Crusaders prove why they belong among the elite in Europe
Sweden’s Carlstad Crusaders made history Sunday afternoon capturing their fifth straight Swedish American Football championship, thoroughly trouncing the Örebro Black Knights 49-9. Watched by an enthusiastic crowd at Tele2 Arena, Sweden’s biggest stadium, and viewed also by a national television audience, the game promised to be a thrilling affair. And it was. For one quarter.
With the victory, Carlstad became the first team in Swedish American football history to win the title five consecutive times.
Early on the game was entertaining as the Black Knights matched Carlstad stride for stride and looked to be taking over the game in the first quarter. Nevertheless, a miscue by Black Knight quarterback Joe Clancy on the very first series led to a Carlstad touchdown as an errant pass was deflected by a Crusader lineman and fell right into the hands of defensive end Olof Flemstrom who waltzed into the end zone from 45 yards out. Before many people had settled into their seats Carlstad had taken a 7-0 lead.
This was a sign of things to come later in the half. The touchdown did not seem to deter Örebro though as their offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage giving Clancy ample time to find his receivers including Strahinja Stepovic and Jakob Grufman, and Finnish running back Veikko Lehtonen, room to pound out yardage. But despite penetrating the red zone three times they only came away with three points which spoke volumes about the Crusader bend-don’t-break defense. Meanwhile, the Black Knight defense was giving Carlstad quarterback Anders Hermodsson fits early on forcing Carlstad to punt for one of the few times the entire season. A bad punt gave the Black Knights the ball at midfield allowing Clancy to go back to work, driving his club down to the eight yard line.
That drive resulted in a field goal. On the next series Hermodsson lost the ball again and Orebro recovered again and looked dangerous driving down inside the 10. Clancy picked apart Carlstad’s zone defense as his receivers, especially Stepovic and Grufman. And again the Crusader defense rose up forcing another field goal attempt. This time though a badly executed trick play resulted in zero points. Still, the Crusaders looked rattled on both sides of the ball. Unusual for them. Even though they had a 7-3, the Black Knights looked like the better team. Finally the offense started moving the ball. British import Harry Routledge made a specular one-handed catch and Hermodsson and co. finally caught fire.
A 97 yard drive finished with a touchdown by versatile Olof Flemström to give Carlstad a 14-3 lead and some breathing room. With just over three minutes left in the half, superstar receiver Johan Ståhl for the Black Knights caught a touchdown pass from Clancy and Örebro closed to within five points after missing the two-point try making the score 14-9. They had hope. Little did they know, those were the last points they would score.
It took Carlstad just three downs as running back Brett Koepp (Sweden’s import of the year) found a seam after a great block and scampered to the end zone. On the Black Knight’s very next possession Clancy threw the ball into the waiting hands of Carlstad safety Jack Moro who took it all the way for another touchdown and suddenly the rout was on.
The Crusaders took a 28-9 lead into the break. In the second half, Orebro forced another Carlstad fumble at midfield to open the third quarter, but Jack Moro again spoiled the party, picking off his second Clancy pass of the afternoon, this time returning it 65 yards for Carlstad’s fifth touchdown, making it 35-9 early in the half. With three minutes still left in the third quarter, Hermodsson extended the lead to 42-9.
For the rest of the game, Carlstad stayed on cruise control, scoring one last touchdown as Routledge pulled in a 40 yard pass to make the final score 49-9.
Game MVPs were Olof Flemström for Carlstad and Örebro’s Alexi Nyström.