SAFETY Dan Crossman intercepted three passes and returned one of them for a touchdown as the hometown London Monarchs shut out the Barcelona Dragons in the inaugural World Bowl.
Crossman and his defensive teammates forced six turnovers as the Monarchs built a 21-0 halftime lead and snuffed out any hopes of a Barcelona comeback in the second half, exacting revenge on the only team to beat them during the regular season
"I said after the last game they might have beaten us once, but not twice, and they didn't even come close," said Monarchs offensive tackle Theo Adams, still seething over Barcelona's 20-17 defeat of London in Week 10 of the regular season. "They were overconfident and they didn't know what hit them. They didn't have a chance coming in here."
That didn't look to be the case in the early stages of the contest. Monarchs wideout Dana Brinson fumbled the opening kickoff, gifting the Dragons excellent field position at the London 18-yard line. But the Monarchs stiffened defensively and escaped unscathed when Barcelona went for a field goal only to have punter Luis Aguiar fumble the snap, allowing London linebacker Danny Lockett to recover.
Barcelona were back in scoring range towards the end of the first quarter but Massimo Manca pushed his 37-yard field goal attempt wide right. The Monarchs made the most of the let-off on their ensuing drive as Stan Gelbaugh threw long down the left sideline.
Wide receiver Jon Horton outjumped cornerback Charles Fryar, caught the ball and raced for a 59-yard touchdown - the first in World Bowl history. A miserable Fryar moaned: "When he threw the ball I had good position. I felt Horton then all of a sudden I didn't feel him. One second I had my hands up ready to intercept the ball and the next second - no ball. He's a heck of a receiver. He's been doing that all year."
Crossman came up with the first of his three interceptions on Barcelona's next drive as he picked off Scott Erney over the middle. However, the Monarchs were unable to capitalise and punted back to the Dragons.
Starting from his own 14, Erney attempted a swing pass into the left flat but didn't see Crossman coming up to make the play. The defensive back made the interception and strolled 20 yards untouched to give the Monarchs a two-touchdown lead.
Late in the first half, Crossman struck again and intercepted the struggling Erney for a third time, setting up London's final points of the game and securing his MVP award in the process.
After Crossman had returned the interception to his own 45-yard line, the Monarchs embarked on a drive that sealed World Bowl glory. Gelbaugh completed 4-of-5 passes to move to the Barcelona 14 with 52 seconds left in the half. From there he fired a touchdown pass to running back Judd Garrett, who set a World Bowl record that still stands today with 13 receptions in the game. English kicker Phil Alexander nailed his third extra point of the half to complete the scoring.
Erney was knocked out of the contest shortly after the interval when he was hit by London linebacker Marlon Brown. Former Notre Dame quarterback Tony Rice entered the game but couldn't help the Dragons muster any points. The Monarchs were also unable to add to their tally as they set about running down the clock.
The hometown crowd were given a real treat in the closing stages when London-born running back Victor Ebubedike was given the chance to carry the football, gaining three yards on his only attempt to the delight of over 61,000 fans at Wembley Stadium.
The final gun sparked riotous celebrations as the Monarchs fans basked in the perfect ending to the first season of World League football.
"We won it for the city and the fans of London," said safety Dedrick Dodge, who went on to win a Super Bowl with the San Francisco 49ers later in his career. "I mean look at them, they haven't even left the stadium yet."
Englishman Alexander added: "This is the greatest feeling I've ever had. I have been to FA Cup Finals and the atmosphere wasn't this good. This is a dream come true."
Colourful London offensive lineman Paul Berardelli perhaps best summed up what it meant to the Monarchs and their fans to be crowned the first World Bowl champions when he said: "The atmosphere in the stadium was electric, it was very close to sex.
"I came from a little college (Villanova) and we had about 10,000 fans a game - this was unbelievable. I've been in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles and nothing felt like this."