Uniball – Vipers ready to strike
With a chill in the air and the nights drawing in, baked bean sales rocketing and midweek binge drinking on the rise, it can only mean one thing, the students are back on the British campus’ and it’s time for some Uniball. Whilst some of the British student population will be fitting studies in between their revelry, there are a select band of more focused individuals, who will be donning the helmets and pads to compete in the BUCS American Football leagues. With over eighty universities fielding teams, it is Europe’s biggest Football competition. Split into three tiers of regional divisions, it provides the opportunity for rookie players to learn the game, and for the more experienced, it provides a launchpad for forays into the European and British senior leagues. Most of the focus will be on the ten elite teams that form the premiership North and South divisions, here you will find the programmes that take the “competitive” part of the leagues name to the extreme. Committing plenty of funds on “scholarship athletes” from the USA, in an effort to be crowned the National Champions. Further down the pyramid in Divisions 1 and 2 you will experience the more earnest British talent, who are no less dedicated as they strive for promotion. Those programmes are not bereft of American influences though, either by way of none scholarship American players who just happen to be here studying, or coaches who are working in the locality.
One such programme is to be found in the greater London area, namely the QMBL Vipers. Now in their second year of competitive balling, they have secured the services of Ohio native, Chris Stone, to be their head coach. If the name sounds familiar it’s because Stone was a key member of the NTU Renegades between 2014 and 2016 making a name for himself as a hard hitting ball hawking safety, earning him a spot on the All-League team. Having completed his studies, he married an English rose, and now lives in London, working in the media industry. He spent his first year studying at Queen Mary’s before moving to Trent to complete his Law degree, so when the Vipers came calling, it was an easy decision. “Football is in my blood, and Queen Mary’s has a special place in my heart, so helping them develop the programme will be a pleasure” confirmed Stone. Coach Stone feels he has some playmakers on the team. We should look out for the “thunder and lightning” running back duo of Muhammad Yahga and Ayo Windapo coming out of the offensive backfield, along with defensive back Will Masterson patrolling the deep zone.
The Vipers will be playing in the BUCS Division 2A South East section, where they will come up against the ARU Rhinos, Essex Blades, Greenwich Mariners and UEL Phoenix. Stone has the twin advantage of NCAA experience with top division 3 outfit, the University of Wittenberg and understanding the Britballer psyche, having played here for two seasons. His squad runs to around 45 players, and he will be supported by a full complement of coaches, who will assist in implementing his game plan. “Flexibility will be our key, we can match any scheme, and adjust to anything we see in front of us. I’m looking for us to win our division, and get promoted” Stone said with confidence.
As the season progresses, it will be interesting to see if the Vipers have the bite to deliver on Stone’s plan, I’ll be keeping a close eye on them, starting with their season opener against Greenwich on November 5th.