Kuopio Steelers running back Lamar Carswell introduced himself to Finland’s Maple League in dramatic fashion Friday night in Helsinki scoring four touchdowns and leading his team to a 43-34 come-from-behind win over the defending Finnish champion Helsinki Roosters.
In a see-saw battle that resembled a preseason game, which it basically was, filled with miscues, interceptions and fumbles, Carswell sparkled.
The Toledo, Ohio native racked up a game-high 104 yards rushing and three touchdowns on the ground adding four receptions for 30 yards and another touchdown in the air to round off an amazing rookie debut in Finland. The Roosters had jumped out to a quick 14-0 midway through the first quarter before Carswell went to work. He gained 57 yards in the first half scoring two touchdowns, both in the second quarter. His second half was just as stellar as he added a pass reception touchdown in the third quarter and punctuated the evening with the Steeler’s final touchdown, a 13 yard scamper into the end zone.
He wasn’t alone though as quarterback Seth Peters completed 22 of 30 passes for 201 yards and constantly kept plays alive with his legs. Wide receiver Josh Vandeweerd was his favorite target catching six passes for 53 yards and a touchdown with Jaako Paananen hauling in five passes for 49 yards and a score.
For the Roosters, quarterback Miro Kadmiry threw for 342 yards on 17 of 36 passing with wide receiver Johannes Jauhiainen putting on a spectacular display catching nine passes for 256 yards and one touchdown. Alexander Wasiljeff had four catches for 46 yard and a touchdown while Santu Vehkomaki added three receptions for 44 yards. Karri Pajarinen carried the ball 13 times for 94 yards and a touchdown while Kadmiry and Henri Vaananen each added a rushing touchdown.
The Roosters came out with an air of confidence, jumping out to a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter, knocking Kuopio back on their heels. First Kadmiry hit Wasiljeff for a 36 yard touchdown to open the scoring and then two possessions later he found a streaking Jauhiainen for a 79 yard pass and run touchdown to put Helsinki out in front 14-0 by the time the game was only seven minutes old.
Peters and the Steelers answered, mounting a 14 play, 61 yard drive with Carswell capping it with a one yard touchdown plunge. Even though they bungled the point after (first of three missed attempts in the game) they made a statement and regained their confidence.
However, five minutes later, Pajarinen found a seam, barely escaped the grasp of Steelers linebacker Kadel King and raced 52 yards to extend the lead to 21-6.
Peters answered, marching Kuopio from their own 39 down to the Roosters 11, behind the hard running of Carswell. Peters connected with Vandeweerd and the lead was reduced to 21-13.
This was a game again.
Kadmiry threw his next pass right into the hands of Steelers defensive back Tuppurainen at Helsinki’s 19 yard line. Four plays later, Carswell punched the ball in and Kuopio was in the lead, 25-21 (bungled extra point).
The Roosters gathered themselves with just over two minutes left in the half, and Kadmiry, starting from his own 20, engineered a masterful six-play, 80 yard drive, finishing it off himself with a two yard touchdown run, retaking the lead, 28-25.
The third quarter opened with neither team able to move the ball effectively until, with less than five minutes left in the period, Peters kicked his team into gear after Helsinki had failed on a fourth down attempt at their own 34.
In excellent field position, Peters took his team to the 19 and then threw a touchdown pass to Carswell to go out in front again, 31-28.
A Roosters fumble gave Kuopio the ball again in great field position, at Helsinki’s 38 yard line. It took Peters and the Steelers offense just three plays to reach the end zone, including a 26 yard run by Carswell. Peters hit Paananen from two yards out increasing the lead to 37-28 (PAT blocked).
A punt return fumble again gave Kuopio good field position, at the Helsinki 42. Behind a 36 yard run by Tino Ndongo, the Steelers reached the 13 yard line and Carswell wound up his scoring spree, getting outside and running in untouched.
With Kuopio leading 43-28, the Roosters took the ball over at their own 21 after the kickoff. Kadmiry then proved why he is the starting quarterback for Team Finland, leading the Roosters on a 79 yard, 15 play drive, mixing up his playcalling, offering his body, willing the team down the field. With just over a minute left, Vaananen scored on a one yard run, to narrow the lead to 43-34 (two-point attempt failed).
There was not enough time left on the clock for a full Roosters comeback and Peters and the Steelers kneeled out the rest of the game and came away with a key win, in a short season in which every victory truly counts.
The Roosters now travel to Seinäjoki August 6 to face the Crocodiles while Kuopio is on the road again, heading to Porvoo to play the Butchers on August 8.