Micky Kyei paces Helsinki Wolverines to win over Roosters, clinch playoff berth

The game plan the Helsinki Wolverines put together to stop the Helsinki Roosters, worked to perfection as the Wolverines jumped out to a 12-0 lead and went on to defeat the Roosters 32-20, clinching a playoff berth and preventing their crosstown rivals from winning a ninth straight title and also stopping them from reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2011.

Paced by a three-touchdown performance by receiver-turned-running back Micky Kyei and a swarming defense led by linebacker William James, who had 10 tackles and seemed to be everywhere the ball was on this night, the Wolverines never seemed threatened.

James was happy with his team’s performance although he still feels personally he has more to give:

“I’m happy to see our guys respond to the challenges we faced this season. Going to a new system mid-season and readjusting so quickly is incredible and I’m proud every single one of them. On a personal note, I’m getting back into it still. I feel the rust having been absent playing rugby in Australia. But I’m happy to see I can still contribute. Just wish I’d get some more kick returns.”

Kyei, starting at running back for the first time this year, was superb rushing for 118 yards on 16 carries, scoring three touchdowns. His natural ability to make the first defender miss enabled him to get past the line of scrimmage and into the secondary time and time again. Quarterback Chris Forcier didn’t need to throw the ball much completing 10 passes for 83 yards but he rushed for 76 yards and another three touchdowns. His 58 yard TD run with less than a minute left in the first half was huge and gave his team all kinds of confidence going into the second half. Cedric Johnson caught four passes for 20 yards, Sebastien Sagne two for 37 and Ingo Berther had two for 12.

Wolverines LB William James #37 closing in to help Photo: Irja Vaateri

Kyei was excited about playing running back for the first time since his younger days and of course pleased with the win:

“I’m really happy we managed to get into the playoffs, especially how much adversity we’ve faced this season. Starting at running back is something I’ve been looking forward to for a while now, and it went better than I expected. Our offensive line was a huge part in our victory.”

For the Roosters, Miro Kadmiry threw for only 91 yards before leaving the game with an undisclosed injury. Henri Vaananen stepped in and completed 12 of 25 passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns in two quarters of action. Mike Gentili was held to just 19 yards rushing before being ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct. His backup, Antii Lahtinen carried the ball 11 times for 36 yards and one touchdown.  Wide receiver Kimi Linnainmaa was held to five catches for 57 yards while Alexander Wasiljeff had eight for 93. Arttu Erkkila had 53 yards receiving and one touchdown while Ville Karhinen caught three passes for 24 yards and another touchdown.

The Wolverines defense kept the Roosters in check throughout the early going forcing a three and out on the first drive. Then Forcier and the offense took over and marched 69 yards with Forcier finishing it with a 15 yard draw right into the end zone.

Then, with less than a minute to go in the first quarter, Kadmiry threw the ball into the arms of Wolverines defensive back Arttu Ketonen who returned the ball to the Roosters 22. Back to back penalties to Gentili, the first a personal foul and second an unsportsmanlike, took the ball down to the four yard line, and got Gentili tossed from the game.

It was a gift to the Wolverines. Kyei punched the ball in on the next play and the Wolverines moved out to 12-0.

Early in the second, Kadmiry finally got the Roosters offense moving, marching them down to the Wolverines one yard line, mixing up his plays. Lahtinen bulled his way in over left tackles to narrow the gap to 12-7.

Both defenses stiffened after that and it looked like the score would stand to halftime, but with just over a minute to go, Forcier found a seam and took off racing 58 yards to the end zone. The PAT finally worked and the Wolverines took a 19-7 lead into the break.

Wolverines QB Chris Forcier Photo: Irja Vaateri

The Roosters came out in the second half without Kadmiry behind center. He had been hurt late in the first half and replaced by Henri Vaananen. Vaananen promptly got his team back in the game by engineering a short 22 yard touchdown drive after the Wolverines punter had been trapped at his own 22. Karhinen scored on an 11 yard pass from Vaananen and the lead was reduced to 19-14 with plenty of time left.

A failed Roosters fourth down attempt early in the fourth gave Forcier and the Wolverines offense the ball again deep in Roosters territory, at the 29. Two plays later, Kyei rushed over right guard fora 24 yard touchdown to increase the lead to 26-14.

With Vaananen unable to move the Roosters out of their own end, Kyei put the game away, scoring from 23 yards out with three minutes left, giving the Wolverines a 32-14 lead.

Vaananen wasn’t done though and on the next drive he began finding his receivers and moved the Roosters down to the Wolverines 25 yard line. He then lofted a beautiful pass to Erkkila in the corner of the end zone to reduce the lead to 32-20.

The Wolverines ate up most of the clock after that but the Roosters did get the ball back with 36 seconds left. However, the late drive stalled and the Wolverines began celebrating.

With the win, the Wolverines advanced to the Maple League semifinals next weekend where they will face the Wasa Royals. Meanwhile, the Helsinki Roosters were eliminated from post season play for the first time since 2011.

Photos: Irja Vaateri

 

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