Russian American Football Finals Set; Moscow & Astrakhan Advance to Title Game

Patriots escape with a fourth-quarter comeback; Astrakhan dominates at home in Russian semifinals.


The first game of the night was widely expected to be the most exciting game of the playoffs so far and it didn’t disappoint. The Moscow Patriots were pushed to the limit by the St. Petersburg Griffins but found a way to win 27-26. Although the Moscow squad was considered the heavy favorite, the Griffins came into this game on fire and delivered the second thriller in a row for their home fans.

Moscow Patriots hold off St. Petersburg Griffins

As in their previous game, the Griffins started the game with a complicated blitz-heavy package, but the Patriots adopted a similar game plan, so neither team’s offense was able to get into any kind of rhythm. With both defensive lines dominating in the trenches, neither running game could produce much yardage and both teams had to turn to their aerial attacks, which were also hindered by a light rain.

However, St. Petersburg found a way out of this slump first, as their quarterback Viktor Smolensky was able to connect on several deep throws to score the first touchdown of the game and (combined with a defensive safety earlier) put his team up 9-0. Towards the end of the half, however, the Patriots were also able to find several weak zones in their opponent’s pass defense, as both teams managed to score again. The teams went to the locker room with the Griffins leading 19-7 to the surprise of many.

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The teams kept up with this strategy after the break with some mixed results, as the Patriots cornerback Viktor But intercepted a tipped ball and returned it for a score. But the Griffins managed to score more as they entered the fourth quarter leading 26-13.

As the rain was getting heavier, however, their passing game stopped clicking a in the crucial moment, while the more experienced Patriots kept up with it and were able to execute, scoring a go-ahead touchdown within the 2-minute warning to go up 27-26. The Griffins had enough time for another drive and even managed to get into the opponents half of the field, before the same Viktor But intercepted another ball to seal the win and become the MVP of the game. The final result didn’t come before the underdog Griffins came much closer to pulling off an upset than anyone expected.

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 Astrakhan Gladiators dominate Nizhny Novgorod Raiders

The second semifinal game was the opposite of the first one in many ways. The host Astrakhan Gladiators took control on the very first play of the game, returning an opening kickoff for a score, and never looked back running away with the game 58-8. Furthermore, the Nizhny Novgorod Raiders 52  came into the game with a depleted roster, losing three more players to injuries during the game. The Gladiators then took advantage of their physicality and decided to rely on their heavy-pounding inside running game that the Raiders 52 couldn’t control. Their only score came in the second period, with a deep pass to wide receiver Alexander Danilenkov, but they never really threatened as the half-time score was 28-8.

The second half saw the hosts completely in control of the game, as they physically wore down the visitors with a very short bench. They easily cruised to a victory and managed to avoid any injuries, looking forward to the Final at the peak of their form.

After being involved in bringing American football to his hometown of St. Petersburg, Russia, Ilya would go on to play in the Japanese X-League, helping his side Tokyo Bullseyes advance all the way to the top tier of the league and become the only