The Carlstad Crusaders have dominated the Swedish American football landscape for much of a decade and are determined to continue. They will face the Uppsala 86ers in the Swedish championship final Saturday, looking to win their seventh straight Swedish title.
Carlstad has won the past six Swedish titles while Uppsala is appearing in the game for the first time since 1997.
Both teams were tested in the semifinals with Carlstad relying on running back Brett Koepp and the kick return skills of Markus Persson to edge the Tyresö Royal Crowns while Uppsala quarterback Jared Stegman found a way in the second half to help his team move past the Örebro Black Knights.
Carlstad won both regular season contests between the two teams handily by lopsided scores, 50-29 and 61-12. Nevertheless Uppsala’s first-year head coach Moe Kadkhodai is feeling optimistic:
“The Crusaders are outstanding on capitalizing on their opponent’s mistakes and they are almost impossible to stop if they have good field position. So much of our focus will be to not make mistakes.
In our last game against Carlstad, we had the lead with four minutes left in the first half but made a few fatal mistakes and the Crusaders stole the game from us.”
Carlstad quarterback Philip Juhlin led the league in passing with 3,114 yards and 39 touchdowns in the 10 games while Stegman was third with 1,988 yards passing and 28 touchdowns. Each have outstanding receivers with Carlstad’s Jacob Dahre and Andre Holgard in the top two spots but with Uppsala’s Chiam James and Ricardo Miller not far behind.
In other words, these two teams have excellent passing offenses. So the game could well be decided on the ground and Koepp, playing in his final game in Sweden, is the key. The bruising running back was outstanding in the semifinal against the Royal Crowns and averaged over 100 yards a game in the regular season. Stegman led the 86ers in rushing this year and was third overall in Sweden and is always dangerous so linebackers have to be aware of him at all times.
Defensively, the edge would have to go to Carlstad. They had the second best defense in the league in the regular season allowing just over 17 points a game while Uppsala gave up 27 points a game. Scoring on Carlstad is not easy.
However, the 86ers had the best ball-hawking secondary in Sweden with 21 interceptions returning 20 for touchdowns. Juhlin has to keep an eye out. Uppsala’s Pontus Westman led Sweden in tackles but was followed closely by Christian Kuylenstjerna from Carlstad.
Carlstad dominated the Swedish awards banquet taking home eight trophies including the league’s most valuable player in defensive lineman Olof Flemström.
Carlstad head coach Tracey Gere:
“Uppsala really impressed in their semifinal win over Örebro. They played very aggressively on defense and it looks like their passing attack with Stegman, Miller and James has really started to click. They will be coming into this game feeling confident but I think we are ready for the challenge.”