On Sunday March 8th, the Antwerp Diamonds, playing in Belgium’s top Flemish league, won a football game for the first time in two years, beating the Leuven Lions 26-9.
After an abysmal 0-8 record last season the Diamonds broke the dry spell with their first victory of the season. For a long time it looked like Leuven, playing at home, was going to prevail but three Diamonds’ touchdowns in the fourth quarter by Jorik Visser Rios, Pieter Wauters and Michael Vervaet locked up the victory for Antwerp who are now 1-2.
Two safeties and a field goal
After winning the coin toss the Leuven Lions elected to receive. Relying on strong outside running they managed to pick up a first down. But on third down the drive stalled and Antwerp took over driving deep into Lions territory. Although they didn’t score a touchdown, the Diamonds opened the scoring when Michael Vervaet kicked the ball through the uprights from 19 yards out.
The game was sluggish as both quarterbacks struggled to get anything going through the air. Moving the ball on the ground was an even bigger problem for both teams as the defenses controlled the game. The Leuven Lions finally got on the scoreboard after a fumble by Antwerp punter Michael Vervaet in his own end zone. He managed to recover the ball but was immediately tackled by Leuven, giving up a two-point safety.
After the Leuven safety, making the score 3-2 for Antwerp, the Diamonds’ defense returned the favor. Diamond quarterback Cody Butler threw an interception and receiver Pieter Wauters tackled the cornerback on the one-yard line. However, on the very next play, Antwerp defensive end Thomas Verhelst managed to trap the Lions ball carrier in the end zone for the safety, extending Antwerp’s lead to 5-2.
One interception, four touchdowns
After a dissapointing first half on the ground Diamonds’ head coach John Jolie decided to change things up and give running back Nils De Groef, who had struggled the last two games and lost his starting position, another shot. With a staggering 100-plus yard effort on nine carries the veteran running back showed why he should get the most snaps playing as a running back.
In a third quarter when the Antwerp Diamonds running game became the dominant factor in the game the Leuven Lions still managed to grab the lead with an interception return for touchdown making the score now 9-5. The Diamonds quickly recovered though, playing excellent defense, forcing punts and creating turnovers.
In the fourth quarter it all came together for the Diamonds. With the defense playing solid – Jorik Visser Rios recovered a fumble and Henry Wong had an interception – and outstanding play by wide receiver Pieter Wauters, tight end Michael Vervaet and running back Nils De Groef (good for a combined 200 yards on the game!) the Diamonds pulled ahead and secured their first victory in two seasons, 26-9.