Thunder makes history

June 22, 2002

Berlin Thunder 26

Rhein Fire 20

Rheinstadion, Düsseldorf, Germany

Dane Looker races into the end zone for 
            his first touchdown in World Bowl X.
Dane Looker races into the end zone for his first touchdown in World Bowl X.
photo: photo-stock.co.uk

TWO touchdown receptions by wide receiver Dane Looker powered the Berlin Thunder to victory in World Bowl X, making them the first team in league history to win back-to-back championship games.

Looker - allocated by the St. Louis Rams - caught touchdown passes of 41 and 15 yards from Todd Husak as the Thunder opened up a 20-0 halftime lead before holding off Rhein's second half charge.

But victory was only assured for Berlin on the game's final play when Tee Martin's desperation pass attempt from his own 36-yard line fell incomplete as time expired.

The hometown Fire got off to a shaky start when Martin was intercepted near midfield by safety Ontei Jones on the second offensive play of the game.

Defensive end Dwayne Missouri hit Martin just as he threw the football and Jones was handed the easy pick.

Berlin moved into scoring range as running back Anthony White picked up 9 yards on a screen pass and ripped off a 13-yard run. But the drive stalled at the Rhein 30-yard line and the Thunder settled for a 47-yard field goal by Danny Boyd and an early 3-0 lead.

After Rhein went three and out on their next possession, Berlin took full advantage and opened up a 10-0 lead when Todd Husak - under heavy pressure - fired a 41-yard touchdown strike to a leaping Looker, who raced down the middle of the field to the end zone.

The Fire found themselves in further trouble when Martin was intercepted by linebacker Keith Adams at the Berlin 47-yard line. Adams ran the ball back 43 yards to the Fire 10-yard line.

Three incompletions meant the Thunder could not find the end zone but they did pick up another three points on Axel Kruse's 27-yard field goal to lead 13-0 after 15 minutes of play.

The Fire appeared to come to life early in the second period when Martin hit a diving Jimmy Robinson for a 31-yard gain down the right sideline. But the drive came to a halt at the Berlin 41 and Rhein attempted a fake punt.

On 4th and 11, quarterback/tight end D.J. Dinkins picked up 10 yards on the fake before being dragged down a yard shy of the first down by linebacker Jude Waddy.

Late in the second quarter, the Fire appeared to attempt a second fake punt when punter Dirk Johnson took the snap and ran around right end, coming up a yard short of the first down to gift Berlin possession at Rhein's 30-yard line.

Todd Husak threw two touchdown strikes 
            to lead Berlin to a second World Bowl crown.
Todd Husak threw two touchdown strikes to lead Berlin to a second World Bowl crown.
photo: photo-stock.co.uk

Three plays later, Berlin made the most of the opportunity presented to them when Husak fired a 15-yard touchdown pass to Looker, who made a spectacular catch in the corner of the end zone. Kruse added the PAT for a 20-0 lead.

Rhein threatened with seconds remaining in the second quarter when Martin completed five passes for 39 yards to move to the Thunder 18-yard line. But Jason Witczak's 35-yard field goal attempt was blocked as time expired to leave the Fire scoreless at the break.

The Fire had a chance to get back into the game early in the third period when cornerback Earthwind Moreland intercepted Husak at his own 46-yard line. Despite the excellent field position, Rhein went three and out and punted the ball back to Berlin.

Rhein did find the end zone on their next possession after the Thunder went three and out. Martin hit wide receiver Jimmy Robinson for gains of 9 and 26 yards before Tony Taylor sprinted untouched into the end zone from 6 yards out.

Playing the final game of his stellar NFL Europe League career, Manfred Burgsmüller tacked on the extra point to reduce the score to 20-7 in favor of Berlin.

Following a 41-yard kickoff return by Ahmad Hawkins, Berlin began moving the ball downfield again on Husak completions of 1 and 11 yards to Looker and 7 yards to wide receiver Kenny Christian.

Although Berlin failed to find the end zone, they stretched their lead to 23-7 on Boyd's 45-yard field goal.

Rhein continued to fight back early in the fourth quarter when Martin completed eight passes on a 65-yard scoring drive. Robinson caught 4 passes for 40 yards on the march while fellow wideout Scott Cloman added an 18-yard catch before leaping high in the end zone to reeel in a 2-yard touchdown pass from Martin.

The two-point pass attempt failed but the Fire had pulled to within ten and trailed 23-13.

Berlin's response to Rhein's touchdown was immediate as Husak hit Looker for 16 yards and White reeled off an 11-yard run to the Fire 35-yard line. Another 15 yards were tacked on when defensive tackle Brandon Miller was flagged for a late hit.

The Thunder could advance no closer but stretched their lead to 26-13 when Boyd kicked his third field goal of the day - this time from 38 yards out.

Rhein got excellent field position for their next possession when Jamal Robertson ran back the kickoff 51 yards. After edging closer to the end zone, the Fire stalled and faced a 4th and 10 at the Berlin 16 with just over five minutes left in the championship game.

Martin scrambled out of the pocket and dived for the first down but came up a yard short after picking up 9 yards on the play. Rhein turned over the football and saw their chances of picking up a record third World Bowl victory slip away.

However, Rhein never gave up the chase and put together a late drive to score on Martin's 1-yard sneak with 20 seconds remaining.

Fire safety Deke Cooper then recovered the onside kick at their own 40-yard line but Martin was sacked by defensive tackle Cleveland Pinkney and then threw incomplete on the final play to end a thrilling tenth World Bowl that was a fitting finale to the Rheinstadion, which will be torn down soon.

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