Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns advance to German Bowl for 7th straight time

The Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns advanced to the German Football League title game this past weekend beating the Potsdam Royals 28-18 in front of almost 2,500 cheering fans at Optima Sportpark in Schwäbisch Hall.

This is the ninth trip to the German Bowl for the Unicorns and seventh in a row. They have won the title four times.

In a game that saw most of the scoring in the first half, the Unicorns jumped out to an early 14-0 and then found themselves in a battle the rest of the way.

Schwäbisch Hall opened the scoring on their very first possession with running back John Santiago punching the ball in from four yards out to culminate a seven-play, 75-yard drive. Leading 7-0, the Unicorns struck again five minutes later after the defense held the Royals to five yards of offense. Quarterback Alexander Haupert connected with Tyler Rutenbeck for a 51-yard pass and run touchdown and with two minutes remaining in the first quarter, Schwäbisch Hall looked to be in control of the game.

That didn’t last long as Royals‘ speedy returner Abu Daramy Swaray gathered in the Unicorns kickoff at his own eight-yard line, found a seam, and raced 92 yards for a touchdown. Suddenly the game also took off.

One of the most pivotal sequences of the game then unfolded. The Potsdam defense bottled up the Unicorns on the next series, forcing them to punt from deep in their own zone. The Royals special teams blocked the punt and suddenly Potsdam found themselves with a first and down at the Unicorns one-yard line.

They could not capitalize. Nine plays and six penalties (including an unsportsmanlike conduct call) later, they turned the ball over on downs at the Unicorns 23. A golden opportunity had been wasted.

Schwäbisch Hall made them pay as Haupert marched his team from the 23 down to the Potsdam 17 yard line in six plays. Then he handed off to Mortiz Böhringer, filling in for an injured John Santiago, who rumbled in for the score, upping the lead to 21-6 and giving the Unicorns breathing room.

The Royals offense finally came to life midway through the second quarter with quarterback PJ Settles engineering an excellent drive, behind the hard running of the league’s leading rusher, Jake Mayon. On a fourth and one from the 50-yard line, Mayon burst through for a 46 yard gain. With the ball on the Unicorns four-yard line, Settles pushed into the end zone to narrow the lead to 21-12.

Neither team could gain any momentum after that and the first half ended with the Unicorns holding on to that nine-point lead.

Potsdam Royals RB Jake Mayon #34 battling Unicorns defenders Photo: Unicorns

The two teams traded punts to open the second half with Schwäbisch Hall without the services of Haupert who was injured on the last possession of the first half. Then his backup, Ian Gehrke moved the team to the 38-yard line. On a second and 20, Gehrke connected with wide receiver Yannick Mayr who took it 62 yards for a touchdown, increasing the lead to 28-12.

The Royals then went on a 13 play drive that was only 45 yards thanks in part to five penalties. They turned the ball over on downs at the Unicorns 30.

Still, they got another chance when the defense picked off Gehrke giving Potsdam the ball at their own 40. This time, Settles took advantage, engineering a 10 play, 60-yard drive, capping it with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Lukas Drache to pull his team closer, 28-18.

So with just under five minutes left in the game, the Schwäbisch Hall offense went to work, controlling the clock and getting first downs. Another Royals penalty, a pass interference call on an incomplete pass to Rutenbeck, also helped, keeping the drive alive. The Royals never saw the ball again and the Unicorns found themselves headed back to the championship game.

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