Helsinki Roosters Win Inaugural IFAF Champions League Tournament

IFAF Europe Final come down to wire, Roosters Outlast Vukovi in Elancourt!

When the 13 teams participating in the 2014 IFAF Champions League championship tournament were announced earlier this year, Finland’s Helsinki Roosters were definitely an underdog to win the title. Throughout the tournament though, they kept raising eyebrows, and raising their game every outing. Sunday was no exception as the Roosters, led by tournament MVP, quarterback Robert Johnson, withstood a furious assault by Vukovi Belgrade from Serbia to come out with a 36-29 nail-biting victory in Elancourt, France. Although three teams from France played in the tournament, not one made it past the semi-finals.

The Roosters had the number one offense in the tournament averaging 45.8 points per game (495 yards/game) over four games. Rooster quarterback Robert Johnson (27 of 40-251 yards, 4 TDs) the former Texas Tech receiver (turned quarterback) who broke all of the Denver Broncos receiver Wes Welker’s records at the school, averaged 351 yards passing for the tournament.

Vukovi were no slouches either but they relied on their defense more to score, as their defense led the tournament, scoring an average of 17 points a game.

This was a back-and-forth, tough-as-nails battle with no quarter given. As soon as one team  scored, the other would respond. Turnovers were costly in this contest as both teams made the other pay for the mistake. And the final outcome was in doubt until the very end.

Vukovi

Vukovi opened the scoring in the first quarter after picking off an errant Johnson pass at the Helsinki 37. Five plays later Vukovi quarterback Shaun Rutherford (14 of 23 – 177 yds) (Texas State) surged in from the one and the score was 7-0. Midway through the first, Helsinki returned the favor recovering a Belgrade fumble and Johnson then found receiver Lauri Pehu-Lehtonen from eight yards out to even the score at 7-7.

Midway through the second quarter, Rutherford engineered a three-play 46 yard drive, capping it with a 30 yard run for a touchdown to take a 13-7 lead. Helsinki started marching on the very next possession until Johnson hit Kimi Linnainmaa for a 13 yard touchdown and the half ended 14-13 Helsinki.

Early in the third, Vukovi fumbled at their own 30 and Helsinki capitalized as Jaycen Taylor pulled in an eight yard pass from Johnson in the end zone to extend the Rooster’s lead to 21-13. Again, Vukovi came back, this time as Tony Washington took the ensuing kickoff and returned it 83 yards to the end zone for the touchdown. The two-point conversion attempt was good and the game was tied 21-21.

Roosters

On the very next possession, Johnson led Helsinki on a 75 yard drive mixing up his plays, until from 32 yards out, Taylor found a seam and scampered 32 yards for the score and the Roosters regained the lead, 28-21. Vukovi would not quit, as Rutherford found his receivers and then took the ball in himself from 19 yards out and added a two-point conversion pass to enable Vukovi to take back the lead 29-28.

With five minutes left in the game, both offenses were stymied. But with less than a minute to go, Markus Leivonen hauled in a one yard pass from Johnson for the game’s final touchdown and with the two-point conversion Helsinki were back up, 36-29 and Vukovi had no time to mount an offense.

Jaycen Taylor was the leading rusher in the game amassing 153 yards on 22 carries and scoring one touchdown. The top receiver for the game was Markus Leivonen catching eight passes for 99 yards and a touchdown.

The last time the Helsinki Roosters played in a European championship game was Eurobowl II in 1988 when they beat the Amsterdam Crusaders 35-14. Vukovi Belgrade have been a dominant team in Eastern Europe in recent years and with this outstanding performance will make football fans throughout Europe take notice.

            Jens Holmstrom – Roosters Quarterback/Receivers Coach

“As the quarterback and receivers coach, I have to give Vukovi credit. They played all or nothing football and we had trouble handling it. Vukovi has a team of warriors, and I am proud of my guys who never believed they were out of the game.

            Juha Halkala – R0osters Head Coach

“First of all,  Vukovi is one great football team. They are very well coached and their big players made big plays when they needed to. This was a great team win for us. Our defense made a huge stop at the end to let us get the ball back and score.”

Kirk Kiko Mastromatteo – Vukovi Belgrade Head Coach

It was a great game. Honestly, I think we gave the Roosters more than they expected, but that’s what our players do. They play fast and play hard, and see where things fall in the end.”

 

Check out the video below of the Roosters taking their trophy back to Helsinki!

Roger Kelly
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.
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