The top-flight Highland Stags head to London this weekend, determined to show they are a force in American football from the north of Scotland.
The Invergordon club will face Bristol Apache in the play-off final for the British American Football Association (BAFA) Division 2 title.
Less than a year after being accepted into the NFC North Division 2, they are set to become UK champions at their level.
Beating Scunthorpe Alphas 18-8 at home last month booked their place in this showdown with Bristol, although both sides have almost certainly been promoted to Division One due to their torrid results in 2022.
The Stags won all eight league matchesseeing competition from the Aberdeen Roughnecks, Dumfries Hunters, Clyde Valley Blackhawks and Dunfermline Kings.
Next season in NFC 1 North they could face Northumberland Vikings, Yorkshire Rams, Lancashire Wolverines and Inverclyde Goliaths, although the split setup is yet to be confirmed.
Bristol Apache have won all eight of their games in SFC 2 West, beating Somerset Wyverns, Cornwall Monarchs and Torbay Trojans.
Bristol won their semi-final 35-0 against the Northants Knights and will be a competent opponent for the Stags at New River Stadium on Sunday at noon.
The success opened eyes all over the country
However, general manager Tom Hutchison insists the preparations since the Alphas’ victory are complete and they are ready to aim for glory at the end of a brilliant season that few could have predicted.
He said: “We’ve been waiting for this for two long weeks, but we’re really looking forward to it.
“We’re excited to get there and show everyone what we’re capable of. We are obviously quite a distance here, so few people from the wider leagues can see our games.
“This is the first year that the BAFA have organized a full Division 2 championship. Before, you only had champions from the north and from the south.
“This year it was decided that the two teams that win will play each other in a final weekend, so we are proud of what we have done so far. It is very rare for a team to enter in the league and do what we did.
“People know who we were now, which they didn’t a year ago.
“Bristol are a very good team, which is also unbeaten. We have no illusions that we will be tested, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We have video footage of four of Bristol’s five games this year and we’ve gone through that, learning how they play and deciding how we can stop them.
“Coaches and players have worked hard to review them and we are as prepared as we can be.”
The club appreciates the financial support
A GoFundMe page, set up by the club’s social media volunteer Stuart Brimble has raised over £2,600 to help defray the costs of sending the 60-70 squad, coaches and staff to the UK capital .
And Hutchison explained that the money allowed some players to be involved.
He said, “In addition to GoFundMe’s efforts, which were great, a lot of companies really helped us with sponsorship, which made a huge difference.
“We really appreciate that because there were guys who maybe couldn’t afford to travel but now they can, which is a huge bonus.
“We have a way to travel. It’s a 1,600 mile round trip, while Bristol has a two hour journey. I’m sure it will have an impact, people may be a little uncomfortable, but we’ve done everything we can to get everyone ready.
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[Highland Stags in showdown with Bristol Apache]