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Polish Bowl IIV
Miner Nation rejoices after Silesia wins first PLFA championship
They came to the nation’s capital in force on Saturday to support their team, and the Silesia Miners did not disappoint the faithful. In front of a large and partisan crowd, the Miners used big plays on special teams to overcome a slow first half and a determined Wrocław Crew to take Polish Bowl IV by a score of 18-7.
Grzegorz Suder was named MVP of the game, although the game-turning play was an 80-yard kickoff return by Artur Loncierz just after the whistle blew to start the third quarter. Loncierz took the kick at his own 20, started right and cut back left, where a convoy of blockers escorted him into the end zone. Loncierz also made several big plays in the defensive backfield, breaking up long Wrocław pass attempts.
The Crew, who beat Silesia in the 2007 championship game, had trouble getting the offense going all afternoon. Wrocław was able to stay in the game, however, after several Miners turnovers in the first half. The Crew took a 7-6 lead into the locker room after Rafał Łysiak lobbed a perfect pass from the Miner 29-yard line into double coverage with a minute remaining in the first half. Piotr Nawrot hauled it in near the sideline at the two-yard line before stepping into the end zone, where a defender knocked the ball loose. The score counted, and the Miners, who had played much the better in the first half, found themselves trailing heading into the intermission.
Loncierz’s kick return brought back memories of last year’s Polish Bowl, when Piotr Gorzkowski ran back a punt for a touchdown in the second half to break the game open for the RMF Maxxx Warsaw Eagles, who also trailed 7-6 at halftime. Gorzkowski almost made the Miners watch this title game from the sidelines, scoring on a punt return two weeks ago to give the Eagles a late lead over Silesia in their semifinal game. The Miners were able to score on the final possession, and win the game that many thought would actually determine this year’s championship.
That should take nothing away from the season the Crew had, however. They finished the regular season with a PLFA I-best record of 6-1, shutting out their first three opponents by a combined score of 155-0. That string included a 24-0 rain-soaked victory over the Miners in Wrocław. The Crew from Saturday’s game looked a lot different from the team that shutout the Miners five months ago, though, as Wrocław lost several key players towards the end of the season.
The Miners shut down the Wrocław offense for most of the afternoon. The Crew were never able to get the run going, as this year’s PLFA I MVP Jakub Płaczek was bottled up all afternoon. Wroclaw connected on a few long passes, including the Nawrot touchdown, but the Miners secondary played a strong game and Łysiak wasn’t able to find many open receivers.
Despite this, things could have been even worse for the new champions at the break. Silesia got their only points of the first half on the game’s first possession, when Tadeusz Oko fell on the Crew’s botched punt attempt in the end zone for a touchdown. In fact, the Crew played even with the Miners on the day if special teams were taken out of the equation.
The Miners continued to pound away at the Crew in the second half, finally scoring on offense with a two-yard run by Suder capping a long drive in the third quarter. Silesia was able to eat up the clock with the ground game in the second half, a fact which never allowed Wrocław the chance to mount a serious comeback.
The win was a deserved one for the Silesia Miners, who played the most consistent and balanced football of any team in Poland this season. Two years ago they surprised everyone by making it into the title game in their first season in the league. This year, however, no one can deny that the Miners are a team worthy of being called Poland’s champions.
PLFA 2009 individual honors announced
Most Valuable Player: Jakub Płaczek (Wrocław Crew)
Best Offensive Player: Jakub Płaczek (Wrocław Crew)
Best Defensive Player: Bartosz Kalejta (Husaria Szczecin)
Best Quarterback: Bartłomiej Jaguszewski (Silesia Miners)
Best Receiver: Zbigniew Szrejber (Silesia Miners)
Best Running Back: Jakub Płaczek (Wrocław Crew)
Best Offensive Line: Wrocław Crew
Best Defensive Lineman: Bartosz Kalejta (Husaria Szczecin)
Best Linebacker: Paweł Krzywdziak (Silesia Miners)
Best Defensive Back: Tomasz Żukowski (Białystok Lowlanders)
Best Kicker: Krzysztof Wis (Wrocław Devils)
Best Punter: Maciej Suchanowski (Pomorze Seahawks)
Best Returner: Paweł Miziński (Husaria Szczecin)
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Daniel Krawiec (RMF Maxxx Warsaw Eagles)
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Jakub Malecki (Pomorze Seahawks)
2006 Warsaw Eagles
2007 The Crew Wroclaw
2008 Warsaw Eagles
2009 AZS Silesia Miners
Video recap and stats will be available in forthcoming days on www.pzfa.pl
Next week’s preview
The excitement isn’t finished yet, as PLFA II’s best will fight it out in that league’s title game for the right to play in the top division next year. The losers will not be done, however, as they will play the Białystok Lowlanders two weeks later for a spot in next year’s PLFA I campaign. In the other game, two teams play for a shot at the Wrocław Devils two weeks thereafter in the second play-in game.
Season complete (Białystok Lowlanders and Wrocław Devils play for the right to keep their spots in PLFA I on the weekend of November 7-8.)
Sunday, October 25 (Championship game): Sioux Krakow Tigers-Zagłębie Steelers Interpromex
Sunday, October 25 (Third-place game): Torpedy Łódź-Bielawa Owls