RB Aaron Stecker powers his way for the game-winning touchdown with 15 seconds remaining
It was billed as 'The Battle of Hampden Park' and it was a conflict that most likely will be replayed in the World Bowl. On an individual level, however, it might have been the battle for MVP.
When the 5-3 Scottish Claymores and the 6-2 Rhein Fire of the NFL Europe League met on Saturday in Glasgow, it was a matchup of the NFLEL teams with the two best records; at the end of ten weeks, the two clubs atop the league standings will meet in the World Bowl, the league's championship game.
In addition, the Claymores-Fire game promised a showdown between the two players most likely to gain league Most Valuable Player consideration, RB Aaron Stecker of the Scottish squad and QB Danny Wuerffel of Rhein. Stecker, a first-year player allocated to the league by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, leads the NFLEL in a variety of offensive categories, including rushing and touchdowns, while Wuerffel came into the weekend with a 20-6 touchdown-interception ratio and a 105.0 passer rating.
Happily for the hometown fans, the Claymores won a thrilling battle, 31-24, to move into a tie for first place and remain front-runners for a World Bowl berth. Whether the MVP battle was similarly affected remains to be seen, but Stecker certainly helped his cause by scoring the winning touchdown on a three-yard run with 15 seconds remaining in regulation.
That rushing touchdown was Stecker's seventh of the season, and he holds a commanding edge in that category on the NFLEL charts. He also came into the weekend with the league lead in total touchdowns (now 11 and tied with Rhein WR Kevin Drake), rushing yards (634 before Saturday), and total yards from scrimmage (877 before Saturday). In addition, Stecker leads the Claymores with 33 receptions, a total that ranked 10th in the league heading into the weekend.
Though Wuerffel was sacked repeatedly by the Claymores' league-best defense, including one hit that sent him briefly to the sidelines, he held up his end of the showdown with two touchdown passes, a scoring run and a game-tying two-point conversion pass in the fourth quarter that capped an 11-point comeback.
Wuerffel and Stecker are likely to get another head-to-head shot in the MVP battle. Despite its loss on Saturday, the Rhein clinched a spot in the upcoming World Bowl, thanks in large part to a big afternoon from another Buccaneer. The Fire earned the first World Bowl berth later in the afternoon when the Berlin Thunder, led by Tampa Bay quarterback Scott Milanovich, downed the Amsterdam Admirals, 28-15. Milanovich, who took over the Thunder's starting QB spot midway through the season and has performed strongly ever since, fired three TD passes and scored a fourth on a one-yard run.
At 6-3, Stecker's Claymores can earn a World Bowl rematch with Wuerffel's Fire either with a loss by the Barcelona Dragons (4-4) on Sunday against Frankfurt or, barring that, a Claymores win over the Dragons next weekend. The World Bowl will be held in Frankfurt's Waldstadion on Sunday, June 25 at 7:00 p.m.