Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns celebrating the victory of the CEFL Championship Photo: Sarah Philipp
For the first time in the 15-year history of Central European Football League, a German the team claimed the CEFL bowl crown.
the Schwäbisch Hall unicorns came from behind in their last practice of the game on Saturday to steal a 22-16 win under the Swarco Raiders of Austria. This historic victory capped a chaotic and cut short tournament in which the Unicorns became the first team of Germany to compete, but automatically qualified for the semi-finals after pandemic cancellations.
Led by local quarterback Alexander Haupert, Schwäbisch Room held the ball nearly 10 minutes shorter than the three-time defender Raiders CEFL champions but made the large pieces necessary to silence a loud crowd in Innsbruck.
“It was an absolute team victory. Everyone was on point when the game was on, ”Haupert said after the win. “The defense kept them scoreless in the second half and the offense ended with a great last practice. It was executed well and our coaches’ play appeal was right on the money. “
Typically, it was the Raiders who opened the game with an efficient 11-game practice led by a veteran quarterback and MVP of CEFL Bowl XII Sean Shelton, but Lukas Fink dropped the pass into the end zone on the third down and Emanuel Trinkl settled for a 15-yard field goal for a quick lead.
the Unicorns responded quickly with great help from star tight end Moritz Böhringer. The old one NFL draft pick of Minnesota Vikings picked up two tough first downs, then flexed widely and passed the corner Thomas Kugler for an easy 42-yard score.
This display of high-level talent did little to upset the Raiders pace and Shelton came out calm and recovered to lead his team to 80 yards onto the pitch, aided by top receivers Marco Schneider and Adrian Platzgummer. A face mask penalty from Eduard Fütterer against the latter put the ball over the four-yard line and Ruben Seeber easily took the field to regain the upper hand.
Both teams stalled for the duration of the second quarter until Haupert made a crucial mistake with just over 1.5 hours to go. Rolling to the right, he threw himself back, which made it easy for Jan Mayerhofer to choose. Taking over from 50, the Raiders the offensive line gave Shelton plenty of time to separate the defense, with Simon Pilger and Platzgummer delivering big pickups. A nine-yard dagger to Marco Schneider extended the margin, but Trinkl missed the point after to make it 16-7 at halftime.
the Raiders It looked like they would continue to monitor the flow of the game when they ate almost eight minutes on their first second-half try, but a sack and tackle for loss from Tobias Löffler on back-to-back plays have kept points off the board. Pinned to his own two-yard line by a Shelton punt, the Unicorns played big with the play action pass and cashed. Redeeming himself for two previous deep balls that fell on the turf, Tyler Rutenbeck carried Alexander Haupert’s well-thrown ball and never looked back, winning a 98-yard run to bring his team in under of them.
Swarco continued to eat until the clock but a swarm Schwäbisch Room the defense limited the distance traveled and made saves on two time-consuming practices as the game reached fourth. A Simon Butsch sack returned the ball to Haupert with 3:53 to play and the German The team showed no panic, mustering courageous training to win the game.
Moritz Böhringer recovered a first try early, then absorbed a headshot through Vincent Müller’s cross which twisted his helmet and ejected the defensive back. The resulting penalty and a few runs from Jannis Fiedler got the Unicorns at the edge of the shooting range, but Haupert wanted more. The quarterback picked up 17 with his legs in third and 10, then shocked everyone by flying 15 yards with 12 seconds on the clock. Rutenbeck caught the ball over Thomas Kugler’s header for his second touchdown and Böhringer added a two-point conversion to make it a six-point lead. With eight seconds left, Shelton had two shots to save his team, but Simon Butsch knocked down the quarterback and the Unicorns flooded the pitch to celebrate a 22-16 victory.
Alexander Haupert finished the game 12 of 23 passes for 303 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, but Tyler Rutenbeck won the MVP of the XV of the CEFL Cup reward with two catches for 113 yards and two scores. Moritz Böhringer had his best performance since returning from the NFL, recording seven catches for 123 yards and one touchdown, while Eduard Fütterer led all defensemen with eight tackles.
The decision to dress Rutenbeck rather than star running back John Santiago proved to be decisive, and the Raiders struggled to contain an explosive receiving body after dismissing the quick Davion Washington in favor of linebacker AJ Wentland, who has led his team with five tackles.
Sean Shelton had 29 of 37 passes for 237 yards and a touchdown, but the Unicorns won the big games downstream. Adrian Platzgummer had 11 catches for 82 yards, Marco Schneider was bottled up with five catches for 44 yards and one score, and Toni Rabensteiner added three for 46. Running back Romed Zangerle had six catches for 32 yards, while wearing 15 times for 60 more.
Schwäbisch Hall’s performance marks a new chapter for the CEFL, open the door to more dominant German teams to compete for the title in the future. Austria has dominated the tournament for the past five years, with the Raiders claim the last three trophies, but the era of GFL may have just started when the CEFL continues to grow beyond regional status.