For the fifth year in a row and seventh time since 2011, the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns, Europe #1, have advanced to the German Football League semifinal round with a solid 37-14 win over the Cologne Crocodiles at Optima Sportpark in Schwäbisch Hall, Germany.
Behind the brilliant pass catching of wide receiver Tyler Rutenbeck, who had 195 yards receiving, while scoring two touchdowns, the Unicorns built up a 24-0 fourth quarter lead and then cruised to the victory.
Unicorns quarterback Marco Ehrenfried was superb completing 16 of 28 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns with Rutenbeck his main target. Wide receiver Christian Hafels added another 46 yards and a touchdown while Nathanial Robitaille had a relatively quiet day with only one reception for 44 yards. Running back CJ Okpalobi had nine carries for 60 yards and a touchdown as well. Linebacker David Döpfner also scored, lining up as a tight end and catching a six yard scoring pass from Ehrenfried.
For Cologne, quarterback Bradley Strauss threw for 121 yards before giving way to Jan Weinreich late in the third quarter. Weinreich added another 107 yards passing, engineering the lone touchdown scored by the Cologne offense with just over a minute left in the game. Wide receiver Ramin Aklaghi hauled in 10 passes for 115 yards while running back Dean Tanwani scored on a three yard plunge. The only other scoring from the Crocodiles came from defensive back Michael Muntu who picked up a blocked punt and rambled 21 yards for a touchdown.
The Unicorns struck on the second possession of the game with Rutenbeck getting behind the Cologne secondary on a first down play and racing 82 yards to open the scoring.
That was the only scoring of the first half until Schwäbisch Hall kicker Tim Stadelmyr split the uprights with no time left in the first half to cap a 16 play, 66 yard drive and give the Unicorns a 10-0 lead.
Rutenbeck scored his second touchdown midway through the third quarter, again punishing the Cologne secondary with a long gain, this time a 58 yard touchdown reception, upping the score to 17-0.
With the Crocodiles unable to move the ball effectively and Weinreich in the game, Unicorns defensive back Christian Köppe hauled in an interception early in the fourth and Schwabisch Hall capitalized. Ehrenfried engineered an eight play, 44 yard drive, finishing it with a 10 yard touchdown pass to Hafels giving the Unicorns a 24-0 lead with six minutes left.
Cologne finally found the end zone on Muntu’s touchdown on the blocked punt to reduce the lead to 24-6. But the Unicorns scored two touchdowns in the space of less than a minute to put the game away. First Okpalobi scored on a 44 yard run and then a Shayeen Edwards fumble on his own five yard line gave the Unicorns the ball again and they made no mistake. Döpfner scored on the next play and with three minutes left the score was 37-6.
The Crocodiles offense finally found the end zone as Weinreich drove the Crocodiles 89 yards in five plays with Tanwani scoring from three yards out with just over a minute left.
With the win, Schwäbisch Hall advances to the semifinals where they will face the Dresden Monarchs who downed the Allgäu Comets 51-19.