By AJ Francis
The past two seasons, the Carolina Skyhawks have compiled a record of just 4 wins and 20 losses. As bad as that is, Carolina have a lot to look forward to this season. Two second-year stars, A.J. Francis and Sir Chappell, have been promoted to General Manager and Head Coach respectively. Working alongside owner James Cline, they have built up a very different team from seasons prior and believe they have what it takes to win. Cline commented saying:
“I feel that Sir Chappell and AJ are huge additions to the team. Sir Chappell brings a strong knowledge of coaching APF as he is very familiar with the game. AJ has been probably the biggest asset to me because of the managerial duties that he has taken over. In my opinion both of these men are our next up and coming owners.”
With a strong new staff, the Skyhawks set out to put together a playoff bound team, signing Jacques Luyindula to replace former quarterback, Mark Biddix, and drafting two highly touted rookies, Julius Williams and Jon Gregory. With new and returning highly motivated players and a new build, Carolina is very much looking forward to putting the past behind them and moving ahead.
Speaking on the topic of last year, the Skyhawks found themselves unlucky quite often at the end of games. “In all honesty, Carolina should have been 6-6,” said London tight end, Tristan Carr, when discussing Carolina’s late game misfortunes. Often losing most of their games in the last few minutes, it took a toll on the locker room. “It was definitely rough on us; the guys would get really upset watching it happen week after week after week,” stated a member of the Skyhawks.
In Season 10, Carolina went 3-9, improving on their season 9 record of 1-11. The statistics from last season show a very different story: Running back, A.J. Francis, was second in the league in rushing, only trailing by 23 yards. Free safety, Sir Chappell had 86 tackles, 10 pass deflections, and 2 interceptions. Defensive tackle, Christopher Colon, grabbed 4 sacks and 8 TFLs. The Skyhawks’ main issue stemmed from the passing game where they were dead last in passing yards per game by 14 yards. Reflecting on last season, Owner James Cline said this:
“We have probably the best group of guys in the league. I was disappointed that we didn’t make the playoffs, but after going through multiple coaching staff changes the previous 2 seasons, I feel that I have a great staff that wants the same as I do, and that’s a championship.”
With a new build, a new coaching staff, and a vote of confidence from their owner, the Skyhawks hope to move past their bad record and late game misfortunates of last season.
The Offense: Addressing their passing game issues, the Skyhawks staff signed free agent quarterback, Jacques Luyindula, from the San Francisco Sharks to lead their passing game, while still keeping running back A.J. Francis, wide receiver, Mark Strike, and wide receiver, Jalan Miller at their very high values. Last season for the Sharks, Luyindula placed 5th in yards (3,375), 5th in touchdowns (25), and 5th in completions (308). Being signed at only a slightly lower value, fans of the Skyhawks can expect his numbers to only rise from last season given the way the Skyhawks built their entire offense around him this offseason. “We built this offense around him and have given him the weapons he needs to lead our team to the playoffs. We are fully confident he will get it done.” said a member of the Skyhawks staff. With their quarterback, running back, and first wide receiver at a gold, and their second wide receiver on the brink of gold, the Skyhawks look to be a dual-threat powerhouse this season. Defenses should be scared.
The Defense: This offseason the Skyhawks drafted two promising rookies: defensive end, Julius Williams and defensive end, Jon Gregory. The rookie duo, referred to by Skyhawks players as “Dash n Smash” will be paired with second year gold valued player, defensive tackle, Chris Colon and UDFA rookie, Beaurivers Monroe to create a scary defensive line. On the next level of the defense, the Skyhawks brought back linebacker Phil Hall and added rookie linebacker, Shravan Prasad to rack up the tackles. In the backfield, the Skyhawks retained Sir Chappell, their gold valued free safety and convinced Trystan Hatley to come out of retirement and play strong safety for them at a silver value. The player to watch out for on the defense this season will surely be Sir Chappell. He is, at the time of this writing, the highest rated free safety, and was a true leader last season. “Sir Chappell is one of the best guys I know. He’s an incredible leader on and off the field and an incredible ball player. He has a great football mind,” said teammate, A.J. Francis. With his promotion to head coach, look for him to run a defense that compliments his strengths as well as the team’s strengths. With their new defensive scheme, it is likely he will improve upon his 2 interceptions from Season 10 and this defense will be a force to be reckoned with.
Next Season’s Expectations
Week 1: Vs Baltimore
Week 2: @ San Francisco
Week 3: @ London
Week 4: Vs St. Louis
Week 5: @ Indianapolis
Week 6: Bye
Week 7: Vs London
Week 8: @ Chicago
Week 9: @ St. Louis
Week 10: Vs Tallahassee
Week 11: Vs Chicago
Week 12: Vs Queen City
Week 13: @ Baltimore
The most intriguing matchups this season for the Skyhawks are: Week 1 and Week 13 against Baltimore, Week 3 and Week 7 against London, and Week 10 against Tallahassee.
First, against Baltimore, there has been a lot of trash talk between the two teams, specifically between A.J. Francis and Baltimore’s owner, Tim Johnston. Even taking it so far as for A.J. Francis to request a jersey name change to “A.J. “TJ Hate Me” Francis.” TJ has since responded auctioning off dartboards with the Carolina Skyhawks logo. The matchup to watch in these games will be A.J. Francis vs the second overall pick, Aman Takes. Takes is a huge threat to stop opposing running backs this season, but with A.J. Francis narrowly missing out on leading the league in rushing last season, this one is too close to call.
London and Carolina have been trash talking as well. These two teams last season had the exact same record and split their series 1-1. On Twitter before the schedule release, the Skyhawks twitter and London Knights twitter got into a short spat after London posted a meme mocking the Skyhawks. The Skyhawks twitter and AJ Francis responded with a picture of Francis’s Statline of “223 yards and 3 touchdowns” against London last season. Both teams have significantly improved upon their offenses and defenses this season to become playoff contenders, so this will be a rivalry for the ages, starting with this season!
Lastly, despite moving divisons, the Tallahassee- Carolina rivalry will continue in Week 10. These two teams have faced each other more times then any other two teams have. Tallahassee has historically dominated the matchup and with their great season last year, they look to continue their dominance, but with the addition of Jacques Luyindula to fix their passing game and the new build, the Skyhawks look to change their fate. Looking forward, when asked of expectations for this season, Owner James Cline answered with one word: “Playoffs!” That philosophy is shared throughout the rest of the team as well: “I see us winning the championship and I speak for all of us when I say that we will not settle for anything less. We have an amazing locker room, an amazing build, and an amazing coaching staff so I’m very confident this season will meet our expectations,” said General Manager A.J. Francis. As you can see, their past record is not hurting their morale at all as the Skyhawks appear to be very amped to contend in what will be a very competitive new season.