The Wroclaw Panthers overcame mistakes and a stubborn battle from the defending champion Bialystok Lowlanders to down the Lowlanders 28-14 and capture Polish Bowl XIV at Olympic Stadium in Wroclaw this past weekend.
Panthers quarterback Tony Dawson was a key to the win after throwing three touchdown passes and running another one in himself. Wide receiver and Game MVP Przemysław Banat along with Benji Barnes and Kacper Fiedziuk also scored for Wroclaw.
For Bialystok, quarterback Rex Dausin scored on a one yard plunge and rookie kick returner Rafał Królewski scored on a kickoff return.
This game was not supposed to be that tough. Wroclaw had disposed of the Lowlanders earlier in the season by a lopsided 45-6 score.
But the Lowlanders set the tone early, forcing a Tony Dawson fumble at the Wroclaw 45 yard line. Dausin and the Lowlanders offense took over and moved into field goal range. Running back Mikolaj Pawlaczyk converted a crucial fourth down and then two plays later powered his way down to the one yard line. Dausin bulled his way across the goal line and Bialystok took surprising 7-0 lead late in the first quarter.
The Panthers offense continued to struggle but Krzysztof Wis flipped the field position with a world class punt. The Lowlanders started their next series on their own 26 yard line,. Three plays later, on the last play of the first quarter, a Dausin’ pass was intercepted by Marcin Osumek.
On the opening series of the second quarter, the Panthers went three and out committing another costly penalty to hand the call back to Dausin and the Bialystok offense. But three plays later the Lowlanders committed their own penalty which erased a completion to Eryk Mąkowski and forced Lowlanders punt.
Panthers strike back
On the ensuing possession, Dawson converted fourth down on his own 49 to keep the Panthers series alive. On the next play he found Przemysław Banat for 50 yard touchdown and with five minutes to go in the second quarter, the Panthers tied the game 7-7 heading into the halftime break.
Panthers versatile Benji Barnes returned the opening kick-off of the second half to the 50 yard line but yet another fumble by Panthers, gave the ball to the Lowlanders around midfield. Another mistake by the Panthers special teams on a muffed punt gave the Lowlanders the ball inside the Wroclaw 30 yard line but the Panthers defense stiffened forcing a punt.
Wroclaw started their second possession of the second half on their seven yard line. With 3:09 remaining in the third quarter, Dawson connected with Banat for a 45 yard gain, moving his team into scoring position. He capped the drive with a touchdown himself to give Wroclaw the lead for the first time in the game, 14-7 with 1:52 to go in the third.
The Lowlanders special teams silenced the Wroclaw fans on the ensuing kickoff, with Królewski returning it for a touchdown, tying the game at 14-14.
With the game tied at 14 heading into the fourth quarter, Panthers marched down the field. With a crucial fourth and five on the Lowlanders 15 yard line, Panthers head coach Val Gunn was faced with a critical decision. Kick the field goal or go for it. He gave Dawson the green light and at the 11:41 mark, Dawson hit Barnes on a roll out from 15 yards out to regain the lead, 21-14.
The Wroclaw defense forced another Lowlanders punt and again Dawson engineered a Panthers drive, moving the ball down to the 29 yard line. Faced with another fourth down, Dawson found Kacper Fiedziuk for a touchdown that extended the Panthers lead to 28-14 .
The defending LFA champion Lowlanders fought back as Dausin marched his team down to the Wroclaw 16 yard line with completions to Tomasz Zubrycki. But on a fourth and two with 2:48 left Dausin’s pass was incomplete.
The Panthers took over and were able to milk down the clock and Wroclaw began celebrating.
Panthers head coach Val Gunn was understandably pleased and praised his team:
“I am really proud of our guys. We faced a tough Lowlanders team today tht forced us to make mistakes. We overcame all the adversity in the biggest game of the year to bring the championship trophy back to Wroclaw.”
Lowlanders HC Alex Burdette:
“I am also proud. Our players never quit. The Panthers played well and their big players stepped up at the key moments in the game.”