RB Andreas Hofbauer was named the AFL's Offensive MVP of the Year (Photo: Schellhorn)
It all comes down to this. The big showdown. This Saturday the 30th season in the Austrian Football League (AFL) ends with Austrian Bowl XXX between the SWARCO Raiders, sister-team of the Oakland Raiders, and the Raiffeisen Vikings Vienna. Kickoff at St. Pölten’s NV Arena is at 10:00 a.m. PT (7:00 p.m. CET).
It’s the fifth straight Austrian Bowl appearance for the SWARCO Raiders and they’ll try to win the fourth Austrian championship in franchise history. It would be the Tyroleans’ first title since 2011. It’s also the third straight year the SWARCO Raiders face the Vikings in the Austrian Bowl.
Follow the SWARCO Raiders live on www.raiderstv.at. The live stream for this week’s game starts on July 26 at 9:30 a.m. PT (6:30 p.m. CET).
“Playing in a final is always special. Those games have their own rules”, said SWARCO Raiders head coach Shuan Fatah. “For us it’s the opportunity to finish a successful season with a championship title. And we’ll try to take that opportunity and run with it. To beat Vienna a second time this season we have to play a flawless game though”.
Seven wins and two losses – that’s the record both the SWARCO Raiders and the Vikings post coming into the championship game. After falling to Vienna in the season opener the Tyroleans lost their second game of the season in the regular season finale at Prague. The Vikings’ second loss came on May 11 at home against the Graz Giants. Their first loss was at Innsbruck when they fell to the SWARCO Raiders.
The Vikings have the league’s best defense. They gave up only 14.5 points per game while all other AFL teams gave up at least 30 points per contest. They also allowed the fewest yards per game (267.3). On offense they had the second most yards of all AFL teams (397.5 yds/game).
The SWARCO Raiders come into the contest with the best scoring offense (36.4 points per game). They trail Vienna by only seven yards per game in total offensive yards (390.5 yds/game) and boast by far the best rushing attack in the league (168.8 yds/game). Yet they also gave up the most yards per game (456.6).
But when it mattered the defense stepped up – just like it did in the playoff semifinals against the Danube Dragons. Not only did the Tyrolean defense pitched a shutout they also gave up only 255 yards. The offense came away with 200 rushing yards against the Dragons.
The Vikings won their semifinal contest 41-27 against the Prague Black Panthers. In their first ever AFL playoff game the Black Panthers had only 36 rushing yards and Vienna was able to contain QB Kyle Newhall-Caballero. The former Oakland Raiders player threw 2 interceptions and found his rhythm way too late.
After losing eight straight times to Vienna the SWARCO Raiders finally ended the Vikings curse on May 3, beating the Vikings 22-20 at home. It was only the tenth win in 36 tries against Vienna. For the Vikings it was their first loss since Eurobowl 2012.
But there’s another curse that needs to be broken. Vienna has beaten the SWARCO Raiders convincingly in the last two Austrian Bowls. They won 48-34 in 2012 and 48-31 last year. That season they also beat the SWARCO Raiders 37-14 in the Eurobowl.
A lot will come down to the play of the three stars on the SWARCO Raiders offense. And in their semifinal against the Dragons they all stepped up. QB John van den Raadt had 96 rushing yards on 8 carries and scored twice. He also completed 12 of 16 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. RB Andreas Hofbauer had 10 rushes for 61 yards and a touchdown. WR/K Clemens Erlsbacher caught 4 balls for 58 yards and a touchdown.
Van den Raadt finished the AFL regular season with 114 completions on 205 passes for 1,762 yards with 13 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He also had 73 rushes for 512 yards and 8 touchdowns. His 1,762 passing yards were the second most in the AFL this season.
Hofbauer finished the season as the league’s top rusher. On 100 carries he gained 732 yards (7.3 yards per rush) and scored 14 touchdowns. He also caught 7 passes for 153 yards and a touchdown. No wonder he was named the AFL’s Offensive MVP of the year. If Hofbauer should need a breather on Saturday Fatah will bank on an experienced veteran in RB Lukas Miribung. He gained 40 yards on 8 carries and scored once. Due to injuries and the World Junior Championships the third running back will be RB Filip Vlajic.
Van den Raadt spreads his passes to many different receivers. The young group was led Erlsbacher, who caught 33 balls for 507 yards and 3 touchdowns. WR Julian Ebner had 17 catches for 351 yards and 3 touchdowns. WR Damaso Tarneller caught 16 passes for 212 yards and 3 touchdowns. WR Christian Willi had 12 receptions for 118 yards. The team will have to play without WR Adrian Platzgummer and his 25 catches for 388 yards and 6 total touchdowns on Saturday. He injured his left knee while quarterbacking team Austria in the World Juniors in Kuwait.
Erlsbacher also remains the focal point on special teams. He kicked 6 field goals and 29 extra points. He had 20 kickoff returns for 615 yards and a touchdown and punted 19 times for 759 yards (39.9 yards per punt).
As mentioned before the SWARCO Raiders defense played well against the Dragons two weeks ago. They gave up no points and had 5 sacks. DL Korbinian Hoffmann had 1.5 sacks. DL/LB Philipp Margreiter had 2 sacks and blocked a punt. DB Alexander Achammer blocked a field goal and intercepted a pass. And DB Arno Andreas led the team with 6.5 tackles (6 solo).
During the regular season LB Fabian Seeber led the AFL with 49.5 tackles (38 solo). He also had 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack, an interception and 2 fumble recoveries. LB Florian Hueter had 35 tackles (26 solo), 5.5 tackles for loss, an interception and a forced fumble. Margreiter led the Tyroleans with 8.5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks. He had a total of 29 tackles (22 solo) and forced a fumble. LB Simon Hoser had 26.5 tackles (22 solo), forced and recovered a fumble and had a tackle for loss.
DB Markus Krause led the Tyrolean backfield with 27.5 tackles (21 solo) and 3 interceptions. Achammer also had 27.5 tackles (26 solo) and 2 tackles for loss. He caught one interception in the BIG6. Andreas had 26.5 tackles (22 solo). He caught 2 interceptions in the BIG6. DB Simon Muigg caught 2 interceptions and had 13.5 tackles (10 solo), including 2 tackles for loss. DB Simon Unterrainer had 10 tackles (8 solo) and a tackle for loss. DB Enrico Martini had 8.5 tackles (5 solo), including one tackle for loss and caught an interception.
DL Maximilian Pichler had 2 sacks, 4 tackles for loss and 9 total tackles (7 solo). DL Ralf Stefanitsch had 4 tackles (4 solo), a sack and a tackle for loss. DL Reinhard Pardeller had 10 tackles (8 solo) and 5 tackles for loss. Hoffmann had a sack, 2 tackles for loss and 13 tackles (10 solo). DL Philipp Popp had 7 tackles (4 solo) and a 1.5 tackles for loss. He also recovered a fumble. DL Manuel Jovic had 8 tackles (6 solo), 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack.
That defensive line has to find a way to get to Vikings QB Christoph Gross. While he was missing his team’s loss at Innsbruck due to an injury he still finished the season with 103 completions on 172 passes for 1,565 yards with 17 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. In the playoff semifinals against Prague he completed 16 of 28 passes for 281 yards with 5 touchdowns and one interception.
After the team cut RB Emmanuel Moody midway through the season young RB Islaam Amadu took over. He had 92 rushes for 434 yards during the regular season. In the playoffs he gained 163 yards on 23 carries against Prague. Yet he’s still waiting on his first touchdown of the season.
WR Laurinho Walch led the Vikings with 37 catches for 751 yards and 7 touchdowns in the regular season. WR Stefan Postel caught 38 balls for 567 yards and 5 touchdowns. WR Manuel Thaller had 29 receptions for 358 yards and 5 touchdowns. WR Dominik Bubik caught 23 passes for 408 yards and 6 touchdowns. Against Prague Postel had 7 receptions for 128 yards and a touchdown. Walch caught only one pass, but it was a 66-yard scoring strike.
The defense is led by LB Dustin Illetschko, who was just named the AFL’s Defensive MVP of the year. He had 38 tackles (28 solo) and 4 tackles for loss in the regular season. LB Marco Aigner had 32.5 tackles (21 solo) with 3.5 tackles for loss and a sack. DL Paul Werner had 23.5 tackles (19 solo) with 4.5 tackles for loss and a sack. LB Simon Blach had 7 sacks and 8.5 tackles for losst. DB Benjamin Bubik and DB Andreas Lunzer each caught 3 interceptions. In the playoff semifinals Bubik caught 2 interceptions and forced a fumble.
Watch the SWARCO Raiders 2014 season live and as-live for free on www.raidersTV.at.