The Braunschweig New Yorker Lions captured their 11th German title, and fourth in a row, Saturday in defeating the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns 31-20 at Berlin’s Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn Stadium in front of 13,000 spectators.
This was a game where the Lions could not simply impose their will on the Unicorns. Despite a huge statistical advantage, Braunschweig did not seal the victory until late in the fourth quarter.
New Yorker quarterback Casey Therriault completed 32 of 41 passes for 371 yards and two touchdowns as the Unicorns secondary were stretched thin.
Evan Landi had 12 catches for 91 yards and a touchdown while Jan Hilgenfeldt caught nine for 108 yards and Niklas Römer had seven for 105. Christian Bollman added four receptions for 67 yards and another touchdown.
Lions running back David McCants rushed 16 times for 59 yards and two touchdowns while Chris Smith carried the ball 11 times for 42 yards.
Unicorns signal caller Marco Ehrenfried, under pressure all night, was 13 of 28 for 187 yards. Running backs Christian Rycraw and Anthony Bilal scored a touchdown apiece but gained only 48 yards between them. Aurieus Adegbesan caught five passes for 101 yards and Patrick Donahue added another 47 yards on five receptions.
Thomas Rauch kicked two field goals to round out the scoring for Schwäbisch Hall.
The first quarter ended scoreless after Schwäbisch Hall could not capitalize on two huge turnovers, picking off Therriault on their own goal line and then blocking a Jan Hilgenfeldt punt.
Braunschweig struck first early in the second quarter with McCants finishing an 80 yard, 14 play drive with a one yard plunge to make it 7-0 for the Lions. The Unicorns responded with an 11 play, 69 yard drive of their own with Rycraw carrying the ball in from four yards out to even the score at 7-7.
Therriault began picking apart the Unicorns secondary on the next possession, marching the Lions from their own 19 yard line, capping the drive with a 14 yard scoring pass to Christian Bollman.
Again Ehrenfried matched him, engineering an 80 yard drive in five plays handing the ball off to Bilal who scored a 17 yard touchdown to draw the Unicorns even again 14-14.
The half ended in a tie, but halftime adjustments are so important and the Lions proved that.
McCants opened the second half scoring on a one yard run pulling Braunschweig ahead 21-14. Then the Lions defense cranked up the intensity, getting a stop and then forcing an Ehrenfried fumble on Schwäbisch Hall’s 14 yard line. Although the Lions offense could only manage a field goal to give them a 24-14 lead, it was crucial at that juncture.
The Unicorns responded with a Rauch field goal to close within one touchdown, 24-17, and their defense rose up, containing Therriault and the Lions deep in their own zone and forcing a poor 22 yard punt from Hilgenfeldt. But they could only muster another field goal on the ensuing drive despite reaching the Lions eight yard line, to edge closer 24-20.
However, Therriault plunged the dagger deep on the next possession, taking his team on a nine play, 79 yard drive finishing with a five yard touchdown pass to Landi to extend the lead to 31-20, but more importantly, eating up almost four minutes off the clock.
Down two scores, Schwäbisch Hall could not get beyond midfield on their next series, and Therriault wisely kept the ball on the ground and took two knees to end the game and win his, and the New Yorker Lions fourth consecutive German Bowl crown.
This matches the four year title run of the 2005-2008 Braunschweig Lions. What is interesting is that same Lions team went to the championship game five years in a row (2000-2004) without winning it.
For now, head coach Troy Tomlin and his team can enjoy another huge victory, perhaps moving closer to earning the name “dynasty”.