Sergi Gonzalo shines at QB as Badalona Dracs rout Murcia Cobras

When it comes to American football, nothing can change the fortunes of a franchise like excellence at the quarterback position.

In Europe, finding the best import to fill the position is a constant arms race as teams look to give their squad an edge under center. Like any big purchase, the benefits don’t always live up to the marketing. That’s something the Badalona Dracs had to figure out the hard way.

The perennial Spanish powerhouse tried to keep up with the Joneses as the quality of import talent rose around the LNFA in 2021 by bringing in an American quarterback. After a few uncharacteristic pitfalls to start the season however, the team went back to long time Spanish starter Sergi Gonzalo on Saturday. The homegrown talent delivered better than any import, finishing 16 of 23 for 285 yards and five touchdowns in a 42-6 rout of the winless Murcia Cobras.

It was a classic performance from the 31-year old with five national championships under his belt and the fireworks started early. On the Dracs‘ first play from scrimmage, Gonzalo swung the ball out wide to receiver Dario Dobrolevski and the Austrian outran everyone for a 75-yard opening salvo.

It would not be the last big play of the afternoon. Eduard Molina got the ball rolling on the ground to start Badalona’s next drive then Gonzalo showed off his arm, throwing 40 yards to a diving Raul Cernuda just short of the goal line. The pair connected to finish the job on the very next play.

Badalona WR Borja Vilanova #83 gets across the goal line for a TD Photo: Badalona Dracs

With the Cobras offense struggling mightily out of the gate, Gonzalo got yet another chance to show off to start the second quarter. After scrambling for a crucial first down with his legs, the Spanish pivot uncorked his arm once again, this time finding Dobrolevski with a step in the end zone to make it 21-0.

It wasn’t until the dying minutes of the first half that Murcia began to show any signs of life. A pair of sacks killed Badalona’s final drive and the Cobras began to march from the shadow of their goal line. A 43-yard Antoni Monton run up the middle had the team threatening, but the workhorse runner couldn’t break free again and time ran out before the Cobras could finish with points.

The Dracs did not take their foot off the gas in the third quarter. The frame began with another touchdown drive from Gonzalo, this time ending in a 12-yard strike to Borja Vilanova, and they didn’t stop there. After mishandling the ensuing kickoff, the Cobras attempt to claw back field position resulted in quarterback Robert Paul Cuda being intercepted by Niko Lester. Seconds later, Vilanova rumbled for 25 yards after a short catch and Molina carried it in the last five to make it 35-0

Badalona defenders bringing down Murcia ball carrier Photo: Fernando Pérez

Murcia gained some traction towards the end of the third quarter, but Cuda opened the fourth with another interception, this time to safety Pol Cunillera. The Dracs went marching once more, this time setting Dario Dobrolevski up for a 19-yard touchdown on the bubble screen with two tremendous blocks from Vilanova and Jordi Soler.

After allowing 42 points unanswered, the Cobras finally got on the board on the game’s final play when Cuda connected with Javier Martinez on a 16-yard slant. The meaningless two point attempt came up short and the visitors fell 42-6.

Despite the loss, running back Antoni Monton was tremendous for Murcia, carrying 15 times for 106 yards and adding 23 through the air. Martinez was the top receiver with four catches for 60 yards in addition to the touchdown and Robert Paul Cuda was his usual athletic self, scrambling for 49 yards and going 10 of 20 passing for 118 yards, one touchdown and two interception.

When it came to the quarterback duel however, Cuda couldn’t come close to the homegrown Gonzalo, who ran the Dracs hurry-up passing offense like the seasoned veteran he is. Austrian standout Dario Dobrolevski was his favorite target, catching six passes for 151 yards and a hat trick of touchdowns, while big Raul Cernuda was second with four receptions for 69 yards and a score. Eduard Molina and Eduard Morlans were virtually indistinguishable on the ground, finishing with 52 and 49 yards respectively.

The Dracs offense has found their rhythm with Gonzalo calling the shots and it couldn’t come at a better time. Murcia and Badalona will meet for another chance to fine-tune next week before the Dracs schedule gets markedly tougher ahead of the playoffs. No longer favorites to retain their title atop Spanish football, Badalona is placing their faith in the hands of a man who’s done it before, regardless of what his passport would have you believe.

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.