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Hohenfels' Andrew Chavez had five tackles, including this one for a loss as the Tigers rolled past the SHAPE Spartans during a DODDS-Europe Division II quarterfinal game at Hohenfels, Germany, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015.

Hohenfels' Andrew Chavez had five tackles, including this one for a loss as the Tigers rolled past the SHAPE Spartans during a DODDS-Europe Division II quarterfinal game at Hohenfels, Germany, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)

Hohenfels' Andrew Chavez had five tackles, including this one for a loss as the Tigers rolled past the SHAPE Spartans during a DODDS-Europe Division II quarterfinal game at Hohenfels, Germany, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015.

Hohenfels' Andrew Chavez had five tackles, including this one for a loss as the Tigers rolled past the SHAPE Spartans during a DODDS-Europe Division II quarterfinal game at Hohenfels, Germany, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)

Hohenfels' Jordan Kelly breaks through the entire SHAPE Spartan line during during a DODDS-Europe Division II quarterfinal game at Hohenfels, Germany, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015.

Hohenfels' Jordan Kelly breaks through the entire SHAPE Spartan line during during a DODDS-Europe Division II quarterfinal game at Hohenfels, Germany, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)

The Hohenfels Tigers moved one game closer to the DODDS-Europe Division II football championship with their 28-8 win over the SHAPE Spartans on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015.

The Hohenfels Tigers moved one game closer to the DODDS-Europe Division II football championship with their 28-8 win over the SHAPE Spartans on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)

Trey Kirklen scored the SHAPE SpartansÕ lone touchdown and was the key to what was a close game for three quarters of football as the Spartans fell to the Hohenfels Tigers, 28-8, during a DODDS-Europe Division II quarterfinal game at Hohenfels, Germany, Oct. 24, 2015.

Trey Kirklen scored the SHAPE SpartansÕ lone touchdown and was the key to what was a close game for three quarters of football as the Spartans fell to the Hohenfels Tigers, 28-8, during a DODDS-Europe Division II quarterfinal game at Hohenfels, Germany, Oct. 24, 2015. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)

Tony Saintmelus produced 153 total yards and two touchdown for the Hohenfels Tigers as they beat the SHAPE Spartans during a DODDS-Europe Division II quarterfinal game at Hohenfels, Germany, Oct. 24, 2015.

Tony Saintmelus produced 153 total yards and two touchdown for the Hohenfels Tigers as they beat the SHAPE Spartans during a DODDS-Europe Division II quarterfinal game at Hohenfels, Germany, Oct. 24, 2015. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)

Tony Saintmelus produced 153 total yards and two touchdowns for the Hohenfels Tigers as they beat the SHAPE Spartans during a DODDS-Europe Division II quarterfinal game at Hohenfels, Germany, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015.

Tony Saintmelus produced 153 total yards and two touchdowns for the Hohenfels Tigers as they beat the SHAPE Spartans during a DODDS-Europe Division II quarterfinal game at Hohenfels, Germany, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)

HOHENFELS, Germany – The Hohenfels Tigers smashed past the SHAPE Spartans to advance to the 2015 DODDS-Europe Division II semifinals.

In a game that was closer than the scoreboard showed Saturday, the Tigers pulled past the Spartans 28-8 to move one game closer to the championship that eluded them in 2014.

As usual, the Tigers relied heavily on the multi-faceted talents of Tony Saintmelus and Jordan Kelly, but it was their continuous series of victories in the trenches that really won the game.

Mason Saldana, Andrew Chavez and Alex Avila didn’t end the game with a lot of attractive stats next to their names. Saldana had seven tackles and Chavez added five of his own. Both solid, if not spectacular numbers.

What defined their play were the little moments often missed. For instance, Saldana’s ability all game long to clog up the middle. Or the way Chavez continued to slip through to take out several blockers, freeing Kelly up to make a tackle.

The Tigers’ line, both offensively and defensively, turned what could have been a high-scoring affair into good old-fashioned smash mouth football.

“It was definitely a hard one. They didn’t give us anything,” Saldana said. “When they were running it up the middle, it was frustrating at first because I had four or five guys on me. But I just had to adapt and overcome.”

Of course, even the best line in football can’t win a game on its own. Luckily, they didn’t have to.

Saintmelus had his normally productive day, with 153 total yards and two touchdown grabs before leaving in the fourth quarter with a leg injury. Kelly poured on 117 yards rushing, including a 26-yard touchdown. Orcun Selmani tallied up three touchdown tosses, two to Saintmelus and one to Wade Cermack with 41 seconds to go.

Unlike some of the Tigers’ games this season, the victory really wasn’t on the shoulders of just one or two players.

“This could have been the last game of our season,” Chavez said. “But the team pulled together. Not an individual effort. Everybody played their hearts out.”

As for the Spartans, the loss sends them into the offseason on a sour note. Coach Jay Bodine relied heavily on the explosive speed of running back Trey Kirklen, who continued to make plays even as time winded down in the fourth.

Kirklen was responsible for the vast majority of the offensive production for the Spartans. His electric 12-yard scamper up the middle was the team's lone score of the day. The junior was a one-man wrecking ball, making positive gains out of plays that should’ve been losses over and over again.

Even so, he gave credit to his team for a hard fought game.

“Overall my team, we performed. From the first time we stepped onto the field to now we pushed harder and harder,” he said. “This game, we gave them everything. We tried our hardest.”

The Tigers are just one more game away from the Division II championships. They now head to Rota to face the Admirals on their own turf.

It’ll be a tough game for the Tigers, even more so if Saintmelus isn’t able to bounce back from his injury in time. But should the worst happen and their star playmaker is unable to suit up, the team has a pretty good backup plan in Kelly.

For his part, Kelly said he hopes the entire team will be ready to play next week, but should head coach Phil Rigdon call on him to carry the load, he’ll be ready.

“I want to crush the next team,” he added. “I want to get championships, that’s my dream.”

darnell.michael@stripes.com


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