Under-manned Las Rozas Black Demons fall short of perfection against Badalona Dracs

After becoming the first Spanish team to defeat the four-time reigning LNFA champion Badalona Dracs in almost five years earlier this season, the Las Rozas Black Demons simply didn’t have the horses to repeat the feat on Sunday.

Without the services of defensive imports Darius Robinson and William Lloyd, who have both left the team, and with star Canadian quarterback Chris Merchant watching from the sidelines, the team from Madrid rested starters with an eye towards the playoffs. The result was a resounding 27-6 loss at the hands of the Dracs, ending Las Rozas’ hopes of a perfect season.

After an uneventful opening quarter for both sides, the absence of Merchant proved to be a deciding factor. Forced into a third and long by an Alex Gonzalez sack, backup David De Diego forced a risky throw over the middle that was intercepted by safety Pol Cunillera, the first of three picks thrown by the Black Demons signal caller.

Running out of the wildcat formation for long stretches of the game, Badalona took full advantage. Offensive weapon Niko Lester took the snap and broke free down the left sideline for a 32-yard touchdown run. The point after attempt was deflected off target, but Badalona quickly got the ball back after an ill-advised David Giron return led to a three-and-out from the Black Demons own two-yard line. Lester scrambled in again from four yards out to make it 13-0 at the half.

Dracs RB Niko Lester #25 sprinting into the end zone for a TD Photo: Lola Morales

Badalona continued to get it done on the ground in the third quarter. Midway through their first drive of the half, running back Eduard Molina got loose in the Las Rozas secondary, rumbling for 48-yards before being pushed out of bounds at the one-yard line. Lester was the one to finish again on the next play, rushing wide right and extending across the goal line to complete his hat-trick.

Beginning to press, a scrambling David De Diego responded with an ill-advised throw right into the arms of Jordi Brugnani. This time it was quarterback Sergi Gonzalo who made his presence felt, delivering a 22-yard strike over the middle to Guillem Garcia to make it 27-0

De Diego finally put together a long drive aided by personal fouls in the fourth, finishing with a two-yard touchdown toss to Matias Castagno, but the extra point was no good and it was too little, too late. The Black Demons’ attempt at perfection ended with a 27-6 loss.

Without an import in the middle of their defense, Las Rozas’ was routinely exploited by the Badalona rushing attack. Wildcat quarterback Niko Lester took off nine times for 63 yards and three touchdowns, while Eduard Molina routinely required five or more Black Demons to halt his progress en route to 115 yards on nine carries. Starting pivot Sergi Gonzalo was used sparingly, finishing nine of 19 passing for 67 yards and a touchdown to Guillem Garcia, who led the receiving corps with two catches for 27 yards.

Black Demons QB David De Diego #1 scrambling Photo: Lola Morales

On the other side, David De Diego struggled to create the offensive magic that Las Rozas has become known for with Merchant under center. The Spaniard completed 13 of 23 passes for 85 yards and one touchdown, while tossing three interceptions. De Diego also finished as his team’s leading rusher with five carries for 36 yards, while Matias Castagno led all receivers with seven receptions for 39 yards and a score.

With the top seed in the playoffs already secure, the regular season finale loss won’t hurt the Black Demons, but it raises some troubling concerns. While the offense should return to normal with Merchant at the helm, the departures of Robinson and Lloyd provide defensive gaps for opponents to exploit.

Those will have to be ironed out against the Mallorca Voltors in the semi-final, while the Dracs host the Osos Rivas for a chance to defend their title.

J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.