Poland’s Wroclaw Panthers Capture 2016 IFAF Europe Champions League Title

The Wroclaw Panthers put Poland on the football map on Sunday by beating Italy’s Milano Seamen 40-37 in the IFAF Europe Champions League title game in a high scoring, thrilling contest staged in Wroclaw.

The Panthers completed the double winning both the Polish national title and IFAF Europe Champions League crown in the same year, matching the past two Champions League winners, Sweden’s Carlstad Cruasders who achieved the same feat in 2015 and the Helsinki Roosters from Finland who did it in 2014.

Wroclaw quarterback EJ White was outstanding throwing for 345 yards and six touchdowns while rushing for another 103 yards for which he was named game MVP. Receiver Patryck Matkowski caught seven passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns and teammate Tomas Dziedzic had three receptions for 108 yards and two touchdowns.

IFAF Europe - 2016 Champions League - Panthers-Seamen - EJ White - Mirka Lukaszek photo

QB EJ White was on fire, especially in 1st half Photo: Mirka Łukaszek

Seamen quarterback Garrett Safron kept pace with 352 yards passing and five touchdowns while Milano receiver Filippo Fiammenghi had six catches for 147 yards and three touchdowns in a losing cause.

Wroclaw struck early and often

Wroclaw wasted no time after receiving the opening kickoff. On the first play of the game, White rolled to his right and sent a long 73 yard bomb to Tomasz Dziedzic, who took it to the house. Dawid Panczyszyn kicked the ensuing extra point for a 7-0 lead .

The Italians mounted a steady drive feeding running back Danilo Bonaparte, capping it with a 25 yd pass from Safron to Fiammenghi. The extra point by Stefano Di Tunisi was good and the game was tied 7-7 .

The rest of the first half was dominated by White’s “white hot offense”. The Panthers quarterback threw two touchdowns to Matkowski and another one to Dziedzic to give the home side a 27-10 lead at halftime.

IFAF Europe - 2016 Champions League - Panthers-Seamen - Patryck Matkowski - Mirka Lukaszek photo

WR Patryck Matkowski scoring one of his 2 TDS Photo: Mirka Łukaszek

“Veni,Vedi,Comebacki” (I came, I saw, I came back)

The paraphrasing of Julius Ceasar’s famous quote is the best description of the third quarter. The Seamen dominated this part of the game scoring three touchdowns on passes from Safron to David Guthrie, Lorenzo Vezzoli and Fiammenghi . The Panthers answered with a lone passing touchdown to Zieba.

The away side was trailing only 34-31 at the beginning of the 4th quarter . The momentum has shifted and the Italians had silenced the homecrowd, at least for a moment…

With 10:51 to go in the game White sent a 51 yard deep ball to Matkowski, who took it all the way to the end zone, giving Wroclaw a nine point lead. On next two drives the teams exchanged punts and Milano took the ball over with 5:41 on the clock.

IFAF Europe - 2016 Champions League - Panthers-Seamen - Garrett Safron - Mirka Lukaszek photo.2

Milano QB Garrett Safron almost took over the 2nd half. Photo: Mirka Łukaszek

After three plays and an 80 yard strike from Safron to Fiammenghi to close the gap to 40-37, Di Tunisi’s PAT attempt bounced off the goalpost and Milano then needed a field goal to tie the score.

They’ve attempted an onside kickoff but it went right into the hands of the sure-handed Dziedzic.

With more than three minutes left, Wroclaw wisely kept the ball on the ground, handing off to power runner Konrad Starczewski, who burned the clock.

The stadium erupted in joy as the Panthers completed a triple crown – the junior Panthers had won the Polish junior championship two weeks ago while a week earlier the seniors had beaten the Gdynia Seahawks to win the Polish Topliga crown .

In the words of IFAF Europe Chairman Goran Nisavic :

“It was a good, close and high scoring game. Great for the TV audience with a dramatic finish.”

Photo credits: Mirka Łukaszek

Wojciech "Voyt" Andrzejczak. Head Coach of Kozly Poznan and President of the New England Patriots Polska fan club. He recently worked with Jim Criner’s ACTA in China, coached US National Football Team and Clifton Mustangs (NJ) . His