“When you have two very strong teams, it comes down to a battle of inches”Only two teams are left from the BIG6 group stage. On Saturday, July 19th, the reigning GFL Champion the Braunschweig New Yorker Lions will battle the Berlin Adler in their home Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn Stadium for the EFAF European Football crown.
For the third time in the past five years, the Berlin Adler will play in the European Finale. Their one and only success came in 2010. The Lions already count two Eurobowl titles under their belt (1999, 2003). In the 2003 final, running back Kim Kuci, who is now the Berlin Adler head coach, was named Game MVP. Whoever wins the BIG6 final, one German team will end the Austrian reign as European Football championship. Over the past 11 years at least one Austrian team has played in the Eurobowl, winning 8 times. During the European Football Championships in June, Team Germany grabbed the gold medal by defeating their southern neighbor on their home soil in Vienna. Seven players on the German national team came from Braunschweig. The Adler were represented by team captain Mario Nowak (linebacker), wide receiver Danilo Naranjo Gonzalez and defensive back Mario Schmitt.
When both teams collide on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. at Jahn-Stadium, tensions will be high. Even though the Big6final is staged in Berlin, the Adler cannot necessarily count on home-field advantage. The German Football Association, AFVD, is hosting the event, which means the home team was decided with a coin toss, making the New Yorker Lions the home team, which means they will play in their home uniforms. The Adler sideline will be opposite to the main bleachers, far away from their fans. They won’t even be allowed to dress in their usual locker room.
The Lions are on top of their game right now. They’re leading the GFL North standings with 5 wins in 5 games and scoring more than 40 points per game. The Adler were defeated 28-20 last weekend by the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes. Berlin Adler offensive line coach Eric Schramm sees his team’s chances at 50/50:
“We’re close, but we have to perform better than in our last game at Kiel. We have to execute and take whatever they give us.”
On their way to the Eurobowl, the Adler defeated the reigning Swiss champion Calanda Broncos and then kicked last-year’s finalist, the Swarco Raiders, to the wayside.
The German champions needed a little bit of luck to reach the European Big6 Final. In their opening draw they got by Dresden 17 – 10, in a rematch of last year’s German Bowl. But they lost their second group game extremely close 14-13 against the Austrian champions the Raiffeisen Vienna Vikings due to a blocked field goal. Thanks to Dresden’s 41 – 35 win over Vienna, the Lions clinched their Eurobowl ticket.
The biggest strength of the Lions lies in their depth on the bench. Coach Schramm thinks:
“The scariest thing about their defense is, they don’t lose any power when they have to rotate players. Of course the starters are better than their backups, but when the backups are on the field, they hardly lose any quality.”
Maybe a small advantage for Berlin will be that the opponent’s starting quarterback, Casey Therriault, won’t be allowed to play. The 25-year-old playmaker, who dominated the GFL last year, joined the team in mid-June 2014, too late for the BIG6 registration deadline. With James Peterson and Mike Friese, Braunschweig’s Head Coach Troy Tomlin can count on two other experienced QBs in his roster. Adler Defense Coach Jag Bal warns:
“The fact that Therriault isn’t playing, doesn’t mean Peterson is any worse. I think he’s a very good football player and we’ve got to account for every single person on that field. There’s no specific person that you have to get ready for, you have to get ready for Braunschweig – it’s the entire team.”
Berlin’s offense will be led by quarterback Darius Outlaw, who’s playing outstanding and hardly makes any mistakes on the field. In eight games (six GFL, two BIG6) the veteran playmaker threw for 19 touchdowns and only two interceptions, and also rushed for four touchdowns. One major concern for the Adler will be their ever-growing injury list. Starting running back Björn Dreier was hurt badly in the BIG6 semifinal against Swarco and is out for the season. On the defensive side, injury problems are even worse. Six Adler starters are questionable for Sunday’s BIG6 final. Coming back after missing two games due to a foot injury is energy bunny Conrad Meadows. The American is one of the most important factors in Berlin’s explosive style of play.
“Perfect preparation means a lot,” said Bal before the EuroBowl. “When you have two very strong teams, it comes down to a battle of inches. Everyone talks about that, but not a lot of people know what it means, until you play in a game like this. Heart means everything.”