The SWARCO Raiders 2010 season ended with an empty feeling for the Tyroleans. No wonder as they finished the season without a championship for the first time in three years. The Oakland Raiders' Austrian sister team decided it was time for a change. No one knew just how much difference a year would make.
After releasing Santos Carrillo from his head coaching duties the Tyroleans took their time to decide on his successor. They found him in Shuan Fatah, who had just won the 2010 Eurobowl with the Berlin Adler from Germany.
And while many people criticized the moves, the SWARCO Raiders and Fatah went to work. They installed a new offensive and defensive system, run by Lee Rowland (offense) and Fatah himself (defense). Also WR Andreas Pröller, once a bobsleigh Olympian, was hired to run the strength and conditioning program. Next up Fatah brought in three players he had success with in Berlin: QB Kyle Callahan, WR Talib Wise and K Dennis Wiehberg. He also signed S John Clements and DB Darren Rogers Jr.
With a new coaching staff, new players on key positions and many star players returning for their final season, the SWARCO Raiders entered the playing field for the season opener on March 26. They had no trouble beating the Kärnten Black Lions 48-0.
Following the opening victory the Tyroleans hit the road for three straight away games. They started with wins at Graz (34-20) and at Prague (38-7), before falling 28-24 to the Raiffeisen Vikings Vienna. "We made mistakes for two games", said Fatah after the loss. "But I'm sure we will meet again".
Fatah was right, but before the Tyroleans would face the Vikings again, they had other obstacles to overcome. They faced two national champions in a row. First they hosted 2010 Austrian Bowl champion Danube Dragons. Seven days later they played against French champions Spartiates Amiens in their 2011 European Football League (EFL) opener.
The SWARCO Raiders dominated both contests, showing the competition their true colors. They beat the Dragons 28-0, and then crushed the Spartiates 41-6. Two weeks later the Tyroleans celebrated their highest win in their Austrian Football League (AFL) history, winning 81-0 against the Salzburg Bulls.
On May 28 they played Vienna – again. Hosting the Vikings in the EFL semifinals the SWARCO Raiders needed two late Wiehberg field goals to beat Vienna 13-10 to reach Eurobowl XXV. On June 11 they reached the Austrian Bowl final, too, dismantling the Dragons once again – this time 29-0.
Next up were two championship games in five days. Now Fatah's meticulous work and the job of his coaching staff, his strength coach and training staff paid off. The SWARCO Raiders entered Tivoli Stadium well prepared for Eurobowl XXV. Despite heavy rain the Tyroleans left no doubt about who is Europe's best team. They dethroned the Berlin Adler, Fatah's former team, winning 27-12.
The final chapter of this magic season was written in the rain of Vienna on June 23. Facing the Vikings for the third time the SWARCO Raiders proofed they had one more great game in them. Led by Wise, who scored three touchdowns, the Tyroleans beat Vienna 23-13 to win Austrian Bowl XXVII. For the first time in team history the SWARCO Raiders have won both championships in one season and no one questioned the team's decision to hire Fatah anymore.
But this special season isn't over, yet. From July 8-16 Austria is hosting the American Football World Championships. 13 SWARCO Raiders players – 10 Austrians and three Germans – as well as one former SWARCO Raiders import are looking to win yet another title this summer.
The players are RB Florian Grein, WR Andreas Pröller, WR Jakob Dieplinger, DE Mario Rinner, LB Florian Hueter, LB Christoph Schilcher, LB Michael Süß, DB Markus Krause, OL Michael Habetin, OL Nobert Baumgartner (all Austria), WR Pascal Maier, K Dennis Wiehberg and DE Robert Zernicke (all Germany) as well as former SWARCO Raiders player DB Alexander Hoad (Canada).
Austria is facing Canada, Japan and France in Group B. Reigning world champion USA is facing Germany, Mexico and Australia in Group A.
You can follow the world championships live online at www.tvthek.orf.at/live