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29.04.2007 Prague Lions
Prague vs Carinthian 17 : 13
By Timothy Weldon
Prague’s 5 foot 6 inch free safety Stanislav Jantos, out leapt a Black Lion’s receiver deflected a last gasp attempt at victory by the Austrian team as time expired. It was a fitting culmination to what would be a see-saw battle between equally matched opponents.
The game however, did not start out looking like it would be anything but a blowout. Carinthia put two quick scores on the board in the first quarter following two quick turnovers by the Prague team. The Black Lions seemed to be able to move the ball at will on the ground with a one-two American punch by running backs Steve Silva and Lance Gray. And as Prague Lions starting tailback Michal Formanek, went down with a game ending injury, it seemed like it would be a long day for the Prague team.
But Prague Lions head coach Martin Kocian kept his team’s head’s in the game and made adjustments both offensively and defensively that opened up some passing lanes and proved to slow down the Austrian’s running game. With both team’s fighting against their own turnovers – the Prague side was able penetrate into the Black Lion’s red zone on several occasions in the first half only to be stymied by a tough Carinthian defense spearheaded by Gray. The Czechs were however able to come up with three points just before the half to go in down 13-3 to the Austrians.
The second half saw both teams move the ball well, but also suffer from costly turnovers or good defensive play by the opposing side. The Prague Lions would however slowly chip away at the Black Lion’s lead on the strength of an adept passing game and the running of second string tailback Jordan Dornan. These efforts culminated in a third and goal pass from the Black Lions four yard line as Prague quarterback Libor Navratil found receiver Jan Dudancek on a quick out for six points. Jantos put through the extra point closing the margin to within a field goal at 13-10.
The forth quarter would prove to be the most exciting of all as the Black Lions attempted to answer with a steady dose of the one-two ground game that put them up in the first quarter. But Prague’s defense didn’t break and the game became one of field position as each team moved the ball somewhat, before faltering on third or forth down.
But the turning point would come on a third and long pass attempt by Carinthia from their own territory. Black Lion’s quarterback Mario Wankmuller – who had spent most of the day just handing off – rolled to his left looking for a receiver. He came under heavy pressure and as he released his pass attempt it was blocked, caroming high into the air where a surprisingly nimble Prague Lions defensive tackle Pavel Poriz picked it out of the air. Poriz ‘raced’ down the sideline and was only held from scoring by the tails of his jersey as he managed to get down to the ten yard line.
Prague tried in vain punch the ball into the endzone on the ground and it came down to a third and goal from the nine. With the pressure both on, and in his face, Navratil lofted a beautiful pass that Jan Hlavaty gracefully caught over his outside shoulder as he tip-toed the sideline in the back corner of the endzone. The score put the Prague Lions up 17-13, but the drama was only just beginning.
With over six minutes to play it was still anyone’s game – and the Austrians would not go quietly. After moving the ball into Prague territory the Black Lions stalled and came up short on forth down, giving the ball back to the Prague Lions with two minutes forty three seconds to play. But the Austrian’s defense stuffed Prague on three straight plays and forced a punt to the ever dangerous Silva with just under a minute to play. However, the punt would never make it that far. Navratil’s kick was blocked by a Carinithian player charging straight up the middle. It was only the quarterback Navratil’s shoestring tackle that saved an immediate score and almost certain defeat for the Prague team.
With fifty seconds remaining, and the ball inside the Prague 40, the Black Lions offense pulled out all the stops – firing for the endzone at will. But their efforts were met by a stiff Prague defense and culminated in a forth and 14 from the 33 yard line with time left for only one or two plays.
As the rest of the game had gone, this was only to add to the excitement. Silva took a toss and ran to an overloaded left side. He rumbled, stumbled, and juked his way down past the first down marker and out of bounds at the thirteen yard line. First down! Or so it seemed… There was a holding penalty along the sideline were Silva had just danced. Bring it back. This would set up one last ditch attempt at an Austrian win. Five seconds left, there was only time for one last gasp for air before the diminutive Jantos’ heroics.