10 sack outing helps Badalona Dracs clinch East Division over Mallorca Voltors

Offensive linemen are a lot like the brakes on a car, most people don’t really notice them until they fail.

Sitting behind the wheel of a runaway semi might actually have been a more enjoyable experience than the one Tanner Young went through against the Badalona Dracs.

The Mallorca Voltors quarterback found himself in the dirt eight times on Sunday before leaving the game late in the fourth quarter with an injury, falling 28-13 to a relentless Dracs pass rush that finished with 10 total sacks on the afternoon.

The home team completed one fewer pass than the total number of sacks allowed, dashing their hopes of stealing the East Division crown out from underneath the four-time defending champions from Badalona.

Mallorca’s protection woes began early on. Badalona defensive end Mike Taylor III got home on each of the team’s first three drives, snuffing out any chance of first quarter offensive output, but the Dracs didn’t fair much better in the opening frame. Jordi Brugnani missed a 36-yard field goal on the team’s first series and quarterback Sergi Gonzalo was picked off by Carlos Vega on the second to keep the game scoreless.

Badalona finally broke the deadlock early in the second quarter. Triple threat weapon Niko Lester caught a screen pass and walked the tight rope down the sideline for 57 yards before Aleksandar Borkovic saved the touchdown with a late shove out of bounds. Gonzalo finished the job himself  with a three yard QB keeper to open the scoring.

Young was able to find some rare time to operate in response and connected with college teammate  Jaylon Hibbs for the first time on the afternoon. Hibbs caught the ball over the middle and broke the first tackle as he reversed field for a 27-yard score to tie the game.

Badalona RB Eduard Molina #43 Photo: Pep Alcover

It would remain that way until the third quarter when Gonzalo finally got the Dracs moving again, finding big Raul Cernuda several times to move the chains and set up an eight yard touchdown run from Eduard Molina.

After another Mallorca three and out, it was Eduard Morlans turn to make an impact on the ground, busting loose for a 45 yard run. Gonzalo then looked to the endzone and fullback Javier Fernandez hauled in a toe-tapping 14-yard touchdown catch along the back line with athleticism rarely seen from his position.

Down 14, the Voltors began to press but their luck wouldn’t get any better offensively when Young was intercepted by Eudald Sabater early in the fourth. Their defense stepped up instead, as Gonzalo threw his first pass right into the gut of Aleksandar Borkovic, who made the entire Dracs offence miss on a spectacular 75-yard pick six. Pol Cunillera would block the extra point and keep the margin at eight.

That glimmer of hope didn’t last long for Mallorca. As he is oft to do, Gonzalo followed up an inexplicable mistake with a fabulous response. Austrian Dario Dobrolevski got behind the defense for the first time all game and the quarterback hit him perfectly in stride for a 40-yard touchdown.

It would be the game’s final big play, as Young succumbed to the pressure again on the next drive and Jaylon Hibbs was forced to move behind center as the wildcat quarterback. Even he couldn’t escape the Badalona pass rush when needed and the Voltors fell 28-13.

While the Dracs posted 10 sacks, seven different pass rushers got in on the action. Mike Taylor III led the way with 3.0 sacks, linebacker Cesar Brugnani had 2.0, Felipe Archilla and Pep Tricas added 1.5, Evans Nugmertey got home once and both Yanis El Alami and Alex Gonzalez helped out with an assist.

Mallorca WR Jaylon Hibbs #21 Photo: Pep Alcover

In the face of that relentless pressure, Tanner Young was nine of 20 passing for 116 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The Badalona front did their job on the ground as well, holding Piti Mir to just 20 yards on nine carries. Jaylon Hibbs finished the game with six carries for 24 yards to go along with his three catches for 46 yards and a score. Serbian defenders Aleksandar Borkovic and Dusan Novakovic were the game’s true bright spots on defense.

Offensively, Spanish pivot Sergi Gonzalo managed the game admirably, completing 20 of 35 passes for 268 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions while scrambling for 25 more and a score. Tight end Raul Cernuda was his outlet with seven receptions for 86 yards, Dario Dobrolevski had six catches for 58 and a touchdown, while Niko Lester excelled both ways with three catches for 89 yards. Eduard Morlans and Eduard Molina each carried 12 times for 70 and 57 yards respectively.

With the victory, the Badalona Dracs have clinched the top seed in the LNFA’s East Division, while Mallorca remains in second place and can seize a playoff spot with a victory over the Zaragoza Hurricanes in two weeks time.

The Voltors have happily fed on the carrion at the bottom of the Spanish league all season, but despite possessing dynamic athletes on the perimeter, have twice fallen victim to poor play in the trenches when gifted the opportunity to knock off a top tier team.

While the Spanish sky is beautiful, Tanner Young will hope he sees a lot less of it when the post-season arrives.

Photos: Pep Alcover, Fototeca Mallorca Voltors

J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.