German Bowl XXXVII PREVIEW: Braunschweig New Yorker Lions Look to 3-Peat, Face Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns

German Bowl XXXVVII pits last year’s finalists the Braunschweig New Yorker Lions and the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns in another title game and their second of the year as the Lions defeated Schwäbisch Hall in the Eurobowl final in June.

This game could very well live up to the hype as Braunschweig was pushed in their semifinal against the Allgau Comets having to pull out all the stops in the second half to win. The Unicorns were also pressured hard by Dresden in their semifinal holding on to beat them in the second half.

The Unicorns are coming into this game with the experience of playing Braunschweig in two finals in the last 12 months. The Lions are appearing in their third German Bowl in three years while for the Unicorns this is the fourth in five years. In fact the two teams have won the last four German championships as Braunschweig won the last two while Schwäbisch Hall captured the title in 2011 and 2012.

Germany - McCants-Dycraw

David McCants and Christian Rycraw

Last year’s German Bowl was an experience the Unicorns would like to forget after being overwhelmed by a Braunschweig team at the peak of its game. Nevertheless, the 47-9 thrashing served up a valuable lesson for Schwäbisch Hall according to head coach Siegfried Gehrke:

“We were not ready for the Lions in last year’s German Bowl, we showed improvement in the Euro Bowl in June, and I believe we are finally up to the challenge now.”

The Unicorns enter the contest with the highest scoring offense in Germany averaging just over 49 points a game over 16 games. Braunschweig is third scoring 42 points per game. The Lions boast the best defense giving up a mere 13 points a game while Schwäbisch Hall is third in that category allowing opponents 17.6 points each game.

In fact there is not much to differentiate between the two in almost every statistical category as they are both in the top or close to the top in almost every one.

The two teams met in the Big 6 final, Eurobowl and Braunschweig prevailed 24-14, although with two prolific offenses on the field it was defenses that ruled the day as the second half of that contest saw only one touchdown scored.

Germany - Dable-Donahue

Anthony Dable and Patrick Donahue

Braunschweig quarterback Casey Therriault had just rejoined the club after Grant Enders had been hurt. Since then Therriault has played in nine games and compiled 243 yards passing per game while tossing 33 touchdowns against just two interceptions.

His counterpart with the UnicornsMarco Ehrenfried, is just ahead of him with 263 yards per game and 54 touchdowns and four picks. Ehrenfried is the most efficient passer in the league with a 206.1 rating followed by Therriault with a 197.4 rating.

Braunschweig receiver Anthony Dablé has been on the receiving end of 74 passes for 1,231 yards this season scoring 14 touchdowns. The Unicorns Patrick Donahue has amassed 1,266 yards in receptions and 16 touchdowns. The Lions also have tight end Evan Landi, the Dutch American who can be a difference maker. He had 109 yards against Allgau in the semifinal scoring a touchdown. Felix Brenner came off the bench for the Unicorns against Dresden and caught a team best seven passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns.

Both teams boast dangerous ground games.

Schwäbisch Hall running back Christian Rycraw was third in Germany with 1,810 yards rushing and torched Dresden for 151 yards and two touchdowns. The Lions have a two headed attack. David McCants is a veteran who has been playing outstanding football recently and against Allgau he ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns.

Germany - Washington-Givens

Danny Washington and Durell Givens

Both offensive lines have been outstanding in 2015 although Ehrenfried has been sacked only 10 times, the fewest of any quarterback in the league. Therriault has hit the ground 16 times. Nevertheless, the Lions lead the league with 51 sacks so far this year.

Defensively again there is not much that separates the Lions and the Unicorns. The Schwäbisch Hall defense is anchored by linebacker Kyle Voss, one of the top tacklers in the league. Against Dresden, Danny Washington was also outstanding with 10 tackles and a sack on the day. Braunschweig’s Jacob Schridde is also a key. Against the Allgäu Comets, the Unicorns defensive backs Durrell Givens and Christian Peterson led the way with 13 tackles between them and a fumble recovery.

Both defensive lines are tough to run against with Braunschweig finishing second allowing 86 yards per game and the Unicorns third in the league giving up 95 yards. Unicorns defensive end Thomas Rauch is tough for offensive lines to cope with while Braunschweig’s Mamadou Sy creates havoc in opposition backfields.

Lions defensive coordinator Dave Likins knows how difficult this game will be:

“We expect a very good ball game with both teams playing at very high levels. This should be a close game.”

Kickoff 6 PM (12 noon EDT). It will only be shown on Eurosport2 in Germany and Austria.

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.