Moscow Patriots and St. Petersburg Griffins Win in the Russia Semifinals

The St. Petersburg Griffins and defending champion Moscow Patriots will face each other again in the Russian championship final.

St. Petersburg Griffins 35 – Moscow Spartans 21

The first semifinal game saw the Griffins host one of the surprise teams of the season in the Moscow Spartans, who were not just able to make it to the semifinals stage during their first year in the Russian Championship, but also managed to put up quite a fight in this game where they were viewed as heavy underdogs.

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The unpredictability of their offense lead by the scrambling quarterback Ivan Goloveshkin was among the major reason for that. He opened up the score with a delayed scramble down the middle to catch the Griffins defense off-guard, only to add another touchdown through the air once the hosts were forced to deliberately spy on him. However, the Griffins managed to keep up the pace with their own offense, with a touchdown coming from each of their biggest offensive workhorses in running back Igor Dementyev and tight end Andrey Ivanov, before the teams left for the halftime with two scores apiece.

In the second half, however, the Griffins added some defensive speed in their outside containment with substitutions, and seemed to have figured out the way to slow down the Spartans – only to see their offense lose a fumble to concede an offensive touchdown and have the game tied at 21 in the third quarter. It was then that one of their veterans wide receiver Vladimir Kazakov started his field day of three touchdowns (one receiving and two rushing), and ultimately led the team to victory by two scores, while Moscow was prevented from gaining another first down in the last quarter.

Even though the result was predictable, the game proved to be much closer and more exciting than it was anticipated, and was ultimately a great result for the Spartans who left the game with smiles and a bright future to look forward to.

Moscow Patriots 24 – Podolsk Knights 0

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The other semifinal pitched the most successful team in Russia, the Moscow Patriots against another surprise team on the season and the winners of Volga Division, the Podolsk Knights.

The powerhouse of Russian American football from Moscow showed no signs of either aging or slowing down in the game, where they methodically dismantled the Knights in all phases. Quarterback Igor Chernolutsky successfully managed the game with his accurate short and medium passes that kept their drives alive even in the absence of his number one target (and the Championship scoring leader) wide receiver Alexander Knokhlov while their triple-headed running back stable allowed them to dominate the time of possession. And even though the Patriots offense had only two touchdowns to show for their effort, they did just what they were supposed to and never allowed the Knights to get close in the contest.

On the other side of the ball, the Podolsk running back Artyom Zelensky just couldn’t find room against the veteran front seven of the Patriots, who finally had all of their starters playing at full strength. In the meantime, their number one receiver Sergey Yakushev went down with an injury which also slowed down their passing game. Nevertheless, an stellar effort by their athletic linemen on both sides kept them in the game game for most of the contest and never allowed Moscow to make it as easy as they would’ve liked.

So the Final matchup is set between the Griffins and the Patriots on September 6, and will surely be a game to watch as the teams have split their regular season meetings.

Ilya Kravtsov
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 non-corporate team in X-1. He's currently the defensive coordinator of St. Petersburg Griffins, as well as the head coach of St. Petersburg Valkyries.
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