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Championship Expectations: Porvoo Butchers 2024 Maple League Preview

Finland’s 2024 Maple league season is fast approaching, and the reigning champions, Porvoo Butchers, are heavily favored to make it a Back-to-Back season. With so many changes throughout the Maple League, will the Butchers team be able to make it back to Maple Bowl Glory?

History is Just That

The Porvoo Butchers are 7-time Maple Bowl Champions. Last year’s squad snapped a 12 year absence from the Maple Bowl, and upset the favored Seinäjoki Crocodiles convincingly 27-7. This season, the Butchers have a lot of players & personnel returning, as they attempt to win a second title and begin a new era of championships in Porvoo.

Last season was not all sunshine and rainbows for the Porvoo Butchers, as they had some struggles en route to the Maple Bowl. Multiple losses to the Seinäjoki Crocodiles and Wasa Royals caused the Butchers to finish the season 8-4. Their record was good enough for the second seed in the playoffs, but there was not a lot of confidence that they could upset the league favorites. Despite the naysayers (myself included), the Butchers team put together an excellent playoff run and won a title that was more than a decade in the making.

But that was last year, it’s 2024 now. . . 

If it Aint Broke

The only constant in life is change, and Finland’s Maple league is no different. Every offseason is a whirlwind of player transfers, free agent signings, player retirements, coaching changes, and management moves by most teams. The Porvoo Butchers are NOT most teams. The Butchers organization has done a great job to retain the majority of players, coaches, and personnel from their championship season.

The return of Head coach Lasse Voipio gives the Butchers team familiarity and expected standards. While some of their opponents have gone through scheme & culture changes during the offseason, the Porvoo Butchers have focused on just getting better. Having Voipio at the helm will be a major advantage for this team during the 2024 campaign. 

Offensive Outlook

The Porvoo Butchers offense is built to score, often. Over the past two seasons, quarterback Brandon Gwinner has developed a great rapport with his offensive weapons. The 2023 season was a breakthrough season for the Butchers offense, as they were able to score more consistently towards the end of the season. 

In addition to Gwinner, the Butchers have a wide variety of offensive weapons. Receiver Mikko Seppänen is the steady playmaker of the group, utilizing his great route running and sure hands to make big plays at the most opportune times. Luukas Eerola is another key receiver for the Butchers, playing the role of deep ball threat. Eerola is becoming a Finland legend as the teenager having been clocked at a 4.4 forty yard dash, and amassing a highlight tape full of plays where he outruns his competition. Mickey Kyei rounds out the receiving group. As a slot receiver he is probably one of the most dangerous players in Finland, and the receipts can be found in the many broken ankles and missed tackles he has accumulated over the years. Kyei is also a versatile piece of the Butchers offense, and can also be seen in the backfield at running back whenever the team decides.

The Butchers have signed running back Adam Cofield to lead their rushing attack this season. Cofield is a 3-time FCS National Champion, having played for the Bison of North Dakota State University. He also spent a season at Western Kentucky to finish his college career. Cofield accumulated over 1900 rushing yards in his college career, and spent time with the CFL Toronto Argonauts before signing with the Butchers. With his resume, and track background (runs a 10.8 sec 100 meter), Adam Cofield will be an exciting addition to an already explosive offense. 

Not to be overlooked is Cofield’s backup, Aleksi Hirvonen, who the Butchers have high expectations for this upcoming season. The teenager is another speedster (sub 4.5 forty yard dash) with home run ability to score every time he touches the ball. Despite having an import running back, the Butchers coaches and players have made it evident that Hirvonen will be a key component of their offensive scheme this season.

The Butchers offensive line is one of the most skilled in Finland. Led by veteran Sakari Siltakorpi, the Porvoo offensive line is young and very well coached. Justus & Joonatan Asovaara are becoming household names in Finland, but Tomi Pirkola & Sauli Puustinen are on the same level. As a group, the Porvoo offensive line does not look impressive at first glance, as they lack the typical lineman height. But the game of football isn’t played with the eye test, and this group gets the job done in the trenches better than most of their peers.

Defense Wins Championships

The Porvoo Butchers defense is good, with the potential to be great. Last season’s team was very inconsistent on the defensive side of the ball, giving up almost 500 yards in more than half of the games played. That team put the term “Bend, but don’t break” to the limit, as most of their defensive success was created by timely turnovers caused by individual performances. But, that was then, this is now.

Zach Wright is arguably the best defensive back in the Maple League, as evidenced from his 2023 performance in which he led the league in interceptions and was voted league MVP by the Finnish Football Federation. Zach Wright is a natural ballhawk with a knack for scoring, which makes him the most dangerous player on the Butchers defense. 

In addition to Wright, the Porvoo Butchers have addressed their needs at defensive back by signing cornerbacks Jose Penesumbo (Wasa Royals) and Rod Sylvestre (Coritiba Crocodiles). 

Penesumbo is an athletic corner that uses his physicality and aggressive instincts to disrupt passes at all costs. He was one of the few bright spots for the Royals last season, and is an upgrade at the position for the Butchers

Rod Sylvestre is a Florida native, where he played for the University of Central Florida and Florida International University, before finishing his college career at Mississippi Valley University. Sylvestre played for the Coritiba Crocodiles in Brazil last season. Without much recent film to evaluate, Sylvestre’s athleticism and speed will be his key contributions to the Butchers secondary, as he fills a much needed position as the #1 cornerback.

The Butchers have also upgraded their linebacker group with the return of Timi Nuikka, after his stint in the European League of Football with the Wroclaw Panthers. Nuikka is an outside linebacker with great tackling ability, and solid coverage skills as well. With his speed to the ball, he should be able to help this defense get off the field faster than normal. Outside of Nuikka, the Butchers linebackers are solid players who will make plays when needed.

The Porvoo Butchers defensive line is one of the best in Finland, when they actually play. Led by Jesse Vuoksenturja, this group has tons of depth. What is yet to be seen is if the Butchers will utilize that depth properly this season. Niko Nousiainen returns to football after a brief hiatus as a coach, and he can be expected to make an impact in limited action. Roni Paananen, Noah Nettey, and Atro Heinonen can be used like interchangeable batteries and disrupt opposing offense every time. If the Butchers can keep this group healthy, their defense will be one of the top units in the Maple League this season.

Perfect Pervis Analysis

The Porvoo Butchers have all the necessary ingredients to win the 2024 Maple Bowl. Quarterback Brandon Gwinner is one of the most underrated players in Europe, as he is a dual threat quarterback with a rocket attached to his shoulder. The receiving corps is the BEST in Finland, and that’s not really debatable. Their offensive line is good enough to get the job done, and their defense has Zach Wright! This team is capable of averaging 40+ points every week, and their defense is likely to score as well. Without comparing them to any other team, the Porvoo Butchers are primed to repeat as Maple Bowl Champions in 2024.


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