SWARCO Raiders get playoff home game despite loss

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RB Tory Cooper caught 13 passes for 123 yards and 2 scores (Schellhorn).

The SWARCO Raiders, marketing teammate of The Oakland Raiders, lost 28-42 (14-28; 7-7; 0-7; 7-0) to the Turek Graz Giants in their final game of the Austrian Football League regular season, but still secured a home game in the AFL playoff semifinals. There they get a chance for redemption as they will again host the Giants on June 26.

"I'm very disappointed. We were not ready to play this game and never showed the things that we did so well in practice", said SWARCO Raiders head coach Santos Carrillo. "We let ourselves down. Especially on defense we had problems. We have a lot of work to do till that semifinal".

SWARCO Raiders QB Leon Jackson III competed 29 of 43 passes for 264 yards with 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. RB Tory Cooper gained 32 yards on 11 carries, but caught 13 balls for 123 yards and 2 touchdowns. WR Andreas Pröller hauled in 5 passes for 68 yards and a score.

The game started with a déjà vu experience. After a good kickoff return the Giants needed only one play to take the lead – just like Berlin did it a week ago. QB Chris Gunn found a wide-open WR Maximilian Herdey for a 47-yard touchdown pass. After a successful PAT Graz was up 7-0 with only 23 seconds played.

The SWARCO Raiders began their first drive at the 24 with a 9-yard pass from Jackson to TE Stefan Michalsky. After short runs by Cooper and Jackson, the duo combined for a score. Jackson threw a pass to Cooper, who paced down the right sideline for a 53-yard touchdown. K Robert Balazinec added the extra point. The score was 7-7 with 10 minutes left in the first.

Only 20 seconds later the Giants regained the lead. Starting at their own 35 they again needed only one play to score as Gunn threw a 59-yard touchdown pass to WR Armando Ponce de Leon. After the extra point the Giants were up 14-7 with 9:40 left in the first.

After a punt by the Tyroleans the guest team started at their own 2. But thanks to Gunn and RB Michael Andrew Graz moved the ball down the field again and finished the series with a 9-yard touchdown run by Gunn. After the PAT Graz had a 21-7 lead with 3:24 left in the first.

Starting at their own 40 the SWARCO Raiders opened their next drive with a 23-yard run by Jackson. After a short pass to Pröller, Jackson hit Cooper at the Giants 13. Jackson ended the drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to WR Christian Willi. Balazinec kicked the extra point to cut the Giants lead to 21-14 with 1:41 left in the first.

But Graz was able to extend their lead again. Still in the first quarter Gunn threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to WR Christian Kranz. After the PAT the Giants were up 28-14 with 22 seconds left in the first.

The SWARCO Raiders began their next possession at their own 35. Jackson passed to Cooper, who ran to the Graz 40. A Cooper run and a catch by Michalsky gave the Tyroleans a new first down. Then WR Jakob Dieplinger caught a ball at the Graz 13. A few plays later Jackson threw a short pass to Cooper, who danced his way into the endzone for a 9-yard touchdown. After a successful PAT the score was 28-21 in favor of Graz with 9:40 left in the second.

But the Giants weren't done, yet. A pass from Gunn to Herdey brought Graz to the SWARCO Raiders 36. On the next two plays the defense stopped Andrew, but on third down Gunn threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to WR Klaus Geier. After the extra point Graz had a 35-21 lead with 7:06 left in the second.

After the Tyroleans' second punt, the defense finally stepped up. DE Mario Rinner tackled Andrew and stripped him off the ball. DB Markus Krause recovered the fumble at the Graz 26. But Jackson gave the ball right back as his pass on the very next play was intercepted by DB Stefan Lechner. Graz had to punt on their next possession and the game went into halftime.

The second half started with a SWARCO Raiders turnover. Jackson's first pass was intended for Dieplinger, but DB Devon Hughes stepped in front of the receiver and picked off the ball. Less than 60 seconds later the Giants scored for the first time in the third quarter. Gunn found Kranz with a 20-yard touchdown pass. The PAT was good and the Giants were up 42-21 with 10:48 left in the third.

Midway through the last quarter the Tyroleans were able to score again. After partially blocking a punt the offense started at their own 31. Jackson opened the drive with a 23-yard pass to Pröller. Later the SWARCO Raiders faced a fourth down. A completion to Dieplinger to the Giants 28 extended the drive, though. A Jackson scramble to the Giants 16 on another fourth down play gave the Tyroleans another first down. On the third fourth down of the drive the home site finally scored. Pröller caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from Jackson. The PAT was good. With 5:59 left in the game the SWARCO Raiders were down 28-42.

The Giants recovered the following onside kick at the Tyroleans 38, but later were forced to punt. Starting at their own 13 the SWARCO Raiders were not able to score again as the clock ran out.

On Saturday, June 26 the SWARCO Raiders host the Turek Graz Giants in the AFL playoff semifinals. Kickoff at Tivoli Stadium is at 8 a.m. PT (5 p.m. CET).

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