The Helsinki Roosters, Europe #3, capped a perfect and perhaps their most impressive, season in their 40 year long history by downing the upstart Kuopio Steelers 44-14 at Telia 5G Stadium in Helsinki, Finland in Maple Bowl XXXIX to win their seven consecutive Finnish crown.
Not only did Helsinki dominate the Steelers in the last three quarters in winning their 21st overall Finnish title, but they finished the season unbeaten, including a win over Austria’s powerful Dacia Vienna Vikings which put the rest of the American football community in Europe on notice.
However, Helsinki actually had to come from behind as the Steelers scored first.
Nevertheless, the Roosters racked up 505 yards of offense splitting it between passing and rushing equally with 252 passing yards and 253 rushing.
Roosters quarterback Brandon Connette, who has been brilliant the entire season, perhaps saved his best for last. He threw for 252 yards and five touchdowns, but he was also the game’s leading rusher carrying the ball 16 times for 109 yards and another score. He was, quite simply, brilliant – again. Brother Adam Connette topped all receivers with eight catches for 123 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Kimi Linnainmaa hauled in four passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns while Tommi Pinta caught two passes for 18 yards and a touchdown. Running back Kari Pajarinen added another 76 yards rushing.
Steelers quarterback Seth Peters completed 10 of 26 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown with Johannes Jauhiainen as his leading receiver with 106 yards in receptions and a touchdown. Running back Justin Bell rushed for 103 yards while also recording 6.5 tackles on defense. Tino Ndongo had a 15 yard reception for a touchdown.
For only the second time this season, the Roosters found themselves trailing early as Kuopio struck first. Peters engineered a 13 play, 65 yard drive, capping it with a 15 yard touchdown pass to Ndongo to give the Steelers a 7-0 lead. Although Helsinki responded on their first possession with Brandon Connette scoring from 12 yards out, they missed the two-point conversion and found themselves behind 7-6 at the end of the first quarter.
Helsinki took the lead for good on the opening play of the second quarter however as Connette connected with younger brother Adam for a 14 yard touchdown pass. This time the two-point conversion attempt worked with the younger Connette scoring and the Roosters took a 14-7 lead.
Two possessions later, Connette again found his brother, this time on a 12 yard touchdown strike and the lead increased to 22-7.
The pesky Steelers would not go away though as two plays later, Peters hit a streaking Jauhiainen on a 65 yard touchdown bomb and Kuopio pulled closer, 22-14.
That was as close as they got.
The Roosters defense stiffened, keeping Peters and the Steelers offense bottled up while Connette found Linnainmaa for a 30 yard touchdown and Helsinki took a 30-14 lead into the break.
Early in the third quarter, Kuopio gave the Roosters good field position after gambling on a fourth down at their own 40. Helsinki made them pay as eight plays later, Connette connected with Pinta to increase the lead to 38-14.
Peters was picked off by Helsinki defensive back Curtis Slater to open the fourth quarter after a promising drive into Helsinki territory. The Steelers came no closer as Helsinki’s defense shut them down while the Roosters added another score on Linnainmaa’s touchdown.
With the win, the Roosters captured their 21st Finnish crown, more than any other team in Finland by a wide margin. The Porvoo Butchers are next with six Finnish titles and the Helsinki East City Giants follow with five.