Seismic shift in Sweden: Stockholm Mean Machines dominate Carlstad Crusaders to open season

What a difference a year makes.

The defending champion Stockholm Mean Machines took a page out of the Carlstad Crusader’s own book Saturday at Zinkensdamm Stadium in Stockholm, dominating the former champions en route to a decisive 33-13 victory. This was a far cry from Stockholm’s thrilling upset win over the Crusaders in the 2018 Swedish final.

For the past 10 years, Carlstad has been the team to put the boots to opposing teams early on in the season, but Stockholm has changed the landscape.

Turnovers played a large part.

Stockholm forced four fumbles, recovering two of them, and picked off Crusader’s quarterback Shazzon Mumphrey three times, twice in the first quarter. This was uncharacteristic for a Carlstad team.

Stockholm quarterback Alex Thury completed 16 of 26 passes for 139 yards and three touchdowns with  wide receivers Omar Fall, Per Lindelöf and Hans Maximilian von Wachsmann catching one each. Stockholm game MVP Malcolm Engström scored on a 51 yard fumble return while bruising running back Joshua Akena added a touchdown. Engström was worthy of the award as he was a thorn in the side of the Carlstad offense all game. He finished with three tackles, two tackles for loss, one forced fumble, one fumble return for a touchdown, two sacks and one quarterback hurry.

Stockholm RB Joshua Akena Photo: Stefan Akander

For Carlstad, quarterback Shazzon Mumphrey did not have a great day throwing the ball completing just nine of 30 passes for 99 yards and getting picked off three times. Running back Emil Knutsson scored one of the Crusaders touchdowns while defensive lineman converted to fullback, Olof Flemström, added the other,

The turnover woes hit Carlstad on the very first possession as Mumphrey was picked off on the third play from scrimmage and the Mean Machines capitalized. Thury engineered an eight-play 57 yard drive, capping it with a six yard touchdown pass to Fall giving Stockholm a 7-0 lead.

The Mean Machines intercepted Mumphrey again on the next Carlstad series but could not take advantage and Stockholm took a 7-0 lead into the second quarter.

Carlstad finally got a break as Akena fumbled at his own 28 yard line and the Crusaders made him pay. Four plays later, Flemström bulled his way in from a yard out to even the score at 7-7.

However, three minutes later, Engström scooped up a Knutsson fumble and raced 51 yards to give Stockholm the lead again, 14-7, which is how the first half ended.

The Mean Machines opened the second half with a tone-setting 73 yard drive with Thury connecting with Lindelöf  for a 27 yard touchdown to increase the lead to 20-7.

Stockholm Game MVP Malcolm Engstrom honing in on Carlstad QB Shazzon Mumphrey Photo: Stefan Akander

With neither team able to gain any momentum throughout the third quarter, Thury led his team on another touchdown drive, marching down to the Carlstad five yard line and hitting von Wachsmann for the touchdown, early in the fourth.

Trailing 27-7, the Crusaders had to take chances and when a fourth and 11 attempt failed on their own 37 yard line, Stockholm punished them for it. Akena rushed five times for 28 yards and barged in from the one to give Stockholm and insurmountable 33-7 lead.

The Crusaders managed to add a touchdown with five minutes to go as Knutsson broke free for a 36 yard scamper to narrow the lead to 33-13, but that was it.

Stockholm head coach Fredrik Pilback was surprised and relieved:

“I admit I was nervous going into this game, and we know that Carlstad can come back from any situation, but our preparation and the determination of our players made a huge difference. To beat Carlstad in the opening game after years of watching them dominate us was amazing.”

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