Defensive heroics save Las Rozas Black Demons in Madrid Derby shootout

In a game loaded with some of Spain’s biggest offensive stars, Jorge Felix Velasco was hardly the betting favorite to play hero in Saturday’s Madrid derby.

It was the Las Rozas Black Demons linebacker who was responsible for the game’s biggest play however, scooping up a fourth quarter fumble from Osos Rivas quarterback Garrett Dellechiaie and racing 75 yards the other direction for the game deciding score.

Velasco’s mad dash was a fitting exclamation point to a back-and-forth matchup that never lacked for big plays. The Black Demons, coming off a historic win over the Badalona Dracs last week, were out performed by the Osos in virtually every statistical category, but their top players stepped up when needed to eek out a 35-28 victory.

Black Demons LB Jorge Felix Velasco #53 scoring the game-winning TD as teammate Darius Robinson #1 cheers and Osos Rivas OL Alfonso Ruitina looks on Photo: Lola Morales

It was clear from the start that the home team would not be rolled over. Dellechiaie and running back Mike Gentili ran with seeming impunity on Rivas‘ opening drive, culminating in a four yard touchdown pass to Samuel Anca to open the scoring.

The Black Demons were succinct in their response. After a pass interference penalty put the ball near mid-field, quarterback Chris Merchant ran a screen against heavy pressure and somehow got the ball to Marcos De La Mata with two blitzers in his face. With blockers in front, the running back had all the space necessary for a 48-yard romp to pay dirt.

The Osos looked to be moving on the next drive but Dellechiaie sent an ill-timed floater into the chest of cornerback Darius Robinson for an easy interception. Merchant got the ball rolling again with a 41-yard bomb to Jesus Garcia-Valcarcel, then opened the second quarter with a 27-yard toss to tight end Mavin Saunders. The imposing Florida State product produced an early catch of the year candidate, making a spectacular diving grab in double coverage to give Las Rozas the 14-7 lead.

Black Demons RB Marcos De La Mata #45 finds running room Photo: Lola Morales

The Osos went hurry up in response and a few plays later a scrambling Dellechiaie connected with Alejandro Tizon, who side-stepped a lunging Pablo De Diego for a 45-yard score. Eager to match their opponent’s 14-point swing, Rivas would get the ball right back. Two-way Mexican force Johny Escobar broke through off the right side and swiped the ball out of Merchant’s hands on his first pass attempt and the Osos recovered. Dellechiaie overcame twenty yards of penalties on the next drive, finishing with a second touchdown pass to Tizon.

With time ticking down, Darius Robinson caught the ensuing kickoff and dashed to mid-field, setting the Black Demons up for another scoring drive to end the half. Merchant would find Jesus Garcia-Valcarcel for an eight-yard touchdown strike with seconds remaining, tying the game at 21 at the break.

After a whirlwind first half, the second would not be any less exciting. After foreshadowing his explosive ability to end the second quarter, Robinson received the second half kickoff near the back of his own endzone and found a lane down the left side. The former Clemson standout took full advantage of the gap, running the full 90-yards untouched to take back the lead.

Black Demons DB Darius Robinson #1 and teammates tackling Osos Rivas RB Adrian Jimenez #44 as Black Demons DB Hugo Minguez #18 keeps watch Photo: Lola Morales

The Osos came right back with some fireworks of their own. On the second play from scrimmage, Dellechiaie dropped the ball in to Alejandro Tizon down the right sideline and the homegrown receiver outran everybody for a 65-yard touchdown, his third on the afternoon.

Things finally began to slow down after Rivas forced the first punt of the ball game mid-way through the third quarter. Dellechiaie moved his team into scoring position but the Black Demons held firm and a 22-yard field goal attempt by Alvaro Guitian would sail wide.

The Las Rozas offense continued to flounder in the second half and the Osos drove down inside the ten-yard line for the second time. Desperate for the go-ahead score on fourth and goal in the fourth quarter, Dellechiaie scrambled wildly to extend the play, only to be hauled down for the sack by Carlos Carrasco. The ball popped free and that’s when Jorge Felix Velasco played hero, scooping up the fumble and racing untouched for the winning touchdown.

The Osos would get one final shot after Merchant failed to convert on third and long, but an Alejandro Alonso sack put the ball at the goal line. Dellechiae’s final desperate pass was picked off by Pablo De Diego, sealing the 35-28 victory for the Black Demons.

Osos Rivas RB Mike Gentili #33 trying to evade a Black Demons defender Photo: Lola Morales

Rivas‘ first loss of the season came despite spectacular efforts from a number of top players. Quarterback Garrett Dellechiaie gave everything he had, completing 20 of 29 passing for 221 yards, four touchdowns and two picks, while adding 63 yards on the ground. Alejandro Tizon was responsible for a hat trick of touchdowns, making four catches for 119 yards, and Javier Barrena was a chain-moving safety valve with six catches for 34 yards. The Italian stallion Mike Gentili carried 13 times for 71 yards and added 33 more through the air, while Johny Escobar dominated on both sides of the trenches.

The Black Demons prevailed with a much less dominant stat line. Canadian pivot Chris Merchant finished just seven of 15 for 159 yards and three touchdowns, staying unusually quiet along the ground with only eight yards rushing. Jesus Garcia-Valcarcel was his top target with four catches for 77 yards and a score, while Marcos De La Mata added 12 carries for 57 yards to go with his 48-yard receiving touchdown. Mavin Saunders wowed with his own 27-yard score but was carted off the field with an apparent leg injury late in the first half.

After Las Rozas upset the balance of power in Spain a week ago, the Osos have proved capable of matching the new league leader shot for shot. While game-breaking special teams play and defensive heroics saved the Black Demons this time around, the next battle for Madrid could be anybody’s game.

J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.