Porvoo Butchers rebound with impressive win over Seinäjoki Crocodiles

Seven was a significant number in Porvoo this past Saturday.

Seven Days; That’s what it took for the Porvoo Butchers to turn around a devastating 51-0 loss to league leaders, the Kuopio Steelers, and turn that frustration around in an impressive 47-14 shellacking of the Seinäjoki Crocodiles. Seven weeks; The Butchers (4-3) playing at home for the first time since July 1st gave the hometown fans something to cheer about from the opening drive when the defense stopped the Crocodiles (3-4) on a three and out. Seven points; the offense produced for the first time since the Royals game when the offense roared to an 11 play 76-yard drive topped off on a 22-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jabari Harris to Marcus Siiskonen who fought his way into the end zone.  Newcomer Ilhari Ikäheimo kicked the extra point for the 7-0 lead.

The Butchers continued their Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde imitation looking like a very different team from that which traveled to Kuopio last week. The defense came to life to stop former Colorado Buffalo running back Christian Powell and the Crocodiles offense while their own offense rolled both on the ground and through the air in a very balanced attack. After coming up with only 61 yards last week, the Butchers would end the day with 500 total yards of offense, 260 through the air and 240 on the ground.  Meanwhile, the besieged special teams recovered and made big plays.

On the Crocodiles’ second possession, the Butchers forced them to punt and then put together another TD drive going 49 yards in 8 plays. Harris connected with Mikko Seppänen on a 22-yard post route for the score.  Ikäheimo once again booted the extra point for a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter. To their credit, the Crocodiles fought back. This was a game that would determine 3rd place in the league and establish playoff seeding. Neither team relished a long bus trip across the country to Kuopio. Playing short-handed on offense after having all three quarterbacks on their roster hurt this season with knee injuries, the Crocs turned to versatile and multi-talented Nathaniel Robitaille to lead the offense. Using both his legs and his arm and the talents of Powell, Robitaille managed two key drives in the second quarter. The first one was a 10 play, 68-yarder where the Crocodiles found themselves with 1st and goal from the 2-yard line and it seemed were ready to show why they deserved the number 3 seed. However, the Butchers with their backs against the wall stopped Powell on two successive running plays. Robitaille then tried throwing the ball to former BC Lions receiver Benjamin Plu but both fell incomplete and the Butchers held on a crucial goal-line stand. In the shadow of their own goalposts Harris again hit Seppänen for a 16-yard gain and some breathing room. The drive continued until a snap exchange on a 3rd and 1 was fumbled and former Indiana State Defensive end Filip Zacok recovered the ball for the Crocs. Once again Robitaille and Powel went to work and marched down to the red zone finding themselves with another 1st and goal, this time from the Butchers 4-yard line. After an incomplete pass to Plu, the Crocodiles tried to get Powell free on the outside, but Detroit native Alvin Reels Jr. had other plans, tackling Powell for a 2-yard loss. Robitaille then seemed to connect with receivers in the end zone on both 3rd and 4th down pass attempts but both times the ball was stripped away by the Porvoo DB’s and the ball came out lying in the end zone for incompletions and two successive goal-line stands.

The Butchers again created space when backed up as Sean McAllen burst out on a 35-yard scamper. However, time ran out as the first half ended and the Butchers were relieved to maintain their 14-0 lead.

Halftime became a dramatic and extended affair because as the half ended a thunderstorm hit and the skies opened, absolutely drenching the field and creating a 50-minute delay in the game. The sun came out and play resumed but the grass was still saturated, and footing became an issue. As players slid and landed in puddles of water, the Butchers took advantage of the conditions and threw deep to Canadian receiver Brandon Ihanza from St. Marys University for a 54-yard reception. Harris then capped the 3 play, 69-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown run. Ikäheimo’s kick was good, and the Butchers were up 21-0.

Powell decided that enough was enough though, and on 1st down pierced the Butchers‘ defense on a 70-yard TD run, showing the big play explosiveness that the Crocs still possessed, and after Janne Särkelä’s kick they had cut the deficit to 21-7. McAllen and Harris responded for the Butchers, teaming up on runs and passes including a 60-yard Harris run up the middle for another score. This time the kick was blocked making the score 27-7.

Seinäjoki’s next drive started well but LB Reels Jr. dropped Powell for an 8-yard loss. Feeling the game possibly slipping away Seinajoki decided to go for it on 4th and 19 from their own 41-yard line.  However, DE Ville Kurvinen tackled Särkelä for a 10-yard loss. Harris and the Butchers pounced on the momentum shift and the Worchester Polytechnic Institute alum, Sean McAllen, ran three consecutive times for 19, 10, and finally 2-yards and a TD.  A bad snap forced Ikäheimo to try and run in the extra point, but the crocs stopped him on the 1-yard line. Still the Butchers had extended the score to 33-7.

After another three-and-out possession by the Crocs, Harris again went deep, this time to Ihanza for a 40-yard TD reception. This time the kick was good making the score 40-7 going into the 4th quarter. The Butchers began to get backups in the game and get younger players some badly needed reps. After again stopping the Seinäjoki offense deep in their own territory and forcing a punt, The Butchers started a drive on the Crocs 45-yard line. After losing yards on 4th and 11 Porvoo was forced to punt, and Seppänen came up with a 16-yard run to keep the drive alive. A few plays later the play of the day occurred when Harris found 15-year-old receiver, Luukas Eerola in the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown.

Eerola had been Harris’s biggest fan when he first arrived in Finland with the Butchers in 2013, even having his photo taken with his favorite QB when he was seven years old. Harris being able to deliver to the young player on a touchdown in his first Maple league game was purely magical. The entire Butchers team mobbed Eerola in the end zone. Harris commented that, “Coach Nendel and I had talked about getting the ball to him this week if we could, and that was a total Disney moment for me, getting him a touchdown!”

With the catch, Eerola became the youngest player this season to score in a Maple League game. Ikäheimo made the score 47-7 with his kick.

The Crocodiles would score one more time as Robitaille came into his own passing the ball and made some great connections including a 27-yard TD to Veikka Lehtonen. Särkelä’s kick put the final tally at 47-14. For the Crocodiles, Powell led the way with 175 yards on 21 carries and 1 TD. Robitaille struggled until the end passing only completing 4 passes for 19 yards for 46 yards and 1 TD. He did have many passes which were on target but knocked away by defenders or stripped from receivers’ hands. He also added 57 yards on 5 carries. Defensively, Jaska Värinen led the way with 8.5 tackles.

For the Butchers, McAllen led the team with 119 yards rushing on 19 carries and a TD. He also had 3 receptions for 8 yards. Harris was 16-25 for 260 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. He also added 104 yards rushing on 11 carries. He distributed the ball to seven different receivers led by Ihanza who had 3 catches for 110 yards and a TD and Seppänen who had 3 for 46 yards and a TD.  Defensively, Timi Nuikka, Alvin Reels Jr. and Ville Kurvinen led the way, along with Toni Nystrom who had two important pass breakups.

Both teams have one more game left in the regular season before advancing into the playoffs, Seinäjoki will play the Roosters next week while the Butchers play host to United Newland Crusaders.

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