WORLD LEAGUE – After falling short in last season’s championship, the Scandinavian Stars are now World Champions after defeating the Buenos Aires Blue Dogs 92-83 in World Bowl 6. It was the lowest scoring World League Championship since World Bowl 2, and was the Blue Dogs’ first visit to the big game. Holding their spring training camp in Denmark, Buenos Aires has a sizable fanbase right next door to the Stars’ home turf, and their hearts are breaking wide open with this loss, but for Scandinavia, it’s a win they’ve been preparing for since losing World Bowl 5 to Dacusville in Los Angeles last year.
Making the victory and Championship even sweeter, is that the victory marks the Stars’ 50th all time win, earning them the Association’s Gold Star Award to go with the League’s Atlas Trophy. Coming into the 2017 season, fresh off the 112-150 loss to the Devils in the 2016 Championship, Scandinavia owned a 37-34-0 all-time World League record. They opened the 2017 season with four straight wins, and though the first two – 82-81 over London and 109-104 over Jerusalem – were close games, in Weeks 3 and 4 they defeated Milan and Dublin decisively, by margins of 52 and 32 points. In Week 5 they faced off against the Old England Patriots in a featured match for the week, and with the two of them ranked #1 and #3 in the league at the time, fans were expecting a high scoring showdown. What they got instead was a defensive struggle and a Scandinavia defeat, 63-89.
Following the loss to the Patriots, the 4-1-0 Stars lost their franchise quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, to what was believed to be a season ending injury. Nonetheless, they defeated the 4-1 Mexico Aztecs, 112-87, and rallied around their back-up QB, Carson Wentz, picking up victories in Weeks 6-9, all but one of them by comfortable margins. They stumbled in Week 10, suffering their second loss of the season, 69-84, to the expansion California franchise. Coming out of the game with Cali, their record was 8-2-0, and so were the English Patriots who overtook them on total season points to move into the league #1 spot. In Week 11, they took the field against Buenos Aires for the first time in 2017, in the Premier Match of the Week, and beat them by 9 points, 99-90, clinching a playoff spot. In Week 12, they destroyed New Orleans, 96-57 for their franchise win #47 after getting by the Acadians by just a half a point in an earlier meeting in Week 8, and in the same week were named a 2017-18 Pro Bowl Nominee. To close out the regular season in Week 13, the Stars were in a points race with England for the Eastern Conference’s #1 seed and first round bye. The Patriots had a standings lead of just 29 season points and all the Stars needed was a win and to outscore England by 30 points, but what they got instead, was a shocking upset loss to the Wild Boars of Milan, relegating them to the #2 seed in the post season as England took the first round bye.
In Round 1 of the World League playoffs, Scandinavia hosted the #3 seeded London Falling for the Conference Semifinal match. Despite their #3 seeding, London also happened to be the League #1 in total scoring for the season, and though the Stars had beaten them in the season opener, the win was only by about a point. In the Week 14 post season rematch, they rolled right over them, 111-78, completing franchise win #48 in a game Scandinavia led from the second quarter of the Thursday night game through to the finish. The Stars had no problem generating offense in this one, scoring 4 rushing touchdowns plus another 2 receiving. Scandinavia’s QB2, Carson Wentz, who had replaced their starter, Rodgers, beginning in Week 7, had been superb all season, becoming the league’s #2 signal caller, and he outdid himself in the game against London. Wentz threw for 4 touchdowns in the game, and generated 26 of the Stars’ points, but then exited with an injury late in the fourth. His injury was later confirmed to be season ending ahead of Scandinavia’s ensueing showdown with Old England in the Conference Championship Match.
After losing their second quarterback of the season, the Stars received the fortuitous news that their starter, Aaron Rodgers, was ready to go just in time for the Conference Championship. It was called the game of the year by some fans, the highly anticipated rematch of these two titans of the 2017 season. Both teams had established themselves as the two powerhouse teams of the 2017 season, both were Pro Bowl Nominated, and they posted the two best records in the league. England was the first ever 11 win franchise in World League regular season history, while Scandinavia, finished just 1 fewer with 10 wins thanks to the Week 5 loss to England. As mundane as this pair’s first meeting of 2017 might have been, those who had been anticipating a December showdown between the two weren’t disappointed.
The Patriots opened up a bit of a lead early, largely on the strength of their second in the league, Raven defense, and their Thomas and Kamara Saints-combo, but by the end of the day Sunday, Scandinavia had managed to close within striking distance. The Stars’ lead back, produced a whopping 44 points for them with a 4 touchdown performance, and their franchise QB, fresh off what was thought to be a season-ending injury got them even closer. England’s flexback provided them with a scant 6 points of breathing room before the game headed into Monday night with an 88-79 English lead. Going into Monday Night Football, it was still either team’s game to win, Scandinavia had 4 skill position players yet to play, but the Patriots had a small lead and the 2016 NFL MVP, Matt Ryan cocked and ready. England’s QB managed just over 200 yards and only a single passing touchdown, but also added a couple of beautiful scrambles for positive rushing yards, and the Patriots managed to hold onto a razor thin lead through three and a half quarters of play. But with just about 8 minutes left to play in the 4th, the Stars’ Devonta Freeman broke for a 32 yard touchdown run that gave Scandinavia back the lead they had chased since it was 2-0 early on Saturday. Between the yardage (3 pts), the 100 yard rushing bonus (3pts) and the touchdown (6pts), it was a 12 point play for Scandinavia. The final score was 116-104, Scandiniavia winning by a 12 point margin to repeat for the second season in a row as the WFL Eastern Conference Champions and picking up franchise win #49.
The Scandinavian Stars headed to the States for World Bowl 6, being held in South Carolina, the home of the Dacusville Devils who beat Scandinavia in Los Angeles for last season’s World Championship. The Stars’ quarterback drama continued as their franchise QB, having returned for the single game to help secure the win against England, was now ruled inelligible and placed on season ending IR. Their replacement on IR as well, the Stars would have to turn to their third string gunslinger, Nick Foles, to get them their first Atlas Trophy. The Stars took an early lead, and held onto it largely because of their star halfback, Todd Gurley’s 276 all-purpose yards and 2 touchdowns for 40 points. It turned out to be the second biggest game of the year for Gurley, right behind his 44 point performance the previous week in the comeback over England. Buenos Aires kept pace with the Stars, remaining within striking distance throughout the game, but by the end of play on Sunday night, the score was 88-83, and the Blue Dogs were still 5 points short and out of players. As it played out, the Stars did not even need their quarterback for this one, as they carried their lead into MNF where Foles played from the victory formation for his meager four and a half points, and the Scandinavian Stars completed their win #50 and World Bowl 6 victory, 92-83 – again, a 9 point margin – to be named 2017 World Champions.
Scandinavia will host World Bowl 7 in 2018, can they return to the Championship to be the first team to play the World Bowl with a homefield advantage? if they can overcome the key injuries that plagued them all season in 2017, not just at the quarterback position, but to their receiver corps as well, then it’s a very distinct possibility.