Baumholder has opportunity to get even in championship tripleheader
October 31, 2003
Those uncomfortable with change can draw comfort from the fact that DODDS-Europe’s bold Super Six football championship experiment Saturday includes something we’ve seen before: a rematch.
Last season, Ansbach defeated Baumholder 24-6 to claim the European Division III championship. The same teams will kick off a tripleheader in Baumholder that will crown the 2003 champions in all three divisions.
A look at the games:
Baumholder (4-3) vs. Ansbach (7-0)
“We’re going up against the best team and the best coaching staff in Europe,” said Baumholder coach Carter Hollenbeck, whose Bucs’ appearance in this year’s finale surprises even him.
“After the way we started, I was planning just to line the field and enjoy watching some football this weekend,” Hollenbeck said.
Hollenbeck’s still responsible for putting lines on the field, but his team’s rapid improvement — particularly the emergence of running back Xavier Dunford and the experience gained by quarterback Caleb Adams — will have him doing a lot more than just watching the games.
After losing four of their first five games — including a season-opening loss to Bamberg, a wrenching 52-50 loss in double-overtime to Giessen, and a 56-16 mercy-rule thumping at the hands of Ansbach — the Bucs have reeled off three straight impressive victories, 42-23 over Hohenfels, 28-7 at III-North top-seed London Central and a 36-16 payback at Bamberg.
“We started the season with just three seniors on our team,” Hollenbeck said. “We’ve learned so much about football and about life.”
Ansbach coach Marcus George and his staff have guided the Cougars to 15 straight victories.
He has spent the past week persuading his team to forget about the first matchup between the two teams.
“Historically, if you had a fairly easy time beating a team the first time, you have trouble getting your players to work as hard as they should,” George said. “On the other side, the other coach has plenty of ammunition to get his team motivated. How well we’ll compete will depend on how well we do our jobs.”
Like the first time, it’ll be Ansbach’s speed and quickness — mainly from running backs James Esters, Dameon Outley, Jon Austin and 2002 All-Europe quarterback Shawn Bachtel — against the muscle of Baumholder’s big line and power running.
Bachtel is also an effective passer, throwing on the pass/run option to his brother, Brandon, or all-conference tight end Russell Bailey.
“I was telling someone the other day that I may have had more physical teams,” said George, who won European titles at Fulda and Hohenfels before coming to Ansbach, “but I’ve never had one with more talent.”
George said he’s expecting a challenge against the Bucs.
“I think they were still trying to discover themselves the last time we played,” he said. “I’m anticipating a tough game.”
So is Hollenbeck.
“We’re happy to be here,” he said, “but we’re not satisfied.”
Bitburg (6-1) vs. SHAPE (7-0)
Like Baumholder, Bitburg lost decisively during the season to Saturday’s foe. The Barons opened with a 42-13 defeat at SHAPE.
“We watched the tape of that game and we had to laugh,” Bitburg coach Rik Carr said. “A guy who plays on the line for us now was playing DB — we had so many people out of position.”
One of them was European discus champion Chris Eubanks, moved from guard to fullback with the kind of devastating effect he showed in last week’s 28-7 victory at Naples against the previously unbeaten II-South champions.
“On his [11-yard] touchdown run,” Carr said, “he broke seven tackles. I thought he was stopped at the 11, but he just kept driving.”
Eubanks also serves as a punishing lead blocker for another weapon Bitburg has developed since the SHAPE game — running back Pascal Grundman.
Grundman gained 118 yards against a tough Naples defense and has averaged 134 yards in his two playoff starts.
He was in for one play against SHAPE.
“He just wasn’t ready that early in the season,” Carr said. “We brought him along slowly.”
SHAPE coach Kraig Kappenman knows that his Spartans are facing a different Bitburg team on Saturday.
“They only lost to us and they haven’t stopped since,” he said. “They have great coaches in Carr and [Lin] Hairstone. We know they’re going to come up with schemes to take away our strengths.”
That’s a lot of denial, considering the Spartans can hurt you with the run, with Richard Rendon lead-blocking for Brandon Glenn and the legs of quarterback Ryan Rice. But they also have a solid passing game when Rice throws to 6-foot-8 Joe Puttman, who “catches everything in his zip code,” according to his coach.
The Spartan defense is led by Rendon and fellow linebackers Kodiak Reed and Justin Raymond. SHAPE has allowed 6.6 points per game and closed out the regular season with three straight shutouts.
Kappenman also pointed out some of the intangibles that might come into play.
“Four years ago, before I was coaching,” he said, “Bitburg laid a spanking on us in the title game. A couple of our players, Rice and Grant Essad were freshmen then, and they remember.”
Bitburg has its own motivation: Saturday’s matchup will be the final game for Carr, who has been coaching for 25 years.
“We know Rik’s retiring,” Kappenman said, “but Bitburg’s not going to miss a beat with Hairstone. They’ll always be tough.”
Ramstein (4-3) vs. Wiesbaden (5-2)
The big-school battle will be played under the lights and on a field that’s apt to be sorely cut up by kickoff.
“I told our players, it’s going to be different Saturday,” Wiesbaden coach Darryl Schwartz said. “It’s going to be muddy, it’s under the lights, it’s going to be cold and windy, and there’re going to be a lot of people there.”
Fortunately for the Warriors, they’ve got the kind of team which thrives in those conditions.
“It’s always nice to have a power team,” said Schwartz, whose Warriors have a pair of strong fullbacks — Daniel Villarreal and Paul Fry — to clear the way for tailback Edmond Woods, who has rushed for 499 yards in the past two games, including a 332-yard performance two weeks ago. “A muddy field’s to our advantage.”
Wiesbaden beat Ramstein 31-7 at home Sept. 20.
But “Ramstein’s on a roll,” Schwartz said.
The Royals, coached by Glenn Porter, knocked off top-seeded Lakenheath 28-13 on the road last Saturday to reach this game.
“Glenn’s a good coach. He knows his stuff,” Fry said. “They’ll be coming for blood.”
Ramstein is led by senior transfer quarterback Matt Irwin, who’s looking to add a European title to the two Pacific crowns he won as a sophomore and junior at Yokota Air Base, Japan.
Porter said Irwin’s fully recovered from a gimpy left ankle that slowed him over the final half of the season.
Defensively, Porter said, “we have to find a way to stop No. 10 [Woods, who rushed for 200 yards against the Royals back in September].”
“It’s an advantage having played them before,” Porter said, “because we know what to expect.”