It was “Smash Mouth Football” at its finest when Russia’s Moscow Spartans ground out a shocking 15-14 win over the Bolzano Giants from Italy Sunday, in the CEFL Cup final.
Using an offense reminiscent of the 1967 Green Bay Packers, Moscow basically ran the ball down the throats of the Giants defense while the Spartans defense harried and hurried Bolzano quarterback Austin Gahafer all game. The defensive line was big, tall and fast, forcing the Giants quarterback out of the pocket time and time again.
Facing a secondary that was surprisingly quick, Giants receiver Mark Simone, the leading receiver in Italy, did not have an easy time of it.
The Spartans scored first, as linebacker Omari Grinyaev blocked Bolzano’s first punt of the game. recovering the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.
After that, Moscow’s ball control offense kept the Giants explosive. aerial attack offense off the field, eating up the clock on every play.
With Gahafer unable to get his offense in sync, he was picked off in the second quarter by Ivan Vorobev who returned the ball to the Bolzano 42 yard line.
From there, Moscow marched, literally. Four plays later, wide receiver Maksim Kistkin sprinted around left end and raced to the end zone to up the score to 13-0. Holder Kirill Svyatkin bobbled the snap on the extra point, but managed to find the end zone himself and Moscow grabbed a 15-0 lead heading into the break.
The second half saw a different Giants offense as Gahafer began finding his receivers and on the first possession, drove his team down to the 12 yard line. He hit Dominik Bundschuh on a bubble screen and Bundschuh made no mistake, battling his way into the end zone to narrow the lead to 15-6.
However, both offenses stalled after that with the Spartans intent on running time off the clock. Moscow managed to move into field goal range twice but came away empty handed both times.
Finally, with six minutes left, Gahafer moved Bolzano smartly down the field with Simone and Bundschuh doing much of the damage. He capped the drive off with a 10 yard touchdown pass to Nicolo Gallina. Simone scored on the two-point conversion and with five minutes remaining, the Giants trailed 15-14.
Ball control was the order of the day though and Moscow proceeded to eat up the clock again, consuming four minutes before punting the ball down to the Giants six yard line with just over a minute left. Two plays later, Gahafer is stripped of the ball at his own 16 yard line and the Spartans then kneel out the game.
Game MVP was Moscow defensive back Ivan Vorobev who had two interceptions.