A lot has changed since the turn of the millennium. The internet has traveled from our desktops to our pockets, must-watch television network serials have been replaced by binge watching the latest fad and there is no NFL team in St. Louis, let alone one that is the toast of the NFL.
One thing has remained constant, however: the Carlstad Crusaders’ dominance over the Örebro Black Knights. That was until Saturday, when import quarterback Jake Sisson and his 1-3 squad partied like it was 1999 and upset the 3-1 Crusaders for the first time in 21 years.
After more than two decades of losses, Örebro toppled their Goliath with a complete team performance that was as efficient as it was relatively unspectacular. Strong defense and dogged offensive persistence carried the day for the Black Knights, while Carlstad seemed to be stuck in the mud from the very beginning.
Both teams struggled to gain traction through a scoreless first quarter and Örebro finally broke the deadlock towards the end of the second frame with a 29-yard Joey Cafferky Jr field-goal. It was a lead that the underdogs would build on, but not relinquish for the rest of the game.
An impressive Kevin Börzsei return on the ensuing kickoff gave the Crusaders prime field position to respond, but the Black Knights defense ensured their team would enter the half on top. Carlstad quarterback Danny Farley underthrew the deep post and Jonathan Armendatiz came underneath for the interception, returning it 46 yards into Crusader territory. Örebro quarterback Jake Sisson took full advantage, finding Jesper Lindeus to move the chains on fourth down, before rifling the ball to Filip Wetterberg at the back of the endzone to enter the break up 10-0.
The second half did not begin much better for the vaunted Crusaders. A promising defensive stop on the first drive was overturned when a roughing the kicker penalty and unsportsmanlike conduct call against Christian Kuylenstjerna moved the ball up to mid-field. After Wetterberg converted another fourth down gamble, Sisson rolled out and connected with Hjalmar Gertsson on the drag, who reached across the goal line as he went out of bounds to make it a seventeen point game.
Carlstad finally began to look like the traditional powerhouse when they got the ball back. Darius Lewis broke free on the kickoff, dashing 53 yards before stepping out of bounds at the Örebro 30-yard line and the Crusaders did the rest on the ground. Emil Knutsson and Alexander Segerfeldt alternated impactful carries, then Danny Farley escaped the pocket on third and goal and scrambled 11 yards to put Carlstad on the board.
The Black Knights added a 35-yard Cafferky Jr field goal to begin the fourth quarter, but it seemed as if a Crusader comeback was almost inevitable. On their next drive, Farley found Robin Juhlin in behind the defense for 38 yards, then Knutsson rumbled for 19 yards on the draw up the middle to put his team on the goal-line. Attempting to punch it in on the next play, Knutsson was slowed in the hole by linebacker Rikard Carlsson and lost control of the football as he reached for the score. Eric Murphy recovered in the endzone to give his team back the ball and Örebro ran almost eight minutes off the clock with Gentili and Gustav Skeppner to make their way into the Crusader redzone.
Gentili had a goal-line fumble of his own but it was simply too little, too late for Carlstad. With 1:13 remaining, a furious 11 play, 98-yard drive resulted in a two-yard Robin Juhlin touchdown catch but ate up all the time available, serving only to make the 20-13 upset look more respectable.
For the Black Knights defense, it was a performance more than two decades in the making. Sweden’s leading rusher Emil Knutsson was held to just 39 yards on 12 carries, while league leading passer Danny Farley was limited to 21 of 31 for 182 yards, one touchdown and one interception, along with a score on the ground. Jonathan Armendatiz led the defensive group with six tackles and a crucial interception, followed closely by Rikard Carlsson and Josh Murphy with 4.5 tackles each. Defensive linemen Percy Bender and Kevin Mellberg combined for a sack, while the secondary kept everything in front of them to take away any big play chances.
In a defensive battle, it was the Örebro offense that best took advantage of its opportunities, largely afforded by 112 yards of Carlstad penalties. Having missed the first matchup between these two clubs, quarterback Jake Sisson was on target throughout and overcame a slew of drops from his receivers to go 16 of 35 for 203 yards and two touchdowns, doubling his yardage for the year. His new favorite target Filip Wetterberg had a breakout showing, catching seven passes for 102 yards and a score. Without the services of Kasper Wedberg, the team didn’t suffer on the ground either. The newly signed Italian American stallion Mike Gentili showed what fans of the Schwabisch Hall Unicorns are missing out on thanks to the canceled German season, racking up 86 yards rushing and 41 yards receiving in his Swedish debut.
Christian Kuylenstjerna led the Crusader defense with 9.5 tackles, forming an impressive duo with Felix Sencar in defeat. Carlstad amassed a combined eight tackles for loss, topped by Marco Gudding with two, but could not overcome their own lack of discipline.
Örebro’s historic victory brings them to 2-3 on the season, nipping at 3-2 Carlstad’s heels ahead of a regular season finale against the winless Uppsala 86ers. While partying like it’s 1999 worked for the Black Knights this week, winning a playoff rematch against Carlstad will take more than a lion in their pocket.