Helsinki Roosters pummel Porvoo Butchers to punch ticket to Maple Bowl

The Helsinki Roosters brought an abrupt end to the Porvoo Butchers 2021 magical run this past weekend, rolling over them with relative ease in the Maple League semifinals.

The capital city powerhouse overwhelmed the young Porvoo team 49-7 on a cool, autumn-like Saturday night in Vantaa, Finland at Myyrmäki Stadium.

The big-game hardened Helsinki squad demonstrated their calm and composure the entire night forcing mistakes and taking advantage of the post-season inexperience of Porvoo.

The Roosters started out strong, moving the ball to the Butchers’ 34-yard line on a nine-play 30-yard drive but turned it over on downs when quarterback Miro Kadmiry’s deep pass to former Minnesota Golden Gopher Rashad Still on 4th and 8 fell incomplete.  The Butchers took over but were unable to move the ball and ended up having to punt. On the punt, Helsinki overloaded the right side and rushed hard allowing Mickey Kyei to block Mikko Seppänen’s kick and with great recognition collected the ball returning it for a touchdown. Roope Niskanen converted the extra point for the 7-0 lead. For the Butchers, not only was it a blow to have the Roosters score but having it come off a special team play brought back horrible memories as in their last meeting the 21 points that the Roosters scored on special teams was the backbreaker in a 39-35 loss.

In the second quarter, the Butchers moved the ball, but mistakes would nullify big plays and kill drives. For Helsinki, veteran running back Andrecus Lindley powered the offense. After a 16-yard screen pass and a 36-yard run to put his club in scoring position, Kyei would reap the benefits with another touchdown. This time on a 16-yard pass from Kadmiry. Niskanen again converted to make the score 14-0.

Roosters DB Lorenzo Melchiorre returning a punt with blocking from RB Mike Gentili #3 Photo: Jarmo Vehkomäki

Both teams’ defenses stepped up and forced punts and the teams played a field position game. That is until Roosters defensive back Viljo Lempinen intercepted Butchers quarterback Jabari Harris’s deep pass and returned it up the Roosters sideline for a nifty 60-yard score. With the extra point, the Roosters extended their lead to 21-0. Neither team could capitalize on drives for the rest of the half, so the teams went into the break with the Roosters scoring in all three phases of the game.

In the second half, the Butchers hoped to regain the momentum by getting the ball back first. However, the Roosters came out inspired and with confidence that comes from playoff experience and crushed that hope. Pinning the Butchers deep in their own territory with great kickoff coverage and putting them further in the hole on a sack by Swedish National star Filip Jönnson, the Roosters defense forced a three and out and gave the offense great field position at the Butchers 40-yard line.  On 2nd down, Kadmiry called his own number on an option play and ran the ball in for 37 yards and the Roosters led 28-0 after the extra point just 2 minutes and 16 seconds into the second half. On the next drive, Lempinen again picked off Harris on a third-down situation on a long pass. Considering the poor field position, it was as good as a punt for the Butchers, finally putting the Roosters back into their half of the field.

The teams traded a series of three and outs as the defenses continued to play well. But the special teams struggles continued as Lorenzo Melchiorre returned a punt for a 32-yard gain to the Butchers 25 yard-line. From there, Lindley scored on a 1st down run around the left side, making the score 35-0 after the Niskanen kick.

Harris and the Butchers were not ready to lay down however and after a long pass completion to Brandon Ihanza, Harris connected with Seppänen for a 13-yard TD and the Butchers first score of the game. Ilmari Ikäheimö connected on the extra point cutting the lead to 35-7 and bringing some life to the sideline. The defense stepped up and held the Roosters and the offense was prepared to strike but an attempt at a flea flicker pass failed to materialize as Seppänen fumbled the ball, which he recovered, but only after a loss of 17 yards. Once again, the Butchers had dug a deep hole and couldn’t climb out of it when a third-down conversion failed on a dropped pass. It seemed as if the special teams had a curse when playing the Roosters this season when for the fourth time Melchiorre returned a kick for a TD. This time a 73-yard punt return. If there had been hope rising it was extinguished on that play as the Roosters increased their lead to 42-7.

The Roosters backup quarterback Ambro Urjansson manufactured a touchdown drive culminating in a 35-yard screen pass to American-Italian import Mike Gentili. For the seventh time, Niskanen kicked the extra point for the 49-7 lead which would end up being the final score.

Butchers coach Jim Nendel:

“Our game plan was to limit Miro and take away Stills and Kyie which we were able to do. The two had 3 catches for 30 yards total. But Lindley played an amazing game and gashed us all over the field.  The Roosters played a great game and all credit to their program. We were not up to the challenge tonight, but our guys learned what it takes to win a championship. They did what it takes, we didn’t! Congratulations to them.“

The Roosters used their experience to make the Butchers look like a deer caught in the headlights on the national stage. The game was much closer statistically than the score. But the Roosters made plays when it mattered. The Roosters outgained the Butchers 323-227 and only led first downs by a 15-10 margin. But the special teams battle was clearly won by Helsinki whose depth gave a clear advantage.  The Butchers also did not look like the team that led the league in turnover margin, losing that battle 4-0 which would create a gap too great to overcome.

For the Butchers, Harris led the way, passing 14-29 and one TD for 174 yards but had the three interceptions. He also had 10 rushes for 47 yards, but the 21 yards lost on sacks brought his net to 26 yards. Sean McAllen led the Butchers with 36 yards on 14 plays, all on a broken leg suffered in last week’s game against UNC.  The receivers were balanced as Ihanza, Seppänen, and Marcus Siiskonen all had three catches for 81, 21, and 25 yards respectively. McAllen added 2 catches for 14 yards and Sami Nikkonen had 2 for 26 yards. Vesa Aaltonen added one catch for 7 yards. Defensively, Ikäheimö led the Butchers in tackles with 5 while Ville Kurvinen, Alvin Reels Jr, Niko Pennanen, and Timi Nuikka were all tied for 2nd with 3.5 tackles. Kurvinen had 2 sacks and Reels had one tackle for a loss.

The Roosters were led by Miro Kadmiry who was only 9-20 passing for 93 yards and 1 TD. However, he added another touchdown rushing and had three carries for 34 yards net. Lindley powered the offense with 12 carries for 111 yards and one touchdown. Gentili added another 34 yards on 6 carries and a touchdown as well. Johannes Jauhiainen led the receivers with 3 receptions for 34 yards. Melchiorre and Jönsson led Helsinki defensively with 5.5 tackles. Jönsson sacked Harris two times and Melchiorre added a fumble recovery and a touchdown to his big day. Lempinen had two interceptions, one for a touchdown, and a pass breakup while adding 3.5 tackles on the day.

The Roosters move on the play in the National Championship next week in the Maple Bowl in Lahti against the Kuopio Steelers who defeated the Seinäjoki Crocodiles in the other semifinal 52-14. The game will pit the #1 and #2 seeds in the playoffs and will feature a rematch of a very close 35-32 game that the Steelers won in Helsinki earlier this season.  Kuopio will be defending their crown while the Roosters hope to win their 23rd Championship.

For the Butchers, their season is over, but they walk away bronze medal winners having defeated the Crocodiles during the regular season and finishing in third place. They also will hope to use the semifinal as a stepping stone to next year in re-establishing themselves as a legitimate threat in the Maple League. It is fair to say that after a winless 2020 season no one outside of Porvoo would have bet on them making the semi-finals. With their first winning season in ten years, the Butchers look to use the loss as a learning experience.

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