IFAF Europe Champions League: Defending Champions Bounced

In perhaps the biggest upset of the young history of the IFAF Europe Champions League tournament, the Istanbul Koç Rams from Turkey knocked off the defending champions Sweden’s Carlstad Crusaders, shutting them out 6-0, and advancing to the semifinals.

Meanwhile, in Poland, the Wroclaw Panthers improved their chances of advancing to the Final Four,  dominating the Triangle Razorbacks from Denmark 31-10 in front of a wildly cheering crowd and a huge national television audience.

Istanbul Koç Rams (Turkey) (2-0) 6 – Carlstad Crusaders (Sweden) (0-1) 0

IFAF Europe - CL2016 - Rams-Crusaders - Strother

Koç Rams running back Steven Lee Strother broke open a tight defensive battle in the third quarter, and took a screen pass 65 yards to the end zone, stunning the crowd at Tingvalla stadium in Karlstad, Sweden. Then the Rams defense held on to record arguably biggest upset of the Champions League in its three years. Many had been expecting Carlstad to waltz into the final four in the same way as they did last year. Instead they were shut out at home for the first time in their history.

Rams quarterback Palmer Wilsie threw for 269 yards and a touchdown and receiver Paul Morant had seven catches for 162 yards in the win. Strother was stymied often on the ground gaining only 40 rushing yards on 14 carries but he caught four passes for 67 yards and the touchdown.

The Rams defense harried Crusaders quarterback Philip Juhlin all day sacking him five times and picking off two passes. Led by Strother, who also played corner, the Rams secondary did not allow Sweden‘s wide receivers much space to maneuver, bottling up Jakob Dahre and André Holgård. Belgian Ruben de Ruyter was Carlstads leading receiver with seven receptions for 109 yards.

The Turkish front seven anchored by Serbian Milos Lisanin (aka Lisko Malina) who played in Sweden in 2015 and lost to Carlstad in the Swedish final while with the Orebro Black Knights, wreaked havoc in the Crusaders backfield. Another former Black Knights player, receiver Strahinja Stepovic, had five catches for 40 yards for the Rams.

The offensive juggernaut assembled by the Crusaders, that scored 89 points in last year’s final, and which had dominated the Swedish league this season, could not muster a point despite a number of trips into the red zone. Crusaders power running back Brett Koepp, who scored six touchdowns in his last game, was knocked out of the game in the first half with a shoulder injury.

With the Rams win against the St. Petersburg Griffins, the Turkish team will move on to the Final Four.

Wroclaw Panthers (Poland) (1-0) 31 – Triangle Razorbacks (Denmark) (1-1) 10

IFAF Europe - CL2016 - Panthers-Razorbacks - photo

The Wroclaw Panthers scored 21 third quarter points en route to a 31-10 drubbing of the Danish champions the Triangle Razorbacks.

Quarterback Steven White threw three touchdown passes and running back Mateusz Szefler scored another in the Panthers dominant win. Dawid Panczyszyn kicked a 22 yard field goal in the fourth quarter for Wroclaw to round out the scoring for the Polish team.

Neither team could muster much offense until midway through the second quarter when White connected with Konrad Starczweski for the game’s first points. With a 7-0 lead at halftime, Wroclaw broke the game open in the third with Szefler scoring from 21 yards out and then White finding Grzegorz Mazur and Tomasz Dziedzic for touchdowns building a 28-0 lead going into the final stanza.

The shell-shocked Danish squad finally got on the scoreboard as Benjamin Behnke punched the ball in from the one yard line. With two minutes left, Torben Atkinson kicked a 36 yard field goal for the Razorbacks making the final 31-10.

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.