Ansbach keeps title after shootout with Rota
November 7, 2015
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – Rota’s time is almost certainly coming. It’s just not quite now.
The Ansbach Cougars completed their second straight undefeated season and won their second straight DODDS-Europe Division II football championship Saturday at Kaiserslautern High School with a 32-27 defeat of the Admirals, defiantly retaining their title against the division’s rising power.
“We put in work every day, we worked so hard,” said Ansbach’s Yadiel Rodriguez, who was recruited to the school’s shrinking football program after spending last year on the cheer squad and posted 101 receiving yards and 65 rushing yards in the title game. “We just kept fighting and fighting, we never let down.”
Ansbach sophomore Tyler Benton delivered the decisive touchdown in a furious back-and-forth second half, barreling in for his third rushing score of the game with just more than two minutes to play. Bailey Ward tacked on a two-point conversion to establish the final margin, and the Cougars denied a last-chance Rota drive to preserve the win and extend their title reign.
A contrast in styles created a near-stalemate between the speedy slipperiness of the Admirals and the more conventional straight-ahead approach of the Cougars. Andres Torres starred for the Admirals with 198 yards on 12 carries, eluding and embarrassing Ansbach tacklers with sharp cuts and sideline breakaways. Benton played his counterpart, pinballing off tacklers and shouldering through the thick of the Rota defense for 271 yards on the ground.
Ansbach coach Marcus George allowed that his team couldn’t compete with Rota in terms of speed and athleticism. Instead, the Cougars intensified their usual efforts.
“We did enough to keep them off balance,” George said. “We were back to what we always do – power football.”
Rota launched an immediate third quarter comeback from an 18-7 halftime deficit, with 14 unanswered points provided by Torres in the form of a 14-yard touchdown run and a 22-yard interception return.
Ansbach responded with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns, a short-yardage run by Ogden Andrew and Benton’s clincher. Those unglamorous scores bookended a go-ahead touchdown by Torres, a magnificent 90-yard scamper that sent flummoxed Ansbach tacklers grasping at the chilly evening air.
That run was the most electric of a collection of Rota highlights, including a double reverse leading to a first-half touchdown by D’Angelo Gallardo and slick interceptions by Armani Walker and Gallardo.
Ultimately, however, it was a straight-ahead Benton run that won the day.
“We just played our game,” Benton said. “We did what we had to do to put points on the board.”
The gritty victory was a fitting end to a Cougar season that dawned in the midst of an exodus of starters from last year’s championship roster. Benton said the remaining Cougars, both incumbent contributors and new recruits, took their predicament as a personal challenge.
“I think we all had high expectations,” Benton said. “Some people thought we weren’t going to be as good as we were, and we used that to kind of motivate us, to move us forward.”
Rota coach Ken Walter said his team was put at a disadvantage by the team’s arduous travel schedule. The Admirals had just three practices with which to prepare for the defending champions and spent the bulk of Thursday and Friday on a bus.
With that in mind, Walter was pleased with how his team responded.
“I’m honored to be a part of this,” said the first-year Admirals coach, a veteran of four straight championships at DODDS-Pacific program Daegu. “One of the best football games I’ve ever been a part of.”
While on the surface the game was a straightforward clash between the division’s two undefeated frontrunners, the matchup in fact represented the intersection of two programs on very different paths. The Admirals, who finished winless just two seasons ago, are steadily gaining students and players as their naval base bulks up, while those same numbers are dwindling equally and oppositely at Ansbach.
George said that if and when football folds at Ansbach, the 2014 and 2015 trophies will sit in a display case sparking future non-football playing Ansbach students to “dream about the mountains we climbed.”
Walter, meanwhile, has his team eying the DODDS-Europe summit after paying a contender’s dues Saturday.
“The biggest thing in these games, in my experience, is experience,” Walter said. “From here on out, you’re going to have to think about Rota when you think about the top teams.”
As of Saturday, however, that list still starts with Ansbach.
DODDS-Europe Division II championship game Ansbach 32, Rota 27 Saturday at Kaiserslautern, GermanyRota 0 7 14 6 -- 27Ansbach 6 12 0 14 -- 32
First quarter 7:11 – Ansbach: Bailey Ward 3 run (conversion failed)Second quarter 9:47 – Rota: D’Angelo Gallardo 32 run (Jake Anderson kick) 9:05 – Ansbach: Tyler Benton 1 run (conversion failed) 1:12 – Ansbach: Benton 3 run (conversion failed)Third quarter 10:49 – Rota: Andres Torres 12 run (Anderson kick) 6:11 – Rota: Torres 22 interception return (Anderson kick)Fourth quarter 11:19 – Ansbach: Ogden Andrew 3 run (conversion failed) 4:21 – Rota: Torres 90 run (kick failed) 2:04 – Ansbach: Benton 8 run (Ward conversion run)