Date: 19 May 2012
Home: Wroclaw Devils - 7
Away: Poznan Kozly - 6
Kozly fall one play short of shocking Topliga, fall to Devils 7-6
Kozly Poznan have a history of pulling off big upsets, taking out the heavily-favored Wroclaw Crew in 2008 and surprising the Gdynia Seahawks (then the Pomorze Seahawks) in 2009. They came just a whisker shy of pulling off the biggest of them all on Saturday in Wroclaw, failing on a go-ahead two-point conversion attempt in the last minute to allow the home Devils to escape with a 7-6 victory.
Despite their upset tendencies, history was not in Poznan's favor coming into this one. They had won only once in five attempts all-time against the Devils, getting shut out in each of the other four. Wroclaw came in riding a five-game winning streak, and had defeated Poznan 34-0 earlier in the season. Still, Kozly had put together a modest two-game win streak after falling in each of their first four games and, moreover, the Devils were once again without MVP quarterback Krzysztof Wydrowski, who sat out with a return of the back troubles that put him on the bench for two games earlier this season.
Like the first game this year between these two teams, Saturday's game was a defensive struggle in the purest sense. Both teams had chances to score throughout, but each time either offense approached the end zone, the opposing defense would force a turnover. The Devils scored the only points of the first half, on a 77-yard punt return by Grzegorz Mazur in the second quarter.
Kozly had taken possession before that punt after blocking a long field goal attempt by the Devils. That try came on the deepest penetration of the day by the Topliga's leading offense, which was held in check all afternoon by the strong Kozly defense. Niles Mittasch, easily the league leader with 20 touchdowns, was unable to find the end zone for the first time this season.
Poznan was able to gain yards all day long through the running game, led by quarterback Mark Philmore. He nearly scored himself on the kickoff following Mazur's punt return, taking the ball all the way to the Devils 30-yard line. Unfortunately for Kozly, they were unable to get anything going on that drive, and they trailed 7-0 all the way until the final minute.
Taking possession deep in their own end, Kozly put together a final drive that was mainly a combination of steady runs by Philmore and Deante Battle. Together, they led Poznan to the Wroclaw 23-yard line at the two-minute warning. They were still there three plays later, however, and Philmore's desperation fourth-down heave fell incomplete. Layton Jones was called for roughing the passer, however, bringing the ball half the distance to the goal and giving Kozly another chance.
They needed only one play to make the most of it, with Battle taking the handoff and dragging defenders the last four yards into the end zone to pull Kozly to within a point. They quickly decided to go for two and the win, but the drama dissipated immediately when a botched exchange between center and quarterback on the snap left the conversion attempt in a hopeless state. The Devils fell on the ball and bounded off the field with a share of first-place and their winning streak still intact.
That streak includes a 35-32 victory over the Warsaw Eagles, who will be Wroclaw's next opponent. The Devils will visit the capital on June 3, after an off week. Kozly, meanwhile, will remain on the road for their next action, at the AZS Silesia Rebels on June 2. The Rebels, with a record of 1-6, trail Poznan by a game in the race for the final playoff spot.