Buccaneer K Xavier Beitia helped the Berlin Thunder stay in the World Bowl race with six points against Cologne
If this was a World Bowl preview, then the NFL Europe League's 14th championship game should be a thrilling one.
And if the Amsterdam Admirals and Rhein Fire meet again in World Bowl XIV, two Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have their European "vacations" extended by one week.
Jared Allen's Admirals won a thrilling, 35-31 contest with Jacque Lewis and the previously undefeated Rhein Fire on Saturday, giving both teams 4-1 records at the season's halfway mark. The two teams with the best records at the end of the 10-week campaign meet in the championship game, and Amsterdam and Rhein currently have a one-game lead on the 3-2 Frankfurt Galaxy.
Seven Buccaneers are currently participating in the NFLEL's spring season, including Allen, a reserve quarterback for the Admirals, and Lewis, a shifty running back who has contributed heavily to the Fire's success. Those two were involved in the weekend's most meaningful game, a shootout won mostly on the accurate arm of Amsterdam and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Gibran Hamdan.
Hamdan completed 15 of 22 passes for 244 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, including the game-winning 42-yarder to fellow Seahawk Skyler Fulton in the fourth quarter. Hamdan was temporarily relieved by Oakland's Reggie Robertson, who played most of the second quarter, leaving no time under center this week for Allen, the Buccaneer allocate. Last week, Allen had connected for two touchdowns during an eight-pass outing.
In a game that featured six lead changes or ties, Lewis gave the Fire a 24-21 lead shortly before halftime with a six-yard touchdown run on first-and-goal. Still sharing time with Buffalo's Fredrick Jackson in one of the NFLEL's most productive backfields this year, Lewis ran six times for 23 yards and caught three passes for 17 yards. He also returned three kickoffs for 49 yards, with a long of 22.
Despite sharing time with Jackson, the Fire's starter, Lewis ranks ninth in the NFLEL this season with 218 yards, averaging 3.9 yards per carry. He is tied for the league lead with three rushing touchdowns. Lewis also ranks fourth in the league in combined yards at 489, including his rushing, receiving and return contributions; Jackson leads in that category with 573.
Another Buccaneer allocate, center Jason Nerys, could stay overseas for an 11th week if the Galaxy can catch either the Admirals or the Fire. Nerys is a reserve on the Frankfurt offensive line, but he has played a significant number of snaps as the backup to starting center Charles Missant, a New York Jets allocate.
In Saturday's second game, Nerys and the Galaxy front line helped Frankfurt rush for 137 yards in a tight 17-13 victory over the still-winless Hamburg Sea Devils. Buffalo Bills quarterback Craig Ochs delivered a two-yard scoring pass to Aaron Hosack with four minutes left in the game to provide the winning points.
Phil Bogle started his fifth consecutive game for the Sea Devils, who fell to 0-4-1 with the defeat. He helped Hamburg drive 57 yards to set up the go-ahead field goal one play into the fourth quarter, but the resulting 13-10 lead didn't hold.
Three other Buccaneers, all members of the Berlin Thunder, got to play in the NFLEL's version of Monday Night Football to cap the weekend. Kicker Xavier Beitia, punter Brian Simnjanovski and linebacker Jermaine Taylor all helped the Thunder top the Cologne Centurions, 24-13, to stay alive in the World Bowl race. Berlin is now 2-2-1, 1.5 games back of the league leaders.
Taylor, who has started at right outside linebacker for the Thunder all season, has proven to be one of the quickest and most effective defenders in the NFLEL this spring. Through five games, he leads the Berlin defense with 37 tackles and has added three passes defensed, as well as three stops on special teams. Against Cologne, Taylor pitched in with five tackles.
Beitia scored the game's first points, punctuating a 52-yard first-quarter drive with a 28-yard field goal, his only attempt of the game. He added three extra points for a total of six points in the game, giving him 27 on the season. Beitia ranks fourth in the league in kicker scoring and has made five of his seven field goal tries, with a long of 47. The other half of the Bucs' kicking duo in Berlin, Simnjanovski, averaged 38.0 yards on five punts and dropped three inside the Cologne 20-yard line.
Two other Buccaneers who were slated to play in the 2006 NFLEL season, wide receiver Jonathan Carter and defensive tackle Keith Wright, are currently out due to injuries. Here is a rundown of how the seven Bucs still in action fared this past weekend in Europe:
- QB Jared Allen, Amsterdam Admirals…Saw action against Rhein but did not throw a pass. * Xavier Beitia, Berlin Thunder…Made his only field goal attempt from 28 yards against Cologne and added three PATs for a total of six points. * G Phil Bogle, Hamburg Sea Devils…Started at right guard against Frankfurt. * RB Jacque Lewis, Rhein Fire…Carried six times for 23 yards and a touchdown and caught three passes for 17 yards…Also returned three kickoffs for a total of 49 yards. * C Jason Nerys, Frankfurt Galaxy…Subbed in at center against Hamburg and helped Galaxy rush for 138 yards. * P Brian Simnjanovski, Berlin Thunder…Averaged 38.0 yards on five punts against Cologne, suffering just one touchback versus three kicks inside the 20. * LB Jermaine Taylor, Berlin Thunder…Started at ROLB and contributed five tackles in win over Cologne.