Swedish Championship Game: The QBs speak out

This Saturday, July 9, the Stockholm Mean Machines and Örebro Black Knights will face each other in the Swedish Superserien Championship Game.

This is the second year in a row these two teams have squared off to decide the Swedish title. In 2021, the Black Knights captured their first ever Swedish title, beating Stockholm 28-14. In that game, Örebro quarterback Trevor Vasey was named MVP after throwing for 288 yards and three touchdowns in a masterful performance. Vasey has led his team back to the title game to face the same foe but a different quarterback as Mark Pappas has taken the reins as signal caller for the Mean Machines. Pappas has been superb this season, leading the entire league in passing yardage and passing touchdowns with Vasey right behind in second place.

The Mean Machines are unbeaten so far and have defeated Örebro twice during the regular season, winning 26-23 in the opening game of the season for both teams, and then handing the Black Knights a surprising 51-7 whupping later in the season.

AFI has asked both quarterbacks to explain how they ended up in the final and what this means for each of their teams.

AFI: What’s been the toughest part of the season for the team?

Pappas: The toughest part of this season has just been staying healthy and focused through a long four-month season!

Vasey: I would say the toughest part has been putting the same team out there week to week. After the first week, it seemed like we were missing a couple key guys every game due to various reasons. It’s a team sport and every position counts. You think you can just move forward and replace people, but it was a lot harder than we imagined. It makes you appreciate each player and what they bring to the table.

Örebro Black Knights QB Trevor Vasey directing traffic in game against Germany’s Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns Photo: Jonas Domfors

AFI to Pappas: What differences do you expect from the Black Knights this time around after beating them twice including a 51-7 whipping just a month ago?

Pappas: One of the best parts about football is that any team can win on any given day. Even though we’ve beaten them twice, we know that they are a tough and physical team with an explosive offense that is in the championship for a reason. We expect them to really feed off their home crowd and to probably have small tweaks offensively and defensively that we are hopefully prepared for!

AFI to Vasey: What differences do you expect from the Mean Machines this time around after they beat you twice including that 51-7 game just a month ago?

Vasey: I think the Mean Machines are a very well coached team. They have a lot of imports so they have guys who can just watch film all day as well. They always seem to have the right play called offensively and defensively and execute at a high level. You should always expect a couple of new wrinkles but for the most part we should expect the same type of team who will not beat themselves and play sound. It’s also a championship game so there could be more stuff they haven’t shown yet that they bring out now. We’ve looked really good on film the past two weeks so I’m sure they will have counters for those things.

AFI to Pappas: What’s been the key to your undefeated season?

Pappas: The key to our undefeated season has been our focus in practice. We have great coaches who have kept us on task and well adjusted each week. I really can’t thank them enough! Another key to our season has been our team camaraderie. Everyone has come together amazingly as a group and it’s been a very fun season.

AFI to Vasey: What’s been the key to reaching the championship game again this season?

Vasey: I think the biggest key was trying not to have expectations going into games. Early on I think it weighed on us as a whole trying to live up to last season, but that isn’t the way to do it as we learned. You have to approach each game and each play separately. The more pressure we put on ourselves the worse we did. You ultimately just have to try your best and let the chips fall where they may. When we started adapting to that we played better. We had a lot of goals with cefl and super series, and when you focus on too much it can backfire. When we just focused on the task at hand and played free our best came out.

Stockholm Mean Machines QB looking downfield against Black Knights Photo: Stefan Akander

AFI to Pappas: The Mean Machines have lost the last two Swedish title games. Is that something you think about going into this game even though you weren’t here then?

Pappas: Honestly, no. Even if I had been there for those losses, each season is completely different and new. But, in saying that, I really hope we can redeem those losses this year!

AFI to Vasey: You beat the Mean Machines in last year’s title game. Is that something you think about going into this game?

Vasey: I would say yes and no. It’s a new season and they’ve beaten us twice So the first thing you think about is how to improve on what went wrong those games. Stockholm’s a great team and has been the best team in the league this year no doubt. But the confidence of doing it before helps in moments like this. Remembering how good it felt last year makes you want to do everything you can to get that feeling back. At the end of the day we’re still the champs until someone dethrones us. I’m just happy we get a chance to defend our crown at home. If they beat us then they deserve it, but there going to get our best shot. I feel like we’re playing our best ball of the season at the right time. It should be a very entertaining game.

AFI: What would a championship mean to you and the team?

Pappas: Even though it’s cliche, a Superserien championship has been our main goal this whole season. All of our players, coaches, and staff would be ecstatic to hoist the trophy and celebrate together.

Vasey: I think a championship would mean everything for the team and myself. Last year I felt we were the clear best team from beginning to end and that’s a different feeling in itself, but this year we had to deal with so much more adversity and really come back together after some real lows. I feel like this would feel better for us knowing what we had to overcome to get to this point. Also, it’s one thing to have won a single championship, but to win two means more for the organization as a whole. I think it solidifies our team in Swedish history as the team of an era. I know Stockholm and Carlstad have won numerous championships, so those organizations are looked at higher than us. But with two in two years, that can give us the credit of being a great team like them. But again, all we can do is try our best and see what happens.

So, the stage is almost set for a classic matchup between the number one and two teams in Sweden in 2022. The game will be broadcast live on American Football International.


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