Badalona Dracs silence doubters, overwhelm Las Rozas Black Demons for 5th consecutive Spanish Bowl victory

The 2021 Badalona Dracs were a much different team than years past.

The once untouchable juggernaut stumbled at times this season. Along the way they suffered their first loss in five seasons, battled inconsistency at the quarterback position and an uncharacteristic lack of discipline. At stages, they looked vulnerable. Some wondered if even making it to the Spanish Bowl was attainable.

None of it would matter.

When the chips were down and the stakes were highest on Saturday, the Badalona Dracs brought the type of competitive fire and cool veteran savvy to the 27th Spanish Bowl that only an elite European organization can demonstrate. Underdogs for the first time in their historic run, the Dracs seized their fifth consecutive national title by a score of 31-21 over the Las Rozas Black Demons, becoming historic as the only team to ever have won five titles in a row in Spain.

As has been the case time and again over the last half-decade, it was an aggressive Badalona defense that stole the show. The high flying Black Demons offense led by star quarterback Chris Merchant was rendered inept by Xus Fernandez’s group. Merchant threw four interceptions before exiting with an injury, Guatemalan weapon David Giron was a non-factor and tight end Mavin Saunders disappeared for stretches as the group drowned in the mud.

Badalona Dracs DB/Wr Niko Lester was dangerous all game and caught 5 passes for 98 yards and 1 TD Photo: Lola Morales

Although it was the Dracs defense that emerged victorious, it was the Black Demons’ that drew first blood. Badalona running back Eduard Molina was eating up yards on his team’s first drive until he was stripped of the football on a fourth down conversion. Hugo Minguez picked up the ball amidst the chaos and raced 70 yards for the opening score.

The Dracs soon responded with a defensive score of their own. Pinned against his goal line by a near perfect punt, Merchant went to the air for Giron, only to be drilled by Mike Taylor III. The ball hung and Jordi Brugnani went up and got it, waltzing into the endzone for the pick six.

Another ribshot from Taylor brought a quick three and out on the next drive and the Dracs wasted little time. Quarterback Sergi Gonzalo found Niko Lester in behind the defense and the Black Demons could only watch as he jogged in the 70-yard score. The momentum continued, as Merchant returned to the field to throw a deep out but didn’t see Marc Pina underneath, resulting in another interception and a 37-yard Jordi Brugnani field goal.

Merchant would finally get something going for his team late in the second quarter, connecting with Matias Castagno on a 59-yard bomb. Three plays later, he wrangled a low snap and escaped the pocket to find Mavin Saunders for a 10-yard touchdown.

Photo: Lola Morales

They’d quickly get another chance, as Gonzalo badly short-armed another deep ball to Lester on the ensuing drive and a diving Pablo De Diego intercepted. Merchant moved his team down the field, but threw blindly to the endzone while scrambling to end the half with a Niko Lester interception.

Eduard Molina added a 20-yard touchdown run early in the third to make it 24-14 and it would take a missed 32-yard field goal from Brugnani to wake up the visitors once again. Merchant started to use his legs to great success, but a 13-yard scramble left him clutching his knee in pain. He walked off under his own power, leaving David De Diego to finish the drive and set up an eight-yard touchdown run from Marcos De La Mata.

Merchant would attempt to grit it out on the next drive, but succeeded only in throwing a fourth and final interception to Marc Pina. Sergi Gonzalo scrambled to the pylon from five yards out to finish the scoring and Merchant would not return, giving way to De Diego for the rest of the fourth quarter.

Hard running from De La Mata and Gabriel Lee Levin got the Black Demons into the redzone one last time but resulted only in a missed 34-yard field goal from Pablo De Diego. The Dracs easily ran out the clock, seizing their 11th Spanish Bowl in franchise history by a score of 31-21.

Quarterback Sergi Gonzalo needed to do little more than manage the game to secure victory, finishing eight of 16 passing for 117 yards, one touchdown and a pick, to go with a score on the ground. Eduard Molina rushed 13 times for 79 yards and a touchdown, but it was German-American weapon Niko Lester who made the difference. He caught five passes for 98 yards and a score, while adding 22 yards on the ground and an interception on defense. Marc Pina shone with two takeaways, Jordi Brugnani added a pick six and Mike Taylor III was a menace off the edge.

Black Demons WR Mavin Saunders caught 4 passes for 61 yards and 1 TD Photo: Lola Morales

For Canadian Chris Merchant and the rest of the Black Demons, it was an outing they likely want to forget. The quarterback took a number of hellacious hits behind a beat up offensive line before succumbing to his knee injury, completing just seven of 22 passes for 138 yards, a touchdown and four interceptions. Mavin Saunders hauled in four passes for 61 yards and the score, while Marcos De La Mata had 12 carries for 57 yards and a touchdown.

After a season in which the prevailing question seemed to be which team would finally knock the Badalona Dracs off their perch, Oscar Calatayud’s team gave fans a resounding answer of not today. The kings of Spain are here to stay and after an unprecedented year of doubt and turmoil, this particular coronation is just that much sweeter.

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.