It wasn’t as easy as they thought, but Switzerland’s Calanda Broncos defeated the Kragujevac Wild Boars from Serbia 37-33 to capture the Central European Football League Eastern Conference title and secure a berth in the championship final.
Calanda will now face Austria’s Swarco Raiders, winners of the last two CEFL titles, in the final.
The Broncos entered the game brimming with confidence. They were playing at home and they were facing a team that had been embarrassed 70-13 by the Wroclaw Panthers from Poland in their last CEFL game.
Which should have been their first clue. Do not ever underestimate a team, particularly this one, looking for redemption.
Early on thogh, it looked like Calanda had every right to be confident.
After the Broncos defense forced a bad punt, quarterback Connor Manning found running back Steffen Haenelt for the game’s first touchdown. Following a missed field goal attempt by Kragujevac, Manning struck again, finding Adrian Sünderhauf for a big gain and then connecting with Lukas Lütscher in the end zone to give Calanda a 14-0 lead.
Wild Boars quarterback Jake Sisson finally got the offense in sync on the next possession and hit Filip Nedeljković to narrow the lead to 14-7.
However, the Broncos answered right back as Maxwell Gray returned the ensuing kickoff deep into Kragujevac territory and Haenelt then found a seam and rumbled into the end zone to increase the lead to 21-7.
Late in the first half, with the Wild Boars threatening, Calanda defensive back Dea Baumann picked off Sisson near the goal line and the half ended with Calanda out in front 21-7.
The Wild Boars finally got a break midway through the third quarter as a defensive back hauls in a pass intended for Sünderhauf at his own 28 yard line. On the very next play, Sisson found running back Nick LaSane who takes the ball all the way, 72 yards to the end zone, closing the gap to 21-14.
Manning wasted no time responding as he hit Gray on a go route and Gray made no mistake taking it all the way, boosting the lead to 28-14.
Sisson now had the Kragujevac offense in high gear, first hitting Petar Goić and then finishing the drive off himself to again narrow the lead to one score, 28-20.
The Swiss were quick to reply though as Andri Murk beat his defender on the line of scrimmage and Manning dropped it right in his hands in stride to increase the lead again, to 35-20.
When Sisson is whistled for an intentional grounding in the end zone which resulted in a safety on the Wild Boars next possession, Calanda moved out to a 37-20 lead.
That’s when the Wild Boars staged a furious comeback. The defense got a stop and Sisson then hit both Goić and Nedeljković for big gains before LaSane bulled his way into the end zone for a 3 yard touchdown, 37-27.
With the clock winding down, the visitors opt for the onside kick and Lazar Nikolić comes up with the ball at the bottom of the pile. Stefan Đurić is on the receiving end of Sisson’s first pass and after Calanda took a few defensive penalties, Kragujevac were knocking on the door. Sisson connected with Goić in the end zone to close the gap to 37-33 with no time left on the clock.
Calanda will now face the Swarco Raiders, June 8 in Innsbruck, Austria in the championship final.