Calatayud, sábado 18 de junio 21 h Dracs vs Firebats, tercer capítulo

Por tercera temporada consecutiva ambos equipos se reencuentran en la gran final de la LNFA, que se celebrará en la Ciudad Deportiva de Calatayud | Badalona Dracs llega a la cita invicto tras una temporada sin fisuras, pero con la ausencia de una de sus estrellas, el QB norteamericano Mike Box | Los valencianos, actuales campeones, han ido de menos a más e intentarán repetir la victoria del año pasado (30-20).

El football nacional se cita este fin de semana en la Ciudad Deportiva de Calatayud, que acogerá las finales de los campeonatos de España de flag (la Spanish Flag Bowl), la final four de la LNFA Cadete y la finalísima de la Serie A, que por tercera temporada consecutiva tendrá como protagonistas a Badalona

Dracs y Valencia Firebats. Una batalla por el título que se está convirtiendo en todo un clásico entre dos de los clubes más laureados del panorama nacional. Para Dracs será su catorceava final de la LNFA, con seis títulos en su haber (1998, 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004 y 2014), y si gana se convertirá en el club con mejor palmarés en la competición (ahora empata con Pioners, también con seis campeonatos). Firebats cuenta con 4 ligas (2006, 2007, 2009 y 2015) y disputará su octava final. Ambos equipos se han enfrentado en cuatro ocasiones en una final de liga, con balance favorable a Firebats (3-1). Los valencianos derrotaron al conjunto badalonés en 2007 (47-21) y 2009 (29-10), mientras que en 2014 Dracs se impuso por 24-18 en una final de infarto que se decidió en la última acción, con un “touchdown” del norteamericano Curtis Cannon (elegido MVP). El año pasado, en Badalona, Firebats impuso de nuevo su ley (30-20), con un partido espectacular de su QB Chris Debowski, que lanzó tres pases de touchdown y anotó otro en una jugada de carrera para llevarse el galardón de jugador más valioso de la final.

Desde esa final de 2015 ambos equipos han sufrido bastantes cambios, especialmente en el apartado de jugadores extranjeros, aunque en los dos conjuntos sigue buena parte del bloque nacional que luchó por el título. En Firebats también ha habido relevo en la dirección técnica, con la llegada de Álvaro Quezada como head coach, que en su primera temporada al frente del equipo ha conseguido meterlo en una nueva final. Enfrente tendrá a Óscar Calatayud, toda una institución en Dracs, que este año ha cumplido su décima temporada como entrenador del equipo. Dracs llega a la final tras una temporada sin fisuras. Con un estilo de juego renovado, apostando claramente por el juego de pase, los de Badalona han protagonizado una liga regular perfecta, sin ninguna derrota (8-0) y unos números espectaculares. 52,7 puntos por encuentro (el mejor ataque de largo) y sólo 72 puntos encajados (9 por choque). Sus fichajes extranjeros, además, han brillado sobremanera, encabezados por el quarterback Mike Box (29 pases de touchdown y 5 TD de carrera) y los receptores Rob Jackson y Drew Clausen, máximos anotadores de la liga regular. El RB Javi Fernández, el polivalente Joan Carles Bartra y el tight end Willy Ramirez también han brillado, en un equipo que ha arrollado a muchos de sus rivales. La única nota negativa para Dracs será la ausencia para la final de Mike Box, que por motivos personales tuvo que regresar a los Estados Unidos y se ha perdido la parte final de la temporada. Su lugar en los últimos encuentros lo ha ocupado Sergi Gonzalo, y lo ha hecho con acierto. Bajo su batuta, en 2014, Dracs ya fue campeón y ahora aspira a repetir victoria ante el mismo rival. En semis, ante Reus Imperials (49-3 para Dracs), Gonzalo realizó un gran encuentro, lanzando 5 pases de touchdown.

Firebats se presenta a la final de Calatayud tras un año que empezó con ciertas dudas pero que ha vuelto a consolidar a los valencianos como uno de los mejores equipos del país. Con el cambio de técnico y nuevos jugadores extranjeros (el QB Thomas Murphy, el receptor Joshua Helmkamp y el línea Ryan Seaberg), al equipo le costó arrancar y sufrió en un par de partidos que resolvió en dos finales de infarto, contra Rookies (32-26) y en feudo de Reus Imperials (26-27). Sin embargo, poco a poco ha ido creciendo para cerrar la temporada regular en segundo lugar, con un balance de 6-2, y con Dracs como única piedra en el camino (13-38 en Valencia y 51-27 en Badalona). A medida que ha avanzado el torneo los valencianos se han mostrado como un equipo mucho más consistente, y aunque sufrieron en semifinales para deshacerse de Barberá Rookies (17-6), llegan a la gran final con la moral a tope y sin bajas importantes. Thomas Murphy se ha consolidado a los mandos del equipo, los receptores Javier Martínez, Alejandro Silvestre y Joshua Helmkamp han realizado una muy buena temporada y Héctor Pertegaz es toda una garantía en el juego terrestre. Además, Ryan Seaberg también se ha erigido en pieza fundamental en una defensa que ha encajado 20,1 puntos de media en la liga regular (la segunda mejor del campeonato por detrás de Dracs).

Óscar Calatayud: “Los buenos resultados de todo el año dan seguridad, pero no la certeza que vayas a ganar”
A pesar de su dilatada experiencia, Óscar Calatayud, técnico de Dracs, admite que en los días previos a cualquier final siempre hay “un poquito de nervios”, pero se muestra optimista ante una cita que ha de confirmar la gran campaña del equipo. “Tenemos la confianza de haber estado haciendo las cosas muy bien toda la temporada y esperamos que nos salga un buen partido”. A la vez, recuerda que ahora es el momento de confirmar todo ese buen hacer en el terreno de juego y no confiarse: “Ir sumando victorias todo el año da seguridad, pero no la certeza que vayas a ganar. Los chavales saben de la dificultad de una final y que a un partido puede pasar de todo”. Calatayud reconoce que si su equipo está a su mejor nivel parten como favoritos, pero avisa que Firebats “ha ido mejorando poco a poco” tras un inicio donde “le costó un poco adaptarse a un nuevo QB tras cuatro años con Debowski y a un nuevo técnico”. Para el entrenador de Dracs será fundamental “no cometer errores graves”, que puedan dar alas al rival. “Si les damos una ventaja inicial ahí podemos sufrir”, apunta. Por lo que respecta a la ausencia de Mike Box, Calatayud confía plenamente en la labor de Sergi Gonzalo para comandar el equipo: “Mike ha sido un jugador muy importante para nosotros, pero los equipos nunca se basan en un sólo jugador. Evidentemente un quarterback de su calidad té da un plus, pero Sergi lleva mucho tiempo con nosotros, ha estado practicando todo el año de QB y estoy convencido que lo hará muy bien”. Dracs, además de la baja ya conocida de Box, tampoco podrá contar con Cesar Brugnani.

Álvaro Quezada: “En la línea se van a decidir muchas cosas”
El head coach de Valencia Firebats afronta la final con el equipo al completo y contento por la progresión que ha experimentado el grupo a lo largo de la temporada. “Hubo cambios en los jugadores extranjeros y un relevo generacional en posiciones importantes, pero poco a poco el equipo ha ido creciendo y asimilando el sistema, logrando una mayor regularidad dentro de los partidos, sin bajar el ritmo, y sabiendo resolver los momentos de presión”, explica el técnico mexicano, que aún así espera una final “muy difícil” contra un rival muy duro y experto: “Dracs son un bloque muy compacto, que llevan muchos años jugando juntos, y que siempre responden en los momentos complicados”. Quezada admite que la baja de Mike Box supone un handicap para los de Badalona, porque es un jugador “muy difícil de suplir por su calidad, su potente brazo y experiencia”, pero avisa que Dracs cuenta con muchos jugadores desequilibrantes y que Sergi Gonzalo, el relevo de Box, está jugando a un muy buen nivel: “Ya sabe lo que es dirigir al equipo, conoce bien el sistema, y no podemos olvidar que con él de quarterback ganaron una liga”. El entrenador de Firebats tiene claro que en una final hay que mantener la cabeza fría: “No hay que cometer errores, ser disciplinados y tener paciencia. Los dos equipos nos conocemos muy bien y cualquier detalle puede ser decisivo, porque los dos contamos con jugadores de mucha calidad y con experiencia que en cualquier momento pueden decidir el choque”. Quezada, además, apunta que será clave quien gane “el mano a mano” entre las líneas ofensivas y defensivas de ambos conjuntos: “En la línea se van a decidir muchas cosas”.

*La gran final de la Serie A se podrá seguir vía streaming, en el canal de Youtube de FEFA

Fotografía: Sandra Mohedano

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