Date: 25 Mar 2012
Home: Wroclaw Devils - 27
Away: Gdynia Seahawks - 34
Seahawks come back twice to beat Devils in 34-27 season-opening thriller
Sebastian Krzysztofek scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns in a back-and-forth Topliga season-opener in Wroclaw, as the Gdynia Seahawks became the first team other than the Wroclaw Crew (now the Giants) to beat the Devils in more than two years with a 34-27 victory. Damian Bijan caught three Kyle McMahon touchdowns passes in the win for Gdynia, spoiling the return of quarterback Krzysztof Wydrowski to Wroclaw.
Both teams came into Sunday's game as favorites to make the playoffs in the newly-formed Topliga, and if this was a preview of what playoff football is going to look like in 2012 then the new format will certainly be a success with fans. The lead changed hands three times in the second half, with the tie-breaking score coming as only 62 seconds remained on the game clock.
The Devils led 7-0 after a quarter and 19-6 at halftime. Niles Mittasch started the affair with a short touchdown run for the Devils in the first quarter before Bijan's first scoring reception early in the second got the Seahawks back to within a point. Wydrowski, PLFA MVP two seasons ago, quickly returned to the form that won him that award, throwing long touchdowns to Grzegorz Mazur and Kim Thompson. The first of those two scores went for 89 yards.
From that point the Devils looked headed to victory until Gdynia got a spark in the third quarter when Mittasch fumbled the ball away in his own half of the field. McMahon hit Bijan in the end zone again in the ensuing possession, and this time Jakub Fabich's extra point drew Gdynia to within six points. The Seahawks intercepted a deep Wydrowski pass on the next Devils possession, and their long march down the field ended in yet another touchdown for Bijan. The PAT sailed through, and suddenly Gdynia was ahead just before the end of the third quarter.
The Devils were not done yet, however, and Wydrowski hit his favorite target again early in the fourth quarter. Mazur, possibly the quickest player on the field, took this pass 35 yards to the end zone, and Tomasz Tarczynski's two-point conversion gave the Devils a 27-20 lead. The Gdynia offense was in full gear by this point, however, and the Devils could do nothing to stop their next drive, which ended in the first Krzysztofek touchdown run, a 13-yarder that tied the game at 27 with just over seven minutes remaining.
Wroclaw got the ball back and put together a five-minute drive, attempting a 35-yard field goal to end it after a dropped pass in the end zone denied them the lead. Krzysztof Wis's kick was wide of the mark, however, and Gdynia took over at the Wroclaw 25-yard line near the two-minute warning. They drove quickly down the field, with the key play a 30-yard reception by Josh DeLuca that got the ball into the red zone. McMahon then scrambled to the one-yard line before Krzysztofek punched it in from there to give his team the lead in the battle of former MVP's. The Seahawks intercepted Wydrowski again on the final Devils possession to seal it.
It is still too early to predict what will happen in the Topliga playoffs, but this impressive victory for Gdynia, on the road against a team that has made the final for two consecutive years, has to put them in the discussion for NAC SuperFinal VII. The teams will surely meet again, this time in Gdynia, on the penultimate weekend of the regular season.
The Devils will stay at home for their next game, facing the AZS Silesia Rebels on March 31. It could be another stern test for the team from Wroclaw, as the Rebels were impressive in a season-opening victory over the Dom-Bud Krakow Tigers on Sunday afternoon. The Seahawks, meanwhile, will open their home campaign on the same day, taking on the Warsaw Eagles in one of the most anticipated matchups of the early regular season.