The Helsinki Wolverines took charge early in the first men’s league football game in the world since mid March, and comfortably downed the visiting Seinäjoki Crocodiles 31-15 on a balmy July 30th evening in Helsinki as Finland’s Maple League opened the 2020 season.
With such a short season, this was an important victory for the Wolverines.
There was definitely an air of anticipation and excitement before the game started, but after the first kickoff, it was down to football.
With a crowd of 400 looking the two teams played at times entertaining football. However, Helsinki quarterback Chris Forcier was a difference maker, making use of all his weapons, throwing for 255 yards and one touchdown while rushing for 56 yards and another two touchdowns guiding his team to a 31-7 lead before leaving the game midway through the fourth quarter. Wide receiver Sebastian Sagne was a force hauling in four passes for 130 yards with Cedric Johnson catching two passes for 66 yards and one touchdown. Micky Kyei had four receptions for 37 yards. The Wolverines racked up 354 yards of offense to Seinajoki’s 178 and gained 19 first downs while the Crocodiles had only five.
Crocodiles quarterback Spencer Cutlan, under relentless pressure all game long, threw for 142 yards and one touchdown but tossed five interceptions, the majority late in the game while trailing and playing catchup football. Running back Christian Powell was held to just 32 yards rushing and one touchdown on 11 carries as the Wolverines front seven was able to key on him. Wide receiver Nate Robitaille had only one catch for 59 yards and a touchdown but was covered closely all night. Alex Germany caught two footballs for 19 yards. Mikko Kaunismaki had one catch for 38 yards.
After the Crocodiles offense sputtered on the first drive going thee and out, Forcier and the Wolverines took over. Forcier set the tone, bursting out for a 36 yard gain on the first play from scrimmage. He then marched Helsinki down to the 13 yard line and capped the drive with a touchdown run of his own to give the Wolverines a 7-0 lead.
After the Wolverines picked off a Cutlan pass with just over two minutes left in the first quarter, Forcier went back to work, engineering a 50 yard drive with Tomi Jokinen finishing it off with a 29 yard field goal to extend the lead to 10-0.
Another turnover by Seinäjoki a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, gave Forcier and the Wolverines offense the ball at midfield again early in th second quarter. Again Forcier used his legs to get his team down to the 36 yard line. Two plays later he hit Johnson for a 33 yard touchdown pass and Helsinki went out to a 17-0 lead.
Cutlan finally got the Crocodiles offense behind the hard running of Powell driving down to the Helsinki 10 yard line which included a beautiful 38 yard completion to Kaunismaki. Powell finished the drive off, pounding the ball in from the 10 and Seinäjoki narrowed the gap to 17-7.
A late drive by the Wolverines, which included a 41 yard completion to Sagne and a 33 yard completed pass to Johnson, stalled on the Seinajoki two yard line as time ran out in the first half.
A 48 yard kickoff return by Phung Nguyen gave Helsinki the ball on the Crocodiles 39 yard line to start the second half and seven plays later Forcier ran the ball in from 14 yards out to increase the lead to 24-7.
Neither team could move the ball effectively after that as the Crocodiles defense seemed to make adjustments to bottle up Forcier and the quarter ended 24-7.
The final period opened with Cutlan and the Crocodiles turning the ball over on downs on their own 20 yard line. Helsinki capitalized four plays later with Sebastian Lugora punching the ball in from the four yard line further extending the lead to 31-7 with just over seven minutes remaining in the game.
Cutlan was picked off again on the next possession but the Wolverines couldn’t take advantage and Seinäjoki had the ball back with five minutes left. This time, Robitaille delivered, pulling in a gorgeous 59 yard pass from Cutlan and striding into the end zone with four minutes left on the clock. The two point conversion, and underhanded scoop from Cutlan to surprised Kaunismaki closed the gap to 31-15.
However, even with Helsinki now playing some backups including at quarterback, the Crocodiles could not score again as Cutlan, forced to gamble, threw interceptions on the next two possessions and the game ended 31-15.
Next up for the Wolverines is another home game on August 7, this time against the Wasa Royals. Seinäjoki will play host to the Helsinki Roosters on August 6.