The SWARCO Raiders dream of a back to back national championship remains alive. The sister-team of The Oakland Raiders beat the JCL Giants Graz 48-42 (0-6; 21-8; 7-7; 20-21) in the playoff semifinals of the Austrian Football League (AFL) to move on to Austrian Bowl XXVIII, which will be played on July 28.
WR Talib Wise was the game's MVP. He was involved in five touchdown-plays. Wise caught 2 passes for 81 yards and a score. He rushed 22 times for 168 yards and 3 touchdowns and he even threw a 6-yard touchdown pass.
"I'm extremely proud of the team", said SWARCO Raiders head coach Shuan Fatah. "Despite all the stones that were thrown in our way we have found a way to reach the Austrian Bowl. Now we want to accomplish what no SWARCO Raiders team has done before, winning back to back Austrian Bowl titles".
QB Kyle Callahan celebrated his comeback after a shoulder injury he sustained in the semifinals of the European Football League (EFL). He completed 8 of 16 passes for 182 yards with 3 touchdowns and one interception. WR Julian Ebner caught 3 balls for 80 yards and a score.
The Giants won the coin toss and elected to receive. Starting at their own 28 QB Chris Gunn and RB Alex Gross moved their team steadily over the field. Gross finished off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run. The PAT was no good, still the Giants were up 6-0 with 2:36 minutes left in the first.
DB Enrico Martini returned the ensuing kickoff 34 yards to the Tyrolean 39. Three rushes by Wise brought a fresh set of downs. Then Callahan found Ebner for 16 yards. A 28-yard run by Wise moved the ball close to the Gianst endzone. Moments later a trick play resulted in the SWARCO Raiders first score, when Wise threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Callahan. Martini was in for the extra points this time and he was good on his first try, giving the SWARCO Raiders a 7-6 lead with 10:21 minutes left in the second.
Graz had to punt on their second possession, giving the Tyroleans the ball at their own 26. Wise opened the drive with a 9-yard run. Then RB Andreas Hofbauer had two short runs. Later Callahan found Ebner for a 59-yard touchdown pass. The PAT was good, extending the SWARCO Raiders lead to 14-6 with 5:42 minutes left in the second.
The Giants answered quickly. Starting at their own 20 Gunn threw a 66-yard touchdown pass to WR Armando Ponce de Leon on the second play from scrimmage. After a successful two-point conversion the game was tied at 14 with 5:02 minutes left in the second.
After the SWARCO Raiders had to punt, Graz regained possession. But the drive ended abruptly when CB Martin Breitsching picked off a pass from Gunn at the Tyroleans 45 and returned the ball 10 yards. Moments later the SWARCO Raiders offense faced a fourth down. They converted with a 19-yard run by Wise. Callahan then rushed for 5 yards and 6 yards on consecutive plays. On the next play Wise scored from 9 yards out. Martini kicked the extra point to give the Tyroleans a 21-14 lead with 12 seconds left in the second.
The third quarter started with a bang. Starting at their own 30 the SWARCO Raiders needed only three plays to score. On third down Callahan found Wise, who ran 68 yards for a touchdown. The PAT extended the lead to 28-14 with 10:53 minutes left in the third.
Both teams then exchanged punts. After a short punt by the home-site the Giants regained possession at the opposing 30. On fourth and 8 yards to go Gunn threw an 18-yard pass to WR Philipp Sommer. On the next play the quarterback scored on a 10-yard run. The PAT was good, cutting the SWARCO Raiders lead to 28-21 with 3:01 minutes left in the third.
Martini returned the ensuing kickoff 30 yards to the SWARCO Raiders 37. Short passes by Callahan and well-timed rushes by Wise moved the ball into Graz territory. Wise finished off the drive with a 6-yard touchdown run. The PAT was blocked. The Tyroleans were up 34-21 with 9:15 minutes left in the fourth.
Once again the Gianst found an answer. A 12-yard pass from Gunn to Sommer and a 25-yard run by Gunn moved the ball quickly. On the next play Gunn ran 28 yards for a touchdown. The PAT cut the SWARCO Raiders lead to 34-28 with eight minutes left in the fourth.
The SWARCO Raiders following drive ended with an interception deep into Giants territory. But Graz couldn't convert the turnover into points, instead turning the ball over themselves. LB Philipp Margreiter hit Gunn and forced a fumble. LB Christoph Schilcher recovered the ball at the Giants 24. A run by Wise resulted in a first down. Then Callahan threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to WR Christian Willi. Martini added the PAT to give the Tyroleans a 41-28 lead with 3:54 minutes left in the fourth.
Now the game went back and forth. Graz scored on their next drive, too when Gunn found Ponce de Leon for a 33-yard strike. The PAT was good, cutting the SWARCO Raiders lead to 41-35 with 2:03 minutes left in the fourth.
Graz tried an onside kick, that was recovered by the Tyroleans at the opposing 35. On the drive's third play from scrimmage Wise found a hole and ran 28 yards for yet another touchdown. The extra point extended the SWARCO Raiders lead to 48-35 with 1:44 minutes left in the fourth.
Graz still wasn't done, though. The Giants scored on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Gunn to WR Max Taurer with five seconds left. But the score came a little too late. The SWARCO Raiders got the ball back on the onside kick and will now play in Austrian Bowl XXVIII on July 28.