Amazing, Awesome, Overwhelming. That’s how I would describe the game played in Helsinki on Saturday afternoon. In a battle of two great teams for the Division I championship , the Hämeenlinna Huskies defeated the Helsinki Wolverines 49-34. If you didn’t see this game live, you missed one of the best games in Finland this year.
Opening Drive Shenanigans
The Hämeenlinna Huskies began this game with a bit of trickery. Import players, Archibald Barnes and Xavier Anjuwon, both sported different jersey numbers for the finals match. This was not the only wrinkle for the Huskies, as they began the first few plays of offense with Barnes at quarterback and Xavier at wide receiver. This wildcat formation proved to be successful for the Huskies all game.
Madden is a great American Football video game(get your Madden 17 Now) with awesome traditions. One tradition is 21 Skunk which means when a player is winning by 21 points the game is over to expedite the process and prevent embarrassment of the loser. Well midway through the 2nd quarter of the Spaghetti Bowl, the Wolverines had been skunked. Personally, I was disappointed and upset I made the trip to Helsinki to see a team lay down and take a beating. But of course I was wrong. . .
Don’t call it a Comeback
Huskies took a comfortable lead into halftime 21-7, but that comfortable feeling would turn into uneasiness in the second half. With 9:53 remaining in the 3rd quarter, down 28-7, Robert Johnson the coach becomes Robert Johnson the quarterback. Wearing the #14 jersey, “Rojo” leads the Wolverines on a touchdown drive going 8 for 10, 74 yards passing in the process. 28-14 and no one in the stadium felt like this game was close to being over. With Johnson looking to make things even more interesting, Hämeenlinna abandoned their uptempo, no huddle, quick game in exchange for slowed down, huddled, conservative play calling. This helped make for a much more interesting game than expected. After four consecutive scoring drives and some untimely turnovers by the Huskies, the Wolverines were only down 42-34 with 4:27 remaining in the game.
This Ain’t no Movie
If this was a sports movie, the Wolverines would have found a way to overcome their early deficit and win this game. Xavier Anjuwon doesn’t believe in storybook endings. In 15 seconds Xavier broke tackles and ran 67 yards to put the Huskies up 49-34 and putting the game out of reach. The Wolverines 2 minute offense sputtered in the red zone with 59 seconds remaining in the game. That is when the fat lady began to sing loud and clear “Hämeenlinna Huskies are Division I Champions!”
Why the Huskies Won
DEFENSE. Yea, the Huskies put up 49 points on offense and gave up 34 on defense, but that 21-0 start made all the difference. Shutting down Jerell Jones early, and creating turnovers allowed them the luxury of a 21 point lead. After that the Huskies defense was slightly outmatched against Robert Johnson’s version of the Wolverine offense, but at that point it was too late. On the other side of the ball, the Wolverines couldn’t stop a cold. If the Huskies had not committed 5 fumbles in this game they easily could have scored 2 or 3 more touchdowns. “Defense wins Championships” is the most accurate phrase ever spoken.
Stars of the Game
Archibald Barnes – 9 att, 88 yds, 2 tds/3 tkls, 1 int, 1 td, 1 fg blk
MVP seems like an understatement for Barnes. He was everything that the Huskies needed him to be in this game. He intercepted a screen pass and returned it 23 yards for the game’s first score. From there he continued to be a spark on offense in the wildcat formation that at times saved drives and helped put the Huskies in the red zone late in the game. Oh and did I mention he blocked a field goal attempt? Yea, MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Robert Johnson – 22/36, 295 yds, 4 tds
WOW! Johnson made it look easy. Four straight drives all ending in touchdown passes. The fifth drive involved 2 dropped passes in the end zone. Johnson gave the Wolverines the best chance to win this game with his remarkable playing ability, if only he could have played defense as well.
Stan Bedwell – 16/21, 176 yds, 1 td,
His stats were not the most appealing in this game, but Stan Bedwell was a master strategist in this game. The run game was very effective, including the wildcat formation, so Bedwell sacrificed his “Air Raid” for a solid “Run Raid” that produced 318 yards rushing. A constant mix of ball carriers between Barnes, Xavier, and Jaakonsaari was all the stats he needed for a win.
Jerell Jones – 9 att, 52 yds, 8 rec, 71 yds, 2 td
Running the ball was difficult, the Huskies defense was everywhere, so Jones used his versatility. Scoring 2 big play touchdowns, including a beautiful back of the end zone one foot in bounds catch, he was more that integral in the Wolverines offensive success.
Xavier Ajuwon – 12 att, 127 yds, 2 tds
Early in the game Ajuwon was just not effective at the running back position. Huskies turned to Finnish native Jaakonsaari who played very well. With this split time situation Ajuwon started to find his groove in the offense and made his presence known by scoring a 67 yard touchdown late in the 4th quarter to put the game out of reach for the Wolverines.
49 Antonio Harris – 9 tkls, 1.5 tfl
4 Locklan Gilbert – 10 rec, 127 yds
41 Niko Kantonen – 5 rec, 125 yds, 1 td
16 Niko Hannula – 7.5 tkls
86 Kevin Duley – 6.5 tkls, 2 tfl
12 Velipekka Jaakonsaari – 8 att, 84 yds, 1 td
84 Juuso Alakoski – 5 rec, 84 yds, 1 td