Stuttgart Surge earn impressive come-from-behind victory over Wroclaw Panthers

The Stuttgart Surge (2-0) staged an exciting second half rally and went on to defeat the Wroclaw Panthers (1-1) 44-34 in European League of Football second round action Sunday.

It was without question a game of momentum swings.

The Surge and the Panthers came into this game sporting 1-0 records with many moments and much to prove to the masses given their likely championship contention.

It all started with the first possessions of the game. Panthers kick returner Devan Burrell made another signature punt return, getting the team into the red zone. Creative playcalling got Wroclaw down to the goal line, and it ended with a Daniel Bender jet sweep on fourth down to open the scoring. An immediate fumble 16 seconds later by Surge running back Nicolas Khandar was the first of the many swings throughout the game. That drive ended in a field goal to put Wroclaw up 10-0, only minutes in. The Surge’s first sustained drive saw them get the run and pass a lot more stabilized. Khandar capped the drive to put the game back to 10-7 to end the first quarter.

Another Panthers field goal made it 13-7 before another drive that ended with a Bender jet sweep extended their lead to 20-7. Another swing for the Panthers. Big passes and a long run by Stuttgart quarterback Reilly Hennessey looked to have brought something back to them, but a fumble by the quarterback killed that chance and swung the pendulum even further to the Polish club. Nothing came of the Panthers’ drive as the heat from their team started to cool down. The Surge’s offense was improving every chance they got; it seemed as if they were becoming unstoppable. Hennessey later ran the ball in from inside the five and closed the score deficit to 20-14. A drive-ending interception from All-Star Mitch Fettig killed any chance of a score for the Panthers and put the game back in the hands of the surge.

The Surge opened up the second half scoring and looked to have taken the lead for the first time with an 18 yard touchdown reception by wide receiver Louis Geyer. However, kicking woes kept the score as tight as possible, with it settled at 20-20. Once again, the Stuttgart defense held strong and kept the Panthers out of the end zone. This set the offense up again as Hennessey hit Mayr for a 49 yard gain, which set up a field goal giving Stuttgart their first lead, 23-20.

On the ensuing Surge possession, Hennessey found a streaking Jon Pietsch down the sideline and he was finally brought down at the Panthers five yard line for a 79 yard gain. he surge knocking down the door once again. Khandar found his way into the endzone again, and it looked as if the game was really starting to be under Surge control as it ticked over to 30-20. However, the Panthers ended the third with their first sustained drive of the quarter, with Steven Duncan hitting Jakub Mazan multiple times taking them down to the red zone to start the fourth quarter. Then on a first and goal from the three yard line Duncan found Przemysław Banat all alone at the back of the end zone to narrow the lead to 30-27. This kicked off one of the most exciting fourth quarters the league has seen.

The Surge drove down the field again, looking unstoppable with the offense firing on all cylinders. However, Wroclaw’s All League linebacker, AJ Wentland, led an inspired defense keeping Stuttgart from adding more points.

Still 30-27. Panthers’ ball.

With less than seven  minutes remaining, Stuttgart defensive back Ben Wenzler picked off an errant Duncan pass. Hennessey wasted no time finding Mayr who made one of the best catch-and-run plays we are likely to see all season, hurdling a player in the process as he races 35 yards to the end zone to boost the lead to 37-27. Surely the game is wrapped up for the Surge now? No. The Panthers struck quickly with a 42 yard Duncan to Banat score to make it 37-34 with five and a half minutes left.

Take a breath. The Surge offense could not answer and it seemed as if momentum had shifted back to the Panthers. With the score at 37-34 with three minutes left in the game, Bender, the man responsible for the team still being in the game in the first place, came across the middle and Duncan found him only to watch as Surge defensive back Sasan Jelvani, hit him as he turned upfield, popping the ball loose and linebacker Nikolas Knoblauch pounced on it. Then with just over a minute left, on a fourth and goal from the four, Paul Steiderwald, who had been phenomenal all day, made a great fingertip catch in the corner of the end zone to seal the win.

Outstanding. Is it too early to say game of the year?