Luukas Eerola secured the victory for Finland and the U19 European Championship bronze medals
Finland’s U19 juniors secured an impressive victory against Denmark in the U19 age group European Championship bronze medal match with a score of 28-22 (6-16). The resolution of the match had to be awaited until the final seconds of the game. With 20 seconds left on the clock, Luukas Eerola returned the kickoff kicked by Denmark, which had just taken the lead.
In hindsight, it’s easy to put oneself in the shoes of Denmark’s special teams coach and contemplate what went wrong. Their team had just regained the lead, and there were 20 seconds on the clock. The kicking team positioned itself to secure favorable positions for the Danes to burn the last seconds of the game, and the one player to whom the ball should absolutely not be kicked was the deepest player in the receiving team.
Luukas Eerola did it again, something the Finnish American football audience has, in a way, become accustomed to. The young man returned the kickoff for a 77-yard journey all the way to Denmark’s end zone, and with his three touchdowns, he brought Finland’s youngsters back into medal contention at the end of a long dry spell. Eerola is the same player who broke the Swedes’ spirit with a 90-yard return touchdown in the men’s semifinal in August and, just a week ago, scored three touchdowns in his first Maple Bowl, sinking the favored Crocodiles.”
Denmark dominated the game
In Saturday’s bronze medal match, Denmark took control of the field by ruthlessly capitalizing on numerous mistakes made by the Finns. The guest team’s halftime lead of 6-16 was well-deserved, and the Danes managed to maintain their lead until the last minutes of the fourth quarter. Centerback Noah Helmi, who received the team’s MVP award, was at times unstoppable, successfully breaking through the middle for long gains.
The Danish player with the most yards gained was the wide receiver Ludvig Bruun with his 137 yards. For a moment, there was celebration on the Danish sideline for Oscar Andersen as the game-decider, with the wide receiver catching an excellent six-yard pass from quarterback Mikkel Hegnelt just 20 seconds before the end of the game.
Turnaround in the second half
Finland’s coaching staff succeeded in rallying the team for a strong performance in the second half. Opponent’s offensive attempts were better stopped, and led by Jerry Silomaa, the offense built more balanced drives toward the opponent’s goal. The touchdown run by Aleksi Hirvonen in the third quarter, narrowing the score to 12-16, boosted Finland’s belief in winning the game, and not even the opponent’s last-minute touchdown could crush the spirits of the young lion-clad players.
In defense, Juho Angervo in the backfield was the team’s most productive tackler with 8.5 stops. The Finnish backfield didn’t have the best day on Saturday, with Danish quarterback Hegnelt managing to throw three touchdowns and nearly 300 yards. The two interceptions made by the Finns were credited to Luca Koskenkanto and Eino Marno. Marno’s interception was the last play of the game.
The Finnish team entered the EM bronze medal match after a relatively short preparation period. Some players had competed just a week earlier in Seinäjoki for the Finnish championship. Despite the challenging circumstances, the young players fought for victory for Finland, and secondary is the manner in which it was achieved. Congratulations to the entire team for securing a spot on the podium!
Stats: Ottelun tilastot
Photo credit: Jarmo Vehkomäki