Eight-time Swedish champions. Perennial powerhouse. Consistent top-10 team in Europe. Three-time nemesis. The accolades are many, yet the Carlstad Crusaders fell 44-43 to the Towers in the NEFL Championship.
The Towers played a stellar first half and took a 30-16 lead into the break. The third quarter proved more difficult as the Crusaders maintained almost complete control of the ball offensively. They ran several very long drives, which meant that the Towers offense ran only 4-5 offensive plays all quarter.
Two scores in quick succession meant that the teams were tied at 30 at the beginning of the fourth quarter. This set the stage for a finish that was as intense as it was thrilling. Dayton Winn brought the Towers ahead again, but the Crusaders tied the game once more and then took the lead for the first time all game. When the Crusaders missed the PAT after their last touchdown the Towers knew that the momentum was back in our favour.
Marching down the field Dayton Winn ran in what appeared to be the winning touchdown, however, a holding call brought back the Towers offense. With 29 seconds left on the clock QB Randy Schroeder found U19 WR Jakob Green in the right side of the end zone despite good coverage. Green made the tough over-the-shoulder catch to tie the game again.
Failed Hail Mary
With a successful PAT, the game was back in the hands of the defense. Crusaders QB Philip Juhlin threw a few incomplete passes against a prevent defense followed by a desperation heave deep downfield as time ran out. When the pass fell incomplete among of a hoard of Towers defenders, the game was over.
As much as the game was an offensive masterpiece, with an outstanding performance by the entire unit, the defense played a good and very disciplined game. Defensive coordinator Victor Andersen said: “Despite allowing 43 points our defense felt that it had played a very good game against an exceptionally good opponent.”
On many occasions, the defensive brought the Crusaders to a halt deep on their own half of the field, giving the offense good field position.
Field position was generally an issue for the Crusaders. On kick-offs Jakob Green repeatedly forced touchbacks, while Aske Troen’s punts kept the ball out of the hands of the Crusaders’ import DB, who is dangerous in the return game.
Bringing the NEFL championship to Copenhagen is the culmination of a five-year journey that began, when the Towers won the Danish championship in 2013. When assessing the 2018 season in December 2017, our coaches determined that, to be truly successful in Europe, we would need to score points more consistently. Having RB Dayton Winn return for a second season was the first step of that plan.
Signing QB Randy Schroeder was the second. Seeing the plan play out was among the things that defensive coordinator Victor Andersen was particularly proud of after the game: “Realizing that we have signed two imports who fit the plan that we laid out in December was a fantastic feeling.”
Team president Jakob Munksgaard was equally excited: “This win proves that we are among the best teams in Europe. The team and coaches have focused on this game all spring and performed when they had to. It was an extraordinary performance by everyone!”
(photos: Palle N Christensen)