Rise of the Machines in Swedish semi-final as Stockholm blows out Uppsala 86ers

We live in an automated world. From the gadgets in our pockets to factory automation and the rise of artificial intelligence, recent history has shown that when it is man versus machine, bet on the machines. Appropriately, the same has long been true in the Swedish Superserien and the Stockholm Mean Machines proved the theory right again on Saturday, steamrolling the decidedly human Uppsala 86ers 41-6 in their semi-final matchup.

With a piston-like offensive attack, the Mean Machines dominated both the air and the ground on their way to 520 total yards. Leading the mechanical onslaught was import quarterback Tim Morovick, who seemed as methodical and unceasing as the Terminator as he threw for 379 yards, four touchdowns and ran for 44 more.

Despite two big plays from gamebreaker Alpha Jalloh to get them into scoring position, Stockholm initially sputtered out of the gate. Twice in a scoreless first quarter the Mean Machines came up short on a fourth down attempt in Uppsala territory and gave the winless 86ers the chance to flip the field on the back of the physical Oscar Nevermann. Pressing for the upset, Uppsala quarterback Viktor Ekberg underthrew his endzone toss to Nicholas Peterson and was picked off by Carl Henriksson, giving the Mean Machines the fuel injection they needed to take over the game.

Stockholm WR Ben von Jagow led all receivers with 148 yards receiving and 2 TDs Photo: Stefan Akander

Morovick immediately went to work, dropping the ball in to Ben Von Jagow for 27 yards, twice rifling it to Anton Blomgren for a first down, and finishing by finding a streaking Edvin Almeida Taborda for a 24 yard score. The Mean Machines fumbled the extra point attempt and Oscar Nevermann took the ensuing kickoff 43 yards into Stockholm territory, but it wouldn’t matter. Even after a punt pinned his team at their own seven yard line, Morovick threw a 38-yard back shoulder strike to Ben Von Jagow to relieve the pressure. On the next play, he escaped the pocket to find Pär Lindelöf for 21 yards and then went back to the Canadian poet Von Jagow for the 34-yard touchdown to cap an incredible three play, 93 yard drive. The Mean Machines almost scored again after Von Jagow made a diving catch on a 49-yard bomb with seven seconds remaining in the half, but Lindelöf fell down short on the next play and Morovick was smothered as time expired to keep it 13-0.

For Uppsala, there was to be no escaping from the rise of the Machines in the second half. This time, Stockholm did it on the ground. After Morovick called his own number to take the ball into 86ers territory, Alpha Jalloh did the rest. Taking the jet sweep right, the do-it-all receiver smashed into the brickwall of linebacker that is Joshua Akena but stayed upright, reversing field and leaving the entire Uppsala defense clutching at air as he took off for the 36-yard score. The Mean Machines went for two but the attempt fell incomplete to make it 19-0.

Uppsala finally responded two drives later. Trying to get anything going for his team, youngster Viktor Ekberg, who turns 20 next week, rolled to his right on fourth down and scared the defense with the prospect of his 265-pound frame coming at them full speed. That left Arvid Ek wide open in behind and he trotted in untouched for the easy 45-yard touchdown. Gustav Bowall sent the extra point wide but the underdog 86ers made it a two score ball game.

Stockholm WR Alpha Jalloh racing down the sideline Photo: Stefan Akander

That small victory seemed only to fuel their opponent’s fire. On the ensuing kickoff, Jalloh spun free of an Oscar Nevermann tackle and raced 79 yards down the sideline for a touchdown. A drive later, Morovick found Anton Blomgren free down the left side for a 42-yard touchdown strike. The Mean Machines connected on two point attempts both times to make it 35-6 at the end of the third quarter. The fourth debuted with more of the same as Edvin Almeida Taborda caught a quick slant to wrap up the scoring with a one-yard touchdown. Paul Seifert laid out to intercept Ekberg’s final attempt at generating offence for Uppsala and Stockholm ran out the clock with Adam Westin to win 41-6.

The Mean Machines offensive gears kept turning all game long, driven by an arsenal of versatile parts with which to engineer each drive. Canadian Ben Von Jagow was Morovick’s favourite target early, catching four passes for 148 yards and a touchdown in the first half, but all five Stockholm receivers got plenty of attention. Anton Blomgren had three receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown, Pär Lindelöf had three catches for 59 yards, and Edvin Almeida Taborda had four reception for 47 yards to go with his two scores. The multi-faceted Alpha Jalloh caught three passes of his own for 48 yards but also led the team in rushing with three carries for 50 yards and a touchdown, as well as his long kick return score. Adam Westin had six carries for 39 yards on the final drive.

Uppsala QB Viktor Ekberg getting tackled Photo: Stefan Akander

While the bionic offence made headlines, Stockholm’s defense was equally impressive. Uppsala quarterback Viktor Ekberg was held to just 12 of 33 passing for 91 yards, a touchdown and two picks. Oscar Nevermann easily led the team in yards from scrimmage with 11 carries for 51 yards. Pontus Westman led the Mean Machines with 7.5 tackles and two pass break-ups. Carl Henriksson and Paul Seifert had the interceptions, while Morgan Hjorth notched the game’s only sack.

Joshua Akena and Gustav Kierebinski each had five tackles for the 86ers in the loss. Corner Maximillian Garcia-Persson broke up two passes, but was victimized on three Stockholm touchdowns to mark a rough night for his import-less defense.

The Mean Machines robotic march to the Swedish final now awaits the winner of Sunday’s matchup between Carlstad and Örebro. Stockholm showed their dominance in stamping out the young 86ers but they’ll need to be well-oiled to take home the crown.

J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.