Sweden: Stockholm Mean Machines open Superserien with nail biting win over Örebro

The Stockholm Mean Machines surrendered a late fourth quarter touchdown by the Örebro Black Knights in the opening game of the Swedish Superserien this past weekend which saw the defending champion Black Knights close the gap to within three points, but then masterfully kept possession of the ball for the last three minutes of the game to defeat Örebro 26-23.

With the victory, Stockholm gained some measure of revenge for the tight loss to the Black Knights in the 2021 championship game.

The debut game of the Superserien started off slowly, however. Örebro quarterback Trevor Vasey was unable to connect with his favorite receiver, Johannes Lindeus on two separate occasions, and the Knights ceded the ball to Stockholm. Mean Machines signal caller, Mark Pappas, also faced a stout defense and was unable to a sustained drive. In fact, despite two drives in this quarter going for more than 50 yards, both teams went through the first period of play scoreless.

Stockholm lit up the scoreboard first. Pappas and his leading receiver Matthew Retzlaff connected for a nice 18-yard first down and running back Oliwer Stedt finished the drive off with a score to give the Mean Machines a 7-0 lead. In the most high-powered quarter of the game, the Black Knights had no problem responding. Vasey found Lindeus for a touchdown to narrow the lead to 7-6, and then the Black Knights caught a break, recovering a Stedt fumble on the Örebro 37 yard line. It took Vasey just one play as he connected with Filip Wetterberg for a 63-yard score to give the Black Knights a 12-7 lead.  Vasey found Wetteberg again for the two-point conversion and Örebro held a 14-7 lead late in the first half.

Stockholm WR Matthew Retzlaff #8 evading defenders Photo: Stefan Akander

Pappas responded though, marching Stockholm on a five play, 53-yard drive capping it with a four-yard touchdown pass to Retzlaff to tie the score at 14-14 going into the break.

After forcing the Mean Machines to punt to open the third quarter, Vasey guided his team on a 15 play, 70-yard drive, reaching the Stockholm 12-yard line. The Mean Machines defense stiffened and Örebro had to settle for a field goal from the foot of Jonathan Armendariz to give the Black Knights a 3-point lead.

Stockholm responded with an all-out aerial assault.

Pappas logged nine throws in as many plays on a 60-yard drive. After moving down the field with two first downs, he connected with Johan Hallgren for a 14-yard touchdown to restore the lead for the visitors, 20-17. The two-point conversion attempt failed, though, keeping Örebro within a field goal.

Despite going on a 11-play drive in response, Örebro couldn’t move the ball more than 40 yards while eating up six minutes on the clock. Stockholm took over on their own 33-yard line and then Pappas engineered a brilliant eight play drive, mixing up his play calling. With Stedt pounding the ball (he gained 30 of the 67 yards) and Pappas relying on Retzlaff, Stockholm reached the 13-yard line. Pappas hit Retzlaff for the touchdown with almost four minutes left to extend the lead to 26-17.

On the next series, backed up on his own 20-yard line, Vasey unleashed an 80-yard bomb to an inexplicably wide open Lindeus that brought the Black Knights tantalizingly to within three. But they came no closer as Stockholm then held on to the ball the rest of the way.

Orebro QB Trevor Vasey set to throw Photo: Stefan Akander

Although Vasey had a solid performance, spreading the ball among all his options, throwing for 274 yards and three touchdowns, the Black Knights had no answer to the Pappas-Retzlaff pairing. Pappas threw for 297 yards, and 149 of those were to Retzlaff. He also threw for three touchdowns passes with two going to Retzlaff. During any critical point in the game, the Mean Machines’ message was clear: take advantage of the Pappas-Retzlaff connection.

This was an excellent start for Stockholm. In one game, they’ve proven that defenses will need to devote their attention to Pappas and Retzlaff. Their next test comes on April 13 against the Tyresö Royal Crowns at home. Next up for Örebro is the same opponent, as they head to Stockholm on April 9 to tangle with the Royal Crowns.