The final of the Swiss U16 Football Championship on Sunday, October 23, 2022 at the Obere Au Stadium in Chur was not for the faint of heart. After a Hitchcock final, the Calanda Broncos’ youngest full-contact footballers prevailed 42:22 in the last quarter and won the Swiss U16 championship for the third time in a row.
After the unbeaten season and the clear semi-final victory against Winterthur, the Graubünden team went into the game as easy favorites against the Thun Tigers, the second dominant team in this year’s U16 championship. From the Broncos’ point of view, the game started as desired. The defense conquered the ball after a few Thun attempts to attack, the offense scored an 8-0 lead through quarterback Laurin Züst from close range in the first drive (2-point conversion pass Züst to Lucas Hinnen).
With the injury-related out of the starting center/defense tackle Nevio Roth and the starting fullback/linebacker JK Keller, the Grisons paid a high price for the early lead. And in fact, the people of Thun came into play much better as a result. After a timeout, the guests took advantage of the Broncos’ inattention when the defense was not set up in time. After a 39-yard touchdown run followed by a conversion, the game began again in the second quarter at a score of 8:8. And again it was the Broncos who presented: Züst served his tight end Lenny Stäger through the middle for a remarkable 53-yard touchdown pass to give the Broncos a 14-6 lead. And again, Thun countered, also with a nice touchdown pass, to equalize 14:14 at halftime.
In football Switzerland, everyone knows that Thun is a team that never gives up. And so the Bernese Oberland came back. Supported by two 15-yard penalties against the Broncos, it was ultimately another nice pass over 20 yards that brought the touchdown (including conversion) to 28:22 after three quarters. The tension before the last 12 minutes of the game could hardly be stopped, two teams fighting to the last in an open exchange of blows – in short: high-class junior football at its best.
And when the Broncos offense subsequently got stuck in front of the Thun Redzone after nine moves, the Tigers suddenly had the chance – a few minutes before the end of the game – to take the lead for the first time. For the Broncos, who had never been behind all season, it was definitely the decisive phase of the game: The run defense held tight throughout the game, as was the majority, and on the third try it was linebacker Lucas Hinnen who hit the ball with a Recaptured Interception in excellent field position. The Prättigauer had already contributed an extremely important interception to last year’s victory in the last Junior Bowl, 2021 against Zurich. This time the Broncos didn’t let the opportunity slip. Three plays after the turnover, the fast Lorenzo Tino made the 36 from 31 yards:
Thun rebelled against fate again and, after a 28-yard pass and another 15-yard penalty against the Broncos, came back into the Graubünden red zone. The Grisons defense was now rock solid, however, and four incomplete passes later the locals had recaptured the ball. The Tigers’ resistance was now broken: With three runs across the field and Laurin Züst’s third touchdown of the day over 50 yards, the U16 juniors of the Calanda Broncos secured the (too high) 42:22 victory. An exciting football game between two self-sacrificing fighting teams with great players, which was the best advertisement for the sport of American football and thrilled around 400 spectators in the Obere Au stadium in Chur.
The season is now coming to an end for the U16s, and the traditional Juniors Night in mid-November is a fitting way to look back on the successful year. At the end of the finals, assistant head coach Alex Durazo, a long-time Broncos coach, was also said goodbye to the fans and board of directors. The American is leaving the Broncos for Spain after six years as first-team defense coordinator, head coach of the U19s and excellent trainer at all levels. Thank you, Alex, for your work, your commitment and you know: