Helsinki Roosters win 1st Northern European Football League title in overtime thriller

It took the Helsinki Roosters a full first half of football to adjust, but adjust they did in the second half of the NEFL title game, finally beating the hometown Carlstad Crusaders in overtime 21-15.

The Roosters trailed 15-0 at halftime but made halftime adjustments both on offense and defense to score 15 unanswered points in the final two quarters.

Then in overtime, Helsinki quarterback Brandon Connette scored on a three yard plunge after Carlstad’s offense had sputtered on their possession giving the Roosters the first Northern European Football League title.

Connette completed 18 of 39 passes for 219 yards and rushed for 30 yards scoring all three Roosters touchdowns. Receiver Tim Thomas caught six passes for 107 yards to lead all receivers.

Helsinki QB Brandon Connette looking for running room Photo: © Salla Bay

Carlstad quarterback Philip Juhlin threw for 209 yards on 19 of 40 passing. Jacob Dahre was Carlstad’s top receiver with seven receptions for 90 yards and a touchdowns. Safety Alpha Jollah scored the other touchdown for the Crusaders on a 75 yard interception return.

Neither team could mount much offense early in the game as Jollah picked off Connette late in the first quarter helping set up the Crusaders first score of the game, a 17 yard field goal by N Johansson.

Another Helsinki miscue, a blocked punt early in the second quarter gave Carlstad the ball on the Roosters 30 yard line and three plays later Juhlin found Dahre for a touchdown to give Carlstad a 9-0 lead.

Jollah was giving Connette fits in the secondary and picked him off again scoring on a 75 yard return with almost no time left in the half and with the two-point conversion Carlstad led 15-0 and seemed to have control of the game.

Carlstad safety Alpha Jollah has two interceptions Photo: © Salla Bay

But Helsinki’s slowly imposed their will in the second half as Carlstad’s offensive line seemed to have trouble with the Roosters defensive line. Connette resorted to a short passing game and capped the opening drive of the second half with a three yard run for a touchdown to close the gap to 15-7.

Then, as both offenses seemed to stall, Connette broke the game open with a 54 yard pass to Wasiljeff and then scored himself on the next play to edge closer, 15-13. He scored the all-important two point conversion to tie the game.

After Carlstad could not move the ball in overtime and Johansson missed a 31 yard field goal attempt, Connette took two plays to decide the game. He found Thomas for a 22 yard gain and then took the ball in himself for the winning score.

The Roosters did not lose a game in the NEFL beating the Uppsala 86ers twice to qualify for the final.

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.