Helsinki Roosters Win Maple Bowl XXXVI for 4th Straight Title

Jaycen Taylor was virtually unstoppable Saturday as he rumbled, raced and danced his way to 223 yards rushing in leading the Helsinki Roosters to a 45-31 Maple Bowl championship win over the Seinäjoki Crocodiles in front of 3,000 fans at the Sonera Stadium in Helsinki, Finland. This was the fourth title win in a row for the Roosters.

Quarterback Mic Brown, who joined the team after winning the Polish championship with the Gdynia Seahawks, was superb and with the win became somewhat historic. In completing 24 of 34 passes for 323 yards and four touchdowns, he has become only the second quarterback to win two major league titles in the same season in Europe. Frank Cassano was the first back in 1996 winning in France and then, ironically, the Finnish crown with the Roosters.

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Despite Crocodiles quarterback Justin Sottilare’s best efforts – he threw three touchdown passes – it was the virtual lack of a ground game that did in Seinäjoki. If not for Sottilare’s 46 yards rushing, the Crocodiles would have recorded a dismal 19 yards rushing total, in a championship final.

Despite such statistical superiority, the Roosters still found themselves in a 17-17 deadlock at halftime. The Roosters offense was clicking but early on the Crocodiles kept pace, matching them score for score. When Brown was picked off for the tying touchdown in the first half, Seinäjoki  seemed to have gained some momentum.

The second half opened much the same as the Crocodiles struck on their first possession as Sottilare found receiver Tim Thomas from five yards out to propel Seinäjoki into the lead for the first time 24-17.

But then Brown and Taylor took over as the Roosters scored three straight touchdowns. Brown ran for one and threw for two others, one of them to Taylor, while the Roosters defense, playing “lights out football”, picked off Sottilare once and forced two three and outs.

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Taylor added another touchdown on the ground early in the fourth virtually putting the game away with Helsinki leading 45-24. Seinäjoki attempted a comeback of sorts scoring  with Sottilare mounting a four play scoring drive finishing with a 16 yard touchdown pass. But it came with five minutes left and the Roosters offense held onto the ball for four minutes finally getting stopped on the Crocodiles four yard line before Seinäjoki  could take over.

The Roosters defense then picked off Sottilare for the third time in the game sealing the win.

With this, their 18th championship, the Helsinki Roosters has now won half of all the Finnish championships held since the inception of the league back in 1979.

Photo credit: Sami Ranta

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.