Örebro Black Knights historic – finish first in Swedish regular season, earn bye into title game

The Swedish Superserien season may have been short due to the pandemic, and it may have been earlier than what would have been optimal due to circumstances, but for one team it was historic.

For the first time since joining Sweden’s top league 31 years ago, the Örebro Black Knights find themselves in first place and awaiting the winner of the semifinal game between the Carlstad Crusaders and Stockholm Mean Machines.

The fourth team in the Superserien, the Uppsala 86ers, opted out of the playoffs.

So with a record of 2-1, Örebro has qualified for the championship final.

But it was by the slimmest of margins.

Black Knights WR Johannes Lindeus #1 Photo: Jonas Domfors

After defeating both the Uppsala 86ers and Stockholm Mean Machines, the Black Knights entered the final game of the season needing to either beat the Carlstad Crusaders, or lose by less the eight points. They lost by seven – 34-27. Exactly the margin they needed. Had Carlstad scored a two-point conversion, then it would have been the Crusaders who were resting up this weekend.

Needless to say, Örebro head coach Sam Eisenstadt was sweating out the final minutes of the game against Carlstad:

“Sweating is an understatement. We lost by the only margin we could to finish first. I knew how important this was to the club, so yes, beyond nervous, was about right.”

Make no mistake though. Given the circumstances, the team earned first place the hard way. By handing the Mean Machines their first loss to an Örebro team since June 8, 2018, beating them 33-20. In fact this was only the third time Stockholm had lost a game in their last 22. And Eisenstadt’s team had the lead in the Crusaders game until late in the third quarter.

Black Knights defenders Cesar Hebel #40 & Filip Jonsson #33 closing in on Crusaders ball carrier Photo: Jonas Domfors

What’s happened this season, short as it was?

According to Eisenstadt, there are a few factors, along with a slightly unorthodox pre-practice routine.

“The team meditates for two to three minutes before we start every practice. I have been doing it for six years myself after Clemson head coach Dabo Winney started doing it with his team and found it really helped me to learn how to focus. The players, while skeptical at first, have now bought in. And it shows. They are believing in each other and in themselves too.”

Of course, having a 6’7″, 240 pound quarterback like Trevor Vasey who is mobile and can throw the ball 50 yards downfield across his body helps too.

“There’s no question that Trevor is playing with a ton of confidence but the receivers are making key catches and with Johan Stål doing such a great job with the offense and coaching up the receivers, we are clicking.”

Örebro receivers Johannes Lindeus (361 yards, 7 TDs) and Filip Wetterberg (327 yards, 3 TDs) led the league in receiving yards.

The Black Knights defense has also been a factor allowing only nine points a game compared to 20.3 a year ago.

So Eisenstadt and his team will be watching this weekend’s semifinal clash between Carlstad and Stockholm, and will enter the championship game with a sense of calm – and confidence.

Watch Carlstad take on the Stockholm Mean Machines on AFI.tv  in the Swedish semifinal, Saturday, July 3 at 15:00 CET (3 pm, 09:00 am ET). The game is not available on AFI.tv to viewers in Sweden.

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