Spain: Valencia Firebats qualify for semis after overtime thriller

The Valencia Firebats became the third team to qualify for a berth in the Spanish top league playoffs after a thrilling one point overtime win over the Murcia Cobras last weekend. The Firebats will join the Badalona Dracs who easily disposed of the Valencia Giants, and the Reus Imperials who were idle. The fourth spot is still up for grabs. The Valencia Giants and Murcia Cobras both still have a shot at making it.

Valencia Firebats (4-5) 22 – Murcia Cobras (3-6) 21

(Only the win, and not the points scored in overtime, counted against the score. The win was worth one point)

The Valencia Firebats withstood a furious second half comeback from the Murcia Cobras after being ahead 21-7 to edge Murcia 22-21 in overtime.

Firebats Ben Sasu scored all three first half touchdowns to pace Valencia. Quarterback Juan Pablo Terán threw two touchdown passes before being injured, and his replacement, Fernando Altarriba, threw one.

Murcia’s Angel Clemente threw two touchdown passes and running back Kevin Gramage rushed for a third.

Valencia took control of the game early grabbing a 14-0 lead on two Terán to Sasu touchdowns. The Firebats defense played a huge role forcing three Murcia turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble). But Clemente struck suddenly in the second quarter as he connected with Francisco Javier Martínez for a 70 yard touchdown. Sasu responded however to give the Firebats a comfortable 21-7 halftime lead.

Murcia’s defense then  stiffened in the second half, giving up no points while Clemente found Martínez again to close the gap to 21-14. Then, with Valencia unable to find the end zone, Clemente threw the tying touchdown pass to Benedict Von Jagow.

This led to a crazy finish to regulation as both teams had chances to score with Valencia’s kicker Nayim Mohamed hitting the uprights with seconds remaining.

In overtime, Murcia scored first as Gramage found the end zone. But Valencia responded as  Altarriba threw to Alejandro Silvestre and then in a bold gamble for the win Altarriba threw the two-point conversion to Mohamed.

Badalona Dracs (8-1) 52 – Valencia Giants (3-6) 0

The Badalona Dracs made a statement after losing their last game to the Reus Imperials and exacted their revenge on the unfortunate Giants who needed to win to qualify for the playoffs. But the Valencians were without import quarterback TJ Tutone and receiver TJ Murphy which made them easy pickings for a Badalona team bent on revenge.

Badalona took a 31-0 first quarter lead on touchdowns from Joey Herrick who scored on the opening kickoff return, and Edu Morlans and Javier Fernández. Quarterback Sergi Gonzalo connected with Raúl Cernuda and Albert Pascual picked off a pass and returned it for a touchdown. Gonzalo then found Herrick for his second touchdown of the game giving the Dracs a 38-0 lead at halftime.

Gonzalo then threw two more touchdown passes in the second half, one to his brother Xavi Gonzalo and the other to Hunter Lee.

Next up for Badalona is a Big6 clash with Germany’s Braunschweig New Yorker Lions this coming weekend. The Dracs wind up the Spanish regular season May 7 against the Firebats. The Giants face the Barbera Rookies in a must win game May 7. If they win they make the playoffs but if they lose they will need the Reus Imperials to beat Murcia in the final game of the year to advance.

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.