatly.   Loeb may get a lot of heat nowadays, but his work on getting Cragnus back on track after his brutal injury is a nice reminder of why he was so beloved in the first place.   Cragnus once again led the team in goals scored, with 11 and looks to be as confident as ever.   Mishakl of House Floddergrove (Center Midfielder) had a nice rebound season after trying to do too much by himself last year.   He had a lot of success leading the team down the field on longer, slower drives, (one of the few things Loeb did to change things up, never one to adapt to new strategies, was to have the team focus more on ball control and time of possession), and as a result, the Rivermen currently have 25 goals, good for a tie for 3rd most in the 1st Division.

The defense has regressed a little, but is still considered about an average squad.  Argill of House Sammsoon (Right Centerback) has played well, his physicality being enough to force teams to try and approach goals from the other side of the field to avoid him as much as possible.  Stilston of House Amago (Goalkeeper) had a slightly down year by what had been becoming his standard, facing a lot of shots on goals that he probably could have prevented had he been more aggressive at charging at the football when it was between him and a forward.  He’s always been cautious, despite Loeb’s best attempts to get him to play more bravely.   Still, he’s considered a pretty decent goalie overall.

Ultimately, with Tomen once again being out of contention well before the final week of the season, Knoan of House Whitley (Owner) is starting to get antsy.  Attendance is starting to drop, and with the team finishing 6th-9th each of the past four years, he knows that Tomen has earned a reputation for being an average at best team that can’t be counted on to play good football all year long.   Despite the team only losing five games this year, he’s starting to take a good, hard look at Loeb.  He would hate to be the guy that fires the likable manager, but Loeb is just not getting it done.   His rah-rah heavy approach is popular with the athletes, but he’s not a great strategist and it’s showing with his failing to understand when opponents have figured his gameplan out and adjusted to it (believed to be one of the reasons Tomen keeps falling apart in the second half of seasons).    Ultimately, Knoan is a true businessman first and foremost, if profits are down because of falling attendance, that’s an issue that needs to be addressed immediately.   Therefore, he may decide to fire Loeb and hire a new leader for the player suite.    If that happens, he’d better choose the successor really carefully, as he risks losing the players if a Loeb replacement ended up being hated.   Maybe giving Loeb one more chance wouldn’t be such a bad idea…?

Silagnak: All eyes were upon the rough and tough city of Silagnak, with having both a new manager and a new owner.    How would the new regime work out?  Could they lead Silagnak to a repeat League Championship, something that hadn’t been done since Earch FFC became the first (and only) team to do so in Years 64 and 65.   Starting the season 0-2 and being the last team to earn any points certainly didn’t put their rowdy fans at ease, they were already booing the team in their Week 2 loss to rival Baelanholme.   But those jeers would turn back to cheers soon enough, when Silagnak got hot after that.  By the halfway point of the season, the Black and Blues were only two points out of 1st Place in the Divisional Standings, thanks to a 5-2.   Things were going good, players were staying healthy, there weren’t any cases of referee tomfoolery, and there was no drama in the players’ suite.  Perhaps Silagnak would be the team to finally break the “Champions Curse”, where every League Champion suffered a massive drop off in the standings the year after for the last several seasons.  Unfortunately, the Black and Blues has struggled starting in Week 10, they gone 2-2-4 since and have fallen out of the League Championship race.   However, as things stand, they are in 5th Place, barring Tomen passing them in Week 18, Silagnak will have become the first League Champions to have finished in the top half of the Divisional Standings the following year since the Earch FFC run, which at this point would be about all most fanbases could ask for.   Silagnak fans are a bit of a tough crowd, though.   Having been spoiled with all the top 4 finishes that Mendo of House Tydent had led them to, the Black and Blue fans have already been calling for new manager Mitt of House Mickar’s head (figuratively, of course, even Silagnakians know better than to try and actually harm a royal official that works directly with King Mikelangel III).

A big part of the reason for Silagnak’s decline has been the offense, which has been the weakest it’s been since the team’s inaugural Year 64 season, only scoring 23 goals to date.  Weirdly, despite the fact that the team uses a 4-3-3 formation now instead of the old 5-2-2-1 tactic from Mendo’s days-which in theory should be better for offensive output- it seems like Boba of House Coldsteek (Center Forward) and Varner of House Patracks (Right Forward) are struggling this year.   Boba in particular has just been… off all year long.   It’s true he’s at his best when making quick darts out towards the goal and shooting after getting a long pass, but he should still be able to master the slower approach that Mitt has been preaching.   For some reason, he’s just not having a good year and Varner has been inconsistent too.   Very strange and fans hope that by Year 72, the two have learned the formation well enough to play at their normal level.

Running a more neutral formation for most of the year, Silagnak’s decline on that side of the field was somewhat expected.   They’ve allowed 26 goals, tied for the 2nd most in the division.  That’s the most they’ve allowed in a season since the pre-Mendo days, in Year 66 (when they allowed 42 goals, still the all time record, obviously the defense hasn’t regressed that much).   Thankfully, Lenzlo of House Amburs (Left Centerback) seems to have gotten stronger as the year’s gone on, though Mitt did sit him the occasional game or two over the course of the season to allow him time to rest his weary feet (against Lenzlo’s protests).  By Week 18, he seems to have recover enough to play at nearly the top tier level fans are used to seeing.   Knowing his toughness and drive, Year 72 is likely going to be his best yet, a worrying thought for opponents.   Wels of House Portler (Right Fullback) still has that anger issue of his, it appears at this point like he’s never going to fully grow out of committing stupid penalties when he feels he’s been wronged.   But it’s getting a bit harder to bench him, with the rest of the defense either having their playing time limited due to injury recovery or just playing poorly.   And so, perhaps feeling some pressure from the fans, Mitt has mostly been a bit more tolerant of Wels emotional play, hiding the pain he feels from Wels many dumb outbursts with a chagrined look that only hints at his irritation.

Overall, Silagnak’s season is a bit mixed.  On the one hand, they will complete the best League Championship follow up season in recent memory if they can win this upcoming game.   On the other hand, even finishing in 5th Place would feel like a gut punch for a franchise that hasn’t finished that low since the pre-Mendo days (No doubt Mitt is getting tired of being compared to Mendo, who based on overall performance, might debatably be the best manager in Avornian Football history to date).  It can’t be denied that the team did experience a drop off and will have to find a way to regroup.   Perhaps Mitt could take a chance at a Youth Academy member or two or even play around with another new formation.   It’s probably worth a shot, as there’s still plenty of high end talent on this team that in theory, should still be nearing or already at their primes. 

Chalmblaank: Going into Year 71, the Knights were something of an enigma.   They were expected to have an excellent defense but an awful offense.   For the most part… Chalmblaank delivered that and some generally good, consistent play throughout the year, keeping within striking distance of 1st Place for much of the season, never falling more than three points out for the first three months of the season.   They even had 1st Place all to themselves at a couple points of the season, most recently in Week 12 after an always satisfying home win over Petorvale, (worth noting that security was extra tight for “The Clash” as Chalmblaank/Petorvale matchup have come to be known as.  There were no major incidents between Chalmblaank’s goalie Matrick of House Cattlebottle and Petorvale’s forward Garrend of House Jackleton.   Not that Matrick didn’t push his luck with his infamous finger wag taunt on the occasions when Garrend tried to score a goal against him).   Unfortunately for Chalmblaank, just when fans were starting to get excited over the possibility that the Knights might finally win the League Championship, they found a way to break the fans’ hearts, going on an ill-timed four game winless run that was just enough to not only knock them off the top perch in the Divisional Standings, but also to officially eliminate them from contention after Week 16.  Ah well, there’s always next year, right?

The defense was exactly as good as advertised, only allowing 18 goals to this point.   If they shut their next opponent out, Chalmblaank will have tied the all-time 1st Division record for the least amount of goals ever allowed in a full season.  A lot of thanks has to be given to Matrick, who showcased exactly zero rust after missing all of Year 70 while suspended, and in fact had his best season as a professional.   While the snobby fans at Chalmblaank originally turned their noses up at him when he first joined the team, Matrick has done well to earn their love (although most fans are of course, “too classy” to appreciate his annoying finger taunt…not that they don’t cheer when he stops a shot at goal and then does it).  Arlo of House Pixsan (Right Wingback) played fairly well in Year 71, having to learn a new position that also forced him to help more on offensive drives (for too long, Deagu of House Sanchor-Manager- had felt like he was wasting Arlo’s natural speed playing at centerback and made him change positions to capitalize on his athleticism).  He’s a definite work in progress, but at least Arlo’s defensive skills are as useful as ever.  Nacholas of House Morbury (Right Centerback), who replaced Arlo’s original position, had a pretty solid season.  It does help that the rest of Chalmblaank’s defense is high end, which made it so that he wouldn’t be expected to do too much in his first season.   Not forcing him to be perfect so early in his career is likely going to prove a wonderful thing for Nacholas’ career, because he made plenty of rookie errors, mostly in the form of being too aggressive when sliding for the ball.   He already injured Henix’s Ewick of House Poulser in Week 2, but he’s caused a few more injuries being too aggressive.  He’d better tone that part of his game down, otherwise the referees will make sure to target him with penalties. 

The offense, while not the worst in the division as originally was feared, was still below average.  Sirge of House Einna (Center Forward) did everything he could to carry the team on his back, with or without any help from his teammates, which always draws Deagu’s ire.  To be fair to him, it’s not like the Knights have anyone else to really help Sirge out, so for once, he really did have an excuse to try to be the main star on offense.   It’s just tough to score a lot when defenses know they can just tee off on him and him alone.  Ultimately, the team’s scored 22 goals for the year, but experts feel like Deagu absolutely must prioritize getting Sirge some help on offense… and soon.

Overall, it’s been another fairly heartbreaking season at Chalmblaank.  The team showed a ton of promise and even held 1st Place briefly.  To be fair, this team, being so one dimensional, probably over-achieved, it’s very hard to win a League Championship when you’re only good at one aspect of football.  But one has to wonder if there had been another offensive threat (perhaps if former star midfielder Alajandrus of House Capeburgh had held off retiring for another year), that they couldn’t have finally broken through and won a very much desired first championship.   Heck, even a King’s Cup victory would probably be enough to satisfy the fans for now.   That could still be a reality, but for now, Chalmblaank must live with the annoyance of having played well yet again, but going home with no title.

Hanuna: For the first time since Year 68, Hanuna went into the season feeling no worry over possibly getting attacked with a curse.   The hope was that the Bluefins would go out arrows-a-blazing to start the season, to remind everyone just how good this team was when they were of sound mind.   For the most part, Hanuna has played very well in Year 71, though they didn’t jump out to a early lead in the Divisional Standings or anything, they did briefly have a tie for 1st Place after Week 5.   However, the first half of the season was a fairly middling affair, Hanuna would enter the second half of the season with a 3-3-3 record, having been on a four game winless run.   However, just when fans were thinking that Hanuna would play averagely all year long, they finally hit a sustained run, winning four of the next five games (tying the other one).   It was a good enough run to put the Bluefins back to within three points of first place.   Even better, Osnardo of House Zahn (Right Forward) was coming back to the field after missing most of the last two years recovering from being cursed last year.  Unfortunately, perhaps he should have stayed on the sidelines a bit longer, as his rusty play directly caused the team to blow late game drives in each of the next two weeks, causing Hanuna to lose both by one goal each.   It was enough to fall just far enough out of the race to get eliminated from League Championship contention. 

While Osnardo obviously will take some time to get back into the swing of things, it is nice to see that he's putting in the effort needed to even get back out there, he’d earned a reputation for getting lazy after the team’s Year 68 League and Cup Championships.   Alfenz of House Mohr (Striker) would certainly love to have Osnardo’s dribbling skills back at a high level.  For his part, Alfenz was excellent this season, finding several opportunities to sneak little shots into the net despite defenses putting a ton of their focus on him.  While he didn’t come close to setting any new records, he easily led Hanuna in goals with 11.   Ullie of House Ran (Left Center Midfielder) had a nice enough year, proving to be competent at handling his new position.  While he didn’t light the world on fire, it’s been wonderful seeing Ullie earn his confidence back, he had been so awful in Year 69 that he’d been demoted to the Youth Academy to basically start his career over.   His best attribute was finding space to receive passes and avoiding turning the football over.  Overall, Hanuna has scored 25 goals, a slight improvement over last year’s mark. 

The centerbacks of Hanuna, Garlen of House Richenaan (Right Centerback) and Shend of House Illard (Left Centerback) were excellent this year, proving nearly impossible to get past, their efforts forced teams to prioritize driving from the sides and only shooting at the goal from the middle of the penalty box area when trying to head the ball in from a pass.  The team has only allowed 20 goals, 2nd best in the 1st Division.  Garlen in particular has proven to be a very adaptable player, adjusting from playing defense to occasionally shifting his position to the midfielder, where his surprisingly good eyes for passing lanes can make a difference in games.  His absence for the last few weeks has made a difference too, as he’s missed time due to a left leg injury due to a collision with Chalmblaank’s Nacholas of House Morbury in Week 14.  He very likey won’t be suiting up for this week’s game either, which could present a problem.

Overall, this has been easily the best season the Bluefins have had since Year 68.  They’re in 3rd Place in the Divisional Standings and could still finish in 2nd depending on how Week 18 plays out.  Credit definitely needs to be given to manager Lellochatnim of House Gull, who’s long had the reputation for being a great game planner.  His willingness to be creative with players like Garlen and Ullie (who many managers might have given up on after his horrid rookie year) has throw several times off track, allowing Hanuna to gain the upper hand.  While Hanuna did fall just short this year, fans are excited about the possibilities that could exist for next season.   Hopefully, the core players on the team aren’t getting too long in the tooth, as several of their biggest names (Garlen, Alfenz, and Osnardo) have been in the league for several years now.  If they can keep playing at a high level for another year to two, the Bluefins could potentially earn another championship in the near future.

Petorvale: The big question going into Year 71 for the Hammers was whether they could bounce back after a nightmare of a previous year.   Hammen of House Tong (Manager) had insisted that the team was fine, they had just been remarkably unlucky.   Judging from Petorvale’s place in the Divisional Standings, he was proven very right.   A decent, if unspectacular, start to the season saw the Hammers with a 3-2-3 record and 11 points.  While certainly not an amazing start, they were still only five points out of 1st Place.   They just needed a spark… and they would get it.   Just before the Week 7 game, Cooma of House Niccagua (Goalkeeper) suddenly asked to be put back onto the team.  Feeling he retired way too early, the time away from the game made him realize how much he missed football.   With Petorvale not having much quality in the way of goalkeeping, Hammen agreed.  Since officially returning in Week 9 (he needed some time to get back on track physically), Cooma has proven to make a huge difference, Petorvale has only lost once in the last nine weeks, (6-2-1 record).  The run was enough to inch their way back into the League Championship race and enter Week 18 with a chance to win their second title in three years.  

Cooma’s comeback was obviously a nice jolt of energy for the Petorvalen defense, and he’s had a solid season since his return.  The comically bad run of luck he had last year with footballs bouncing just right off the goal posts and into the net obviously wasn’t going to last forever, with physics being much more fair to him, Cooma’s only allowed 11 goals in 9 games.  He’s not the only Hammer player to have had a bounce back year either.  Norty of House Peaweedle (Left Centerback) had a bad Year 70, but the work he’s put into being more patient at the right moments has paid off, he’s successfully prevented opponents from getting easy shots on goal all year long.  Zephyr of House Emmends (Right Fullback) has been solid as usual.  One of the trickiest defenders in all of Avornia, Zephyr’s excellent footwork has always made him great at stealing footballs and then quickly starting a counterattack.  Hammen wanted him to focus more on helping the offense this year, so Zephyr has occasionally moved up the field to join an offensive drive or two to help keep the ball on the other team’s side of the field, which generally worked.  Overall, despite the bad start, Petorvale’s defense overall has played well, allowing 22 goals, good for a tie for 4th least in the division.

All eyes were on Garrend of House Jackleton (Left Forward) after he returned from a year long suspension.   Was he truly matured now?   Could he take the next couple of steps forward needed to become a legitimate star?  For the most part, he’s been fine.   He still doesn’t appear to be playing up to his potential, but to be fair, he’s played better as the year’s gone on, a sign he may have just been a bit rusty at the start of the season.  Luckily, Svontal of House Dors (Right Forward) is still one of the league’s best overall players, he had another stellar season, scoring 12 goals to complement Garrend’s 8.  When they weren’t enough, Hammers fans were happy to see Ceecil of House Ackerberry (Right Center Midfielder), the goofy looking man who’s receding hairline looked more like a small horseshoe now had a solid year after being hurt for almost all of Year 70.  He added 6 more goals to the total, which means that nearly every single goal scored for Petorvale was by those three alone, which is very odd.  Not that anyone is complaining, fans are just happy to see the team score a lot of goals again.  While the offensive output is not quite at the level that it was in Year 69, when they had scored a frightening 40 times, this was still a solid enough by the Hammers.

Going into Week 18, Petorvale does still have a chance to win the League Championship.   But it’s going to be at longshot odds.   Thanks to Forest Rangers FC being up 3 points and having a significant goal differential tiebreaker advantage over Petorvale, what will have to happen is that the Hammers will need to win next week by a lot and Forest Rangers will need to be crushed for Petorvale to pull miracle out of nothingness.  To be fair, Forest Rangers lost last week and are starting to limp towards the end of the season, so who knows?  But even if they do fall short, fans are loving that their Hammers are back to contending again!  Hopefully they don’t experience another drop off in quality like they did last year!

Forest Rangers FC: If you had held a poll with every Avornian Football League fan and asked them what one team (besides their own favorite) were they most interested in seeing how they’d fare in Year 71, not surprisingly, Forest Rangers FC would have been the top choice by far.   Coming up from the 2nd Division, everyone was interested to see how well the Rangers could handle the pressures of the top flight in football.  Could they even compete with the other 1st Division teams?   Or would they crash and burn, falling right back into the 2nd Division?   Everyone would get their answer relatively soon.   After losing two of their first five games, (including the season opener against Petorvale of all teams), the Rangers still appeared to be playing well, actually being tied for 1st Place in the Divisional Standings, though that was thanks to nobody else ripping off a good winning streak.   That would change quickly as, just like last season, Forest Rangers caught fire and went on a huge tear over the next ten weeks, going 6-4-0 (and honestly, a couple of those ties were games were they had clearly outplayed their opponents).  They’ve held at least a tie for 1st Place for almost all of the season (Chalmblaank briefly took over the top spot in Week 12), though they’ve never ran away from the competition either.  Still, all the Rangers need now is a win or a draw this week and they’ll have won the League Championship right after earning promotion to the 1st Division, a truly incredible accomplishment!

The biggest reason why they are in the position they are in is because of the offense.  Canton of House Bendakic (Center Forward) has been shockingly great at transitioning to the top level of football.   Experts had figured he wouldn’t dominate nearly as well as he had the 2nd Division, but he’d quickly prove everyone wrong.  So swift and controlled is he with the football, that even with defenses honing in on him, Canton found ways to create enough space for himself to set off several shots at goals and often nailed the shot.   He led the 1st Division with 13 goals and if he stayed healthy, he looks like he could have been a real threat to break Petorvale’s Svontal of House Dors’ mark of 16 goals in a season.  Even when he wasn’t having a stellar game, new starting center midfielder Wallah of House Anherty proved he was a threat in his own right, earning several goals and was especially great at getting open for passes, then finding Canton right as defenders started to charge at him.  The combination of Canton and Wallah has the potential to be a nightmare for defenses to cover for years to come.

Forest Rangers’ defense wasn’t expected to be anything special, but to his credit, Slaide of House Booshka (Manager) has done a wonderful job coaching up the no name defense to keep the ball far away from the goalie.   When that does happen, Vocher of House Ancha (Goalkeeper) had been difficult to get football past, as he’s quite smart and knows when to stay put to defend a shot and when to dart out to snatch the football away from an attacker.   However, in Week 16, he ran out to get a football before Leorux’s Carles of House Yalmount could.   For once, Vocher mistimed things and he would collide roughly with Carles, getting concussed in the process.   He hasn’t returned since and that’s coincided with Canton also getting banged up in Week 17’s loss to Chalmblaank (if you guessed Chalmblaank’s Nacholas of House Morbury was involved, you’d be right).   He’s now questionable for this week’s game with an ankle injury that looks pretty bad.

Going into the final game of the season, Forest Rangers are likely going to be without their best two players.   To be fair, they have a +13 goal differential, far better than Petorvale’s +6.   Even if the Rangers lose this week, they’d have to get blown out badly and/or Petorvale would have to destroy their opponents.   It’s looking very good for Forest Rangers to pull off the League Championship.   No doubt, everyone in the 2nd Division is rooting hard for them to win, in order to showcase once and for all that the 2nd Division was absolutely legitimate.   For the former teams in the Federation of Avornian Football, they have extra motivation to root for the Rangers, as they’d be the first former Federation team to win the League Championship, giving total legitimacy to their old league.   There’s plenty on the line still but no matter how it ends, Forest Rangers have been a great story to watch!

The Week 18 games are as follows…

Chalmblaank vs. Leorux:  Leorux fights to avoid relegation, can their weak offense find a way to break the Knights’ stellar defense?

Baelanholme vs Hanuna: It’s a big rivalry game!   Baelanholme is not out of the woods just yet, they could get relegated with a loss here.   Hanuna may only have pride to play for this week, but they’re still a very solid team to would love to finish as high as 2nd Place in the Standings.

Henix vs. Forest Rangers FC: Henix got Ewick of House Poulser back recently and looked amazing last week, but they’re still fighting to avoid relegation.  The Rangers are limping to the finish line, but generally played very well throughout the entire season and are needing just a draw (or win) to clinch the League Championship.

Petorvale vs Dobo: Petorvale still has a chance to win the title.  Dobo, after everything they’ve been through, and fighting to stay in the 1st Division and are motivated to win for their fallen comrade.   Can they play well enough to be a spoiler in what should be an emotionally charged contest?

(Also, there’s Tomen vs Silagnak, though that one has no impact on relegation or the League Championship)

NEXT: Avornian Football League, Year 71, 1st Division, The FOOTBALL FINALE

Last edited by Stickman (3/05/2023 11:21 am)

     Thread Starter

3/10/2023 4:30 pm  #54

Re: Avornian Football League

Avornian Football League, Year 71, 1st Division, The Week 18 Football Finale

The level of excitement going into Week 18 of the Year 71, the “Football Finale”, (various members of the Avornian Football Committee had worked hard to promote the final week of the season with a catchy nickname to draw more interesting, i.e., sales to the games’ tickets) was weirdly subdued.   Perhaps it was because it seemed to fans that the League Championship was all but wrapped up (technically, Petorvale could catch up to Forest Rangers, but a LOT would have to go just right).  If anything, the race to avoid relegation appeared to have more intrigue, with four different teams at risk of falling to the 2nd Division.   What would happen during the Football Finale?  Would would get relegated?  Was Forest Rangers’ impressive path from earning promotion into the 1st Division to potentially winning the League Championship really going to be so easy?   With four games out of five having some stake, there would certainly be something for nearly everyone worth watching.  For those curious, the fifth game ended up being a snoozer of a contest between Tomen and Silagnak that unsatisfyingly ended in a 0-0 draw, although at least that Silagnak would become the first League Champion to finish in the top half of the Divisional Standings the following year.

The expectation going into this game was that Hanuna, playing far better football in recent weeks than Baelanholme was, would easily stomp out the offensively anemic Pirates.   What Baelanholme fans would get instead was the first real reason to cheer for their hometown team in months.

Early in the game, in just the 5th minute, Baelanholme’s Tyfir of House Angelbacc (Left Centerback) stole the football off of a slightly bad pass from Hanuna’s Osnardo of House Zahn (Right Forward) and quickly darted down the field as far as he could before being forced to pass the football to Shanto of House Sayloor (Right Defensive Midfielder).   Shanto, aware that Jeketya of House Kooselandwehr (Right Wingback) was dashing like mad near him, keep his eyes straight ahead of him until the last moment before shooting a neat little pass to the young two way player.   Having some space ahead of him, Jekeyta dribbled the ball to about thirty yards out.    Bluefins’ left centerback, Shend of House Illard was well aware that the Pirates’ best shooter, Mehcka of House Bhasha (Right Forward) was already making a move towards the goal up the middle.  Figuring that Jekeyta would try a pass to him, Shend quickly put himself into position for a steal, though was careful enough to not blow coverage should Jekeyta try to dribble further.    What Jekeyta would do, nobody in the stadium was expecting, nor hoping, to see.   Deciding to go for it, Jekeyta would forget the pass, instead absolutely crushing the football towards the net despite being very far away from the goalie box.   The ball soared to the high, swinging leftwards…

And past the goalie, who was just a bit too far out of the box, not expecting the shot, for a GOOOOOOOOAL!!! 

The Baelanholme stadium erupted in cheers at the unexpected, but very welcomed, score!  Hanuna, stunned to already be having to play catch up football, never fully got into the game, only scoring once in a humiliating 4-1 blowout defeat.   Baelanholme, for just the third time this season, had scored more than one goal and more importantly, had secured enough points to avoid relegation entirely! 

The weather in the north and eastern part of the kingdom past the Tomen River was experiencing some very frigid weather.   By the Dueling Brothers Peaks, the icy snow-covered field was especially chilly.  However, the heat from the players’ intensity was intense.  The Rangers were certainly excited about the probability of clinching the League Championship.   Even if they lost, they held a +13 goal differential compared to Petorvale’s +6, a tiebreaker that would be awfully hard to top.  However, it appeared that they had listened too much to the resigned expectations that football fans kingdom wide had placed on their inevitable victory.   They would play with a level of lethargy that was rarely seen of them, (normally, their disciplinary manager, Slaide of House Booshka, never allowed his team to slack).   Worse for them, they were without their star forward, Canton of House Bendakic, and goalie, Vocher of House Ancha, both injured today.   Worst of all, the Rangers were playing against a Henix football team that not only was trying to avoid relegation, but was very keen on playing spoiler.  Given how well the team had been playing when their star forward Ewick of House Poulser was playing (and he was 100% healthy for this game), they had every right to be confident.

In the 3rd minute, Forest Rangers’ Wallah of House Anherty (Center Midfielder), who had been playing brilliantly for a rookie all year long, was driving the football into Firebirds’ territory.  Unaware of Baelanhomle’s Jeykeyta’s long shot score that occurred just minutes ago, Wallah decided to try to attempt his own shot at making a special moment by shooting from nearly 20 yards out.    The ball sailed to the goal…

Carlin of House Fandanno (Henix’s Left Centerback) dove at the ball, blocked it with his chest, preventing the goal.   Another defender would kick the ball into the midfield.  Another one of the Firebirds’ midfielders retrieved the ball, they’d pass it immediately to Endru of House Adib (Right Center Midfielder), who began a drive.   20 yards out, he’d spot Roh of House Quake (Left Forward) appearing to be the more open of the Firebirds’ forwards, so he scooted off a light strike of the ball towards him.   Roh had a tight space for a shot, but decided instead to sent the ball to the middle of the penalty box and hoped that Ewick would make it there in time to take a chip shot.   His instinct were proven wise, as Ewick would get to the football first.   He’d chipped the football towards the goal…

And easily got it past Forest Rangers’ backup goalie for a GOOOAL!!!

Down just 3 minutes into the game, Forest Rangers normally would have been able to shake off the bad start and work towards earning just a tie, as even that would be enough to clinch the League Championship.   However, Henix continued it’s relentless attack, annihilating the poor backup goal for shot after shot after shot.   They’d keep flying into the net too, as Ewick (probably still with plenty of pent up anger over having to miss most of the season) would erupt in ways never before seen in the Avornian Football League.  By the end of the game, he had unbelievably managed to score all SIX of Henix’s goals by himself!  It’s almost completely unbelievable how dominant he would be in this game, the six goals are quite easily the new record for most goals scored in a game by an individual player!  By the end of the 6-1 shellacking, Slaide was beyond fuming.   Not even caring if everyone in the dang stadium saw what he was doing or that they would unanimously booing him greatly, he yanked the entire team together at the sidelines and hollered at them for their pitiful performance.   He was even heard screaming that he hoped that Petorvale would crush Dobo enough for them to overcome the Rangers,  just to teach his players a lesson about getting cocky and playing as poorly as they did today.   It seemed idiotic to even suggest that the Rangers could find a way to blow their huge goal differential tiebreaker, heck to even lose today, but their goal difference is now only +8.   While they still hold the second tiebreaker, total goals scored during the season, all Petorvale now has to do is win by three goals and they will have pulled off what seemed impossible just hours ago!

The frosty weather was not enough to dispel the wealthy fans’ spirits, as they cheered loud and hard for their Knights to send the poor people of Leorux to the 2nd Division where they belonged.   It didn’t matter to them that Chalmblaank didn’t really have anything but pride and maybe a move up the Divisional Standings, they just wanted to see their team win this game (as expected).   For their part, Leorux’s player suite was tense, with Eddark of House Hoopmeister (Leorux Manager) doing his best to hype his team up by reminding them that they were not relegated by any means.   They absolutely could break the vaunted Knights defense as long as they stuck to his gameplan.  

Indeed, the Elves would outplay Chalmblaank for most of this game, though the Knights’ defense had held on strong for most of the game.   In the 75th minute, Carles of House Yalmount (Leorux Right Forward) finally managed to get open enough for Hemly of House Raber (Leorux Right Midfielder) to get a solid pass to.   Seeing the gaps around him quickly filling up, Carles, who had been dealing with the worst season of his career and was facing questions about how much longer he would keep playing, decided to take a shot towards the left side of the goal.   It’d be a ridiculously hard shot, but if he slithered it quickly and along the ground instead of in the air, it’d also be the most likely one to make it past Chalmblaank’s great goalie, Matrick of House Cattlebottle.   Carles, with his legacy possibly on the line, took the shot.   Matrick was definitely expecting a shot in the air to the right side of the goal but restrained himself just enough to still have a diving chance at the football.   The ball glided along the ground…

But was just barely nabbed by Matrick’s long arms, which were strong enough to stop the football where in its place.  Carles’ unlikely shot had been denied after all and worse, of course Matrick had to stare him down and wave that freakin’ finger at him after the save. 

Later on, in the 83rd minute, Chalmblaank was driving.   While Leorux’s defenders had played well so far, they’d faced a lot of pressure up to now to earn even just the one point in the standings that could save their season and the pressure was getting to them.   Sirge of House Einna (Chalmblaank Center Forward) had been getting closer and closer to having a clean shot at the goal and now he had the football again and was driving furiously.    Not surprisingly, both of the Elves’ backup centerbacks charged at him, knowing he’d inevitably try to take the shot without consulting his teammates.   However, they weren’t ready for what Sirge had in store.   Knowing they’d pressure him from straight on, Sirge decided to slow dribble the ball, fake a move to the right, then quickly pop the ball to his left.  The defenders bit and committed too much movement to the wrong direction.   Sirge, with the clean shot available, launched his leg at the bouncing ball…

The football shot past the goalie’s arms easily for a Chalmblaank GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!!! 

Leorux’s defenses had finally broken, and to add insult to injury, for whatever reason, Sirge decided to copy Matrick’s finger wave taunt at the Elves’s goalie, (of course the crowd loved it, though internally Matrick was ticked that Sirge was copying his move after the jerk always made a big deal about him doing it in practice.  Dang hypocrite!).    In any case, it was the straw that broke the Elves’ back, while Chalmblaank would score no more, neither would Leorux ever be able to threaten the Knights again, the game ending in a 1-0 result that kept Leorux in the relegation zone.   For Leorux, this was gut wrenching loss, but it wasn’t quite yet a certainty that they’d be relegated.  If Dobo lost by four goals or more, they’d be relegated instead (and with Petorvale still having a chance at winning the League Champions with a huge blowout win, they’d certainly be trying to crush the Claymen). 

The final game of the season had plenty enough stakes to it.   Petorvale’s suite was intense, Hammen of House Tong (Manager) was doing a spectacular job at hyping his team up.   They all knew that the odds of actually winning the League Champion was probably slim (the Forest Rangers’ game had only just started at this point), but they at least do their part and fight tooth and nail for the title anyway.  

In the Dobo locker room, emotions were at an all time high, during what was already a horrifically tragic year.   The players’ suite had never felt right after up and coming star Sahasha of House Bethel’s stunning murder, but the pressures of having to play a game to avoid something as meaningless in the big picture as relegation was a burden that was wearing on the team.   The negative energy in the suite was thick enough that Mothrew of House Greenbend (Manager) could almost see it.   While usually the type of coach willing to push all buttons to get his team in the right head space, he hadn’t wanted to bring Sahasha up as motivation (Mothrew felt… dirty about invoking his name just to try to win a game of football), but seeing no other way to motivate his team, Mothrew felt he had to roll the dice anyway.   He reminded his squad that this game wasn’t just about avoiding relegation.   Today, it would be about honoring Sahasha with their play.   Everyone in the player’s suite was a firm believer in Dobotitus, the all-loving god and knew Sahasha’s spirit was up in the Forever Realm with him, watching over his brothers down below.   He’d want his teammates to give today’s game everything they had, as he would have done for them.   Mothrew felt a bit sleazy and hoped he wasn’t doing Sahasha wrong by hyping the team up for his sake, but it did appear to be working.   The athletes were getting behind the message.   Would it be enough to save their season against the mighty Hammers of Petorvale?

This contest proved to be a highly physical one, with neither team able to quite able to get a break off to take much of any kind of shot at goal.   The first half would end 0-0.  During half time, word got around that Henix was crushing Forest Rangers badly, it was already 5-1 with that game still going on.   Hammen was no fool, he immediately used that score to re-energize his troops.   The League Championship wasn’t at all out of reach, the Hammers just needed to push harder!  

Receiving the message loud and clear, Petorvale would jump out to a ridiculous pace in the 2nd Half.    Try as they might, the Claymens defense simply wasn’t as good as the Hammers offense, and Petorvale would score twice within twenty minutes.   It was enough for Petorvale to have tied the Rangers’ in goal difference, they just needed one more goal to have pulled off the miracle of the century.   For Dobo, to their credit, they hadn’t lost heart yet, they were still fighting with everything they had, Petorvale had just been a little more technical in their play.  

It was now the 88th minute, and Petorvale was driving again, looking to get that 3rd goal once and for all to clinch the League Championship.  Ceecil of House Ackerberry (Right Center Midfielder) had the ball and, after a rather nice juke move that completely fooled a Dobo defender, managed to get it over to Svontal of House Dors (Right Forward), the team’s leading scorer.  Svontal only had a split second to decide what to do, he could pass to Garrend of House Jackleton (Left Forward) or take the shot at goal himself.  Deciding Garrend had the better shooting lane (and probably also could really use a heroic moment to gain some love from the city after missing all of last year while suspended), Svontal passed.  Garrend, slightly unprepared for the pass, nearly ran past the football but recovered just in time to gently bop the ball to a favorable angle and ripped it with all his might…

The football was going to be out of reach for the goalie… it should easily get in for a Petorvale GOOOooo… but Dobo’s Deason of House Amabastan (Left Centerback), had run into the goalie’s box and launched an awkward looking kick.   He connected before the ball passed the goal line and sailed the ball well out of danger.   Quickly collecting it, Kocha of House Nabu (Dobo Right Center Midfielder) ran up the field and somehow found Axsan of House Sleigh (Center Forward) open to pass to.   After getting the ball, Axsan, knowing this was the last chance at a chance to score a goal and with only Cooma of House Niccagua (Petorvale Goalkeeper) ahead of him, Axsan charged towards the goalie’s box.   He lifted his leg and aimed angled to his right.   Cooma was ready and already beginning to dive to the right…

Except that Axsan dragged his leg a little and actually gently chipped the ball to his left, which easily slid into the net for a Dobo GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!!!    

The game would end soon after, Petorvale had won, but hadn’t won by enough to catch Forest Rangers.   Still, they were happy to have pushed the Rangers has far as they could, to come far closer to winning the League Championship than anyone had thought possible.  Meanwhile, Dobo returned to the players suite, disheartened by the loss.   However, Mothrew would deliver the good news that the Claymen had still played well enough to stay in the 1st Division, they’d avoided relegation!   It wasn’t much, but it was going to have to be a good enough ending to what was a horrible year for Dobo.  

And so, this ended what should have been a fairly predictable week, yet one that ended up being more dramatic than expected, perhaps fitting in a year where the unusual, the tragic, and yes, even at times, the amazing occurred.  After the way Year 71 played out, what could everyone expect from Year 72?  

(EDITIOR’S NOTE:  Hey all, I’m going to be taking a little time off the project to recharge my batteries a little bit.  I know posting’s been a bit slow(er) over the last couple of months and I think that’s because I burned myself out slightly after trying to blitz through this story in the beginning.  I just hadn’t been feeling the same enthusiasm that I was in the beginning.  Don’t worry, the Avornian Football League isn’t going anywhere, but I did want to give you all some notice about this vacation of sorts.   I expect this time off to be about a couple of week to up to a month, after which I’m hoping to start up Year 72 and the next several seasons!   See you all then!)

Last edited by Stickman (3/10/2023 4:46 pm)

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