New England Football League Still Standing – AAA Semifinals | New England Football League
New England Football League

Still Standing – AAA Semifinals

Joe Harris will be a key factor in Merrimack Valley’s playoff run

In what could be considered one of the most competitive seasons in years, the NEFL’s Colonial Conference (AAA) is down to the final four teams. “If you followed the season you knew these teams were going to find themselves in the running for a championship,” said a fellow coach. “Now we can see them play a great brand of football.” The teams have already matched up on the field in the regular season. Will the previous winners have an advantage or will the underdog look to settle a score? Will home field be the deciding factor or will the visiting team look to upset the higher seed? All of these questions and more will be answered this weekend. Below is a quick outlook of the two biggest games of the year. Stay tuned….

GAME ONE: Merrimack Valley Nor’Easter (6-4) at Connecticut Panthers (8-2)
Falcon Field, Meriden, Saturday 7:30pm

Regular Season Matchup: Panthers won 17-14

Postponed until week 11, the matchup of the two teams had clear playoff implications. A slugfest for four quarters, two solid defensive stands by the Panthers in the final quarter played a big role in their regular season victory in Massachusetts.

Expect Nor’easter running back Joe Harris to have a bigger role in this weekend’s matchup. Harris has the ability to both run the ball inside the tackles and get out on the edges of a defense. He also is a great pass catcher and can be a valuable target for quarterback Kiel Canada. Defensively the Nor’Easter can rely on Al Andrews, the league leader in interceptions. Expect Andrews to be assigned to the Panthers’ Jamie Bryant for most of the day.

The Panthers have used their home field as a safe haven this season. They have defeated fellow semi-final participants Rhode Island Wardogs and the Southern Maine Raging Bulls at friendly Falcon Field in Meriden, Connecticut. “We feel comfortable at home” said receiver Marky Desruisseaux, “now we need to win two more here for the ring”. The balanced offense features a running attack by Kevin Woolfolk and a reliable passing game by Jason Manson with pass catchers like LJ Colon and Desruisseaux, and Bryant.

GAME TWO: Southern Maine Raging Bulls (7-2-1) at Rhode Island Wardogs (8-2)
North Smithfield High School, Saturday 7:30pm

Regular Season Matchup: Bulls won 30-14

In week 8, the Bulls showed they weren’t intimidated in facing the Wardogs or playing at their field, “The Bone Yard”. A solid run attack and opportunistic defensive plays allowed the Bulls to pull off the 16 point upset.

The best regular season record in the last two seasons, the Wardogs were the odds on favorite to win their first AAA Championship this year. Offensively Jeff Costa is New England’s top quarterback with over 30 touchdown tosses for the second straight year and a definite MVP selection for most voters. His top target is receiver Antonio Mena with 13 touchdown grabs.

The Bulls play like no other team in the NEFL. Their 2-headed running attack of Phil Warren and Teven Colon is the best around. Issiah Bachelder is a high percentage passer with the ability to keep the team level-headed. The defense ranks as the second best in the league. The Bulls have 4 players with more than 5-sacks.

We can expect big things in this weekend’s matchups. All 4-teams have championship aspirations. Who will take the next step to win in all? We will see what happens.

Jeff Costa and the coaching staff are looking to return to the championship game

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