Carlstad Crusaders dominate in first place showdown in Sweden

The Carlstad Crusaders put all their firepower on full display Friday evening in Orebro as they blanked the hometown Örebro Black Knights 34-0 in front of an announced crowd of 1,952 fans at Behrn Arena.

This was the 22nd consecutive victory over the Black Knights for Carlstad and it was emphatic. In a game that was supposed to be a showdown between the two powerhouses in Swedish American football this season, the Crusaders made it very clear that there is only one powerhouse, at least on this night.

Carlstad quarterback Phil Juhlin was masterful completing 22 of 32 passes for 392 yards and three touchdowns, shredding the Örebro secondary seemingly at will. Rangy wide receiver Jacob Dahre caught 11 passes for 150 yards and one touchdown and seemed to be wide open all night, especially in the second half. Apha Jollah made life miserable for Örebro‘s defensive backs with five catches for 164 yards and a touchdown and Marcus Johnson caught five for 69 yards and another touchdown. Christian Forsmann rushed 11 times for 77 yards and a touchdown to lead all running backs.

It was a game to forget for Örebro quarterback Corbin Lawler who was under relentless pressure from the Crusaders front seven, in particular Olov Flemstrom. Lawler completed just 13 of 35 passes for 95 yards.

The game actually started well for Örebro as on the opening drive Lawler marched his team down the field in impressive fashion, mixing up his plays, relying on the short passing game. But, as was to be the story all game, they stalled in the red zone, this time on Carlstad’s 10 yard line, turning the ball over on downs. Juhlin wasted no time finding Jollah for a 58 yard reception on the very first play from scrimmage for Carlstad. Six plays later, Forsmann punched the ball in from the seven giving the Crusaders a 6-0 lead, setting the tone for the rest of the game.

Once again, the Black Knights put together an impressive drive, this time eating up over four minutes and 15 plays marching from their own 39 yard line, this time grinding to a halt on Carlstad’s 13 after Lawler was picked off in the end zone.

This time Örebro’s defense managed to hold off the Crusaders but the offense was stymied with Lawler getting sacked twice. Juhlin made them pay hitting Jollah for a 65 yard touchdown extending the lead to 12-0 in the first half.

Carlstad WR Jacob Dahre scoring a touchdown Photo: Andreas Lundgren

Jollah was having his way with the Örebro secondary and halftime adjustments did not seem to help much. Carlstad opened the second half where they left off in the first with Juhlin taking his team on a seven play, 60 yard drive, capping it with a 24 yard touchdown pass to Marcus Johnson and putting a dagger into the hearts of the Black Knights players and fans.

Hounded by unrelenting pressure from Carlstad’s entire front seven, Lawler could not find the rhythm he had in the first half. The Black Knights could only muster a total of three first downs the entire second half.

Carlstad scored twice more in the fourth quarter as massive lineman turned fullback Sebastian Johansson bulled his way in from the one and Juhlin found Dahre for the two-point conversion. Lawler was picked off by Joseph Nguzo on the next series, mercifully ending the night for the Örebro offense as Carlstad simply held on to the ball for the final four minutes.

The two head coaches had  similar views of the outcome, yet from different perspectives.

Carlstad head coach Tracey Gere said his team responded well after last week’s loss in the Northern European Football League championship game to Finland’s Helsinki Roosters:

“We bounced back well after such a disappointing loss last week. The same thing happened last year prior to our game against Orebro. The team really responded and played well especially in such as tough place to play here at Behrn Arena in Orebro.”

Black Nights head coach Aaron Fiddler while not happy was not devastated after the game:

“The same thing happened last year. We were in the same situation and learned a huge lesson from the first loss to Carlstad. This team will rebound from this like it did then.”

Roger Kelly is an editor and a writer for AFI. A former PR Director the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League for 7 years, he now lives in Sweden writing about and scouting American Football throughout the world.