Opinion & Analysis

Focus on – Southern Football Conference 1 East (SFC1 East)

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Jamie CarterOpinion & Analysis
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The SFC1 East is an interesting subsection of British American Football. This is because it is often regarded as one of the most competitive conferences in BAFA. It usually includes teams from Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Kent, Hertfordshire, and London. However, this can vary depending on promotions and demotions from the preceding year.

Division 1 football is divided into 2 Conferences and represents the middle of the National League’s pyramid of skill level. This is important to keep in mind because there has long been debate around the Britball community on the difference in skill level between the 3 Divisions.

Teams often get promoted into the SFC1 East with flying colours from Division 2, only to be taken apart every Sunday and slammed back down. But teams promoted into the Premiership from the SFC1 East often fair much better.

The London Olympians and Kent Exiles are good examples of this. However, the Olympians look like they are about to come crashing back down (at the time of writing this). Also, if the unimaginable happened, the SFC1 East is where the London Blitz and Warriors would come down to, if demoted from the Prem (if something very drastic happened, of course).

So, what’s happened this year in the SFC1 East to make it so interesting? Following on from the 2019 season, having missed 2020 out and playing a random set of games in 2021, the SFC1 East structure placed not 1 or 2 but 3 new teams alongside 3 regular contenders.

The 3 new boys on the block were the Sussex Thunder, London Blitz B, and eventually, The Essex Spartans. BAFA had originally forgotten all about their successful promotion in 2019, leaving the Colchester Gladiators in Div 1 instead of putting them in Div 2. The 3 regular names are the Cambridgeshire Cats, London Hornets, and Wembley Stallions. 3 new teams facing 3 teams that are familiar with each other is a good recipe for competition.

This has certainly been shown through changes in the top spot. After 10 weeks of the season, 3 teams have occupied the number 1 position. Which 3? The regular names, of course. The Stallions got off to a flying start with 3 wins on the bounce. The Hornets got the upper hand on the Cats, in the Game of the Week 1. But since then, the Cats have landed on their feet and are yet to be beaten again.

The Hornets kept hold of the top spot for 2 weeks at first before switching with the Cats, until they lost in the second sitting with the Cats. The closest to numero uno for the new kids has been the Spartans, who held on to the second spot for 1 week. The southern half of Division 2 has seen only 1 team in the top spot for the whole of the season so far. Except for, you got it, SFC2 East.

Ok, so what about the bottom? In every competition, someone must come last. So far, that looks like it’s going to be the Thunder. And it’s a bit of a fall from grace, to be fair. The Thunder made it to the Division 1 Quarter Finals in 2019 before being beaten on the road to the Cats. So far this season, the Thunder have been shut out 3 times and have had 2 burgers scored on them. If I’m going to be entirely honest, I would have expected this from Blitz B or the Spartans, as they were newly promoted from Division 2.

The Blitz B team have had a sudden change in fortune too. They certainly followed my expectation up until week 7 where they managed to get their first win of the season against the Thunder. And what a win it was too, only 3 points away from adding to the burger tally. Now, don’t get me wrong, their subsequent wins haven’t been particularly impressive. But a win is a win, and their current form suggests that they may hang around in Division 1 for a bit longer.

The Spartans started off with a win. They also held the Cats against the wall for 3 quarters of football. But unfortunately for them, the Cats clawed the win back. Since then, the Spartans have managed a few close wins before being taken apart by the Cats in the return fixture, 55-0. Any team being promoted from Div 2 to Div 1 should be happy with a mid-table finish. Especially in the SFC1 East.

Points difference is also quite interesting in the SFC1 East. As I have alluded to already, you would normally expect newly promoted teams to get spanked regularly. In most other conferences, there’s a top dog that just breezes through the season. When we look at the scores of the 20 games played at the week 10 point, there seems to be a trend that supports that.

The 3 old names score way more points against the 3 new names. However, 50% of all the games played have ended with the victor scoring less than 21 points. In 7 of the 20 games, the points difference between the teams has been less than 14. Sure, there have been blowouts and 50 burgers. But they don’t happen every week. In fact, the SFC1 East has some of the most closely contested games. And that isn’t just this season.

There were similar results in the 2019 season too. Of course, British American Football is nowhere near as consistent as the NFL. What I mean by that is the pros have pretty much the same squad at peak performance week in and week out. But in our league, you have whoever is available around family events, hangovers, stag/hen dos, holidays, frustrated other halves… you get my point. But we must measure somewhere.

How will this year-end in the SFC1 East? The Cats have the top spot. They face the Blitz B team on Sunday. Both teams are on a winning streak. Someone’s streak will have to come to an end. If it’s the Cats, they could well come down a peg or two. The Hornets are hosting the Spartans. Having only lost 2 games, the Hornets sit at 3rd and are very hot on the Cats’ heels. They will no doubt love the opportunity to get back on top. The Stallions only have 2 more games remaining. They will need two more in the W column to stay in a playoff berth. They face the Cats and the Hornets in those games. Talk about a rock and a hard place.

At the other end, demotion for the Thunder is pretty much a done deal. BUT, in what is a highly competitive conference (and we always love an under-dog story) they do have 3 games remaining. The Blitz above them also have 3 games remaining. So, IF the Thunder manage 3 wins, AND, the Blitz lose 3 more games, they will be level on win percentage. However, with a 217 points deficit, the Thunder will need to make those 3 wins all burgers!

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