Prague Black Panthers Capture Czech Title Amid Huge Controversy

The Prague Black Panthers have won Czech Bowl XXIII defeating crosstown rivals the Prague Lions 10-9 in a brilliant defensive battle which unfortunately was marred by a highly controversial referees’ call which decided the outcome.

This is the 15th championship win for the Black Panthers in the 23 year history of the league and the fourth in a row. But it did not come easily and and it did not come without a cost.

Playing without imports, and without their head coach Jim Ward, the Black Panthers struggled on offense and could not score a touchdown. Their only touchdown came from the defense as defensive back Jan Kabát picked off Lions quarterback Matt Silva in the second quarter and returned the interception 30 yards for a touchdown.

The Lions had scored a few moments earlier when Silva connected with Lukáš Růžek on a 66 yard pass.

The only other team scoring came from the toe of Black Panthers kicker Marek Hruboň who booted a 34 yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter to give the Black Panthers a 10-7 lead.

Which leads to all the controversy. With less than 20 seconds remaining, the Black Panthers were trapped deep in their own territory and elected to concede a safety which meant giving up two points and kicking off to the Lions, still leading 10-9.

So with two seconds on the clock, the Lions had time for one play from their own 41 yard line. Silva heaved a hail mary pass which was picked off by arguably the best player in the country over the past decade and the national team quarterback, Jan Dundáček of the Black Panthers. Catching the ball heading towards the end zone at his own 10 yard line his momentum carried him into the end zone where he was tackled. The Lions players immediately called for a safety.

After several minutes of discussion, the officials waved off the safety instead calling it a touchback which ended the game with a Black Panthers one point victory.

The Lions players were enraged. To them it was a clear safety. But the NCAA (NCAA rules apply for the league) momentum rule is a little vague in this situation.

Here is the basic momentum rule:

When a Team B player intercepts a forward pass, fumble, or backward pass or catches a scrimmage or free kick between his five yard line and the goal line and the runner’s original momentum carries him into the end zone where the ball is declared dead in his team’s possession, the ball belongs to Team B at the spot where the pass or fumble was intercepted or the kick was caught.

In this situation, with no time left, it would end the game. However, Dundáček was about seven yards out, not five. So the referees had to decide if his momentum carried him into the end zone. They decided it was a case of momentum and awarded a touchback ending the game with a win for the Black Panthers.

The decision ignited a firestorm of criticism worldwide. The fallout has been swift as two of the officials including the back judge, resigned. And the story has gone viral with NFL officials weighing in as well as the NFL itself.

However, the bigger question is why did he catch the ball in the first place? Incomplete pass and the game is over.

The Prague Lions had an outstanding season without question. And the Black Panthers had to overcome a season which was for them mediocre, just to qualify for the final let alone win it.

It’s too bad that a championship title will forever be tainted by this kind of controversy.



Roger Kelly is an editor and a writer for AFI. A former PR Director the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League for 7 years, he now lives in Sweden writing about and scouting American Football throughout the world.