Finland: Wasa Royals stage thrilling come-from-behind win, beat Porvoon Butchers

The Wasa Royals scored 32 unanswered second half points after trailing by three touchdowns, to go on to defeat the visiting Porvoon Butchers 39-28 Saturday, August 1 as Finland’s Maple League wound up its first round of play.

Trailing 28-7 with just over seven minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Royals seemed to come to life, on both sides of the ball.

Wasa quarterback Brandon Gwinner was the ke,y rushing for 79 yards and four touchdowns, three of those in the spectacular second half, while only throwing for 35 yards. Running back Tom Suoste also had an outstanding game, carrying the ball 12 times for 174 yards and another touchdown while Alpha Jalloh returned a punt 92 yards for a crucial touchdown.

For Porvoon, quarterback Jabari Harris was magnificent in a losing cause rushing for 188 yards and two touchdowns while throwing for 142 and the other two touchdowns. Wide receiver Kristian Natunen hauled in five passes for 69 yards and two touchdowns. Mikko Sepannen had four receptions for 42 yards.

The Butchers jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead, as Harris scored on a 12 yard run following a 12-play, 65 yard drive. Then, Porvoon capitalized on a rare Jalloh fumble on a punt return,getting the ball at the Wasa eight yard line. Harris scrambled into the end zone on the next play and the Butchers had a 14-0 lead.

Gwinner opened the second quarter looking sharper, marching the Royals on a five play 61 yard drive, finishing it with a seven yard scramble into the end zone to narrow the lead to 14-7.

Harris responded on the very next Porvoon possession, mixing up his play calls, hitting Sepannen twice during the drive for 16 and 28 yards and capping it with a beautiful 33 touchdown strike to Natunen to bump the lead up to 21-7 which is how the first half ended.

Porvoon Butchers QB Jabari Harris rushed for 188 yards. Photo: Samppa Toivonen

The Royals offense sputtered again to open the second half and Harris and the Butchers took over on their own 40. Harris hit Natunen for seven yards and then kept the ball himself for gains of eight and 21 yards, making it down to the Wasa 24 yard line. Two plays later he found Natunen again for a 24 yard touchdown and the Butchers took a seemingly insurmountable lead, 28-7 with five minutes left in the third quarter.

Gwinner, however, had saved his best for last.

First, a Nicholas Peterson kickoff return placed the ball on the Porvoon 39 yard line. Then Gwinner went to work, moving the Royals down to the four yard line, a drive that included a 22 yard pass to Peterson. Then he bulled his way in from the four and the lead was reduced to 21-13.

With the Wasa defense kicking into a higher gear, stalling the Butchers, the offense also found another gear with Suoste bursting off tackle for a 69 yard touchdown romp further cutting into the lead which was now nine points, 28-19, late in the third.

The Royals then picked off a Harris pass on their own five yard line, snuffing out what would have been a touchdown. Gwinner led the Wasa offense on what was the decisive drive of the game, starting from his own five yard line with 1:36 to go in the third and finishing it nine plays and 95 yards later with a one yard plunge into the end zone  almost three minutes into the fourth quarter, pulling the Royals closer, 28-25, but also making a statement.

The defense again held and then Jalloh made up for his earlier fumble by returning a punt 92 yards for the go-ahead touchdown, giving Wasa a 32-28 lead with nine minutes left.

The Butchers could not move the ball effectively after that, even with Gwinner being picked off once. A Porvoon fourth and 10 attempt from their own 30 failed handing Gwinner and the Royals offense the ball within striking range and they made no mistake. Three plays later, Gwinner scrambled in for a nine yard touchdown add to the lead, 39-28.

Harris the the Porvoon offense could get no closer than just across midfield however and Wasa celebrated a crucial home game win.

The Royals hit the road next week, travelling to Helsinki to face the Helsinki Wolverines (1-0) on August 7. Meanwhile, Porvoon will play host to the Kuopio Steelers (1-0) on August 8.


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