Spain: Badalona Dracs down Mallorca Voltors in clash of heavyweights

By Kyle Pinnell

The Badalona Dracs and Mallorca Voltors played out one of the more intriguing games of the 2023 season so far in Palma de Mallorca on Sunday afternoon. Two heavyweights when it comes to American football in Spain, the Dracs walked out with a 17-6 victory as both teams showed just why they occupy the top two places in the Eastern Conference of the Liga Nacional de Fútbol Americano Serie A.

Arguably one of the most highly anticipated games of the season, Sunday afternoon’s clash off the coast of Spain between two previously unbeaten teams certainly lived up to the hype.

Fresh off a bye weekend, the Voltors had the rest advantage and were at home while Badalona players and staff woke up on mainland Spain on Sunday morning before landing in Mallorca hours before kickoff.

Right from the opening snap it was evident every possession mattered to both teams. Neither wanted to punt, which led to an afternoon in which both sides continuously went for it on fourth down and only punted when forced into their own red zone.

The halftime score reflected a hard-fought opening half, with the Dracs on top 7-0 thanks to a touchdown scored by Edu Morlans, capping off an up-tempo drive that consistently kept the hosts guessing.

Mallorca would have likely scored the game’s first points a quarter earlier if not for the smart play of American Import Nygel King, who made his first big play as a Drac with an interception on the goalline, jumping his receiver’s route while defending one-against-one and diving forward to secure the ball.

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Quarterback Diego Lliteras was one of the first-half bright spots for the Voltors. While he didn’t hit every throw, he picked up several large gains –– including multiple first downs –– with his legs. Lliteras’ ability to escape the pocket frustrated the Dracs’ defensive line, even if the unit did manage to sack him multiple times.

Badalona signal caller Kevin Doyle gave his team more breathing room on the first drive of the second half. Spinning out of danger in the backfield, Doyle quickly regathered himself before launching a deep pass down the sideline to Iván Caballero, who caught the ball short of the end zone before evading several defenders and ducking in to score.

Minutes later the Dracs’ defense forced another turnover, which has been in high supply all season long. Yanis El Alami came up with the pressure on a blitz, taking Lliteras by surprise and nearly pinning the quarterbacks’ attempted pass to his helmet, before Evans Nugmertey scooped up the loose ball in the red zone. The visitors couldn’t capitalize on the field position, just yards away from the Voltors’ end zone, but did tack on an extra three points to extend their lead to 17-0.

The 10-point spurt at the beginning of the second half later proved pivotal as a series of self-inflicted errors in the fourth quarter gave Mallorca late momentum. It started with Eric Gracia muffing a punt, which gifted the Voltors with the ball on the 1-yard line. The hosts turned the miscue into six points.

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On the next drive, Edu Molina received a screen pass but fumbled the ball while trying to make a play, which another Voltors player fell on. This time, though, it was the Dracs’ defense’s turn to step up in the red zone.

Fighting to prevent the hosts from continuing its comeback, Gracia made up for his earlier costly fumble with an interception in the back corner of the end zone, completely killing all the momentum the Voltors had just built.

Sunday’s showdown wasn’t the prettiest game of the season, but it was competitive all four quarters and provided both teams with a good place to measure their respective season’s halfway through the year.

The Dracs showed they have all the pieces in every phase of the game to compete for another league title this year, they just must minimize small errors. Mallorca, meanwhile, leaves with more confidence that they are capable of hanging around against one of the league’s most historically successful teams for long stretches.

The Dracs and Voltors square off one more time in the regular season, in Badalona on April 1. If Sunday’s game served as any indication, that could be an enticing rematch in both team’s final game of the regular season, likely a final tune-up ahead of the playoffs.

As for now, Badalona has next weekend off before traveling to Zaragoza on 5.3 to kick off the second half of its season. The Voltors, meanwhile, host L’Hospitalet next Sunday at 12:00.

Photos: Fototeca Mallorca Voltors

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