Potsdam Royals snatch victory from jaws of defeat in last minute win over Cologne Crocodiles

The Potsdam Royals (7-1) found themselves battling from behind for pretty much the entire game against the hometown Cologne Crocodiles (4-4) Saturday in a key German Football League matchup, before scoring with less than two minutes remaining to escape Cologne with a 27-26 victory.

Royals running back Jake Mayon, who was having another monster game rushing for 194 yards and two touchdowns, leaped into the end zone for the winning score with 1:20 on the clock.

With only a pair of games left in the regular season and the playoff race heating up, the win was crucial for Potsdam allowing them to keep pace with the Dresden Monarchs who sit first in the GFL North

The game did not start well for the Royals, who have otherwise shown throughout the season what a dominant team they are. But if they have one weakness, it is against passing teams – despite having one of the better pass defenses in the league. And with Cologne’s Canadian quarterback Christian Strong (#11) leading one of the best passing offenses in the league, the Crocodiles shot ahead early. The first touchdown came via a 30-yard post route to the deep-field threat Aaron Jackson (#4).

The quarterbacking carousel in Potsdam continued in this game as well as Geovanni Rescigno (#15) seemed to take the majority of snaps in the first half. Despite his passing pedigree, he was unable to move the ball consistently through the air against the Cologne defense. But the league’s leading rusher, Jake Mayon (#34) was, and it would be he who evened the score in the second quarter on a 40-yard rush.

Potsdam WR Michael Breuler scoring late TD Photo: Hans Kaestle

It didn’t take long though before the deadly arm of Strong put the Royals on the backfoot. The first score was on a 60-yard touchdown by Jackson on a go-route as he continued to create separation between himself and the Potsdam secondary. The second may have been capped by a 10-yard touchdown on a draw from running back Dean Tanwani (#27) but it was set up by some precision route running from Markell Castle (#2).

By the halfway point of the game, it looked like there was an upset in the works in Cologne as the Crocs went into the break leading by two scores. However, PJ Settles entered the game at quarterback for the Royals in the second half and together with Rescigno mounted a second-half Potsdam comeback.

The half started with an awkward-looking, but ultimately effective, 10-yard chip-shot onside kick. Potsdam recovered with relative ease as the Cologne return team was caught off guard. The Royals went immediately to work with Settles and Mayon leading the way. The RPO game seemed effective initially but the drive stalled once the Royals got into Cologne territory.

Their first score of the second half however would come from neither Mayon nor Settles. It would come defensively from newly arrived big-man Kristjan Sokoli (#74). OJ Thompson came screaming off the edge and hit Strong mid-throw, sending the ball up into the air and into the waiting arms of Sokoli who ran the 60 yards into the endzone himself.

Just like that, it was a one-score game.

Cologne had other plans though as running back Dean Tanwani broke off what looked to be a 55-yard TD run, bouncing off defenders. One of those defenders was defensive back Adehkeem Brown (#5) who chased him down to the five-yard line, uppercutting the ball in the process. The ball flew out of the back of the end zone for a touchback. Tanwani would redeem himself on the next Cologne drive, however, punching the ball in for six from the five after a penalty-ridden drive.

The fourth quarter belonged to the Royals however as Roscigno was finally let loose, showing what made him such a threat in Italy earlier in the year. On 2nd and 14, the Italian-American launched a 65-yard touchdown bomb to Michael Breuler (#17) to bring the Royals back to within one score.

Cologne Crocodiles RB Dean Tanwani Photo: Hans Kaestle

After a pair of negligible possessions from both sides, disaster struck from Tanwani again as his fumbling woes continued – this time from Cologne’s 46-yard line. This was all the room Mayon needed to single-handedly consume the yards himself; zigzagging between defenders to go in for the score that would take the Royals up 27-26 with 1:20 to go in the fourth quarter. 

Cologne were unable to move the ball the following drive and cemented a heartbreaking defeat at home.

Cologne has shown they can hang with the best of them, but finishing games off is now surely becoming a concern.

With only two games left to play and one of those games against the Dresden Monarchs, the team that handed Potsdam their only loss of the season so far, the Royals will be licking their chops at the chance to have another go at the first place Monarchs. Not only will a win atone for that lone loss but it will likely decide who will finish first in the GFL North.

Daniel Mackenzie is a Press Association graduate who works in journalism and communications in the third sector. Daniel began playing football for the London Warriors and Team Great Britain and has since played across Europe.