Confidence and optimism before the game didn`t result in a win for the team from Sremska Mitrovica. Even though the score in the end was 39-29, approximately 2,000 people in attendance witnessed a convincing Novi Sad Dukes win over the Legionaries.
In a match that will be mostly remembered for a large number of penalties, the Dukes led 26-7 at halftime, and 39-7 at one point in the third quarter. Only two late scores from their opponent reduced the margin to an acceptable 10 points.
The beginning of the game could be used as a good example to describe the entire match. A failed first drive and confusion that led to a couple of penalties left the Legionaries defending inside their 15-yard line. Quarterback Čaba Juhas didn`t have a lot of sympathy for his opponents troubles and the Dukes took the lead on Juhas` pass to Ivan Dudaš on their first play. Not long after, they scored again on a fourth down run by FB Mladen Knežević.
The home team`s total domination was confirmed when Marko Đanić ran for 50 yards and a score in the second quarter that gave his team a 20-0 lead after a blocked extra point. Linebacker Nikola Anđelković gave the Legionaries a little hope, intercepting a pass from Juhas and scoring to make the score 20-7. But their comeback stopped there – the Dukes went back to simpler running plays and scored on Juhas` run for a 26-7 lead. At that point Damir Žarko replaced Srboljub Radanović at quarterback for the visiting team, but he only managed an interception.
The second half was almost identical. The Dukes stopped the Legionaries` offense, while having little trouble with their defense. Ivan Dudaš scored on a 68-yard run, followed by Juhas` sneak for another score. Even though at 39-7 the game was practically decided, the Legionaries didn`t give up and scored three times before the final whistle.
Where he failed as a quarterback, he succeeded as a defensive player – Srboljub Radanović intercepted Juhas and took it all the way for another defensive score and a 39-15 lead after a successful two point conversion. The visitors scored two more times in the last few minutes, first on a run by running back Zoran Lončarević, and then on a last-minute touchdown pass from Žarko to Vladimir Božović with another successful two point conversion. Unfortunately for them, there was no more time left and the Dukes took the win, 39-29.
If it`s taken into consideration that the Legionaries` penalty yards were almost the same as their offensive production, nothing but a Dukes win could have been expected. Quarterback Damir Žarko, who played most of the game, thinks his team was ill prepared: “The Dukes surprised us. We played very confused in the first half, unlike the second when we were fairly good. Had we played that way from the beginning I`m confident the final score would`ve been better for us.”
The good overall performance by Čaba Juhas didn`t come without two interceptions which led to two easy scores: “I`m happy with the win, but there are still things we need to work on, things we need to correct so we don`t concede points from our own mistakes.” The coach for the Dukes` offense, Predrag Nikolić, said he is generally happy with how his team played. “We didn`t play as well in the second half, but for the most part we tried to play it safe. The offense played well, the offensive line and quarterback played well. Juhas had two interceptions but they weren`t entirely his fault,” Nikolić said.