Poland’s Wild Card Weekend produces a thriller

The top three teams in Poland for the past five years remain unchanged following the wild card round of the Polish League of American Football – Polska Liga Futbolu Amerykańskiego – playoffs. The Wroclaw Panthers, Gdynia Seahawks and Warsaw Eagles all advanced to the semifinals with the Panthers handily beating the Lowlanders, the Seahawks turning away a stubborn Husaria squad and Warsaw edging the Tychy Falcons in a thriller.

Wrocław Panthers 42 – Białystok Lowlanders 7 (in Wrocław)

Photo: Dawid Szulc Photography

The Wrocław Panthers comfortably secured the top seed in the Topliga semifinals and a date with the Warsaw Eagles on Saturday, defeating the Białystok Lowlanders 42-7 in Wrocław. The Panthers have now won 15 consecutive Topliga matchups, a streak that dates back to April of last year. The Lowlanders, who gave Wrocław their biggest challenge this season in a 41-21 road loss in early April, will take on the Gdynia Seahawks in the semifinals. Both semifinal games will take place on Saturday, June 10.

Adam Skakowski’s 5-yard touchdown run gave the Panthers the only points of the first quarter, although Wrocław also had a long interception return for an apparent touchdown called back due to a penalty later in the quarter. The ensuing drive resulted in a missed field goal, and the score would remain 7-0 until Skakowski took in it again in the second quarter to double the advantage. A 46-yard touchdown run by Timothy Morovick made it 21-0 in favor of Wrocław.

Białystok got their only points of the game before halftime on a 22-yard hookup between Aaron Knight and Bartłomiej Trubaj. Morovick added a second scoring run in the third quarter and followed it up with his only touchdown pass of the game, a 17-yarder to Adam Nelip. By the time the fourth quarter began, it was apparent that there would be no upset on this day, and Skakowski made that assessment a certainty with his third touchdown of the day.

Gdynia Seahawks 35 – Husaria Szczecin 19 (in Gdynia)

Photo: Jacek Stańczak Juwel Fotografia

A spirited Husaria Szczecin squad gave the Gdynia Seahawks more than they would have liked to have handled on Saturday, but it was the hosts who came away with a 35-19 victory in the Topliga’s first wild-card playoff game. The Seahawks will now travel to Białystok to face the Lowlanders in the semifinals, while Husaria, who came into the game as the postseason’s lowest-ranked team after finishing the regular season 1-5, are done playing in 2017. Gdynia fell to Białystok 23-13 in the only regular-season matchup between the two teams.

Gdynia allowed Husaria to hang around all the way into the fourth quarter, although to their credit Szczecin was boosted by the return of American quarterback Martay Mattox-Hall. The Seahawks took a 14-0 lead on a Jan Domagała touchdown run and a Paweł Henicz touchdown reception, but Mateusz Dubicki got Husaria to within a score with a tough reception in double-coverage in the right corner of the end zone. The extra point was blocked, leaving the halftime score at 14-6.

Gaweł Pilachowski’s short touchdown run put Gdynia back in control in the third quarter, but Mattox-Hall again made it a one-possession game early in the fourth with a 20-yard touchdown gallop. The Seahawks offense took over the game at that point, with Jakub Mazan hauling in a tipped pass and taking it 79 yards down the sideline for a score and Domagała adding another rushing touchdown to his resume. By the time Dubicki tiptoed the end line for a second magnificent touchdown reception, it was too late for a Husaria comeback.

Warsaw Eagles 24 – Tychy Falcons 22 (in Warsaw)

Photo: Marcin Fijałkowski / Interception

In a wild back-and-forth contest, the Warsaw Eagles managed to overcome a determined Tychy Falcons team 24-22 on Sunday evening in the capital to advance to the Topliga semifinals for the 11th consecutive season. Piotr Pamulak’s 29-yard field goal with just 39 seconds remaining won the game for the Eagles, who will next face a Wrocław Panthers teams that knocked them out of the postseason tournament in both 2015 and 2016. The Falcons depart the scene having finished fifth in the regular season with a 3-3 record.

The Falcons took a 7-0 lead on a short Zbigniew Szrejber touchdown reception, a play that capped a drive that was kept alive by a trick play in which the Tychy punter kicked the ball to one of his own receivers behind the line of scrimmage. The Eagles fought back to tie the game on a 5-yard scoring catch by Krzysztof Stojak, and quarterback Karol Żak put the Eagles in front for the first time on their next drive, scoring from 2 yards out to make it 14-7. The second of three Shane Truelove touchdown passes, a 13-yarder to Grzegorz Dominik, tied the game again, but the Eagles would re-take the lead seconds later when Darian Lindsey returned the kickoff 80 yards for a score. Warsaw led 21-14 at halftime.

The defenses stiffened in the second half as the game’s intensity ratcheted up. The Falcons got the only post-intermission touchdown late in the third quarter, when Dominik pulled in his second touchdown catch of the game to make it 21-20. Tychy then took the lead on a successful passing play out of the ‘swinging gate’ kick formation to take a one-point lead. The Falcons looked to have sealed the game when they forced a turnover inside the two-minute warning, but the Eagles got the ball back with just over a minute remaining after calling all three of their timeouts. A long passing play set up Pamulak’s game-winning chance, and his kick sailed inside the left upright to allow Warsaw’s season to continue.


Semifinal games:
Saturday, June 10, Time TBA: #1 Wrocław Panthers vs. #4 Warsaw Eagles