Reus Imperials, Valencia Giants, & Badalona Dracs Make Statements in Spain
The Reus Imperials and Valencia Giants are continuing along a path that will lead them to a first round clash in the playoffs as the Spanish League wound up its sixth week of play.
The Imperials came from behind to defeat the Valencia Firebats while the Giants disposed of the Murcia Cobras. Meanwhile, the Badalona Dracs remained unbeaten in Spain in trouncing the Barbera Rookies.
Reus Imperials (5-1) 35 – Valencia Firebats 22 (2-4)
The Reus Imperials firmly established themselves as the second best team in Spain in beating 2016 finalists the Valencia Firebats. The Firebats did not make it easy however as Reus found themselves trailing 22-21 late in the contest before quarterback Brady Huber connected with Nazhi Essalhi for the go ahead touchdown and two point conversion. Defensive back Tobias Fuchs sealed the win with an interception for a touchdown.
Huber threw three touchdown passes for the Imperials to Nate Stephens, Henri Laine and Essalhi and Juan Clavijo scored on a rushing touchdown. Valencia quarterback Juan Pablo Terán, who was replacing the injured Fernando Altarriba kept the Firebats in the game scoring on a 50 yard run in the first half and then throwing a touchdown pass. He also rushed for another touchdown in the second half.
The Imperials and Firebats went into the halftime break tied 14-14. After a Huber touchdown pass to Laine, Terán engineered an 80 yard touchdown drive capping it with both a touchdown and the two-point conversion giving the Firebats their first lead of the game.
With two minutes left though, Huber hit Essalhi and Terán was picked off giving Reus the all important win.
Valencia Giants (3-3) 37 – Murcia Cobras (2-4) 14
The Valencia Giants laid claim to the third playoff berth with a convincing 37-14 defeat of the Murcia Cobras. The Giants left no doubt as quarterback TJ Tutone struck early and often throwing four touchdown passes and three two-point conversions. Valencia jumped out to a 14-0 lead before the Cobras found the scoreboard on a touchdown by Joan Andoni González late in the first half.
Tutone threw his second touchdown pass of the game to TJ Murphy early in the third quarter extending the lead to 22-6 before González caught another touchdown pass to pull the Cobras to within 22-14. But Tutone was in a rhythm and connected with Ralph Pienda to increase the Giant’s lead again to 30-14. Finally, Valencia defensive back Jorge Huete picked off an errant Cobras pass and returned it for the final score.
Badalona Dracs (6-0) 65 – Barbera Rookies (0-6) 3
The Barbera Rookies kicked a field goal on their opening drive after falling behind 6-0, and that was the end of the scoring for the winless Rookies. Badalona scored on the ensuing kickoff and the rout was on. Despite marching down to the Badalona three yard line two series later, Barbera came up empty handed fumbling the ball away.
The Dracs raced out to a 44-3 halftime lead before easing off a little in the second half.
Dracs receiver Hunter Lee was spectacular, scoring five touchdowns in the first half, two on punt returns while quarterback Sergi Gonzalo threw five touchdown passes giving him 31 for the season. Joan Carles Bartra scored a kickoff return touchdown while Ferran Llinàs, Xavi Gonzalo and Edu Morlans all caught passes for touchdowns.
With the win, the Dracs have a stranglehold on first place in Spain.