Naja Run Past Qingdao in Shenzhen Upset Win
- Updated: October 30, 2016
Shenzhen, China (October 30,2016) By Lou Tilley – For China Daily
The China Arena Football League will wrap up its first season with their playoffs and championship game next weekend in Shanghai. The Beijing Lions will arrive undefeated at 5-0, and will meet the Qingdao Clippers, who won 3 of their 5 regular season games. It might have been 4 wins were it not for a passionate and determined Shenzhen Naja team that was playing in front of its hometown fans this past Sunday afternoon in the Super Series stop in southern China.
With more than 4,000 looking on and displaying team banners in support, the Naja rose up and bit the Clippers with a rarely used power run game philosophy that chewed up yards, clock, and touchdowns for the 47-40 upset victory. In fairness, Qingdao had already clinched a spot in the China Bowl championship game, and Clipper coach Rod Miller rested key starters who were nursing nagging injuries. Miller also pulled CAFL all-star candidate quarterback Bryan Randall early in the game’s second half. Still, few expected what transpired.
In the pass happy game of arena football, the air game is the overwhelming choice of offensive play calling by as much as a 4:1 ratio. Not so for coach J.W. Kenton’s Naja. “I’ve never coached in the arena leagues, and I wanted to use the concepts I have always utilized in outdoor football” said the former high school coach who won a Hawaii state title while in Maui. “In China, its a clean slate. I wanted to try it our way.”
And in this record-breaking win, he proved a point. Shenzhen, operating out out the shotgun formation (another arena ball rarity) ran 52 offensive plays. A whopping 34 of them were designed rushes. A CAFL record 34 runs netted a record 165 yards, delivered 4 rushing touchdowns, kept Qingdao’s offense off the field, and delivered an impressive win.
“I’m from Michigan, that’s Big Ten country. We like to hit people, like to run with power football. We try to wear the other teams down” said Shenzhen QB Dak Britt, who backed it up by rushing a league record 25 times for another record – 115 yards, and ran all 4 scores in himself.
Britt also threw it well enough to hit on 9 of 18 passes for an impressive 160 yards. But it was Britt’s powerful inside counter runs and wide sweeps, led by guards Colin Madison and Max Westphal, along with Chinese center Jia Qi Zhang and fullback Adrian Ferns, that opened big holes and wore down one of the league’s best defensive lines. A late fourth quarter drive with the score tied was the difference. Kenton called for 9 consecutive run plays, dominating the line of scrimmage, and culminating with Britt’s 2-yard power run for the lead and the win.
Beijing used their proficient pass attack to once again key another near flawless performance to move to 5-0 and become the odds on favorite in the upcoming China Bowl championship game (Sunday, November 6, 3:00, Shanghai Oriental Arena, TV-Live on iQIYI network.)
Beijing quarterback Luke Collis will enter the game with a sparking 72% completion rate after keying a solid win in their tune up game. Collis threw for 235 yards and 5 tds, in a 55-37 win over the Guangzhou Power, who dropped to 2-3. The Power will now face the Shanghai Skywalkers in Saturday’s 7:00 start for third place in the final CAFL standings, while Dalian, a loser 63-21 in their game with Shanghai, will meet Shenzhen at 2:00 PM Saturday.
Click below for the entire Super Series Schedule.
With the official announcement of approval from the China government, the new professional league will be called CAFL (China Arena Football League), and the Beijing based operating company, formerly known as Ganlan Media International, will carry the same name.
“We think this acronym says it all,” said David Niu, the President of AFL Global, the founding corporation based in Conshohocken, PA, USA. “The league, and all of our efforts, are unique to China. We want to highlight the fact that we are playing American-style football, not to be confused with soccer. And we want to emphasize that this is China’s first ever professional league, played by the best players in the world.”
Many of the rosters will feature Chinese players, who have been learning and training for the arena game specifically for over a year, at 6 select Chinese Universities, under the guidance of AFL Global.
CAFL headquarters are located in Beijing, with leadership comprised of senior media executives and sports professionals with an array of government and commercial experience.
For more information please contact the following:
Lou Tilley, VP CAFL Communications and Media
Alvina Alston, CAFL Public Relations