Braunschweig New Yorker Lions hang on to edge Frankfurt Universe, advance to German Bowl XXXIX

The Braunschweig New Yorker Lions withstood a two-touchdown, fourth quarter surge by the Samsung Frankfurt Universe and held on to win 23-21 in front of almost 5,000 cheering fans at Eintracht Stadion in Braunschweig Saturday to advance to the German Bowl for the fifth straight year.

Wide receiver Nathaniel Morris, fullback Maximilian Merwarth and running back Jabari Johnson all scored touchdowns for the Lions while kicker Tobias Goebel added a 39 yard field goal.

Frankfurt quarterback Jaleel Awini threw touchdown passes to Silas Nacita, David Giron and Jannik Markgraf while Andre Feuerherdt kicked all three PATs.

Braunschweig opened the game in typical fashion, stymying the Frankfurt offense and then marching the length of the field on their first possession with Merwarth scoring from a yard out for a 6-0 lead. Lions quarterback Casey Therriault used all his receivers – Christian Bollmann, Niklas Römer, Jan Hilgenfeldt and Nathaniel Morris as well as running back David McCants on a textbook drive.

With the Lions defense continuing to play excellent football, Therriault drove his team to within field goal range and Goebel kicked a 39 yarder extending the lead to 9-0 at the half.

Braunschweig came out in the second half still controlling the game with Therriault and the offense moving the ball. Johnson capped another long drive with a five yard touchdown plunge and the Lions held a 16-0 lead midway through the third. That’s when Awini proved his true value as he eluded New Yorker linebackers Jacob Schridde and Roni Salonen finding an open Markgraf for a 32 yard touchdown pass and the Universe were back in the game, 16-7.

With the Frankfurt defense stepping up, Awini and the offense gained confidence and momentum. Silas Nacita then converted a short screen pass into a 32 yard touchdown and suddenly Frankfurt were close, 16-14.

Therriault wasted no time on the next series, first hitting Bollmann and then connecting with Morris on a 57 yard touchdown pass to extend the lead again, to 23-14.

With five minutes remaining and behind nine points Frankfurt needed two scores to win while the defense needed to hold. And Awini almost obliged.

First, despite extreme pressure from the Lions front seven, he managed to escape and find Giron for a 78 yard touchdown pass to close the gap to within two, 23-21, with three minutes left.

Although the onside kick attempt failed, the Universe defense proved why they were the best in Germany this year, managing to get a stop and give the ball back to their offense.

It was to no avail though as Braunschweig’s defense stiffened, not allowing another first down and securing the heart-stopping win for Braunschweig.

So for the fourth year in a row, the Braunschweig New Yorker Lions will face the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns in the German Bowl. The Unicorns defeated the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes 33-11 in the other semifinal. 

This will be the first time two undefeated teams meet in the German Bowl since 1987.

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