Porvoo Butchers back on track after decisive win over Wasa Royals

The Porvoo Butchers (3-2) traveled across Finland on Friday to the city of Vaasa where they took charge early jumping out to a 27-0 lead and then went on to defeat the host Wasa Royals (1-4) 49-27.

With the start of the second half of the regular season, both teams found themselves in similar situations; Rosters depleted by injuries and fighting for an opportunity to stay in the playoff hunt.

The Butchers had come off back-to-back losses to the Helsinki Roosters including a last-minute loss 39-35 in which they had dominated the game both offensively and defensively but gave up three costly special teams touchdowns. The Royals had seemed to right their ship after two losses against defending champions Kuopio Steelers and a loss to rival Seinäjoki Crocodiles by beating the Crocs in their last match.  With both Kuopio and the Roosters undefeated every game now has meaning in the playoff situation, and this was a big game for both teams.

The Butchers seemed to have come off the long bus ride inspired and on their first drive marched 77-yards in 5 plays for a touchdown capped off by 3-yard run by QB Jabari Harris. Mikko Seppänen kicked the extra point to make it 7-0. The Royals went to a double-wing offense to try to assist a young offensive line and to catch the Butchers off guard. The Butchers‘ defense was up to the challenge and stopped the Royals on their first three plays forcing a 4th and 3 at the Royals‘ own 36-yard line. The Royals already sensing the urgency of the moment went for the first down instead of punting and Niko Roiko and Alvin Reels Jr. combined to drop running back Niko Barrow for a loss of 1 yard.

Harris and the Butchers’ offense made quick work of the short field scoring in 4 plays with a 22-yard completion for a touchdown to Seppänen. The extra point was blocked however making the score 13-0.

Photo: Samppa Toivonen / APOLLO PHOTO

Royals quarterback Brandon Gwinner tried to rally his team when they got good field position after a failed onside kick attempt by Porvoo. But once again they turned the ball over on downs going for the 4th down conversion once again and coming up short on an incomplete pass. Taking over on their own 38, the Butchers quickly moved down the field again scoring on a Sean McAllen 54-yard run and a Seppänen kick to move to 20-0 with 5:44 left in the first quarter.

The Butchers’ defense continued to dominate and on 1st down Jere Paananen picked off a long Gwinner pass. The Royals’ defense began to gain a footing however and stopped the Butchers drive forcing a punt. The teams traded possessions for the rest of the quarter until with 9 seconds left in the period Harris found Sami Nikkinen in the end zone to make the score 27-0.

In the second quarter, the Royals finally found a weakness in the Butchers defense as Gwinner connected on a play-action pass to Jan Hochschild for a 73-yard touchdown pass making the score 27-7 after the successful Marcus Pylkkänen extra point

Gwinner and the Royals were not finished and after another successful defensive stop, the quarterback from SUNY Morrisville connected once again on a 29-yard touchdown pass to Hochschild. However, the 2-pt conversion failed and the score remained at 27-13. Unfortunately, that was also as close as the Royals would come. The Butchers defense figured out their coverage issues and were able to stop the Royals and the Porvoo offense regained its rhythm, scoring on Harris passes to McAllen for 28 yards and Marcus Siiskonen for 34 yards to end the half ahead at 40-13 and in control of the game.

Porvoo Butchers #3 Alvin Reels tackling Wasa Royals #4 Tommy Kaczocha Photo: Samppa Toivonen / APOLLO PHOTO

The second half saw the Royals come back and score on their first drive on a Gwinner pass to Thomas Kaczocha for 37 yards and with the extra point close the gap to 40-20. On the next drive, the Butchers responded culminating in a 38-yard field goal by ageless wonder Ville Kurvinen, who helped the Butchers by not only creating havoc from his defensive end spot but also in his kicking and playing receiver.

After Niko Roiko recovered a Gwinner fumble at the Royals 15-yard line Harris cashed in with his fifth TD pass to Siiskonen for a 15-yard score making the score 49-20 entering the 4th quarter. In the final quarter, both teams battled, and the Butchers were forced to put young players into game action due to injuries sustained in the game. Gwinner closed the Royals scoring with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Kaczocha with 2:35 left in the game to make the final 49-27.

Gwinner had four touchdown passes on 14-24 passing and one interception. However, the Butchers were able to sack him four times. Even so, he led the Royals in rushing as well with 11 carries for 55 yards. Kaczocha and Hochschild led the Royals in receiving with six catches for 108 yards and four grabs for 148 yards respectively. Victor Mänty and Niko Barrow led the Royals in tackles while Axel Arvila and Raymond Lima created pressure upfront.

For the Butchers, quarterback Jabari Harris completed 25 passes on 33 attempts for 412 yards and five touchdowns. In leading the team to 506 yards of total offense, he also had 15 carries for 39 yards. But the big difference was his ability to scramble and buy time to find his receivers downfield. One of those receivers, McAllen had eight receptions for 158 yards to go with his 82 yards rushing on 12 carries. Marcus Siiskonen added 7seven receptions for 112 yards and two touchdowns in a huge game coming back after being injured against the Roosters.

In all, Harris threw TD passes to four different receivers and completed passes to seven receivers spreading the wealth and distributing the ball around the field. Defensively, Alvin Reels Jr. led the team with six tackles including a sack. Niko Pennanen also added two sacks for 13 yards in the defensive effort. The Butchers defense also came up with two more turnovers while the offense had zero making their total for the year 14-6 for a +8-turnover margin on the season.

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