Rhein Fire defeat Stuttgart Surge in high-scoring Championship Game to cap Perfect Season

The Rhein Fire capped a perfect season on Sunday, defeating the Stuttgart Surge 53-34 in the 2023 European League of Football championship game.

Stuttgart received the opening kickoff and made the most of their first drive, marching down the field and finishing the drive with a touchdown pass from quarterback Reilly Hennessey to receiver Louis Geyer, though the extra point was no good.  After the teams traded punts, the Fire responded with a 30 yard touchdown strike from quarterback Jadrian Clark to receiver Nathaniel Robitaille.  

The Fire found the end zone again early in the second quarter when Clark found Harlan Kwofie for a touchdown.  Their defense would step up soon after, as they forced a Surge incomplete pass on 4th down at midfield on the ensuing possession.  Clark then hit Florian Eichhorn for a 3 yard touchdown to extend the lead to 21-6.  But the Surge would fight back, as their next drive finished with a rushing touchdown from Kai Hunter.  The Stuttgart defenses made a big play of their own on their next drive, as Goran Zec intercepted a deep pass attempt from Clark and returned it into opposing territory.  Hennessey then found Paul Stiegerwald for a touchdown, and the two-point conversion cut the lead to 21-20 with just under a minute left in the first half.  But the Fire offense managed to get into field goal range, and Sebastian van Santen drilled a kick to give his team a 24-20 lead at the break.

Photo: Jonas Wicker

In the third quarter, the Fire struck quickly as they moved down the field and found the end zone with a Sergej Kendus rushing touchdown.  On the next Surge drive, chaos ensued on the second play of the possession.  Hennessey found Yannick Mayr streaking down the field, and it looked like the receiver would cruise into the end zone for a long touchdown reception.  But at the last second, Fire defensive back Soufyan Dardour, who only joined the team in August, punched the ball out of Mayr’s hands just before he reached the end zone.  The Fire jumped on the ball in the end zone, resulting in a touchback.  This was a huge moment in the game, as a Surge touchdown would have given them the lead.  

The Fire offense proceeded to march down the field and added three points with a van Santen field goal.  However, Stuttgart quickly responded, as Hennessey connected with Darrell Stewart Jr. on a deep shot to cut into the deficit going into the fourth quarter.

In the final frame, the Fire extended their lead with another touchdown connection between Clark and Kwofie. Stuttgart got the ball back and put together a decent drive, but on fourth down in Fire territory, Hennessey’s pass fell incomplete.  The Fire then added yet another touchdown, as Clark found running back Glen Toonga for a 36 yard score which extended their lead to 46-28, and effectively put the game out of reach.  The teams traded touchdowns in the dying minutes, and the Fire emerged victorious when the clock hit zero.

Photo: European League of Football

This was a fun championship game between two great teams.  With nearly 87 points, 939 offensive yards, and multiple turnovers, the thousands of fans in attendance were treated to an exciting battle.  The game was supposedly a neutral-site game, but the chosen site was Schauinsland-Reisen-Arena, which is where the Fire play their home games.  For the Fire, their undefeated season has been completed with a championship in their home stadium.  The Surge fought valiantly in defeat, and their incredible turnaround from 0-12 last season to a championship game appearance this season is truly remarkable.  

A current student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Carter played football in high school and has been a lifelong avid football fan.