What a weekend of football the 11,500 Chinese got to watch at the LeSports Center in Beijing. The day started with an extremely close contest and ended with an absolute thriller, it is safe to say the first week of Chinese Arena Football can be marked down as a success.
Guangzhou Power vs. Qingdao Clipper:
In the first ever CAFL game the Power and the Clipper were the perfect opener for a wild day of football, this game was close all the way through, with both teams trading scores going back and forth, in the end the Clipper came out on top 38-35.
Clipper quarterback Bryan Randall connected with wide out Reggie Gray for the first ever receiving touchdown in the franchise’s history. The duo connected three more times for scores in the game showing they could be a very dangerous pairing for the rest of the season.
The fate of the game was sealed in the fourth quarter where the Power turned the ball over twice, one of which was an interception by Tanner Varner, the first interception marked down in league history. With 23 seconds left, a Power fumble was the final nail in the coffin, giving the Clipper the win.
Qingdao are looking to jump to (2-0) when they take on the Dalian Dragon Kings next week. Despite the loss, the Power played very well, but have to play even better to beat their next opponent, the Shanghai Skywalkers.
Shenzhen Naja vs. Dalian Dragon Kings:
The second game of the day saw the Naja take on Dragon Kings, and from the start it was apparent the Dragon Kings were missing their No. 1 draft pick, the Naja took this one 47-13.
The Naja ended the first half by scoring 13 points in a matter of 3 minutes to take a 22-7 lead into the half and never looked back from there. The second half saw the Dragon Kings turn the ball over three times, which turned into three Naja scores.
In a history making moment the Naja saw quarterback Tao Yu run in a touchdown becoming the first quarterback to do that in the league’s very brief history.
With only six points scored in the second half it is clear that the Dragon Kings offense is really missing Joe Hills. Hills was the team’s first round draft pick but decided not to make the trip out to China electing to stay home in the U.S.
Next week the Naja will be put to the test as they go up against the Beijing Lions. The Dragon Kings will be looking to turn things around in front of the home crowd at the Dalian Superdome when they take on Qingdao.
Beijing Lions vs. Shanghai Skywalkers:
In the first weekend of the season, football fans might have seen the game of the season. In an overtime thriller, the Beijing Lions held on to beat Shanghai 54-53.
For the entire game Beijing had the lead, the Lions played in front for the entire way. At the end of the first quarter, they had a 20-6 lead. Then at the half, the Lions led by eight taking a 27-19 lead into the break. Both teams scored once in the third to take a 34-26 game into the final quarter.
Then, at the death, down by eight points with just 16 seconds left on the clock, Skywalkers quarterback Shane Austin tucked the ball in and ran into the endzone, a two point conversion later and the two teams were tied 47-47 at the end of regulation. The two were heading into overtime, a rarity in the AFL, let alone the CAFL.
On the first possession of the overtime period the Lions drove down the field and scored on a Chris Dieker run, an extra point later Beijing reclaimed their lead, 54-47. On the ensuing drive Shanghai took the ball and scored themselves but Skywalkers coach Derek Stingley decided to go for the win and went for two again. This time, however, the Lions defense made the stop and won the game 54-53.
The Lions will face off against another 1-0 team in the Shenzhen Naja next week, and the Skywalkers are looking to get their first win of the season against the Guangzhou Power.
Overall, the first weekend went extremely well for the CAFL, the eyes of the world were watching and were impressed, now the question is, how does the league respond to a great first week of play?