The heat didn't stop the Cowboys bringing their own in a thrilling victory. Photo: Munich Cowboys

The Munich Cowboys halted the in-form Marburg Mercenaries with a stunning 31-28 win on a warm, Saturday afternoon in the Dante Stadium.

After a four-week break, the Cowboys returned to GFL action with a season-best performance to hand the Mercenaries their first defeat of the season.

Right from the start, it was the Cowboys who were moving the chains more. QB Blake Barnes’s variation in the air was good, but the Cowboys couldn’t convert their efforts into points on the board.

Another excellent afternoon for Garrett Andrews (2TDs). Photo: Munich Cowboys
Another excellent afternoon for Garrett Andrews (2TDs).
Photo: Munich Cowboys

One play can change the game though, and an aggressive defense came to life when defensive back Bill Doody intercepted a pass on the Marburg 39-yard line. Football is about turning turnovers into points, and. the offense responded; Barnes floated a perfect pass into the hands of WR Garrett Andrews for the opening score.

Marburg QB Micah Brown was constantly improvising in the pocket, and not with much luck or help from the rest of his offense. One of those long, hopeful throws was heading for the endzone, but once again it found the hands of the ball hawk  Doody, who this time returned the ball 34 yards to the roar of the home crowd.

After failing to take advantage of the turnover, the Cowboys soon felt the effects of their missed opportunity. The Mercenaries began a drive that seemed stalled, but were awarded a fourth-and-inches call despite the ball looking short from the stands. Flags were thrown and inconsistent refereeing followed, particularly on pass interference.

The Mercenaries risky tactics were not paying off but, as halftime loomed, they responded. A 31-yard punt return set up the visitors for a score. Despite holding the Mercenaries to three first downs, the Cowboys let Brown slip around the side of the pile to tie the game just before the break. A really positive drive from the Cowboys nearly put them back in the lead before the break, but Robert Werner’s  37-yard field goal attempt went wide.

Though the Cowboys had failed to score before halftime they took that momentum with them into the third quarter and soon, with the help of receivers Moussa Ndiaye and Philipp Vinzenz, were in position to restore their lead. Barnes, given time in the pocket by a strong offensive line, combined with Andrews again for another touchdown.

The celebrations were short lived. Bernard Risco picked off a Barnes pass on third down for an 85-yard interception return to tie it back up at 14-14. Still the Cowboys responded, edging back ahead by three after another well executed drive. Their defense tightened when Ramon Berger stripped Brown of possession and picked up the loose ball and trotted in for a touchdown that gave the Cowboys a 23-14 lead with just under five minutes left in the quarter.

Those five minutes proved to be more than enough time for the Mercenaries though. The deficit was reduced with a swift drive that culminated in a 22-yard touchdown pass from Brown to WR Erich Heinz. 24-21. The crowd  barely had time to breathe in a sensational quarter of football.

Backed by a small, but vocal home crowd, the Cowboys started the fourth quarter strongly. Catches from Andrews and a 31-yard burst from an otherwise quiet Fabien Gaertner took the Cowboys to the Mercenaries 15. Fingertips denied the Cowboys a touchdown and so on came Werner for a field goal attempt, but a fumbled snap denied a chancefor any points.

With both defences looking tired, the Cowboys incurred a bizarre, 20-yard facemask penalty and a 25-yard penalty for pass interference. This 45-yard penalty enabled the visitors to take the lead for the first time in the game, with RB Johannes Thiel running in for a 25-yard touchdown with seven minutes left in the game.

With Doody absence since halftime due to a suspected broken rib (picked up in a tackle after contact with an opponent’s helmet), the Cowboys needed to show their mettle. A 3-and-out didn’t help but another aggressive display from the defence did, handing the Cowboy’s offence the ball on their own 45 with under four minutes left.

Blake Barnes had another strong performance at QB, throwing for 3 TDs. Photo: Munich Cowboys
Blake Barnes had another strong performance at QB, throwing for 3 TDs.
Photo: Munich Cowboys

On 1st down, Barnes found Andrews for a 20-yard gain. Two incomplete passes were followed by a rush from Fabien Gaertner, leaving the Cowboys third and 18 with 1:48 left in the game. What followed was highlight material. Barnes drilled into the hands of Moussa Ndiaye, who, despite the attention of two defensive backs, found space in the endzone to make the catch and win the game.

Coach Craig refused to comment on the performance of the referees in his post-game, but did say how proud he was of Ndiaye’s performance. The wide receiver has returned to the Cowboys, overcome some nagging injuries and capped off an excellent week of practice with a game-winning touchdown. The humble wide receiver hailed the performance of the team as the basis for him being able to do his job. Marburg coach Matthias Dalwig was a little more critical of the referee, but did credit the Cowboys with a deserved victory.

The Cowboys (5-1-3) are back in action next-weekend as they travel to bottom-of-the-division Wiesbaden Phantoms (1-9) for a 5pm kick-off.

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