Early scores lift Bydgoszcz Archers to first ever Polish Bowl victory

You never forget your first.

It’s a cliché so overused that it can hardly be written without an audible groan and accompanying eye roll, but when it comes to the result in Polish Bowl XVI, it could hardly be more accurate.

Never before had either the Tychy Falcons or the Bydgoszcz Archers advanced to a national championship and by extension, neither had known the taste of its victory. A dozen years after the creation of both franchises, it was time for one to break through and the Archers did so in commanding fashion, seizing the first title in club history by a score of 27-7.

The undefeated top seed in the PFL left little question all season as to whom should assume the role of national powerhouse vacated by the Wroclaw Panthers and the Polish Bowl was no different. Three possessions for star quarterback Jake Schimenz and the game was all but decided, with Bydgoszcz coasting the rest of the way on the backs of a talented defense that forced four turnovers.

Archers QB Jake Schimenz #1 with excellent protection by PFL MVP Arkadiusz Cieslok #75 Photo: Piotr Piekut / Interception

Fittingly for a game defined by firsts, the Archers took control on the opening drive. Schimenz converted a long third down with a 29-yard pass to Mateusz Poneta and it was the Spaniard Javier Carrasco who finished the series, following Arkadiusz Cieslok’s block off tackle for a 15-yard opening score.

A quick stop from the defense and it was all Schimenz magic for the encore. The import pivot picked up first downs on spectacular scrambles of 18 and 13 yards respectively, then put it up for big Kornel Witkowski in the endzone. LaParish Lewis couldn’t get a hand on the ball and the result was an easy 11-yard touchdown.

Archers WR Kornel Witkowski #81 making a spectacular catch Photo: Dariusz Jacek / Interception

After another failed Falcons drive, Witkowski built off his first touchdown catch in a big way to start the second quarter. He picked up one first down early, then quickly made a leaping grab for another, before showing off his after-the-catch ability by spinning off two defenders for a 15-yard gain with a cartwheel finish on his third reception of the drive. His fourth was the closer, absorbing a big shot in the endzone to haul in his second score after racking up 51 individual yards on the series.

Down 21-0, it appeared as if the Falcons might finally wake up when Grzegorz Dominik took the kick out of his own endzone and returned it to the Archers 43-yard line. That prospect was delayed on the very next play when quarterback Gabriel Losada delivered the ball directly to linebacker Robbie Wallace for the interception. An Adefemi Aina sack stopped the lead from being extended and Losada soon looked reinvigorated. Mateusz Patalas made a 32-yard grab with Kacper Malak hanging off his neck to spark the drive and a seven-yard strike to Dominik on the quick slant finally got Tychy on the board.

Archers RB Bartosz Gnoza #6 Photo: Piotr Piekut / Interception

Tychy’s first touchdown would unfortunately be it’s last. Though they blocked a 49-yard field goal attempt from Witkowski before the break and the Falcons defense stepped up to slow the Archers to a standstill, four straight drives to start the second half ended in disaster. Dawid Magrean was the beneficiary of an underthrown Losada ball, Wallace ripped the ball out of Dominik’s grasps, and the whole group forced a three and out on drive number three. Losada kept coming and a long fourth-quarter drive made an unlikely comeback plausible, but the import floated the ball into the endzone where Magrean came down with pick number two.

After laying dormant since midway through the second, Bartosz Gnoza woke up the Archers offense with two and a half minutes remaining to put it away. Taking the pitch out wide, he spun off LaParish Lewis, bowled over Kacper Korisorowski, and then kept running 76 yards down the sideline for a silencer of a score. A fumbled snap on the point after couldn’t dampen the celebrations and an Adam Izydorczyk sack secured the 27-7 victory.

Falcons QB Gabriel Losada #2 Photo: Piotr Piekut / Interception

Gabriel Losada gave his all to lead some semblance of a resurgence but turnovers proved the Falcons undoing. He finished 18 of 33 passing for 169 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions. Grzegorz Dominik had five catches for 51 yards and his team’s lone score, while Brit Adefemi Aina added three sacks.

For the Archers, their talented pair of imports delivered as they had all season. Robbie Wallace looked to be in on every play on defense, recording a pick and a forced fumble. Jake Schimenz was an easy 19 of 28 for 177 yards and two touchdowns through the air while adding 57 on the ground.

Falcons DB LaParish Lewis #1 Photo: Piotr Piekut / Interception

Receiver Kornel Witkowski had eight catches for 86 yards and two touchdowns and Bartosz Gnoza carried 13 times for 144 yards and a score, but the game honors went to Dawid Magrean for his pair of interceptions and big tackle Jakub Krystecki for an outstanding day in the trenches. Arkadiusz Cieslok added to the celebration by being named Polish Football League MVP before hoisting the trophy.

Neither side is likely to soon forget their first championship appearance, but each will remember it for vastly different reasons. For the Tychy Falcons, the sting of a first championship defeat and nightmares of what could have been won’t fade for some time. For the Bydgoszcz Archers, the pure elation that only a long-awaited national title can bring will never be far from their minds.

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.