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Helsinki Roosters' Makeover for Maple Bowl Success

With Finland's 2024 Maple League season right around the corner, the Helsinki Roosters are preparing to return to greatness. Finland's most successful team returned to playoff form last year, but their sights are set on the Maple Bowl this season.


Better Late Than Never

The Helsinki Roosters organization is accustomed to winning. From 2012 to 2019, the Roosters won 8 consecutive championships. They took a hiatus during the covid season, before returning to the Maple Bowl in 2021 to ultimately lose to the Kuopio Steelers by a score of 14-0.


The past two seasons have seen the Roosters be one of the better teams in the Maple League, but just shy of their accustomed Maple Bowl expectations. Last year the team began the season with a 0-2 record, before finding their groove and finishing the season with a respectable 7-5 record. Heading into the playoffs, the Roosters looked like the most dangerous team in the Maple League. Unfortunately, their late season resurgence was not enough to defeat the eventual Maple Bowl Champions, Porvoo Butchers, in their playoff semifinal by a score of 24-14. Considering how their 2023 season started, the Roosters can be confident going into this season that they possess the resolve to deal with any early adversity that might arise.


Some Changes Are Necessary

Juha Hakala will once again lead the Roosters at the Head Coach position, accompanied by Offensive Coordinator Daniel Stanzel. The Roosters have made a change at the Defensive Coordinator position, and welcome European Veteran Michael Wood. Despite the change at DC, the Roosters team isn't expected to have an adjustment period, since Coach Wood has been with the team all offseason and brings more than 30 years of International coaching experience with him. 


New Offense, Who Dis?

The Helsinki Roosters offense will have a few new faces at skill player positions, but will return arguably the best offensive line group in the country. The return of the prodigal son Ambro Urjansson at quarterback will allow the Roosters to utilize an additional Import player at a skill position on offense. With imports predicted to be at the Wide receiver and Running back position, the 2024 Helsinki Roosters will have a high-powered offense at their disposal.


Quarterback Ambro Urjansson has a full season as a Maple League starter under his belt, and returns to the Roosters as an experienced veteran. Despite the lack of statistical success in Kuopio, Urjansson gained valuable experience playing against Maple League defenses for an entire season. That experience partnered with the support of his home team will make him a valuable asset for the Roosters offense this season.


Ethan Greenfield (North Central College) will be the primary ball carrier for the Helsinki Roosters offense. Greenfield was the recipient of the Gagliardi Trophy, which is the equivalent of the Heisman Trophy for Division III football. Ethan Greenfield is also a 3-time All-American and has broken statistical records for rushing yards, all-purpose yards, and yards per game during his career. It is safe to say that Greenfield will elevate the Roosters offense, and give them a dynamic ball carrier they can depend on when needed. 


Lasse Pajarinen is returning from injury last season, and is expected to spell Ethan Greenfield at the running back position. The Roosters coaching staff has very high expectations for Pajarinen this season. Before his injury, the running back was considered one of the team's most dynamic players, with explosive playmaking ability every time he touched the ball. If Pajarinen is able to be that player once again, he will be a great change of pace back for the Roosters high-powered offense.


The Roosters receiving corps should provide Urjansson with plenty of options. Bryce Nunnelly (Stuttgart Surge) is an experienced wide receiver with great speed to challenge defensive backs in the Maple League. His experience playing in the ELF will serve him well as he becomes the #1 target for the Roosters young quarterback.


Last season was a breakout campaign for Santtu Vehkomäki, as he had 659 yards receiving & 10 touchdowns to solidify himself as one of the top pass catchers in the Maple League. The return of his former Juniors quarterback can lead us to believe that Vehkomäki will have another big year, and be a problem for defenses each week. Johannes JauhiaInen is the other player to keep an eye in the Roosters receivers room. Jauhianen wasn’t available for every game last season, but still managed to account for 7 receiving touchdowns for the Roosters. He is one of the best deep ball receivers in the league and will be able to win most of his matchups this season when teams have to decide between him and his teammates as a priority to stop. The Roosters have solid depth at the receiver position and will rotate young players such as Artturi Tähkäpää, Oskar Lehtonen, & Rene Rautiainen throughout the season.


The Helsinki Roosters boast the best Finnish offensive line in the country. Center Mikko Toiminen is the leader of the group, and uses his vast years of experience to keep this unit impenetrable to opposing defenses. Guards Aki Aho & Aleksi Närhi have proven themselves to be difference makers in the trenches over the past few seasons. Youngster Viktor Asklöf slid into the starting lineup last year for all-star Toni Koskinen at times, and the casual fan couldn't tell the difference. This year, Viktor Asklöf will own the position from day one, and we can expect his play to be to the same level of his talented teammates. Offensive Tackle Samuli Vehkomäki is one of the best offensive linemen in Europe. Strength, agility, and football savvy that can't be replicated, are just a few of Vehkomäki's attributes that make him the perfect guy to protect Ambro Urjansson's back side. This group is solid all around, but where they excel above most teams is in their run blocking ability as a group. Using technique and ability, the Roosters offense line is second to none at creating running lanes for their ball carriers.


Roosters Re-tooled Defense

The Helsinki Roosters 2023 defense was not horrible, but it did leave a lot to be desired, especially in the pass coverage. Fortunately, this season's team has addressed their weak spots through player acquisition.


Julian Bell (North Central College) will be the American reinforcements for the Roosters secondary. Bell had an outstanding career at NCC playing the safety position. More than just a ball hawk, Bell get to the ball in the run game as well. He is predicted to play the safety position, but has the ability & skill to play cornerback if needed.


In addition to Julian Bell, the Roosters have added long-time Kuopio Steelers cornerback, Roni Laine. Laine has been a top defensive back in the Maple League for years, and brings a ton of experience guarding American receivers to the Roosters secondary. He is a technically sound player who is also capable of following receivers into the slot position if necessary. Aku Kattainen is a veteran for the Roosters defense, and expected to play either the safety position or nickel backer. We can expect to see Waraphon Prasopsin, Jaakko Jokinen, and a few others provide depth for the Roosters secondary.


The Roosters linebacker group will be reinforced with the addition of Juhani Koivumäki, formerly of the Seinäjoki Crocodiles. The defensive back turned linebacker had an outstanding 2023 year before injuries slowed him towards the end of the season. Koivumäki brings a ballhawk mentality to the Roosters defense that will help the group create turnovers, something the group lacked last season. The rest of the Roosters linebacking group is relatively inexperienced, but Niklas Lagström came on strong at the end of last season and could have a breakout campaign in 2024. 


Daniel Gilroy (North Central College) will join the Roosters defensive line unit. Gilroy is a high-motor defensive end that can produce pressure from multiple positions on the line. Camille Gruel will be Gilrory’s partner in crime, as the local French player is still one of the best defensive linemen in the Maple League.  Joining the party up front is youth prospect Malek Jaradat, who has great run stopping capabilities. Jaradat showed flashes of dominance last season, and is expected to be even better this season as  full-time starter. Jarno Lipola is another player to watch on the defensive line, as he could have a breakout season with this group.


Perfect Pervis Analysis

The Helsinki Roosters are Back! The 2024 season is a cumulation of the Roosters team finding their new identity. This team is filled with experienced (but not old) veterans and young players who have been battle tested in the Maple League and abroad. Led by a coaching staff that has proven itself to have the recipe for success and development, the Helsinki Roosters are poised for a Maple Bowl run this year.


Last season's regular season second half finish is indicative of what this team is capable of this year. Despite the change in personnel, their offense will be able to produce the same if not better than last season. More importantly, the Roosters upgraded their secondary positions. That move by itself is what prevented this team from a Maple Bowl appearance last season. As long as their defense is able to keep them in games this season, the Roosters are a legitimate Maple Bowl contender.





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