The Badalona Dracs and Reus Imperials have been on a collision course since the opening game of the season and Saturday in Reus in the Spanish championship final one team will emerge as the victor after a tumultuous year of football in Spain.
The seven-time champion Badalona Dracs (11-1) enter their 15th Spanish final Saturday as favorites to repeat. Nevertheless, although the Reus Imperials (10-2) are playing in their first ever Spanish championship game, they are the only team in Spain to have defeated Badalona in 2017.
Badalona was the overwhelming offensive leader during the regular season averaging 43 points per game while allowing only 11.9. However, despite losing to the Dracs back in January, the Imperials evened the series with a convincing 48-32 win in April.
Both teams were pushed hard in their respective semifinals. Badalona’s offense struggled against the stubborn Murcia Cobras but finally held on for a 21-13 victory. Meanwhile, the Imperials needed a last minute score to down the Valencia Firebats 32-28.
Injuries have plagued both the Dracs and Imperials late in the season. Reus will play the game without the league’s top scorer, receiver Nate Stephens who suffered a season-ending ACL injury in the final regular season game of the year. Quarterback Brady Huber is also doubtful although young Pau Muñoz proved to be a capable replacement throwing five touchdown passes in the Imperials semifinal win over Valencia. Receiver Henri Laine who had four touchdowns in the semifinals and running back Chris Smallwood who had 11 touchdowns in the regular season, will pick up the slack.
Badalona’s injury woes include the league’s second leading scorer, Hunter Lee, who will miss the title game. Nevertheless, quarterback Sergio Gonzalo, who threw 48 touchdown passes in the regular season, will still have Joey Herrick, Xavi Gonzalo and Raúl Cernuda to throw to.
The outcome Saturday evening will be difficult to predict.
Kickoff: Saturday June 3, 6 pm CEST (12 Noon EDT)