Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns down Frankfurt Universe in thriller, repeat as German Bowl champions

The Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns defended their German Football League title in a thrilling come-from-behind, edge-of-your-seat 21-19 victory over the Frankfurt Universe in German Bowl XL at Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Sportpark in Berlin.

With a crowd of 15,213 on hand and a worldwide viewing audience, the Unicorns found themselves trailing 13-0 early on and 13-7 heading into the final quarter before staging a dramatic fourth quarter comeback. And they still needed a missed field goal with seconds remaining to seal the win.

In fact the kicking game was crucial. Young Universe kicker Marius Duis will be having sleepless nights after this one. Last week, he was the hero as his kicking sent Frankfurt to the final. This week, he missed three field goals, all within comfortable range, the last one a 33 yarder for the game with four seconds on the clock (shades of 2017), and had a PAT blocked.

Photo: Sidelineview.de

Unicorns quarterback Marco Ehrenfried was efficient and threw for 146 yards and two touchdowns with Tyler Rutenbeck catching two for 60 yards and a touchdown and Nathaniel Robitaille hauling in three for 36 yards and the other passing touchdown. The only other Unicorns touchdown came from linebacker Nikolas Knoblauch who scored on a fumble return late in the game.

For Frankfurt, quarterback Andrew Elffers was outstanding in a losing cause completing 33 of 53 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Andreas Betza scored on a 11 yard run as well while Duis made good on the extra point.

The Universe came out and established their offense on the very first series, as Elffers drove his team from their own 25 yard line down to the Schwabisch Hall 11 yard line. Betza took the hand off and bulled his way into the end zone to give Frankfurt a 6-0 lead.

Frankfurt defensive back Kweishi Brown then picked off an Ehrenfried pass at his own 39 yard line and Elffers went back to work. He marched Frankfurt on a seven play, 67 yard drive, capping it with a 13 yard touchdown pass to Sebastian Sagne to give the Universe a 13-0 lead with over four minutes still left on the clock in the first quarter.

Then Ehrenfried found Rutenbeck early in the second quarter, hitting him on a 42 yard touchdown pass to close the gap to 13-7 with only a minute gone in the quarter.

The rest of the second quarter saw a defensive standoff however as neither team can gain any momentum.

Frankfurt took control of the third quarter as the defense stuffed the Unicorns on two big drives, once halting them at the Universe 33 yard line and then on their own 29. In between, Elffers moved his offense down to the Unicorns 21 yard line and then to the one. That’s when the kicking woes of Duis became a factor. He missed wide right on both kicks and Frankfurt, despite a decided edge on offense, went into the fourth quarter, still only up by six points.

Photo: Sidelineview.de

Finally, the Schwäbisch Hall offense found its rhythm as Ehrenfried opened the final period with a monster, 14 play, 80 yard drive, helped by three huge Frankfurt penalties. Robitaille then pulled in a two yard pass for the touchdown and the Unicorns took the lead for the first time, 14-13.

The next possession was crucial as Elffers, after manuevering his team down to the Unicorns 39 yard line, was sacked and coughed up the ball. Knoblauch scooped it up and raced 42 yards for the touchdown.

With just under six minutes left, Schwäbisch Hall held a 21-13 lead.

Both defenses stiffened and then the Universe took the ball over with just over two minutes left at their own 41 yard line. Five plays later, Elffers hit Thomas on a 12 yard touchdown strike and the Universe crept to 21-19 following a failed two-point attempt.

Which led to the final dramatics.

On the ensuing, and expected, onside kick attempt, Unicorns receiver Joshua Haas fumbled the ball and Brown pounced on it giving Frankfurt another chance with a minute and a half to go.

Elffers took his team down to the 15 yard line with four seconds left. Duis missed wide left and the Schwäbisch Hall celebrations erupted.

This was the second straight German title for the Unicorns and their fourth overall.

Watch the replay here.

Photos: Sidelineview.de

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