New England Football League AAA Championship Preview | New England Football League
New England Football League

AAA Championship Preview

2015 AAA Champ PreviewA
Colonials Stadium at West Connecticut State University plays host to the 22nd NEFL Championship Game.                      

DANBURY, CT- In what is billed as the biggest game in the 2015 New England Football League season, the Western Connecticut Militia and the Boston Bandits are two very different programs that took a varied path to this game.

The Bandits come from the biggest city in New England. “Most of our players are from Boston,” said Head Coach Olivier Bustin. “They played high school ball against each other; now they are together on one team, its’ a special group.” Coach Bustin has seen it all over his years as the head coach of the Bandits. Established in 1995, Boston is the longest running program in the NEFL. Making it to the big game seven times, the Bandits have won 4 NEFL Championships and are viewed as one of the winningest programs in Minor League sports.

Created in 2011, the Militia started as an AA-level team before moving up to AAA the following year. “We are based in Danbury, CT but most of our players are from other parts of the state and New York,” said owner Carl Oberg. “We have a mix of everything here with us.” NEFL Organization of the Year winner the past few seasons, Oberg puts a lot of time and resources in everything from multiple sets of player’s uniforms, indoor practice facilities, team physicians, and maybe the best pre-game entrance in minor league football. “We do a lot for our players and fan base, however, our ultimate goal is to win a championship.”

WESTERN Connecticut MILITIA (11-1) – Southern Division Champions

HOW THEY GOT HERE: One of the best regular season winning percentages in the league over the past four seasons, the Militia are finally in position to win their first NEFL Championship. A hard fought playoff battle against the Pioneer Valley Knights put them in the underdog role against the Connecticut Panthers. Aided by their rookie quarterback Nick Kimball, a 28-0 dismantling of the champs has put them in position to win it all.

DEFENSIVE SUMMARY: At times overshadowed by their offensive counterparts, the Militia’s defense has been traditionally strong for years. Defensive ends Jasper Ramsey and Hakeem Pierce could be the best pair in the league against the run and the pass. Raq Taft leads the team in tackles and big plays. The secondary’s improvements come from new additions (Jovan Wilkins) and holdovers (Tyrone Breece). Safeties Dwight Franklin and Eric Forde are both 6’3 and are deterrents to would be pass catchers.

2015 AAA Champ PreviewB
Quarterback Nick Kimball (above) makes his second career start

OFFENSIVE SUMMARY: The insertion of rookie Nick Kimball last week showed that the Militia are a complete team. The young passer threw for 270 yards while completing passes to 6 different receivers and throwing three touchdowns. “We just need one more big performance out of him,” said Aaron Taylor. Taylor and fellow runner Lionel Assie will pace the rushing attack behind one of the most physical offensive lines around.

2015 AAA Champ PreviewC
Aaron Taylor and the Militia heads to their first NEFL AAA Championship game

SPECIAL TEAMS SUMMARY: Kicker Tyler Kurjiaka has one of the strongest legs in the league as he handles kickoff and field goal duties. Louie Moore and Joey Ciraolo are special team aces. Jovan Wilkins doubles as a return specialist with the speed to change the fortunes of a game in a second.

2015 AAA Champ PreviewD
Tyler Kurjiaka (above) may be called on to win a tight game this weekend.

 

BOSTON BANDITS (8-4) – Third Place Northern Division

HOW THEY GOT HERE: The Boston Bandits advanced to the finals with road playoff wins against the North Shore Generals and the Southern Maine Raging Bulls. Boston is trying to be the first NEFL AAA team to win a championship with all their playoff games being on the road. “We didn’t regale ourselves over their victories and really learned from their losses,” said Coach Bustin regarding the regular season. “Each loss taught us something that we needed to work on, and it has paid off.” After losing to the Bulls twice during the regular season, the Bandits traveled to Portland where they limited the home team to 150 yards of total offense.

2015 AAA Champ PreviewE
Bandit defenders rally around would-be ball carriers

DEFENSIVE SUMMARY: The Bandits are always known for their defense which is anchored by 2012 MVP linebacker Gregory Dominique and the hard hitting Leighton “Swiz” Lormeus. The Bandits also have a secondary that has shut down ability behind the talents of Ant Thomas and 2014 MVP Alvin Edwards. Playing both sides of the ball are Daryl Hodge and Jonathan Jean-Louis, whose versatility make them threats to score whenever they are on the field. Hodge has won MVP awards both on offense and defense.

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Do-Everything Jonathan Jean-Louis (34) and Daryl Hodge will be used on offense and defense

OFFENSE SUMMARY: The Bandits offense started the year with Adam Headley at quarterback. A few weeks into the season however he was replaced by former Bandit and NEFL future Hall of Famer Clarzell Pearl. Pearl’s experience in big games gives Bustin a coach on the field. Pearl has won 4 NEFL Championships with the Bandits. 2011 MVP JT Harold headlines the rushing attack while Shane Cheltenham leads the team in receptions. Receivers Fitz Lee, Marvens Toussaint, Stevie O’Neil and Clavin Belfon give Pearl multiple options in their spread attack. Throw in the Brooks brothers (JD and Ty) and the Bandits game breakers are at every skill position.

2015 AAA Champ PreviewG
JT Harold (above) is a scoring threat both as a rusher and a receiver

SPECIAL TEAMS SUMMARY: The Bandits have one of the best set of kick coverage teams in the league. Chris Conroy has developed into one of the most accurate kickers around. He consistently places kickoffs inside the 10 yard line and is instant offense with leading the NEFL in field goals made.

OUTLOOK

The Militia and the Bandits have both earned the right to be in this game. Both teams avenged losses in the playoffs to teams that beat them in the regular season. “It’s two tough teams playing in a tough game” said a fellow coach, “there is no telling what will happen Saturday night.” Two top coaching staffs, one with a veteran quarterback against one making his second career start. Two strong running games with receivers that can go the distance. The top kickers in the game and two smothering defenses. “It’s going to be four great quarters of football; we know that”.

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