Topliga Semifinals Recaps

Autor: Alex Zarganis Opublikowano dnia: 12 czerwca 2017 | Komentarze: 0

Gdynia Seahawks 49, Białystok Lowlanders 26 (in Białystok)

The visiting Gdynia Seahawks were unstoppable on offense in the first Topliga semifinal, scoring seven touchdowns in a 49-26 victory over the Białystok Lowlanders. Jan Domagała ran for three second-half touchdowns for the Seahawks, who will now advance to the SuperFinal to face the Wrocław Panthers for the fourth consecutive year. The Seahawks defeated the Panthers in close games to win the championship in both 2014 and 2015, before being blown off the field by the reigning champs in last year's title game.

The turning point of Saturday's game may very well have been the controversial opening play from scrimmage, when Lowlanders quarterback Aaron Knight swung a pass out to Tomasz Zubrycki, who then heaved the ball deep downfield to a wide-open Eryk Mąkowski for an apparent touchdown. The play was brought back, however, when the initial pass was ruled to be a forward pass, making the second pass illegal. The Lowlanders then committed three false starts to stall the drive, and eventually punted the ball to the Seahawks.

Gdynia marched right down the field on their first offensive chance, a possession that ended with Joseph Bradley throwing a 13-yard touchdown pass to Paweł Fabich. Białystok answered later in the first quarter when Knight converted a Tomasz Żukowski interception into a short touchdown run to make it 7-6. The Lowlanders recovered a fumble on the next Gdynia drive, but they were unable to turn that turnover into points when their field goal attempt was blocked.

Bradley's 6-yard touchdown early in the second quarter made it 14-6 in favor of the Seahawks, but the Lowlanders came right back to tie the game with more trickery. Knight took the snap at the 11-yard line and pitched the ball to Damian Kołpak, who then floated a perfect pass back to a leaping Knight in the end zone for the score. The two-point conversion tied the score, but the Seahawks untied it 20 seconds before the half on a nice hurry-up drive that ended with a short Paweł Henicz touchdown catch.

The second half began well for the Seahawks, who took the opening kickoff quickly down the field to set up a 27-yard touchdown run by Domagała. Białystok crept back to within a score when Knight and Kołpak connected again, this time in more traditional fashion, for a 3-yard touchdown that made it 28-20. Białystok then got the ball back again and began driving down the field, but the game's second big turning point came when Mikołaj Pawlaczyk fumbled the ball back to Gdynia.

The Seahawks finally put the game away with three touchdowns in the game's final four minutes. Domagała began that outburst with a 17-yard touchdown run, and Jakub Mazan then put the game seemingly out of reach with a 39-yard touchdown reception. Knight hit Zubrycki for a long score on Białystok's next drive to give the Lowlanders a last glimmer of hope, but Domagała scored one last time to seal Gdynia's fourth straight trip to the title game.

Wrocław Panthers 49, Warsaw Eagles 0 (in Wrocław)

The second Topliga semifinal, played on Saturday in Wrocław, was robbed of any drama when the Panthers jumped all over the visiting Warsaw Eagles early before coasting to a 49-0 romp that guaranteed them a spot in the championship game for the fourth consecutive season. The Eagles were no match for the top-seeded defending champions, who looked every bit like a team that won national and continental titles last year. The Panthers will play for their second straight Polish championship in SuperFinal XII on June 25 in Łódź.

Timothy Morovick dominated for the Wrocław offense, much as he has done all season long, throwing four touchdown passes and running for a 1-yard touchdown in the second quarter that triggered a running clock that persisted for the remainder of the game. Patryk Matkowski hauled in three of Morovick's scoring tosses, including catches of 25 and 23 yards on Wrocław's first two possessions.

Adam Skakowski added a 9-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to give the Panthers a 21-0 advantage at the end of twelve minutes. Morovick extended the lead to 28-0 in the second quarter with a 28-yard touchdown pass to Adam Góralski before his short touchdown run set the halftime score at 35-0. Wrocław got one more touchdown in each of the last two quarters, including a 25-yard reception to conclude Matkowski's hat trick and a second Skakowski rushing touchdown.

The Panthers defeated the Seahawks 35-7 in their regular season meeting on March 25, although that was a much different Gdynia squad than the one that beat the Białystok Lowlanders 49-26 in Saturday's other semifinal. The Panthers lead the all-time series between the teams 6-4, a mark that includes a 56-13 thrashing last season in SuperFinal XI. The Seahawks defeated the Panthers in the championship game twice prior to that game, winning 42-31 in 2014's title game and 28-21 in 2015.

TOPLIGA SUPERFINAL XII SCHEDULE:
Sunday, June 25, 5:30 PM: #1 Wrocław Panthers vs. #3 Gdynia Seahawks (in Łódź)

Alex Zarganis
a.zarganis@plfa.pl
PLFA Press Bureau

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