Dukes win, stay tied for first place
Thanks to a second half surge, the Novi Sad Dukes finally beat the Budapest Wolves, 28-18, and in doing so repeated their last year’s 4-0 start.
With the win, the Dukes remain tied at the top of the South conference standings with the Vukovi Belgrade, but more importantly they’ve beat the Wolves after two failed tries. It was their best played game all season, although in the second half alone and probably the best CEFL game all spring.
The Wolves had an opportunity to come back and win the game, after it looked almost over with the Dukes defending an 11 point lead; they narrowed the gap to just three points, five minutes before the end and even got the ball back, but the Dukes made a stand on defense when defensive end Aleksandar Ivković sacked Attila Lendvai forcing a forth down that the Wolves failed to convert. Pretty soon, Marko Đanić broke free for a 45 yard score that clinched the game.
Truth be told, there was probably enough time for a turnaround similar to the one the Wolves were on the receiving end of in last year’s final, but they weren’t as fortunate, losing and continuing a lousy streak against current CEFL teams in Serbia.
It certainly didn’t appear that it would be as interesting after the first half, which ended with the score at only 3-0 for the visitors, but before they knew what hit them, the Dukes were up 14-3 after their first two drives. The Wolves had no answer for quarterback Čaba Juhas and especially running back Marko Đanić, who were just too fast to be stopped.
Đanić wasn’t the only one that was too fast; Boris Kuzmanović caught a pass over the middle and ran 86 yards on the third play of the second half to break the ice for his team, and soon after Đanić ran in from the 7 yard line for a double digit lead. Juhas, who was intercepted once to close out a scoreless first half for the Dukes, came out a different man and passed for two scores in the second.
To the Wolves’ credit, they hung on, not once, but twice, when the game seemed to be slipping away; Csanad Kiraly caught a touchdown pass from Lendvai near the end of the third quarter, but soon after Jovan Plećaš increased the lead to 11 again with a 25 yard reception. Norbert Erdélyi scored the last touchdown for the Wolves, but a comeback wasn’t to be, despite the opportunity.
Three games into the season, the Wolves again have more losses than wins and with last year’s final rematch just around the corner, they could find themselves in a big hole not even half way into the season. What’s clear though is that they’re not the same team they were last year, for whatever reason.
For the home team, the game could be a turnaround, if that can be said for a team that’s still undefeated -- they struggled early like they did many times this season, in the end finding a way not to just win, but to also play well in the win.