June 14, 2010

1998: Rhein Defeats Frankfurt to Win NFL Europe Title in World Bowl VI

The 1998 NFL Europe season concluded with the two German teams, the Rhein Fire and the Frankfurt Galaxy, meeting for the developmental league’s championship in World Bowl VI on June 14 before 47,846 fans at Frankfurt’s Waldstadion.

Both teams had ended up with 7-3 records in the re-named circuit (prior to ’98 it had been known as the World League of American Football). The Fire, based in Dusseldorf and coached by Galen Hall, had the league’s leading rusher in RB Derrick Clark (739 yards) and WR Marcus Robinson topped NFL Europe with 811 receiving yards on 39 catches. QB Mike Quinn had the best passer rating (87.3) while throwing for 1997 yards with 13 TDs and just three interceptions. On defense they had the co-leader in sacks in DT Ed Philion.

Under first year Head Coach Dick Curl, Frankfurt had solid performances from QB Damon Huard, who passed for 1857 yards with 12 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, and All-League WR Mario Bailey (38 receptions, 544 yards) and TE Vince Marrow (32 catches for 345 yards). LB Hillary Butler and safety Chris Hall were feature players on the defense.

The teams had split their meetings during the regular season, with Rhein dominating the first contest, 31-14, and Frankfurt taking the season finale in overtime, 20-17. However, both clubs were without their starting quarterbacks due to injury – the Fire would have to make due with Jim Arellanes, who had thrown just one pass during the season, in place of Quinn while the Galaxy had the slightly more experienced Chris Dittoe (64 pass attempts) going for Huard.

The game, which was mostly played in heavy rain, started off in spectacular fashion as Arellanes completed a 40-yard pass to Robinson on a flea-flicker play. The drive culminated in a 29-yard field goal by Manfred Burgsmuller. Later in the first quarter the Fire increased their lead to 10-0 as WR Dialleo Burks caught a 15-yard TD pass from Arellanes.

Frankfurt fought back on the ensuing possession with a drive that led to a three-yard touchdown run by RB Jermaine Chainey, cutting the Rhein lead to 10-7. But Arellanes again connected with Burks for a 20-yard TD and 17-7 halftime lead.

On the first possession of the third quarter, Frankfurt again trimmed the Fire’s margin with a 41-yard Ralf Kleinmann field goal. But three plays later Arellanes threw his third scoring pass of the day, this one for 74 yards to Robinson, and the game was essentially over. The defense shut down Frankfurt’s offense the rest of the way, and 10 fourth quarter points made the final score a convincing 34-10.

Jim Arellanes (pictured at top) was the game’s MVP, completing 12 of 18 passes for 263 yards with three touchdowns against no interceptions. Marcus Robinson (pictured below) caught just two passes, but they were big completions as he compiled 114 yards and a TD. TE Hayward Clay led the team with three catches, for 63 yards, while Dialleo Burks scored on his two catches of the game, which totaled 35 yards. RB Jon Vaughn was the leading rusher with 89 yards on 11 carries, including a 15-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter (Derrick Clark contributed 69 yards on 17 rushes).

In defeat, Chris Dittoe was successful on 15 of 27 pass attempts for 111 yards with no TDs and two interceptions. Jermaine Chaney was Frankfurt’s leading receiver with 6 catches for 35 yards (Mario Bailey was held to just 2 catches for 31 yards and Vince Marrow caught 3 passes for 27 yards) and was also the club’s best rusher with 84 yards on 19 attempts with the one TD.

On a day when conditions were not favorable to the aerial attack, Rhein outgained the Galaxy by 421 yards to 198. With Vaughn and Clark leading the way, the Fire outrushed Frankfurt 158 to 112. They also did substantially better in net passing yards (263 to 86) as they suffered no sacks while dumping Dittoe three times.

Jim Arellanes played for Rhein in 1999 and 2001, but never made it to the NFL (Mike Quinn, who was a backup with Pittsburgh in 1997, did, but threw a total of three NFL passes). Marcus Robinson went on to a nine-season NFL career with the Bears, Ravens, and Vikings in which he caught 325 passes.

Frankfurt became the first team to make it to the World Bowl three times (they split their previous two appearances) while Rhein won for the first time. Galen Hall, who had twice led teams to the WLAF/NFL Europe title game (Orlando in 1992, the Fire in ’97), came away a winner for the first time (he led Rhein to another championship in 2000).