The Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns stunned the European football world Saturday night, blocking a last second field goal attempt to defeat the powerful Braunschweig New Yorker Lions 14-13 at Berlin’s Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Sportpark and win German Bowl XXXIX.
Despite gaining only 9 first downs to the Lions 24, Schwäbisch Hall relied on a bend-don’t-break defense and miscues on the part of the Lions to edge the defending champions and win their third German title and first since 2012.
Talk about getting a monkey off their backs.
The Unicorns broke Braunschweig’s four year winning streak in the German championship game , the last three against them.
Unicorns quarterback Marco Ehrenfried threw for 198 yards and two touchdowns, one to Nathaniel Robitaille and the other to Tyler Rutenbeck.
New Yorker running back David McCants rushed for 151 yards and two touchdowns and quarterback Casey Therriault completed 14 of 24 passes for only 153 yards as the Schwäbisch Hall secondary kept him in check. Otherwise reliable kicker Tobias Goebel had a rough night missing one field goal attempt and having two others blocked, the last one with seconds left in the game.
Braunschweig opened the scoring in typical fashion, after defensive back Tim Unger picked off an errant Ehrenfried pass.at the Unicorns 44 yard line. Therriault marched his team on a textbook 10 play, 44 yard drive, handing off to McCants for a four yard touchdown plunge to cap it and take a 7-0 lead.
Ehrenfried then answered with his own 58 yard drive, throwing a 16 yard touchdown pass to Robitaille to even the score at 7-7 late in the first quarter.
The Lions came right back, mounting a beautiful nine play 57 yard drive which saw not one pass thrown as McCants rushed seven times for 36 yards and Therriault twice for 21 with McCants scoring from two yards out to give Braunschweig a 13-7 lead. Christian Bollmann missed the extra point.
That was all the scoring in the first half as defenses took over. Despite reaching the Unicorns 24 yard line and eight yard line, the Lions could not find the end zone.
The Schwäbisch Hall defense played superbly in the third quarter keeping the potent Lions offense at bay. An Ehrenfried fumble on his own 29 yard line looked fateful midway through the quarter but the defense held on a fourth and one at the 20 and Ehrenfried atoned with a 70 yard touchdown pass to Rutenbeck to give the Unicorns a 14-13 they would not relinquish.
The Lions reached deep into Schwäbisch Hall territory three more times and all three times the Unicorns defense thwarted them. A McCants fumble on the two yard line ended one and the final 72 yard drive ended with Devin Benton blocking an otherwise certain game-winning field goal attempt to end the game.
It may not have been the prettiest German Bowl victory but it certainly was among the most entertaining.