Team Sweden WR Mattias Gauthier # 81 got 3 TDs including this final zone jump for his first Photo: Jonas Domfors
Team Sweden head coach BD Kennedy promised that he would play his entire national team list during this year’s traditional Finnkampen, the annual rivalry match between Sweden and their Nordic neighbors i Finland. He turned out to be a man of his word, but it seemed like he only needed one of those players to come out on Sunday.
To take advantage of the opportunities he got in this unofficial tune-up for EM last, second string receiver Mattias Gauthier may not need that qualifier much longer. The Tyreso Royal Crowns’ passers-by pulled in five receptions for 129 yards and three touchdowns against the helpless Finns, each more spectacular than the previous one.
Gauthier’s excellent performance was the cherry on top of a dominant day for the whole Swedish roster, as they had control of the game from start to finish no matter who Kennedy put on the field. The result was a simple 35-7 win, far from coming from the back victory in EM semifinals in August.
The plot began in earnest in the middle of the first quarter. Finland had to strike after a fluttering series and earlier Montreal Alouette William James made them pay, came unblocked to deal with the player after a high snap and force a fumble. Finland recovered but Sweden took over in great field position and a few games later, quarterback Philip Juhlin started finding Edvin Taborda with a step on his defender for the 19-yard opening goal.
The Finns looked like they took a break early in the second when linebacker Veikka Lentonen knocked the ball out of Kasper Wedberg’s hands with Swedes marching, but their recovery would mean nothing. The pressure from Benjamin Egbudiwe flushed quarterback Ambro Urjansson out of his pocket at the next game and dominant Swedish pass rusher Malcolm Engstrom chased him down for the strip bag, with Hugo Dyrendahl jumping on top to get his team back to the ball. Backup Ture Nilsson responded to the clock with a quick pull to Mattias Gauthier, who spun out the future tackles and grabbed into the end zone for a 15-yard point on his very first catch.
Urjansson responded back with a 49-meter bomb to Tino Ndongo on the next run, lined up first and scored with a chance to turn around. The heating Swedish defense held on and the quarterback’s fourth pass fell incomplete until the end Finland best chance for the first half.
Both defenses bowed down Sweden up 14-0 and the third quarter turned into a series of three-and-outs and turnovers on declines until Gauthier again made his presence felt during the dying seconds. Capturing a short post from third stringer Viktor Ekberg and keeping his feet with a tackler hanging by him, he released and was on his way to the races, weaving past the final defenders for a 56-yard statement touchdown.
Gauthier only had more to give on his next series and took in another big 32-yard catch that was only saved from being a touchdown by a tackle from the grass monster. Wedberg demanded Sweden avenges on the grass at the next game, bouncing off for an 18-yard touchdown run that made it 28-0.
Finland responded by going deep, but budding Kuopio Steelers star Hannes Harju dropped a perfectly thrown deep ball from Urjansson which would have been a certain touchdown and they immediately turned the ball on declines in their own end. Ekberg simply dumped it to Gauthier on the towbar again and the receiver rolled away from another tackler to complete his hat trick with a 22-yard point.
Desperate to break the monk, Finland turned to run back Tuuka Lehtonen. After a couple of solid wins on the ground from the big back, the team came face to face with a fourth and a. Lehtonen got the push he needed and then a few, high-rises through arm tackles before releasing for a 32-yard touchdown.
The guests tried a pointless kick attempt on the spot to save some pride and fittingly it was Gauthier who came down with the ball, which allowed his team to kneel out of the clock on the 35-7 win.
In addition to Gauthier’s heroism, it was difficult to find statistical standouts for one Swedish side that rolled through their lines as if they were playing hockey. Ung Arlanda Jets quarterback Viktor Ekberg was the top passer, going 3-of-4 for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Starter Philip Juhlin led the team by rushing with just a 36-yard chase through the secondary, while Kasper Wedberg carried 13 times for 34 yards and one point.
Defensively, 22 different players appeared on the statistics sheet Swedes. Waraphon Prasopsin led with 5.5 tackles, with Hugo Dyrendahl close behind with five. Malcolm Engstrom had 1.5 sacks, Sebastian Diakiti, Sebastian Nilsson and Rikard Carlsson added each half, and Pedro Fernandez made some splash games in the second.
For Finland, Ambro Urjansson was 20-of-44 for 201 yards, Tino Ndongo had six catches for 105 yards and Tuuka Lehtonen carried 10 times for 71 yards and one point. Veikka Lentonen and Filip Zacok had sacks in defense, while Ville Rontu had the game’s only choice.
When it comes to preparing for the future EM game go, Sunday could not have gone more perfectly for Swedes. The dominant win will build self-confidence while the whole list has shown them at least one underrated gem before the match with Italy at the end of the month.