Las Rozas Black Demons blank Gijon Mariners despite missing stars

It was far from a full strength Las Rozas Black Demons squad that took the field Saturday in Madrid, but in a battle between the winless and the unbeaten, there was never any doubt who would prevail.

Playing for the fourth straight week to make up for an early season wrecked by blizzards and COVID, the Black Demons were missing a number of star players who got them to the top of the Spanish standings. Match-up nightmare Mavin Saunders remains on the injured list, left tackle Doums Mamoudou stayed in Paris and the running back duo of Javier Carrasco and Marco De La Mata never took the field, while star corner Darius Robinson played only sparingly.

None of it would matter, as Las Rozas held the Gijon Mariners to less than a hundred yards of total offense and worked their RPO heavy attack up and down the field with relative ease for a 35-0 win.

For fans of the winless Mariners, the opening kickoff may have been the game’s peak. Black Demons returner Pablo De Diego fell victim to his own confidence, losing control of the football and allowing Gijon to steal a possession. That would result in an early turnover on downs and Las Rozas never looked back.

Black Demons WR Sergio Condes #11 breaking free for a big gain Photo: Lola Morales

Star Canadian quarterback Chris Merchant got the ball rolling with a 36-yard strike to Sergio Condes down the sidelines and the offence went to work. Jesus Garcia-Varcarcel took an end-around to the house on the next play, only to have it called back for a personal foul. Merchant gained back the yardage with a 36-yard scamper and then found Daniel Vigil out wide, who froze two defenders and slipped between them for the 14-yard opening score.

After a three and out by the Mariners, Merchant went right back to Vigil. The two connected on a wide receiver screen and the receiver followed the caravan in front of him, breaking free for a 53-yard touchdown.

The Mariners continued to struggle offensively, but a rare Black Demons mistake gave them a glimmer of hope to start the second quarter. Merchant attempted to force the ball into tight coverage and safety Pelayo Barredo pounced for the interception. Mariners quarterback Marcos Martinez took advantage with a 38-yard strike to Pablo Lopez but the drive stalled there and the team would not post another gain of more than ten yards until the fourth quarter.

A series of hellacious roughing the passer penalties left Chris Merchant limping but he would end the half with his best play of the day. After returning from a brief stint on the sidelines, he scrambled wildly under pressure, weaving almost 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage before heaving the ball to an open Jesus Garcia-Varcarcel for a 20-yard score to make it 21-0 at the intermission.

The second half began much as the first had ended. Pablo De Diego made a toe-tapping interception on the Mariners first series and Merchant continued to work the short game, this time setting up Sergio Condes on the wide receiver screen. The receiver made the first man miss and broke up field untouched for a 62-yard touchdown.

After taking the four score lead, the Black Demons sent Merchant to relax on the bench and rolled the rest of the way with backup David De Diego under center. The offence couldn’t gain any more traction in the third, but the Black Demons finished with one final shot in fourth. With time in the pocket, De Diego looked deep and found a wide open Jesus Perez for a 39-yard touchdown.  Both sides ran out the clock and Las Rozas finished with an easy 35-0 victory.

The Black Demons defense did not give Gijon’s ball carriers much freedom to run Photo: Lola Morales

The Black Demons defense was stifling all afternoon, led by outstanding linebacker Jorge Felix Velasco, who notched three sacks, and import William Lloyd who did more than his fair share of run stuffing.

Mariners quarterback Marcos Martinez finished with just 57 yards passing and an interception, while backup Santiago Barr, who took over on the final two series, led the team with 25 yards rushing. Receiver Pablo Lopez was a rare bright spot with 47 yards receiving and a forced fumble on defense, while David Parajon was also noticeable and added a late sack.

For Las Rozas, Chris Merchant was an efficient 12-of-17 for 221 yards, four touchdowns and one interceptions, while adding 47 yards on the ground, but it was a deep receiving corps that did most of the legwork. Sergio Condes led the group with two catches for 98 yards and a score and Daniel Vigil hauled in three for 74 yards and two touchdown,  while Jesus Garcia-Varcarcel and Jesus Perez both added four catches and a score with 38 and 65 yards respectively. On a day where everyone got involved, backup David De Diego finished the game going four for seven for 54 yards and a touchdown.

While the Black Demons may have the most explosive roster in Spanish football, it didn’t take all hands on deck to top the Mariners on Saturday. The gulf between the top and bottom teams in the LNFA standing is getting wider and Las Rozas has their eyes fixed firmly on perfection.

J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.