European H.S. football championships: Alconbury completes rebound from 0-4 with Division III title
Stars and Stripes November 8, 2009
BAUMHOLDER, Germany — Alconbury’s 2009 Tale of Two Seasons ended in the best of times Saturday with a 31-13 victory over Menwith Hill in the DODDS-Europe Division III football championship game.
"We learned from our mistakes in the early days," Alconbury coach Jeff Black said of his team’s turnaround after losing its first four games. "We made a lot of changes in personnel and position. We studied tape and did a lot of coaching things. Our coaching staff was brilliant."
If not brilliant, awfully close to it. The Dragons (3-4) mounted a season-ending three-game winning streak behind the running of elusive Devin Pryor to end as the kings of European nine-man football.
While the nine-man champs aren’t a one-man team, you couldn’t prove it by the stat sheet.
After being held to what was for him a mediocre 48-yard first quarter, Pryor, who was averaging 11.46 yards per carry coming into Saturday’s game, broke 21-yard runs on consecutive carries in the second quarter to put the Dragons just a point down at 7-6 with 7:05 left in the first half. On the Dragons’ next possession, he fumbled a wildcat-type direct snap at his 47 yard line, but scooped the ball up, reversed his field and outran the Mustang defense into the end zone for a 12-7 Dragons lead at halftime.
"It was amazing," Pryor said about the three straight carries that netted him 95 yards. "They stopped me in the beginning."
Beginning in the second quarter, however, the stopper came out. Pryor finished with 332 yards on 30 carries and TDs on runs of 21, 53, 14 and 77 yards. That’s right about what he was averaging in a season in which he netted 1,742 rushing yards.
"They know he’s coming," said Black, "but they still gotta stop him. Our line got some great angle blocks for him."
Black’s son Jeff, the Dragons’ quarterback, scored Alconbury’s other TD, a 72-yard run on a quarterback sneak as time was running out.
"We call that our dive-zero," the elder Black chuckled. "We were just trying to run the clock."
Menwith Hill (4-3), which downed Alconbury 49-39 during the regular season, was the more dominant team in the early going, taking a 7-0 lead on six-play, 52-yard drive with 10:09 left in the second quarter. Chris Jackson, who led the Mustangs with 125 yards on 18 carries, turned left end for 16 yards to cap the drive, aided by a personal foul call against the Dragons.
"That power offense they had was hard to stop," said Pryor, who lines up at linebacker when the Dragons don’t have the ball, "but we made some adjustments. Nothing drastic."
Drastic enough to limit Menwith Hill to a lone nine-play, 40-yard end-of-the-third-quarter drive capped by Jackson’s eight-yard TD run the rest of the game. The play gave Menwith Hill a 13-12 lead.
Pryor then put Alconbury ahead to stay with 10:43 left in the game, and the Alconbury defense took the ball away twice in the late going.
"I’m just so happy we won," said Pryor. "To have turned it around like this is amazing."