Calanda Broncos capture Swiss Fall Bowl in win over Winterthur Warriors; Buffum calls it quits as QB

The Calanda Broncos had perhaps their toughest game of the short Swiss Fall Bowl season this past weekend but still prevailed over the Winterthur Warriors, beating them 21-6 in front of an enthusiastic crowd in Winterthur, Switzerland.

It was the final game of the unofficial Swiss Fall Bowl and the two teams had played each other twice before with Calanda winning both games relatively comfortably, 34-3 and 19-0.

Not only was it the end of an unusual season, but the game also marked the successful end of the brief return to the playing field for Broncos head coach Geoff Buffum who played quarterback for Calanda throughout.

A total of seven teams participated in a limited fall playing schedule, divided into two regional groups, East and West. Each team in the West group played a total of six games while in the East with only three teams, each played four games but then Winterthur and Calanda played two extra games between each other.

 

Geoff Buffum preparing to take a snap Photo: Sergio Brunetti

The two top teams from each faced each other in the semifinals with Calanda defeating the Thun Tigers 34-10 and the Warriors downing the Basel Gladiators 35-9.

One of the critical “gentlemen’s rules” for the season to be able to be played was that all the games would be played without import players. The only non-Swiss players allowed were European players already on the roster and non-Swiss residents who had lived in the country for five continuous years.

Which qualified Calanda head coach Geoff Buffum, an American, to play as he has lived in Chur for over five years. Still, he had not played a game of football in 14 years.

That did not seem to be a disadvantage.

The 44 year old Buffum, making in all likelihood his final career start as a quarterback, completed 12 of 15 passes for 148 yards and three touchdowns. Wide receiver Lukas Lütscher had seven receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown while Adrian Suenderhauf caught three for 50 and a score. Lanky tight end Marco Musio hauled in the other touchdown pass. Erik Rageth carried the ball 17 times for 65 yards while Suenderhauf rushed five times for 65.

For Winterthur, quarterback Richard Wartmann scored on a quarterback sneak.

Buffum opened the scoring on the game’s first drive, capping it with a 12 yard touchdown pass to Suenderhauf at the back of the end zone. Rageth kicked the extra point and Calanda went out in front 7-0. Facing a stiff Warriors defense, it took the Broncos a full quarter to find the end zone again after holding off Winterthur’s offense.

Midway through the second quarter, on a second and goal from the five, Buffum found Musio in behind the coverage in the end zone to make it 13-0. Rageth booted the extra point and Calanda took a 14-0 lead into the break.

With Winterthur unable to move the ball effectively, Buffum and the Calanda offense got the ball back and marched down to the Warriors 15 yard line. Buffum hit Lütscher racing down the sideline into the end zone giving the Broncos a 21-0 lead.

Photo: Sergio Brunetti

Winterthur finally found the end zone late in the game as Wartmann scampered 14 yards for a touchdown and after some late-game controversy on the two-point conversion attempt the game ended 21-6.

For a humble Buffum, getting a chance to play again while accomplishing the player development goals he had set out for the team, was an experience that was special:

“It’s hard to put into words. I don’t want to over romanticize the thing. It was one of the few things in life that went exactly as was hoped. We were able to keep our same system and develop some players in it. We have a really talented group with experience. I only had to do my small part to keep the thing rolling and I was able to do that.”

Make no mistake though, for a family man who has spent the bulk of the past 14 years on the sideline, getting back on the field with defensive linemen and linebackers out to punish you for it, could be daunting. Needless to say, he was grateful to his offensive line for not allowing him to feel that punishment:

” Well, I brought a cooler full of beer to every game and went home with an empty one, as such, and the O line did not allow a single sack the whole season. I had a lot of faith in the guys around me.  The O-line is a special group. Never in the spotlight but their work usually determines the fate of the team. That’s not just a line, I knew I’d be ok back there. By the way it was a bright pink cooler and it had to be returned on pain of death.”

Nevertheless, Buffum realizes that this was a one-off experience. A memory to be treasured while moving on and preparing for the future where he is back on the sideline:

“I really enjoyed the moment, I knew it would be brief so I had to live each moment to the fullest. I won’t forget it. But it’s time to turn the page and get a real quarterback again and try to compete with the best Europe has to offer in’21.”

 

AFI
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