On Saturday the SWARCO Raiders, sister-team of The Oakland Raiders, face their toughest task yet of the 2012 season. They host the Calanda Broncos in the semifinals of the European Football League (EFL). Kickoff at Tivoli Stadium is at 11:00 a.m. PT (8:00 p.m. CET).
The Swiss champion probably has the highest number of import players in all of Europe – including many former SWARCO Raiders players. Add the fact that the Broncos are coached by former SWARCO Raiders head coach Geoff Buffum.
SWARCO Raiders head coach Shuan Fatah is fully aware of the magnitude of this game. "This contest will truly be a test for our young team", he said. "We face a team stacked with internationally experienced players on almost every position. Of course the fact that many former SWARCO Raiders are now with the Broncos offers an extra inducement".
This is the second time both teams will face each other. On March 16, 1997 the SWARCO Raiders played a preseason game at the Broncos. They lost 33-6 at Chur, though back then the Tyroleans were still playing in Division I and not in the AFL.
So when both sides finally meet each other for the first time in a must-win contest it will be a reunion with many well-known faces. It all starts with Buffum. He was the SWARCO Raiders quarterback in 2000 and 2001. He came back in 2004 to become the head coach. But in his first season Buffum had to play quarterback, too after the starter got hurt. So working in two positions he led the team to its first Austrian Bowl title and the EFAF Cup championship.
In 2006 the SWARCO Raiders won their second Austrian Bowl championship under Buffum's guidance. In 2008 the coach led the Tyroleans to their first-ever Eurobowl championship.
Former SWARCO Raiders WR Jakob Dieplinger also coaches for the Broncos. QB Marko Glavic started for the Tyroleans in 2007 and 2008 before signing with the Broncos. DE Robert Zernicke,WR Pascal Maier and OL Stefan Becker all won the Austrian Bowl and the Eurobowl with the SWARCO Raiders last season.
The team from the city of Chur dominates the Swiss league at will. The Broncos have won four national championships since 2003 including three straight. This season they have a perfect 7-0 league record and scored a total of 398 points while giving up only 60 points.
They celebrated their first international title in 2010, winning the EFAF Cup. And after losing in the preliminary rounds in 2004 and in the quarterfinals last year the Broncos have their first show at reaching the Eurobowl this season. They defeated the Helsinki Wolverines in the opening round (49-6 on the road; 52-36 at home) and won 19-14 at the JCL Giants Graz in the quarterfinals.
Glavic was one of the Broncos' best performers in these three games. He completed 62 of 86 passes for 775 yards with 9 touchdowns and one interception. RB DJ Wolfe had 34 carries for 301 yards and 5 touchdowns. He also caught 7 balls for 112 yards and 2 touchdowns. Maier caught 21 passes for 282 yards and 3 scores. WR Christian Steffani had 15 catches for 246 yards and 4 touchdowns. WR Steve Valentino caught 14 balls for 132 yards and a touchdown.
The Tyroleans played only one game in the EFL so far, beating the Prague Panthers 56-14 in the quarterfinals. WR Talib Wise scored four touchdowns in the game – all in the first half. He caught 3 balls for 38 yards and a score, he had 2 rushes for 11 yards and 2 touchdowns and he scored on an 88-yard kickoff return touchdown. QB Kyle Callahan completed 13 of 17 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed 7 times for 28 yards and a score. RB Lukas Miribung had 12 carries for 139 yards and a score. The defense forced a turnover and gave up only 156 total-yards.
In the nine games played in the Austrian Football League (AFL) Callahan completed 103 of 173 passes for 1,538 yards with 13 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He also leads his team with 454 rushing yards on 60 carries and scored 7 rushing touchdowns. RB Andreas Hofbauer had 73 rushes for 286 yards and 8 touchdowns. He caught 5 balls for 68 yards and a touchdown. RB Florian Grein had 43 carries for 225 yards and 3 scores. He also hauled in 8 passes for 78 yards and a touchdown. Miribung had 21 carries for 113 yards and 4 touchdowns plus 5 catches for 79 yards and a score.
WR Julian Ebner leads the team with 27 catches for 368 yards and 4 touchdowns. WR Damaso Tarneller caught 22 passes for 278 yards and 2 touchdowns. WR Clemens Erlsbacher caught 15 balls for 277 yards and 2 touchdowns. Wise had 9 catches for 177 yards and a score and he had 7 carries for 15 yards and 2 touchdowns. WR Christian Willi caught 10 balls for 175 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Erlsbacher also excels on special teams. He punted 24 times for 865 yards (36.0 yards per punt). 16 punts were downed inside the opposing 20-yard line. He also returned 5 punts for 138 yards. S John Clements had 6 punt returns for 94 yards and a touchdown. Wise had 5 returns for 83 yards. The Tyroleans had a total of 18 punt returns for 348 yards and 2 touchdowns. The punt coverage unit allowed only 15 yards on 4 returns.
The team's best kick returner is DB Enrico Martini, who averages 35.7 yards per return (10 for 357 yards) and scored once. K Christian Kellner was good on 7 of 11 field goal tries and on 24 of 25 points after touchdown. Erlsbacher connected on 15 of 17 extra points.
The Tyrolean defense forced 15 turnovers in AFL games (8 interceptions, 7 fumbles). CB Manuel Eisenführer, LB Christoph Schilcher, (2 each), Clements, LBPhilipp Margreiter, LB Florian Hueter and DB Patrick Pilger(each with one) caught the interceptions. Clements returned a pick 90 yards for a score. DL Bene Brugnara, DL Markus Eitzenberger, LB Mario Rinner, Margreiter, Clements, DL Markus Hechenberger and Hofbauer each recovered a fumble.
Margreiter leads the team with 38 tackles (27 solo). Hueter had 35.5 tackles (22 solo) so far. Next in line are Schilcher (32.5 tackles; 26 solo), DB Martin Breitsching (24.5 tackles; 14 solo), DT Reinhard Pardeller (21 tackles; 17 solo) and Eisenführer (18.5 tackles; 17 solo).
Margreiter also returned a blocked punt for a touchdown. LB Chris James had 3 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles and a blocked punt in two games. Eitzenberger, Schilcher, Pardeller and DB Arno Andreas also forced one fumble each. The team's sacks were prdouced by Pardeller (2), Eitzenberger (1.5), Breitsching, Rinner, Margreiter, DE Max Pichler (one each) and Hueter (0.5).
Watch the SWARCO Raiders 2012 season live and as-live for free onwww.raidersTV.at.