Ansbach opens with 48-16 win over Vicenza
By KENT HARRIS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 18, 2015
Note: This article has been corrected.
VICENZA, Italy – A casual observer checking out the start of the first game of the DODDS-Europe football season Friday night might have justifiably figured the squad from Vicenza had all the advantages.
Dressed smartly in black and gold, the Cougars fielded almost twice as many players in uniform as the visitors from Ansbach, who were fresh off a long bus trip over the Alps. And the small contingent of fans in blue and yellow were outnumbered a few hundred to one.
Of course, that’s ignoring the fact that the Ansbach Cougars are the defending Division II champions.
“That’s one of the advantages about being a champion,” longtime Ansbach coach Marcus George said after his team’s thoroughly dominating 48-16 victory. “You believe in yourself and what you’re capable of doing until someone comes along and lets the air out …”
Vicenza, at least at this stage of the season, is not that team. Looking disorganized throughout with players running onto the field late in countless plays, the Cougars were never in the game after the opening moments.
Forcing Vicenza to punt after the opening kickoff, Ansbach only took one play to find the end zone. Sophomore Tyler Benton went right up the middle for 41 yards, then ran in a two-point conversion. Three plays later, KJ Watters intercepted a Peter Toves pass and returned it 21 yards for another Ansbach score. Benton crashed in again for a conversion and it was 16-0.
Benton, who finished with 175 yards rushing, scored from 1 yard out and quarterback Bailey Ward found Watters for another two-point conversion and the rout was on.
Vicenza ‘s Max Monnard, who accounted for most of his team’s highlights, put the Cougars on the scoreboard with an acrobatic dive that got him just into the end zone to cap an 8-yard pass from Toves.
After getting outgained 103 yards to negative 3 in the first period, Vicenza turned it around a bit in the second quarter, outgaining Ansbach 103-38.
But it got worse in the third period, despite an impressive display of yellow flags directed at Ansbach – penalized seven times for 100 yards in the quarter alone.
“Never in my entire life,” George said of a team receiving so many calls – most of them holding - against it in a single period. He’s starting his 41st year coaching.
Still, that just meant that Ansbach continually had the ball on offense. Though maybe that wasn’t a bad thing for Vicenza, which managed a total of negative 14 yards in the quarter. Two drives ended with interceptions and the other with a safety.
Vicenza showed a bit of life when Monnard ran 22 yards into the end zone with just less than 7 minutes remaining to make it 34-14.
Ansbach’s response? Denton ran 55 yards for a score after his team received the kickoff. And immediately following the next kickoff, Sam Rodriguez picked up a Monnard fumble and returned it 20 yards into the end zone for yet another touchdown.
Vicenza first-year coach Jesse Woods could only shake his head and display a rueful grin.
“We’ve got some work to do,” he said. “We’ve got some pieces and we had a few moments. And I was proud that we stayed with it. There was no quit.”