Rockingham Vipers Capture 2017 West Bowl in Australia

The Rockingham Vipers dominated from start to finish in Australia’s 33rd West Bowl this past weekend and overwhelmed the Curtin University Saints 38-6 to capture the Gridiron West title for the third straight year at Dorrien Gardens Stadium in West Perth.

Vipers running back Nate Lansdell was named West Bowl MVP after rushing for 147 yards and three touchdowns and adding a two-point conversion.

The Vipers entered the game as the #1 seed with an 11-1 record and the slight favorites. Their only loss had come at the hands of the Saints while Curtin University, the #2 seed, suffered their sole loss to the Vipers.

The Vipers won the toss and elected to receive. Part of the game plan was to open up the game by focusing on the run game, while the Vipers were unable to break free for a big run, they were able to effectively out man the Saints D-line, and kept moving the ball with chain moving runs of 7-10 yards. . The Vipers thought they had scored on an end around but a late play block in the back brought it back. They went to the air to grab a first down and then let team leading rusher RB, Nate Lansdell bulldoze his way in from the one. They then went to air, and the hands of Austin Winston to convert the 2 point try.

RB Nate Lansdell Photo: Matthew Boggs, Perth, Western Australia.

During the Saints first series, Doug Stewart and Ty Henry kept the chains moving managing to get the ball into Vipers’ territory. Import QB, Justin Sottilare (Finland’s Seinäjoki Crocodiles), went deep but his pass was off the mark and was intercepted near the end zone.

Again, the Vipers, keeping to the game plan, went back to the ground and pound game plan to move the ball from out their own goal line. With a smattering of some quick strikes from longtime QB Ben Gastrov, the Vipers were once again within scoring range. Yesir Johnson then took the ball in close and the Saints D again despite Ty Henry and crew making numerous tackles couldn’t find an answer to the run game. The Vipers again chose to ride Lansdell into the endzone as well as calling on him to deliver the 2 point try to make it 16-0, halfway through the second quarter.

The Saints next possession saw a three and out which forced Zach Austin in to punt, his kick was fumbled but the Saints failed to capitalize on this miscue. The Saints D was able to force the Vipers into a 4th and long and the Vipers punted for the first time in the game.

Saints WR Gareth Weinbrecht Photo: Matthew Boggs, Perth, Western Australia.

The Saints got moving with some short passes to Gareth Weinbrecht and Daniel Strickland. However, an unfortunate tipped pass at the line of scrimmage lead to a Vipers interception. This cut short any momentum the Saints had just found. The Vipers opened with a pass to Brandt Honda to put them into the Saints’ redzone. The Vipers ground game, powered by Nate Lansdell, took advantage of the favorable field position once again to score and again converted the two point conversion pushing the lead to 24-0.

A squib kick was returned to midfield by Saints Hamish Cowley giving Sottilare a chance to reach the end zone before time expired on the 1st half. His Hail Mary was picked off. The halftime saw the scoreboard at 24-0 for the Vipers, and the Saints needing some heroics to get back into it.

Sottilare went to the air to open the third quarter, but facing a fourth and ten, he was sacked at the Viper’s thirty-four to kill the drive. The half-time changes implemented by the Saints seemed to slow the run game of the Vipers, but left the secondary in more one on one situations, and the Vipers eventually scored with a short pass to Brandt Honda and another 2 point try conversion of Gastrov to Winston.

Vipers QB Ben Grastrov Photo: Matthew Boggs, Perth, Western Australia.

Saints kick returner Doug Stewart nearly broke the coverage of the Vipers on the following kickoff and put the Saints well across midfield. Again, Sottilare went for the air attack trying to force the Saints back into it, but was unable to connect with his WR from inside the red zone and turned it over on downs.

The ensuing Vipers possession saw the Saints send the house, but Austin Winston got free for a 65 yard scamper after the catch in which Cam Groenhilde made a touchdown saving tackle on the play inside the ten yard line. The Saints D struggled as they did all night once again to stop the power run scheme of the Vipers. However, they stepped up to stop the 2 point try. The score sat 38-0 with just a few minutes left in the 4th.

The Saints got moving again under the arm of Sottilare with Strickland starring in the only scoring drive for the Saints. The Saints Strickland finally got them on the board with a neat toe tapping catch in the back of the end zone. The Saints went for 2 points but failed to convert with a goal line pass break up by DJ Battistella.

The score being what it was everyone knew the onside kick was coming. The Saints onside kick yet was bobbled, but recovered by the Vipers, and the Saints again failed to capitalize off the miscue of the special teams of the Vipers. The Vipers stuck to the script and kept up the run game and quickly moved into the red zone once again, but the Saints defense showed some late game pride and made a stand. The Saints got the ball with just around 2 minutes left. A few quick dink and dunk passes from Sottilare moved the Saints deep into Viper territory. They were also aided by two drive extending facemask penalties, however time expired with the Saints unable to score.

Photo: Matthew Boggs, Perth, Western Australia.

With the 38-6 victory the Vipers secured their place in Gridiron West history as three-peat West Bowl Champions.

Vipers Head Coach Lane Honda said this of the 2017 West Bowl:

“We knew the Saints were going show up for the final. We have faced them before in the Finals. They handed us a sound loss earlier this season… They always give us a good fight, but luckily we learned from that loss, and we got the Championship.”

Dennis Battistella
A writer for American Football International. Graduated with a MSM at University of St. Francis, Joliet(USA). Current Assistant Professor of Liberal Studies at Eulji University, Korea. Player with Seoul Vikings, Korea.
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