Dracs, Imperials win thrillers, head to Spanish final

The Badalona Dracs and Reus Imperials took care of business this past weekend as the two leading teams in Spain won their respective semifinal games and will now face each other in the Spanish final.

But it was not easy.

Badalona downed a determined Murcia Cobras squad 21-13. However, the win was not without a battle. They had dominated the Cobras in both their regular season meetings, winning by a combined score of 59-7. They faced a different Murcia team Sunday.

Missing the league’s top points getter, Hunter Lee, Badalona looked out of sorts and quarterback Sergio Gonzalo could not get his offense, which averaged 43 points a game in the regular season, untracked. Nevertheless, he connected with his brother Xavi Gonzalo for the first score of the game giving the Dracs a 7-0 lead.

The pesky Cobras would not go away and despite playing without their leading scorer, Kevin Gramage, managed to move the ball against the mighty Badalona defense. They reached the red zone twice but turned the ball over both times before Francisco Javier Martínez kicked a field goal to reduce the lead to 7-3 at the half.

Photo: Joan Sancho, Fotoart

After a scoreless third quarter, Murcia took a 10-7 lead, the first time all season they have had a lead on Badalona, as quarterback Angel Clemente connected with Martinez in the end zone. Martinez kicked the extra point as well.

Then Gonzalo struck two more times throwing touchdown passes to Raúl Cernuda and Edu Morlans. With the extra points the Dracs led 21-10.  Murcia again marched down the field but this time could only muster another field goal to bring the lead down to 21-13.

Despite another dangerous drive the Dracs held on for the win and will now face the Reus Imperials for the championship.

In the other semifinal, the Reus Imperials needed a last minute touchdown to overcome the Valencia Firebats 32-28.

The Imperials also went into their semifinal against the Firebats shorthanded. Injuries to Nate Stephens (season ending) and quarterback Brady Huber (game to game) forced them to rely on rookie quarterback Pau Muñoz.

And Muñoz delivered. He threw five touchdown passes, four to Henri Laine to lead Reus to the win over the Firebats. 

In a tight first half which saw Muñoz  throw two touchdown passes, Valencia took a 14-13 lead in the first half on touchdowns by running backs Héctor Pertegaz and Navim Mohamed.

They extended that lead early in the third quarter  to 21-13 on Mohamed’s second touchdown of the game. But the Imperials responded as Muñoz remained poised throwing two more touchdown passes to Laine to surge in front 25-21.

The Firebats, with Fernando Altarriba now behind center retook the lead on a touchdown pass to Javier Martinez.

The stage was set for a thrilling finish.

And thrilling it was as Muñoz connected with Laine with 43 seconds left for the winning touchdown giving the Reus Imperials the win and a berth in the Spanish championship game for the first time in their history.

 

 

Roger Kelly
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.
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