Second half surge puts Mallorca Voltors past Zaragoza as racism allegations sour Spanish return

After a long holiday break, the Spanish season resumed Sunday with plenty of rust to shake-off. With three other games canceled this weekend due to Spain’s record blizzard and COVID concerns, the Zaragoza Hurricanes made the boat trip to meet the Mallorca Voltors in the lone contest to kick off as schedule. The result was a 35-13 loss for the visitors that had more fireworks off the field than on it, ending with a heated exchange between the two teams and accusations of racial slurs being used by the Hurricanes.

The game got off to an inauspicious start when Mallorca center Leonidas Suarez sent a bad snap sailing over the head of quarterback Tanner Young for big loss on the game’s first offensive snap. The Voltors couldn’t recover the lost yardage, but their defense held firm on the next drive. It wouldn’t stop the early comedy of errors however, as Mallorca returners Josh Alaeze and Marcos Molina del Campo collided while trying to field the punt and Manuel Soto jumped on the ball in the endzone to put Zaragoza up 7-0 to start the game.

The Voltors produced a 32-yard Adrian Alvarez field goal in response, but the two offenses would flounder for much of the first with both sides committing turnovers in the opposing redzone. It wasn’t until the final play of the second quarter that Mallorca broke through, when Young found college teammate Jaylon Hibbs 30-yards down the sideline and the electric receiver kept his feet in for the go-ahead score. The Voltors fumbled the extra-point attempt but secured a 9-7 lead  at halftime that would not be relinquished.

Mallorca Voltors WR Jaylon Hibbs scored 3 TDs against Zaragoza Hurricanes Photo: Oscar Quetglas Navarro.

The second half began as ominously for the Hurricanes as the first had for for Mallorca. The two Zaragoza returners collided on the opening kickoff and while they recovered the football, the pocket collapsed on quarterback Dustin Hawke Willingham two plays later, allowing Benito Daviu Canellas to rip the ball from his hands in the redzone. The Young to Hibbs connection quickly took advantage with the quarterback easily finding his friend on the ten-yard slant to expand the lead.

Mallorca couldn’t connect on the two point attempt and Zaragoza initially looked to gain back some momentum when running back Denzel Duchenne found the edge for a 79-yard touchdown run. The play was called back for holding however, and an ensuing bad punt set the Voltors up at their opponent’s 23-yard line. Jaylon Hibbs wasted no time in completing his hat trick, following his blocks on a short screen and bouncing off contact for a 17-yard score to make it 22-7.

The home team wasn’t finished yet and a dropped snap on the Hurricanes next punt attempt once again provided the Voltors with prime field position. Piti Mir Moreno punched it in from four yards out to begin the fourth quarter and Young hit a streaking Josh Richter in behind coverage for a 29-yard touchdown a drive later to put his team up 35-7.

The Hurricanes refused to go down easily but the result was assured. Duchenne had another 85-yard touchdown called back for an illegal block on the kickoff but it was receiver Alberto Callen who finally put offensive points on the board, catching a 26-yard Willingham pass at the front pylon to shorten the deficit to three scores.

After Francisco Olivas sealed a game that was already decided with a Mallorca interception, the two teams exchanged pleasantries and a visibly distraught Josh Alaeze had to be dragged away from the confrontation by teammates as equally heated British linebacker Kadel King came to his defense. After the game, Voltors coach Andres Gelabert said reports of racial slurs directed at his players were properly handled by officials and would be sent to the Spanish Federation of American Football for appropriate disciplinary actions.

Quarterback Tanner Young echoed his coach’s sentiments:

“We don’t feel as an organization, and me personally as a player, that there is any place for that in this game. I understand in the moment things get heated during competition but there is no reason to say those types of things. We play this game and make the journey over here to play and teach others what the game has taught us and show them how it can bring people together of every race or religion. I do not think the Federation or the teams condone such activity and hope that this is not a problem moving forward.”

Mallorca Voltors LB hauling down Zaragoza Hurricanes ball carrier Photo: Oscar Quetglas Navarro

The end-game incidents overshadowed a stellar second half from the Mallorca offense. Young was an impressive 28 of 43 passing for 293 yards, four touchdowns and one garbage time interception. Hibbs hauled in three of those scores, making 10 catches for 113 yards. Benito Daviu Canellas led the defense with two sacks and Josh Alaeze knocked down four passes as the Hurricanes offense fell flat out of the gate.

Dustin Hawke Willingham was just 12 of 39 for 153 yards passing, one touchdown and one pick, but the biggest factor in the defeat was the bottling up of Denzel Duchenne. The speedster from Suriname had two long scores called back but couldn’t break free cleanly, finishing with just 48 yards from scrimmage. Luis Sanchez led the team with four catches for 66 yards and David Rodriguez added a late interception, but Zaragoza found itself overmatched throughout.

The ramifications from this game will no doubt be felt in the coming weeks as decisions on the serious allegations against Hurricanes players are decided, but the Voltors can content themselves for now in the victory, knowing it will not be the last so long as their dynamic import duo stays on the field.

Photos: Oscar Quetglas Navarro

J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.