I continue to reach back in time with blog "updates." This blog covers the week of May 9-14:
After an overall disappointing week of practice during the BYE week, it was nice to see some rejuvenated players for practice against Lugi. We still have never had 100% practice attendance, which was one of the goals I set for the team when I first arrived, but our attendance is usually decent. The flip side of that, of course, is that guys are failing to see practice as a means to better themselves and their team not just for the upcoming game, but for the long run (possible playoffs, next season, and five years from now). The group I have is so young (compared to the other teams in our division, we are probably have the youngest average age), that if they put in the work now they will be so much better in two or three years when the majority of the team is in their prime.
In any case, practices were better attended on this game week to prepare for a very physical Lugi Vikings team. After a rather nondescript week of getting back into the regular grind coming off the BYE week, Saturday could not come soon enough.
This game was our first try at an away game, and brought us to Lund. Lund is, by all accounts, a really nice town. My only time spent in town was a rather rainy hour or so one afternoon with George and Laurie Contreras on our way home from the Djurpark last summer. The field we were to play on was slightly less even than the field turf of our home field. It also featured pink lines.
The Vikings, loosening up in maroon, didn't look very intimidating due to their small numbers and somewhat scattered warm up. But they came with a lot more once the game started.
Lugi lived up to their billing is a very spirited, physical, and scrappy group. They certainly did not appear to be intimidated by the scores of our first two games and played VERY hard.
Sebbe Schön (LT) tries to maintain leverage while Nik Petersson tries to get to the edge.
Ben Hörnquist had another good game as he hauled in two receiving touchdowns, including this ball he bobbled and finally brought down. Unfortunately, he also sustained a concussion at some point in the game (nobody is sure exactly when), and sat out the majority of the second half.
Our receivers continue to improve on the less selfish aspects of the game, like perimeter run blocking. Ben and Marcus Johnsson (#3) seal the edge for Hampus Linde on this run.
Gustav Svensson (DE, center of frame, above) had a great game, making a number of tackles, including a few tackles for loss and two sacks.
Despite our point total, our defense proved that they are the strength of our team by dominating our third opponent. Lugi stayed with their downhill running attack and despite being undersized, the defense played really well, forced turnovers when Lugi did try to throw, and swarmed the football.
We started quickly offensively, leading 20-0 early in the second quarter for the third straight game. However, our effort, particularly on offense, after that point was, to put it nicely, sub-par. We were only able to muster one more score the remainder of the game.
Final score: Kristianstad Predators (3-0) 26, Lugi Vikings (0-2) 2.
The biggest disappointment for me had very little to do with football. Our effort, body language, and sportsmanship was embarrassing, especially for the caliber of players that we have. We have good guys and good players, but we haven't figured out how to be a great team yet.
The next three weeks we play Ystad (projected to be the #1 finisher in our division), Limhamn (projected to be the #2 finisher in our division), and Ystad again. Ystad beat Limhamn 6-0 in week 1, and both teams have beat up on their other opponents thus far. We will need to be much sharper in our execution and much more supportive over each other on the field if we want to come out of the next three weeks with hope for the playoffs.
Friday, May 20, 2011
Alright, so its actually Friday, May 20. Tomorrow we play the Ystad Rockets in a matchup between (spoiler alert) the only two remaining unbeaten teams in Division I Södra. However, I am still way behind in this blog, so I will attempt to catch it up in the next few days.
This post is about our BYE week, May 1-8. I also owe you all a post about the week of the Lugi game (May 9-14) and, of course, this week leading up to Ystad. But, for now, the BYE week (May 1-8):
On Sunday, following our defeat of Ekeby, I headed out on a scouting roadtrip. Tyson and most of the club travelled to Gothenburg, about three hours northwest of Kristianstad, for U15 and U17 games against their counterparts with the Gothenburg Marvels club. I stayed behind though to scout. Tyson generously lent me a car so that I could drive about an hour south to Ystad to scout the Lugi at Ystad Senior game and then drive about an hour and a half northwest of Ystad to Ekeby (just outside of Helsingborg) to scout the Limhamn at Ekeby U17 game.
Tim Hermansson (Senior OL/DL) met me at my apartment and we picked up Macce Schön (Senior LB) in Åhus, on our way to Ystad, which is on the south coast of Sweden.
In fact, Ystad's field is right on the coast. The picture above was taken from inside the fence of the field (which you can see on the left side). The field is very breezy as the wind comes in from the Baltic Sea.
Lugi, in red/white was our next opponent after the upcoming bye week. Ystad would be the team we'd face the following week, so this was a good chance to scout both. It was Lugi's first match of the season, but they did not show any obvious signs of rust or unreadiness. Ystad was coming off a tight 6-0 victory over Limhamn, considered to be one of the better teams in the division.
At halftime we got some food from the concession stand, which featured Premier sodas. The soda delivered on its promise much better than the pizza I spoke of a few posts ago...
It was a very physical contest featuring two predominantly run oriented offenses. Ystad was able to move the ball most effectively in the air, however, and leaned that way after having success throwing the ball. Lugi is a power running team and stuck with that strategy throughout and should have scored on a couple of occasions, but fell short. Ystad was the better team and proved it, winning with a final score of 20-0, which was the score when we left near the end of the third quarter to try to catch as much of the Ekeby/Limhamn U17 game, in Ekeby.
Our drive to Ekeby was somewhat ominous, as we noticed the sky getting darker and darker as we drove north. By the time we were outside of Helsingborg, we were driving through patches of rain. We quickly were wishing we were back in the chilly wind of Ystad.
We arrived at the U17 game just in time for the last few plays of the third quarter, which included a Limhamn touchdown from within the five. We also arrived just in time to experience the rain, thunder, lightning, hail, and overall unpleasant weather that Ekeby was featuring that day. Unfortunately, the weather prevented me from taking a lot of notes on the two teams for Tyson, but I was able to take some video on my camera before we got out of there cold and wet. Oh, by the way, Limhamn blanked Ekeby's U17 23-0.
Happily back in the car, we punched Kristianstad in the GPS and headed home. Apparently the GPS favored the scenic route:
I have now driven on AND off road in Sweden.
On Friday, Ben took the day off of work and he and I spent some time in town. Sacce came with us and we also ran into two other of the Hörnquist's: one of his younger sisters, Miranda, and an older brother, Sebastian. Miranda joined us for lunch and fika, where we also met Johan Olsson, who used to play in the Predators junior program with Ben. Less than five minutes after running into Miranda in the square, Ben spotted his brother Sebastian in a shop. What are the odds of running into two Hörnquists in such a short time? Higher than you might think: Ben and Sacce are two of eleven children!
After fika, we headed to Kristianstad Arena, which is right next the Kristianstad IP, for a sort of rugby tournament between three of the schools in town, Söderport, Österang, and C4. The Arena is designed for handball (team handball, which is very popular in Sweden, not the racket ball-like handball we know in California), and was completed less than a year ago.
The first "rugby" match was between Söderport (in red) and Österang (in black), the two largest schools and big rivals. The game being played was similar to rugby, but with various liberties taken with the rules to adapt it to an indoor game. The basic goal was to place the ball on the orange padded square to score a point.
After having taught in Mississippi for two years, the whole environment of the event was very interesting to me. Students basically went to the Arena on their own (the schools have kids ages 16-19, roughly), were funneled to sit with their school, and had almost no supervision by school authorities--at least none were super obvious. Students brought signs to support their school but, mostly, insult (often vulgarly) the other schools. There wasn't chaos, but it was a much less structured environment than one would see at almost any public school event in the states. I suppose its hard to explain, but it was very interesting to see how the event was organized, particularly how the students were handled by those who appeared to be running the event (who kept a very low profile... in fact, other than the announcer and two student referees, I'm not really sure who was in charge).
In any case, back to the competition. Predators were on both sides of the match. Above, Alex Paiement (DE) and Marcus Dicksson (RB) represented Söderport and Nils Andersson (CB) represented Österang. I held my breath every time any were involved in a tackle on this hard indoor surface.
Söderport jumped out to a commanding 3-0 halftime lead and was able to weather a very spirited Österang comeback to win. We left after that game, but it turns out Söderport went on to beat C4 (who received a first round BYE) to win the tournament. My fears were merited, sadly, as Marcus sustained a foot injury in the competition.
Saturday I decided to skip scouting to stay in Kristianstad and watch/help out as the U17 Predators hosted the Ekeby Greys. Tyson and I switched roles as I manned the spotter's post at the top of the bleachers and he commanded the troops.
The chain crew and ball boys were senior players. It was nice to see the guys volunteering their time to help out the organization and give back to the junior team who has served the same roles at our games. Below Sorin Pandrea (Senior DB/RB/QB and, this day, ball boy) checks in on his son, Neo, during a break in the action.
The U17 team played a good game and rebounded well after a loss to the Gothenburg Marvels with a convincing victory over Ekeby to win their first match of the season.
That night I took the train to Hässleholm to spend some time with old friends. Lucas and Sarah had invited me to eat with them and Johan, and Mariana would join us later in the evening. Mariana had engagements all day, so Johan got to spend the day with their new daughter, Cornelia.
The chefs prepared an absolutely delicious meal, as usual, which included grilled pork, grilled vegetables, and a hard to describe but delicious foil wrapped fruit concoction that was slow cooked on the grill and topped with vanilla ice cream. I'm getting hungry thinking about it, too.
After dinner and dessert we brought out a Trivial Pursuit variant that involved betting on your opponents answered. I was far too loose with my bets (and perhaps far too confident in my friends' knowledge) and was quickly out of chips. I also struggled mightily with some of the Swedish and/or European centered questions (the game was in Swedish, but my opponents were nice enough to translate everything for me). I even received a few do-overs for questions that would be impossible for me to answer, like those about Swedish novels written by Swedish authors, for example. I had generous hosts.
Overall, I was happy with my performance and, apparently, looking forward to Spring football at Rio Mesa!
Sunday brought another scouting opportunity, this time to Malmö to watch the Hässleholm Hurricanes take on the Limhamn Griffins. This time my scouting entourage included Ben, Lukas Klang (Senior OL/U17 OL Coach), and Emil Blomgren (Senior WR). We took the train into the new Triangeln stop in Malmö and then made the short walk to Limhamn's field.
The Griffins, in purple/white, proved to be too much for the Hurricanes, who continue to struggle but showed signs of improvement. Limhamn has appeared to be an offensive chameleon of sorts, running a wide variety of plays in different offensive styles. They did a decent amount of damage running the ball in the first half to build a 20-6 lead, then oddly, decided to open it up in the second half and ran their spread style passing attack to pour it on and win with a final score of 50-12.
Surprisingly, the BYE week did not offer as much free time as I had anticipated, but its good to keep busy. It's not like my schedule is overwhelming as it is! The Predators, disappointingly, proved to be susceptible to the common Swedish American football problem of a dip in practice attendance during BYE weeks. I continue to fight the status quo here when it comes to what is considered acceptable when it comes to football. I'm not a revolutionary or anything dramatic, but I am trying to push the guys to raise their level of commitment, effort, and mental toughness more comparable to that exhibited by most high school football programs. The athletes exist for there to be really good quality football played in this country, they just have to put in the time and the effort. I have been lucky to have some good and relatively dedicated players with the Predators, but there is always room for improvement.
Monday, May 9, 2011
The usual: a week late. This blog covers Easter Sunday through our game against the Ekeby Greys on Saturday, April 30.
Easter Sunday was pretty quiet for me. It was nice to follow the anxious week leading up to the first game with a day of relaxation. Sarah Johnsson provided me with her recipe for Swedish pancakes the night before, so I thought I'd make some for a delicious Easter fika.
For those of you who are curious: mix 3 deciliters (1.25 cups) milk, 3 deciliters flour, and 1/2 a teaspoon salt in a mixing bowl. Then mix in 3 eggs. You can grease the pan with butter.
They turned out pretty good for my first shot, and were delicious with strawberry jam and whipped cream. This recipe makes 10 pancakes, so I had plenty of batter left over for another day.
On Monday, Ben Hörnquist was nice enough, despite his initial aversion to women's soccer, to come with me to the Damallsvenksan (top division of women's soccer in Sweden) match between LdB FC Malmö and Kristianstads DFF at Vilan IP, about a few minutes by bike from my apartment.
It was an absolutely gorgeous day and many fans had come out to enjoy the weather and the match. I know very little about women's soccer, particularly attendance, but I suspect that the crowd might also have been a little larger because the visiting team, LdB FC Malmö, is the reigning Damallsvenskan champions. LdB FC finished last season without a loss in the division (although they did have a few ties). The crowd could also have been large because although it was Monday on the calendar, the day after a holiday is treated like a Sunday, so most shops and businesses were closed.
In any case, finding a good place to view the game was tough. Ben and Kim Torstensson, above, had no qualms about going up to the handicapped platform to check out the action...at least for a little while. We were finally able to settle in behind some short kids to get a good view.
Longtime followers of the blog (if they exist) may recall that I had the privilege to meet Nilla Fischer, LdB FC Malmö and Swedish National team center midfielder, at the Malmö Festival last summer through Lucas Grip, who grew up with Nilla. Unfortunately, Nilla left midway through the second half with cramps, but LdB FC prevailed after a scoreless first half 1-0.
Speaking of Malmö, on Tuesday I took the train down to Sweden's third largest city to meet with Johan Vajnlie to exchange films. Johan treated me to lunch in Malmö where we talked Swedish American football before going to Limhamn's home field to trade films. Malmö is, like the other larger cities I've seen in Europe, an interesting mix of old and new as very old structures and statues stand next to brand new modern complexes. Malmö also had Easter egg decor out this time of year.
Wednesday I was greeted by the flu. Well, now I've been sick on two continents. I guess that's an accomplishment?
Thursday, though, relief came in the form of an Easter package from my mom. It included an Easter card, some homemade spiced, sweetened, and roasted walnuts and almonds, and Hershey's chocolates. Perhaps most welcome, given that I was sick, was the tea she included. It was scheduled to be delivered the Friday before, but apparently got held up in Germany for a few days, perhaps because of the holiday weekend.
Our Thursday practice was pretty good and I felt much more calm entering the Ekeby match than I had before our first game against Hässleholm, despite only being able to have the one practice that week due to field use issues. It was to be Ekeby's first game, since they had a bye last week. Hopefully, we could continue our early success and improve to 2 - 0.
Ekeby presented a slightly more multidimensional attack than Hässleholm, as they spread the field a little more and weren't afraid to throw the ball. Our defense rose to the challenge and provided good pressure on the strong armed and athletic QB.
This pressure and good coverage led to an interception for a TD by Robert Wilhelmsson (SS), below. Robert is one of the players that came to us from the Carlshamn Oakleaves, who had a senior team last year but have decided to focus on rebuilding their junior program this year. Carlshamn and Ekeby were rivals, so this was surely a great feeling for Robert to get the pick six against Ekeby. The defense produced 14 points total in the game, with two INTs for TDs (the second by Max Kelley) and a safety.
Another Carlshamn refugee, Niklas Petersson (RB), got a lot of opportunities to carry the ball, although he sometimes took punishment even when he didn't have the ball. His sacrifice in the play below led to a long TD run by Hampus Linde.
No, I'm not winking. It was a beautiful day for football with lots of sun!
Nik, below, with some tough rushing yards.
Alex Nilsson (WR/DB) had a big game for the Predators. He caught a number of passes, including two for scores, kicked the ball well for PATs and FGs, and had this interception on a deep ball.
Disappointingly, we gave up a TD on Ekeby's opening drive of the second half to spoil the second shutout of the season. Nevertheless, the Predators rolled to a 56-8 victory and improved to 2-0 heading into a Bye week. Ekeby (0-1) would face Ystad the following week.
After two dominating performances, it is CRITICAL that the Predators continue to work hard and focus on improving as individuals and as a team to avoid getting surprised, particularly as the upcoming schedule includes the two teams favored to finish at the top of Div. I Södra in the Ystad Rockets and Limhamn Griffins.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
The week I'd been looking forward to most since I arrived was finally here. This was our last week to prepare for our first game, where we would be facing the Hässleholm Hurricanes. For those of you who don't know, last August I was an assistant coach under George Contreras helping the Hurricanes in the last month of the season. I made a lot of friends in Hässleholm during my two months in Sweden last summer, so facing them the first game of the season was exciting, and an opportunity to jumpstart the season with a friendly rivalry.
We had two excellent practices on Tuesday and Thursday. We had some of the best turnouts we've had since I arrived and were able to go 11 on 11 in our team period, with subs rotating in. It was incredibly productive and ABSOLUTELY what we need to have as our practice atmosphere if we want to have success this year as a club.
At the end of the Thursday practice the Predators' board members had laid out the uniforms for the Saturday game. Players hustled over to claim their desired number. Despite the fact that I was the first to claim #11, it was somehow usurped by Benjamin Hörnquist. I wish football were like baseball, where the coaching staff gets to dress out... just in case.
The weather continues to be beautiful, and we took advantage of it Friday. Being Good Friday, most shops and businesses were closed. I met Alex Nilsson (WR/DB), Emil Blomgren (WR), Marcus Johnsson (WR), Sacce Hörnquist (LB), and Ben Hörnquist (WR) at Tivoliparken, a park near the train station on the west of the centrum, to throw a football around and enjoy the sun.
We also took another trip to the Naturum to check it out and fika.
My Friday night was much less relaxing, as I had some pregame jitters. I always feel like there is more to be done to prepare and my mind was racing when I tried to go to sleep. I woke up early and headed to the clubhouse early. Once I arrived there, though, my nervousness turned into anxious excitement. We had a team breakfast and a walkthrough at the clubhouse before heading over the Kristianstad IP where the game would be played.
Representing the Predators above are Johan Svensson (OL), Sacce Hörnquist (LB), Ben Hörnquist (WR), and Sorin Pandrea (DB). These four guys have shown leadership and dedication and were rewarded as captains for the Predators first ever Senior game in Division I.
The Predators D, pictured above, was all over the field all day. We had a number of tackles for a loss, lots of gang tackles, and managed an interception despite the Hurricanes few pass attempts. The defense played great all day.
Hampus Linde (QB) had a big day, as well. He was able to connect with Ben (#11 above) for multiple touchdown passes and ran for a TD as well (below). Yes, that picture clearly shows his knee down before the endzone, but it was called a TD nonetheless. It also shows a clear horse collar tackle, which was also not called. It all balances out in the end, right?
Our special teams were, for the most part, very solid. Our kick coverage was good, our punts (Magnus Hansson, above) were good, and we had a chance to block a couple of punts. Alex Nilsson and Hampus Linde did a good job with PAT and Alex also hit a field goal. With the limited practice time we have, I was very satisfied with how well our special teams played overall, and it definitely helped us get an upper hand in the field position battle.
I remained perhaps a little too intense throughout the game. I may or may not have incurred an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for voicing my displeasure with the officials blowing their whistles while a fumble was still live on the ground, then awarding it to the other team.
Sacce gets a sack late in the game.
Niklas Petersson caps off the scoring with a short touchdown run in the 4th.
Celebration! The Kristianstad Predators jumped out to a 21-0 lead early in the 2nd quarter thanks to three TD passes from Hampus Linde to Ben Hörnquist. The score was 34-0 at the half due to a pair of TD passes by Hampus, one to Marcus Johnsson and another to Ben. Hampus and Niklas Petersson each had TD runs in the second half and Alex Nilsson succeeded on his only field goal try of the day.
Final score: Kristianstad Predators 50, Hässleholm Hurricanes 0.
The picture above includes Karsten Strömberg (Board Member and Senior Team Leader, top left), Anders Klang (President, standing next to Karsten), Dan Petersson (DL Coach, kneeling far left), Lukas Klang (injured OL/OL Coach, kneeling next to Dan), Tyson Guillen (Board Member, U17 Head Coach, and Senior Assistant Coach, kneeling far right), and Lars Dahl (U17 Defensive Coordinator and Senior Assistant Coach, kneeling next to Tyson). Everybody in this picture did a fantastic job on gameday and in the preseason. They all put in lots of work to make the game succesful, whether it was administrative, organizational, physical, or mental, it took everybody in that picture to make the first game a success.
Next week we play Ekeby, who had a bye in their first week. Hässleholm will have a week off before taking on Limhamn the following week. The only other game that was played this opening weekend in Division I Södra was Ystad defeating Limhamn 6-0 in a defensive struggle. It will be interesting to see how the young Predators react this next week after such a strong opener.