It’s a game that means nothing for the playoff standings, but don’t tell that to the players.
When the undefeated Stockholm Mean Machines head to Carlstad on Saturday, they’ll be looking to prove their dominance over the second place Crusaders in anticipation of a potential rematch in the Swedish final. So begins a fascinating chess match, with both teams attempting to make a statement while protecting their starters and not dipping too far into their bag of tricks.
The Crusaders will be looking to regain momentum after a historic loss to Orebro last week sucked the meaning out of a season finale that could have been a battle for first place. Carlstad’s only other loss of the season was the opener against Stockholm, an 18-12 defeat that was the tightest margin for the Mean Machines all year. An upset against the league’s top squad would go a long way to restoring confidence.
“We have the tools and the personnel, but we must stop defeating ourselves,” says Crusaders defensive back Darius Lewis. “We must secure a win without the possibility of penalties or human errors deciding the game.”
Defense defined the first matchup between these two squads, when both where missing their import quarterbacks, but since then each team has worked their way to the top of Sweden’s offensive leaderboard. This game will feature three of the top four quarterbacks in the Superserien, the top three leading rushers and all five of the league’s top receivers.
For Stockholm, it’s a potent aerial attack that makes headlines. Import quarterback Tim Morovick has been a dual threat weapon in his three games in Sweden, leading the league with 648 yards passing and sitting third in rushing with 197 yards along the ground. Those impressive numbers come courtesy of a dazzling receiving corps. Homegrown star Pär Lindelöf leads the bunch with 241 yards, closely followed by Canadian Ben von Jagow with 238 and touchdown machine Edvin Almeida Taborda with 229 to round out the Swedish receiving podium. Also back on the squad is do-it-all import Alpha Jalloh, who debuted last week after a stellar season in Finland. Should head coach Frederik Pilbäck decide at any point to preserve his starting quarterback, running back Tim Göransson is capable of carrying the load and German backup pivot Jan Weinreich was more than talented enough to lead his group to victory the first time these teams met.
Carlstad is more than capable of an offensive explosion of their own. Running back Emil Knutsson leads all of Sweden with with 257 yards through four games, despite being largely bottled up in the loss last week. Quarterback Danny Farley has been successful in his own right, passing for 596 yards since returning from injury, most of it going to receivers Jacob Bergwall and Kevin Börzei. Stockholm knows they overlook the Crusaders at their own peril. A late addition to the roster is wide receiver Niko Lester, who suddenly became available after Denmark’s Triangle Razorbacks’ season was cut short as playoff were due to start owing to COVID-19 restrictions.
“I expect Carlstad to come out hungry and ready to compete after a tough loss to Örebro. Historically, they play well at home and the fact that it’s a rivalry game means they’re going to want to make a statement,” says receiver Ben von Jagow. “We both have weapons so it really depends on who can go out and execute while making the fewest mistakes.”
Both sides will face a defensive challenge in containing the powerful attacks. The Mean Machines will rely on star defensive end Malcolm Engström to get pressure on Farley, while British linebacker Leon Littfinski will be looking to build on his league lead in tackles. Carlstad hopes the stellar play of Christian Kuylenstierna continues in the middle, while import Darius Lewis will lead the secondary in the unenviable task of shutting down Stockholm’s assault from the air.
“We have yet another challenge, and more adversity ahead of us,” Lewis admits. “But the road from here to the final will not get any easier.”
Stockholm starter Tim Morovick takes a more gung-ho approach when asked what it will take for his team to remain undefeated against the Crusaders Saturday.
“It doesn’t matter who we play,” he insists. “We just need to play our game and do what we do!”
Watch the game live here. Stockholm Mean Machines @ Carlstad Crusaders, Sept. 26, 15:00 CET (09:00 ET)
Carlstad Crusaders Roster (Click image to enlarge)
Stockholm Mean Machines Roster (Click image to enlarge)