CEFL: Belgrade Thriller

Photo: Boško Bunuševac

Warm Saturday afternoon held its promise to the fans of two rivals meeting in Belgrade. Equal chances of Belgrade SBB Vukovi and Istanbul Koc Rams in this game gave hope for an exciting game. The expectations were more than met by the drama unfolding on the field.

After a short kickoff by the visiting team, SBB Vukovi opened their drive near midfield. Tenacious runs by quarterback Lewis Kindle and running back Mihailo Josović racked up the yards, aided by a hybrid back Vojin Milić, who cathches a pass close to Rams’ goal line. Josović dots the I with a 2 yard touchdown, but the kick is blocked.

Turkish team doesn’t let up for a moment. Their play caller Quentin Williams heaves a long pass to Charles McCrea who strolls uncovered into the end zone for a 42 yard score. Kicker Mehmet Sarikatipoğlu puts his team in the lead.

Belgraders next drive is not as effective. Milić hauls in another 12 yard pass and Kindle rushes for a few first downs. Next, their offensive line breaks, defenders get to Kindle who scrambles to the left and slings the ball into coverage that gets intercepted by a Serbian international, Ivan Pavlović. Williams gets the ball back on his 11 yard line and puts on a show. Long rushes and precision passes to McCrea and Pavlović take his team to Vukovi 13 yard line. From there, Taha Çokadar finds his way through the defense and ups the difference to 7 points.

Vukovi show up big in the next drive. Offensive line is paving the way for big double-digit runs by Milić, Kindle and Josović. Kindle puts it away with a 5 yard run and Marko Todorović is good for a point after. Rams continue with the ground attack over Williams and McCrea, but falter outside of Vukovi red zone and try for a field goal that falls short. Kindle take matters into his own hands, runs away from the defenders for a fantastic 55 yards dash, and takes the lead for his team at half time, 20-13.

After the break Rams resume where they left off. Taking what the defense gives them, short gains extend a long drive. Çokadar finally powers through the line again for a 2 yard score. On the try, McCrea steals 2 points rushing the ball as the holder on a trick play from the kick formation.

Vukovi are stuck in running mode as well. Josović, Milić and Duane Brady take turns escaping the defense ending up at the 4 yard line. Kindle pierces the front 7 for another touchdown and Milić rumbles though himself on a 2 point conversion. However, visitors and determined to answer in kind. Williams flicks a screen pass to McCrea at midfield, who breaks two tackles and sprints to the end lining up the score.

The home team gets the ball back with 6 minutes left. Brady and Josović chip away at the defense combining for 50 yards between them. Losing steam at opposing 17 yard line they leave it to their special team, but the kick is no good. The clock shows less than 2 minutes when the Rams get the ball and go for it all.

The key moment by the Vukovi defense takes place a couple of plays in. D-linemen chase after Williams who lobs and errant pass to a covered receiver. The ball finds its way into Brady’s arms at the 40 yard line who takes it all the way to Rams’ red zone. Pressures for time, Kindle hurries to locate Nikola Simović who’s open at the goal line near the left pylon for a 20 yard touchdown. With 6 seconds dividing them from the uncertainty of overtime, the scales definitively tip in Vukovi favor, 35-28.

With two wins in the Eastern Conference, Vukovi now look to next week when Budapest Cowbells visit Kragujevac. The Wild Boars are 1-0 and a win away from the finals. If the Hungarian team prevails, the Vukovi will continue with their sequence. A league phenomenon the Belgraders were CEFL bowl participants in all of the past 11 seasons, collecting 6 trophies for their treasure chest.

In the Western Conference in Denmark, Triangle Razorbacks have played Wroclaw Panthers for the bragging rights. The SWARCO RAIDERS have already placed in the CEFL Bowl XII beating both teams. Nevertheless, that fact did not erode the appeal, as the duo approached the game with a playoff zeal.

The game granted a glimpse to a very strange and rarely seen opening act. Panthers’ offense flowed like butter, only to end with the opposing goal line under their noses an astonishing three consecutive times in as many first offensive series. They were not able to close any deals because the Razorbacks played vigilant goal line defense and forced a trifecta of turnovers.

First, quarterback Timothy Morovick and running back Rickey Stevens crossed the length of the field in four long strides and put the ball on the 2 yard line. Morovick tried to push it in, running to his right when Razorbacks’ defensive back Kavon Joyce punched out the ball that went through the end zone for a touchback. After the Razorbacks’ quick 3 and out, the Panthers tried airing the ball. Receiver Bartosz Dziedzic was good for 16 yards, but another Morovick’s lob for the score ended up intercepted by corner back Dian Hansen. Another 3 ineffective plays later a punt by the Razorbacks halts at midfield. Stevens and Adam Skakowski’s dashes advance the ball to the opposite red zone. Morovick stretched his legs again, but can’t get a grip as the ball is stripped from him once more by Joyce, with defensive lineman Mads Nielsen recovering near his own goal line.

Razorbacks get the ball back, their quarterback Peter Linnemann trying harder to make something happen this time. Nothing changes from the previous attempts and they punt the ball to Poles 40 yard line. The Panthers are determined to end the charade by the safe hands of Stevens, who runs for a couple of first downs and punches it in from 9 yards at the start of the second quarter. Adam Nelip is good for point after and the Panthers grow their confidence.

The opening touchdown woke up the Razorbacks to trust the ball to their own workhorse running back Geoffrey Lewis, who get the initial first down. Receiver Oliver Holmlund hauls in Linnemann’s 27 yard pass and their offense starts churning. Lewis takes it from there, getting the ball four times for a total of 25 yards, including a touchdown bull rush from the 1. Torben Jørgensen’s kick is good for the last tie score in the game.

Panthers ensuing drive is another Stevens fest who gains 30 yards before Morovick is sacked by Henning Jensen. After a couple of plays that go nowhere they punt to Joyce who returns the ball for 41 yards. Razorbacks’ new quarterback arrival, Shazzon Mumphrey goes under center. His first ever pass for the team is catapulted deep right and intercepted by Adam Lary.

Panthers three plays end inches away from first down so they go for fourth just 18 yards from their own goal line, coaches showing great confidence in their offense. Morovick is good for 2 yards on quarterback draw and never looks back. Next, he launches two passes for 52 yards total, Stevens picks up another 25 in three runs, last one for a 3 yard score with a few minutes left in first half.

Danes can’t manage to get their drive going and have to punt yet again. Panthers employ Jakub Kłoskowski for two 14 yard grabs near the right sideline to stop the time. On the next play, Morovick is flushed from the pocket, keeps the ball and sprints toward the left pylon for a 21 yard touchdown. In just two minutes before the intermission, the Polish team redeems for three turnovers at the start of the game.

Their coaches’ tongue lashing at the half must have had an impact on the Razorbacks. They seemed like a different team in the first drive after the break, with the offensive line shoring up opening a whole for Lewis’ 11 yard rush. Holmlund jumps and snatches another pass as he falls for a 34 yard gain. Lewis finally finds a running lane for a 20 yard touchdown.

Panthers’ are resolute to impose their will through Stevens and Morovick’s rushes. Nelip contributes a 16 yard catch, but Stevens is the battering ram for another 8 yard score. Mumphrey exhausts his knowledge of the playbook and Linnemann goes back in the game in his team’s next offensive series. His woes continue and the Razorbacks have to punt.

Skakowski relieves Stevens at the running back position, and rumbles on from there. Overpowering offensive line punches holes in the Razorbacks’ front seven at will, with Skakowski benefiting from it. One of their rare mistakes sees Mads Nielsen and Jaroslav Vavrac get a hold of Morovick for a sack of 8 yards. He snaps back in the next play swinging for another long pass. Skakowski takes it to the house in the fourth period for the final 14-34.

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In the Western group of CEFL Cup, home team Zagreb Patriots appeared poised to send Sarajevo Spartans home without a victory. Visting team's offense got the ball inside the opposing 3 yard line only to be forced back and had to settle for a field goal. However, Patriots offense quickly turn the ball over putting the weight on their defense. Spartans quarterback Caleb Hecox threw a perfect pass in the left corner of the end zone to bring the score to 0-9. A failed two-point conversion gave the Patriots defensive staff hopes they were still in the game through the first quarter. Though the Patriots defense literally smothered the Spartans running game they were unable to squelch the hot arm of Hecox. Head coach Matthew Carver continued to go deep defeating the Patriots young secondary. By half time the score stood at 0-23.

Visiting team’s defense helped their offense by intercepting Patriots quarterback Morris Schmidt on three different occasions, providing a short field for the Spartans offense to use. After half time Patriots defensive coordinator John Anderson changed his defensive alignment, stopping both the run and the pass. However, it wasn’t long before Spartans coach Carver found a plan to add 6 more points to the score. On the other side of the field head coach Damir Zupan guided his offense down the field in the fourth quarter to the end zone when Schmidt connected with wide receiver Andrej Barlafa who scampered down the right sideline for a 40 yard score. The Spartans got the ball back and ran the clock out, making the final score 6-29.
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