Huge upset in Sweden! Stockholm Mean Machines knock off Carlstad Crusaders, capture Swedish title

For the first time since 2010, there will be a new name on the Swedish championship trophy as the Stockholm Mean Machines stunned the Swedish American football community, beating the Carlstad Crusaders 42-41 in the Swedish championship final at Stockholm Stadion.

Behind a 28 point third quarter, Stockholm took a 42-28 lead into the fourth quarter and then held on as Carlstad mounted a furious comeback.

The issues that the Copenhagen Towers and Uppsala 86ers exposed in their recent close games with Carlstad, were apparent over a 13 minute stretch from the last minute of the second quarter to the end of the third quarter. Stockholm took full advantage scoring a touchdown with less than a minute left in the first half and then four in the third quarter. The Mean Machines defense scored two of the four third quarter touchdowns, while the offense continued where they left off at the end of the first half.

Despite finally responding with two fourth quarter touchdowns, Carlstad simply could not quite overcome the mistakes. The turnovers were costly with a fumble and an interception both leading to touchdowns. A missed point after attempt on their final touchdown with just over three minutes left in the game was ominous. Instead of tying the game and possibly forcing overtime, it forced Carlstad into a hurry up mode and they were never able to recover.

Stockholm WR Matt Retzlaff celebrating TD catch Photo: Yamamoto Shinji

Stockholm quarterback Anders Hermodsson, who has never lost a Swedish final, threw for 164 yards and three touchdowns and one interception. Game MVP Matt Retzlaff, who played both ways, scored three touchdowns, two on passes and one on a beautiful 49 yard end around. Damion Scanella also scored on a touchdown reception and was dangerous the entire game while Malcolm Engstrom ripped the ball out of the hands of Carlstad quarterback Philip Juhlin and raced 60 yards for a touchdown. Defensive back Peder Jungstedt picked off a Juhlin pass and returned it for a score.

For the Crusaders,  Juhlin threw for 334 yards and five touchdowns but ran into turnover problems with a pair of interception and a costly fumble. Jacob Dahre had 107 yards in receptions and a touchdown while Natal Melero caught two touchdown passes. A key factor in the game may have been the absence of Carlstad’s versatile defensive back Julius Rucker in the second half. Rucker scored the game-winning touchdown against the Uppsala 86ers in the semifinals.

Stockholm took an early 7-0 lead in the first quarter as Hermodsson connected with Retzlaff. Carlstad responded as Juhlin found defensive lineman Josh Hill who was filling in a receiver to even the score at 7-7.

Stockholm QB Anders Hermodsson Photo: Stefan Akander

Then in patented Carlstad fashion, Juhin and the offense struck twice more in the second quarter opening up a 21-7 lead and looking like they would pull away.

But with less than a minute left in the first half, Hermodsson hit Reizlaff again for what would prove to be a crucial touchdown.

Hermodsson opened the third quarter by marching the Mean Machines on a three-play, 68 yard touchdown drive, finding Scanella for a 33 yard touchdown reception, tying the game and putting pressure on Carlstad.

Juhlin took one play on the very next series to restore the lead for Carlstad, hitting a streaking Melero for a 68 yard pass and run.

Stockholm would not go away though as Retzlaff equalized, turning an end around into a 49 yard touchdown run.

Again Juhlin marched his team, this time down to the Stockholm five yard line. That’s when the turnovers really started to take their toll as Juhlin fumbled and the Mean Machines recovered. Although, Stockholm managed to fumble it back , Juhlin lost control of the ball on the next series, still deep in Stockholm territory as Engstrom ripped the ball from his hands and raced 78 yards for the go ahead touchdown.

With the Mean Machines leading 35-28, Juhlin threw a pass right into the arms of Jungstedt standing at the Carlstad 28 and he made no mistake, taking it all the way back to give Stockholm a 42-28 lead.

Carlstad looked like they would regain the momentum. With 10 minutes left in the game Crusaders linebacker Christian Kuylenstjerna forced Knutsson to fumble and Carlstad recovered at Stockhjolm’s 32 yard line. Juhlin wasted no time as five plays later he hit Robin Juhlin for a touchdown pulling his team closer, 42-35. The point after barely bounced in though, a portent of things to come.

Carlstad QB Philip Juhlin Photo: Stefan Akander

The Crusaders then forced a three and out and mounted a drive from their own 21 yard line after a Hermodsson punt. Juhlin drove them to the Stockholm 36 yard line and then the Crusaders went to the trick play book. Robin Juhlin threw an option pass to Melero who sidestepped one defender and waltzed into the end zone. With three and a half minutes to go, Calrstad looked like they were surging.

Then they missed the PAT.

Despite recovering the onside kick and gaining great field position, Stockholm could not move the ball and Hermodsson threw an interception giving Carlstad another chance with two and a half minutes left.

That’s when the Mean Machines defense stepped up. Juhlin was unable to get his team moving and threw his second interception and Stockholm took over at their own 42 with a minute and a half left. Hermodsson drained a minute off the clock and punted down to the Carlstad 29 yard line with 23 seconds left.

The Mean Machines defense did the rest sacking Juhlin on the final play of the game and sending Stockholm into wild celebrations.

The irony of the situation was not lost on football observers in Sweden. Stockholm was the last team to beat Carlstad in the championship game before the eight year run, and the team that ended an almost decade-long reign.

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