Wiesbaden gets past Ramstein in OT
October 10, 2014
WIESBADEN, Germany — Four quarters weren't enough to contain DODDS-Europe's escalating Division I football feud Friday night.
Tim Cuthbert found CJ Pridgen with a 25-yard pass to give the defending champion Wiesbaden Warriors a 20-14 overtime victory over the Ramstein Royals.
"We practice the throws and we execute them in the game," Cuthbert said while dutifully deflecting praise to his team's receivers, offensive line and defense. "This is like a building block for us.
"Hopefully we'll see them Nov. 1 again."
The game was a battle of the last two remaining undefeated teams in Division I, a rematch of the 2013 European championship game and, as Cuthbert suggested, a probable preview of the 2014 European title game looming Nov. 1. Last year's final was won by a then-underdog Warrior team by a 38-21 margin, ruining Ramstein's undefeated season.
Much of what went on a year ago was evident again Friday. The Warriors sought to put playmakers in dangerous open space. The Royals countered with run after hard-nosed run.
But both coaches acknowledged that the game wasn't a representative sample of what each team is capable of.
Wiesbaden was slowed by the wet conditions and a propensity for costly miscues. Warrior coach Steve Jewell knows Friday's win is no assurance of success in a potential rematch.
"We never got in any kind of rhythm," Jewell said. "Both teams played sloppy. We had turnovers that we probably shouldn't have.
"We got a little lucky in overtime, quite frankly."
Ramstein was shorthanded, missing top running back Ben Ciero, a pair of key offensive linemen and, notably, defensive coordinator Carter Hollenbeck. The outcome did nothing to frustrate the title aspirations of coach Carlos Amponin.
"We didn't know how we would do," Amponin said. "Our defense really, really rose to the occasion to keep that team to 14 points (in regulation). "We weren't surprised by anything that they did."
A light but persistent rainfall coated the Wiesbaden field's artificial turf from the opening kickoff. The result: ball carriers sliding to the turf when the ball wasn't slipping from their hands. One such flub finally proved costly when Ramstein fell on a Warrior fumble deep in Warrior territory.
Senior Donta Morris plowed in soon after for a 7-0 Ramstein lead early in the second quarter.
Another promising Royal drive ended midway through the second quarter on account of yet another fumble, giving the home team a chance to post some first-half points. But Royal defensive back Nile McIntosh stepped under a deep Wiesbaden pass attempt after the intended receiver slipped and fell, handing possession back to the visitors. Neither team managed to score over the soggy duration of the first half.
The rain abated and the Wiesbaden offense opened up its speed-based playbook after halftime. Their initial drive yielded nothing, but the Warriors pinned the Royals deep and coaxed a quick punt to reclaim possession.
That opportunity paid off with a spot-on sideline spiral from quarterback Cuthbert to Pridgen, a strike foreshadowing the game-winner to follow.
A key second-half series of events swung the game in Ramstein's favor.
McIntosh broke free for a go-ahead touchdown with a minute and a half to play in the third for a 14-7 Ramstein lead. Wiesbaden's Deshon Barrow struck immediately back with a kickoff return up the middle of the field and all the way inside the 10. But the Royal defense held, turning certain Wiesbaden points into a dispiriting turnover on downs.
Their spirits lifted soon after, however, when Keyshaun Greene hauled in a 21-yard touchdown pass from Cuthbert, tying the game at 14 with under four minutes to play in regulation.
With ample time for a pronged drive - and aided by some ill-timed Warrior penalties - the Royals marched downfield on a steady diet of sweeps and straight-ahead runs. They advanced as far as the Wiesbaden 34, where the Royals teed up a winning field goal attempt that the Warriors easily swarmed and blocked to force overtime.
The overtime provided each team four offensive plays starting from the 10-yard line, and neither offense responded well. Ramstein fumbled its first snap, and with it its first four-down possession. Wiesbaden went backwards halfway to midfield before Cuthbert and Pridgen reconnected.
Pridgen was thrilled to find himself even marginally open after a challenging evening spent grappling with the Royal secondary.
"Their cornerbacks weren't slacking off," Pridgen said. "They put up a fight."
Indeed they did. And from all appearances, there's another round coming soon.