Four months ago, if you would have asked any football fan in the country who they think would make it to this year’s championship game, “Eagles and Tigers” would have probably been a very unlikely answer, yet here we are. The two first college teams will be battling it out next Friday to conclude the fifth annual ENFL.
Both teams had a very different path that led them to where they are right now; on one hand, the Eagles, a 3-time championship team with numerous high-caliber players in all positions and great leadership has under-performed this regular season, but managed to pull themselves together when it counted most and show that they’re not as washed up as people thought they were. On the other hand, the Tigers, a young, unproven and hungry squad who were not even expected to make the playoffs let alone beating the team that poached 3 of their best players on their way to their 2nd Egyptian Bowl appearance.
The two teams have met before, 3 times in regular seasons and once in Egyptian Bowl III. Even during the Eagles’ 3-year win streak span, the Tigers were always a tough matchup and gave them extremely intense games. This year, the Tigers are looking to beat the Eagles and become the 3rd team in EFAF history to win the Egyptian Bowl. Let’s see who has the advantage at each position.
- Passing Offense:
Mina Salib entered this season with many question marks, there was no doubt about his talent but he hasn’t won enough games to be considered a top QB, this year however he’s shown major improvement and proved to be a dependable quarterback, and with outstanding performances from Bassem Tarek and John Nguyen coming out of the backfield, it only adds to their strength, their offensive line however will have to do better job on pass blocking after giving up the most sacks in the league during the regular season (13).
On the other hand, Eagles import QB Justin McKenzie hasn’t had the best regular season, but he’s delivered them this far, and despite losing Seif Swailam early on in the season, the Eagles receiving unit features a ton of talent to remain one of the best in the league.
- Running offense:
The Eagles running game has been underwhelming; they’ve only had 2 rushes for more than 20 yards and 3 out of their 4 rushing touchdowns are off of quarterback keeps by McKenzie. While the Eagles continue to rotate their starting running backs, the Tigers have themselves an absolute weapon in John Nguyen who terrorized the Wolves defense in week 2 and is fresh off an MVP performance against the Bears. Look for the Tigers to start relying more on running the ball and make some changes in their blocking schemes to maximize their use of Nguyen.
- Defensive front (linebackers and defensive line):
The Eagles’ front six have been the cornerstone of their defense this season, they have the ability to get into the backfield as well as contain the edges and they’ve done it against the best offensive lines in the league. Mohamed Shaher’s heroics in the playoff game against the Hounds sealed the Eagles’ win; him against Nguyen will be a very entertaining matchup. As for the Tigers, their pass rush is a shell of its former self after losing many key players, however, this has given room for new players to show up and show out, Mahmoud Aly and Abdelhadi have led their units with incredible performances and we’ve seen Nguyen play linebacker as well in what’s going to be an interesting lineup for the Tigers.
- Defensive backfield (corners and safeties):
Mohamed Medhat and Khaled Mounir had themselves an outstanding season, they have always been in the right place at the right time when you needed them the most and have helped their team seal a couple of wins in the regular season; thanks mainly to them, the Tigers led the league in interceptions (10).
On the other hand, the Eagles secondary has been quiet this season, despite only coming up with 4 interceptions during the regular season, they have only allowed 4 passing touchdowns.
- Special Teams:
The Eagles special teams unit is one of (if not the) best in the league, a significant part of the Eagles success this season is because of their excellence in the kicking and returning game, they led the league in punt return yards (170), field goal percentage (67% for more than 1 attempt) and they haven’t missed an extra point kick all season. The Tigers special teams hasn’t had the same success as the Eagles, but they had decent performances coming in second in punt return yards (106) If this league has shown us anything, some games are decided by special teams.
On one side, you have a respected, experienced and knowledgeable coaching staff who have been in this situation 3 times before, led by Coach Mohy Omar, one of the best defensive minds in the country who was also selected to be head coach of the Pharaohs all-star team.
On the other hand, you have a young up and coming rookie head coach in Youssef El-Tonsy who is on a mission and is being supported by ex-Eagles star player Mohamed Anbar who’s impact has been nothing short of profound on the Tigers’ defense and special teams. This huge contrast in coaching staff will have a major effect on how the game is played out.
Will the Eagles add another championship to their legacy or will the Tigers flip the script and take their place as champions? At the end of the day, football is played on the field not on paper, and all the regular season numbers and statistics count for nothing once the whistle blows on Friday