Braunschweig New Yorker Lions return to German Bowl with convincing win over Frankfurt Universe

The Braunschweig New Yorker Lions outmuscled the Frankfurt Universe in beating them 36-18 in the German Football League semifinals this past weekend, advancing to German Bowl XLI.

This is the sixth trip to the German title game for Braunschwieg in seven years. With the victory they avenged a double overtime loss to Frankfurt in last year’s semifinal.

Behind a 144 yard, three touchdown performance by running back Chris McClendon, the Lions took a 29-6 third quarter lead and then held off a fourth quarter Frankfurt surge to win the game comfortably.

The victory came with a price though as starting quarterback Brandon Connette left the game early in the second quarter with a head injury. Backup Sonny Weishaupt stepped in and completed five of five passes for 44 yards. The Lions top receiver, Christian Bollmann also suffered a serious injury and could be questionable for the championship final.

Between Connette and Weishaupt, Braunschweig had a total of 68 passing yards while racking up 183 rushing yards. Besides McClendon’s three touchdowns, defensive back Lars Steffen added an interception return touchdown while Tobias Goebel kicked two field goals and four extra points. Benjamin Barnes returned a blocked PAT for two points in the first quarter.

Frankfurt quarterback Steve Cluley threw for 256 yards and three touchdowns but was picked off three times, once for a touchdown. Wide receiver Sebastian Sagne had eight catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns while Anthony Mahoungou caught four passes for 54 yards and the third Frankfurt touchdown.

The Universe found the end zone first after Braunschweig’s Goebel kicked a 34 yard field goal. Cluley engineered a nine play, 67 yard drive, finishing it with a seven yard touchdown pass to Sagne giving Frankfurt a 6-3 lead. Barnes scooped up the blocked extra point attempt and raced all the way back or the two points to narrow the gap to 6-5.

Neither team could gain any momentum until Connette was knocked out of the game on the Lions first possession of the second quarter. Weishaupt then marched Braunschweig down to the Universe four yard line and handed off to McClendon and the Lions took a 12-6 lead.

Cluley moved Frankfurt down to the Braunschweig 19 yard line and the Universe looked poised to score again but Barnes picked off a pass at the goal line, snuffing out the drive. Weishaupt marched Braunschweig 81 yards in 13 plays but the Universe defense stiffened and Goebel kicked his second field goal of the game to stretch the lead to 15-6 going into the break.

The third quarter opened with Barnes getting his second interception of the game, picking off Cluley at the Frankfurt 48 yard line. Four plays later, McClendon rushed around the left side and rambled 32 yards to extend the lead to 22-6.

This was not Cluley’s night. On a first and ten at the Lions 49 yard line, he watched helplessly as his pass was picked off by Steffen who returned it all the way to give Braunschweig an almost insurmountable 29-6 lead midway through the third quarter.

Cluley rebounded, driving the Universe to the Braunschweig 27 yard line and then tossing a touchdown pass to Mahoungou to narrow the lead to 29-12 only a minute into the fourth quarter.

But the Lions came right back with McClendon. Behind arguably the best offensive line in Germany, the bruising back carried the ball seven times for 62 yards and scored on a 10 yard run to increase the lead to 36-12 with just over seven minutes left in the game.

Cluley and the Frankfurt offense were not done yet though. The Universe quarterback mixed his plays up and took his team down to the 10 yard line before hitting Sagne to narrow the lead to 36-18 with four minutes left.

They got the ball back with three minutes left after the Frankfurt defense finally managed to slow down the Lions running game. Cluley maneuvered his team down to the Braunschweig 18 yard line and on fourth and 10 from the 18 connected with Sagne at the back of the end zone, but the receiver had stepped out of bounds and came back in before catching the ball earning him an illegal touching penalty nullifying the catch.

The Lions kneeled out the remaining two minutes and the celebrations began.

Braunschweig will now prepare to face the  Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns in German Bowl XLI on October 12.


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