The 'D' were on top in this Cowboys victory. Photo: Munich Cowboys

The Munich Cowboys sealed their third consecutive victory after seeing off a determined Wiesbaden Phantoms 29-13 at the Dante Stadium on Saturday.

Returning from a 34-7 win in Wiesbaden, the Cowboys returned to home turf to host the same opponents. 4 touchdown passes from QB Blake Barnes – 3 to Garrett Andrews – helped the confident Cowboys continue their amazing turnaround from last season (2-11-1).

The first play of the drive set the tone for the rest of the game as Barnes threw over the top of the defensive coverage in the back field for Andrews who obliged with a fantastic, 39-yard diving, touchdown catch. The Phantoms, a team knowing anything but a win and have put themselves perilously close to the relegation playoff, tried their best to recover. Despite going for it on fourth down on their first drive, the visitors struggled to find a way past an aggressive Cowboys’ defence.

Willie Milhouse danced this way and that, but birthday-boy Ryan Newell matched him step for step in the early stages, keeping the Cowboys in control. Another attempt on fourth down fell short for the Phantoms and Barnes once again took control. A good pass to Moussa Ndiaye moved them forward and after Fabien Gaertner was stopped on the run, Barnes floated a perfect ball into the hands of the impressive Philipp Vinzenz who took it the distance after the catch to run in for a 62-yard score. 14-0 and barely five minutes of the first quarter had been played.

Having taken a lead, the Cowboys stepped off the gas. The combination of a Fabien Gaertner fumble and a big play on third down from the visitors allowed the Phantoms to pull points back. A play fake from QB Guido Reuels gave him the time to squeeze a pass into the corner for Robin Braeuer, who made the catch.

Barnes tried to work his magic again, but fell short after a promising start to the drive. The Phantoms took advantage of the Cowboys collective dip and some good running from both Milhouse and Patrick Haehnel eventually allowed the latter to burst through for a 39-yard, rushing touchdown. The Cowboys blocked the point after though, pivotally keeping them ahead by one. Some strong defence from the home team and a late field goal miss by Robert Werner meant that neither side could add to the score before half time.

Knowing the next score would be crucial, the Phantoms were desperate to get it. A kick return to the Cowboys 30-yard line gave them their best possible chance, but once again good defence stifled them, with their field goal attempt also going wide of the posts.

It may have been his birthday, but it was Ryan Newell's gifts that allowed the Cowboys to celebrate at the end of the day. Photo: Munich Cowboys
It may have been his birthday, but it was Ryan Newell’s gifts that allowed the Cowboys to celebrate at the end of the day. Photo: Munich Cowboys

Seemingly stuck in a rut of poor, mid-game form, Barnes was sacked and fumbled the ball, giving the visibly pumped Phantoms another chance. An aggressive defence stopped them before saving their offence once more as Barnes succumbed to yet another sack and turnover after another drive ended badly.

Despite the eye-catching figures of Andrews and Barnes, it was the Cowboys’ defence (and their offensive line) that made this victory possible. Big plays that stopped the opposition at key times during the game proved, as they so often do in football, decisive. When the offence did make it happen in the third and fourth quarter, they were often pegged back by needless holding penalties, most notably denying Daniel Nentwich an impressive run that beat the blitz.

The Phantoms were not without penalties of their own though, and when an offside call moved the Cowboys up to the opposition’s 14-yard line, Barnes picked out Andrews once more. Having failed to seize on a positive start to the third quarter, the Phantoms looked as though they knew the game was beyond them. A three and out from the visitors was followed by a 47-yard kick return from Bill Doody, a neat reception from Ndiaye and, finally, another Barnes to Andrews touchdown (this one with the help of a tip from the covering safety).

Another late turnover from the Cowboys allowed Milhouse a chance to show his dancing feet one more time, but in the end, the Phantoms desperation to score wasn’t enough. The Cowboys can now confidently boast a 7-3-1 record for the season. Coach Craig hailed a sterling defensive performance as the reason for the win and bearing last year in mind, the improvement on that side of things has been astonishing. Even visiting coach Sven Gloss recognised “an enormous improvement in the Cowboys.”

With the results improving, the team developing young players (WR Benjamin Englmann made his first-team debut) and the confidence up, the Cowboys have every reason to believe that, even if not this year, they can add to Munich’s sporting trophy cabinet in the near future.