It took the Carlstad Crusaders one half of football to get warmed up but once they were warm they overwhelmed the Örebro Black Knights 42-17 in front of an enthusiastic crowd at the Studenternas IP stadium in Uppsala, Sweden to win their sixth straight Swedish championship title.
Entering the halftime break, the Crusaders were nursing a 14-10 lead and their offense had just been stymied in the second quarter as the Black Knights defense was starting to assert itself.
That was before the break.
Carlstad scored 28 straight points in the second half before allowing Örebro back on the scoreboard late in the game, to win going away.
Running back Brett Koepp was unstoppable racking up 196 yards on only 13 carries as he shredded the heart of the Black Knights defense, at times carrying tacklers for several yards after initial contact. Every time he touched the ball it seemed, he could not be brought down by less than a gang of tacklers.
Quarterback Anders Hermodsson was almost as devastating on the ground himself, carrying the ball 10 times for 96 yards and two touchdowns. He was also extremely efficient in the air completing 12 of 19 passes for 164 yards and another two touchdowns.
Carlstad looked impressive on their opening drive with a four play 82 yard “gallop” down the field that took all of a minute and a half. Koepp took a screen pass for 42 yards and finished the drive with a 34 yard touchdown run.
Örebro responded though, marching the ball 69 yards in 11 plays with running back Veikka Lehtonen carrying the load and quarterback Grant Welp finding his legs too (he gained 127 yards on the day), to tie the score at 7-7. This was the ball control offense that head coach Randy Beverly had designed to keep the powerful Crusader offense off the field. Örebro ate up over seven minutes on the drive.
A pick by Black Knights linebacker Eric Murphy gave Orebro back the ball and they methodically ate up the clock again, this time settling for a field goal to take their only lead of the game 10-7.
Then Carlstad returned the favor, keeping the ball on the ground, mixing the plays up, even using an end around, to score their second touchdown, retaking the lead 14-10.
Neither team could move the ball with authority after that and the half ended with Örebro feeling more hope about their chances.
Carlstad dashed that hope early in the third forcing Örebro into a three and out and then scoring quickly again in four plays on their own possession, extending the lead to 21-7. Black Knights starting running back Veikka Lehtonen suffered an ankle injury late in the first half and did not return to the game, changing the complexion of the Örebro offense which suddenly could not move the ball. The Crusaders took full advantage as Örebro’s defense seemed to sag, knowing that their offense was immobile. Carlstad scored quickly again with Hermodsson leading the way, taking the ball in himself from seven yards out.
With Carlstad leading 28-10 going into the fourth quarter, Örebro seemed to wilt completely. The defense was pounded relentlessly by a Crusader’s team that could move the ball at will. Carlstad sensed the weakness and scored another two touchdowns in rapid succession, the final one by Koepp as he simply took the ball 50 yards, shaking off the entire Black Knights defense in roaring down the field.
With the score 42-10, Örebro finally found the end zone late as Welp hit Johan Stål for a 24 yard score to make the final score 42-17. That was in all likelihood Stål’s final career touchdown as he has announced he will be retiring.
Crusader’s head coach Malik Jackson was naturally estatic after a long season.
“These guys are amazing. They have gone through a lot of turmoil this season, won the Champions League and still come through with their finest game when it counted. I am happy to have been a part of this.”