Top teams struggled but won on opening weekend in Spain

The opening weekend of play in the Spanish National League of American Football saw all four favorites – the defending champion Osos Rivas, LG OLED Black Demons Las Rozas, Badalona Dracs and L’Hospitalet Pioners – come away with wins but they were not all easy victories.

Osos Rivas did not have an easy time of it in their opening game of the 2023 season, but they finally got past the Gijon Mariners beating them 16-3. In what many thought would be a walk over, the Mariners made life tough for the team that beat them easily twice in 2022. Dracs running back Ronald Tomasello (Ball State University NCAA Div. 1) scored two touchdowns while Álvaro Guitián kicked a field goal to seal the win.

The 2022 runner ups and 2022 Spanish Cup winners, Las Rozas Black Demons also faced stiffer opposition than anticipated in their clash with the newly promoted Coslada Camioneros. After jumping out to a 14-0 first half lead on touchdowns from running back Daniel Romero and defensive back Marco de la Mata who scored on a pick six, the Black Demons watched as the Camioneros battled back in the second half. Camioneros wide receiver Mike Williams cut the gap to 14-7 late in the game but Coslada could get no closer.

Photo: Lola Morales

The Badalona Dracs also faced an opponent they had beaten easily in 2022 in the Zaragoza Hurricanes, but the visitors proved to be much improved over last season. Although the Dracs, Spanish champions in 2021, came away with a 13-0 victory, it did not come easily. New quarterback Kevin Doyle (University of Arizona, Div. I) tossed a first half touchdown pass to Borja Vilanova, but the Dracs did not find the end zone again until there was less than two minutes on the clock. Running back Edu Molina finally put the game away for the Barcelona based squad with a late touchdown.

The only team to wind up with a convincing victory in the first round of play in Spain was the L’Hospitalet Pioners who defeated the Valencia Firebats (newly promoted from B division) 37-15. The home team Pioners took a 17-7 first half lead on touchdowns from Brazilian running back Jean Carlos Barbosa and Fredy Gonzales with Jacobo Senise adding a field goal. Mexican QB Kenny Ramos scored for Valencia to keep the game close. In the second half, L’Hospitalet put the game away on scores from Barbosa and quarterback Adrián Moreno. Trailing 31-7, Firebats quarterback Ramos connected with Daniel Díaz to narrow the lead to 31-15 but the Pioners scored again as Moreno found the end zone for the second time.

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