Thrilling. Hair-raising. Epic. CEFL Bowl XI had lived up to everyone’s expectations and then some and will arguably be remembered as the game of the decade. This CEFL Bowl will stand together with the finals of 2007 and 2011 in its incredible finish.
Projekt Spielberg Graz Giants had welcomed Belgrade SBB Vukovi in front of a crowd of 1,400 cheering fans. Their nail-biting turned into a thundering roar following the home team’s game winning touchdown in the last seconds of the cliffhanger that ended 52-49.
It was a surprise to many when the Giants’ backup quarterback Moritz Profant started in place of the injured Chris Gubisch. He showed his skills from the start, as he led his offense into opponents’ end zone on the second drive to give his team its first touchdown. It was a 6 yard pass to Florian Bierbaumer on the right side of the field that put the Giants in the lead. This triggered an immediate response by SBB Vukovi, as the ensuing kickoff was returned home by Anthony Washington to level the game. With this, the tone of the game was set.
On the very next drive Matthias Kiegerl rushed the ball for 23 yards over the middle for another score and the Giants were back in front by seven. The pattern continued as SBB Vukovi used their smooth passing offense in combination with a solid run game to find holes in the Giants’ defense. John Uribe’s 4 yard pass to Nikola Simovic tied the game shortly after the start of the second period. At that point, spectators who had been expecting a cautious battle of the defenses between these two teams were largely disproved.
Sure enough, the very next play saw the scoreboard light up again, as Clint Floyd returned the following kickoff all the way for another Giants lead. The furious pace of the game continued, as Thomas Winter intercepted Uribe’s pass, that didn’t result in a score. However, SBB Vukovi scored on their next drive when Washington hauled in a 3 yard pass from Uribe to bring the visiting team back on par.
On the very next play after the kickoff, Profant connected with Bierbaumer, who beat his defender in a foot race to the end zone for a 53 yard touchdown and another lead. Special team misfired on the try and the lead stood at 6 points. Still the first half wasn’t complete as the crowd witnessed an 8th touchdown seconds before the intermission. Simovic got himself open again, as he managed to do throughout the game. Uribe located him for a 13 yard touchdown and after the converted extra point, the visitors took the lead for the first time, never relinquishing it until the very end of the game. The half time score was 27-28.
SBB Vukovi came flying out of the locker rooms after the break, extending their lead within seconds. This time Uribe completed an 11 yard pass to Mihailo Stefanovic. On the very next drive, Tiodor Grujovic had intercepted Profant’s pass close to the goal line and returned it for a 98 yard touchdown, increasing SBB Vukovi’s lead to 15 points. Answering the call, Giants’ offense came close to the goal line and Falke Garbus took it from there kicking a 20 yard field goal. After a rare punt by SBB Vukovi, Profant took over again scoring a 41 yard touchdown pass to Klaus Geiger. This kept the Giants in touch in the penalty-ridden 3rd quarter.
As the final period started the tension was palpable. SBB Vukovi scored again with Uribe’s 26 yard pass to Simovic, and Belgraders stretched their lead to 12. The Giants, whose running game had been kept quiet by a strong Serbian defensive line, now turned to Profant’s aerial game. With nine minutes left on the clock, the youngster found Floyd with a 21 yard high toss into the end zone that helped his team catch up to -5 points. On the following onside kick Giants’ special team had redeemed for the early missed extra point. Despite their vigilance and agility in recovering the ball, Giants’ offense sputtered. After a resulting punt, SBB Vukovi bled the clock with short runs, but only took three minutes off of it before handing the ball back.
With two and a half minutes left on the clock, with no timeouts and trailing by 5 points, the Giants were in a hurry-up mode and the crowd was in a frenzy. Profant’s 20 yard long run on a quarterback keeper got his offense into opponents’ territory. After a couple of precision passes and a few short runs, helped by costly SBB Vukovi penalties, Austrian team was in front of the promised land. By this time, everyone in the stadium was standing in anticipation and anxiety over the outcome. Profant spiked the ball with six seconds remaining on the clock leaving the Giants with one final chance on the 1 yard line. Then on a well scripted play, tight end Max Herdey got in the quarterback position behind the center, took the ball and propelled himself over the scrum below him and into the end zone.
There was nothing SBB Vukovi defense could do but congratulate the winners. Standing akimbo, watching their jubilant opponents, they wondered how they managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Projekt Spielberg Graz Giants have earned their CEFL Bowl trophy in the eleventh year of this competition and the first season they entered the league. Moritz Profant was deservedly crowned MVP for his outstanding performance.
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