Austria: Danube Dragons stun Swarco Raiders in come-from-behind victory

After trailing the Swarco Raiders 17-7 at halftime of their final regular season game of the Austrian Football League season, the SsangYong Danube Dragons played shutdown football the rest of the way while scoring two touchdowns to defeat the Raiders 24-17 Saturday in Vienna and record only their third win over Swarco in the past decade.

The only other years that Danube has defeated the Raiders since 2011 were 2018 and 2015.

On this day, it was five crucial second half turnovers, an interception, three fumbles and a turnover on downs, that did in the visitors. Danube capitalized on three of them on the ensuing possessions to overcome the 10 point halftime deficit.

Dragons quarterback Chad Jeffries completed 14 of 23 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns while running back Byron Rhone rushed for 55 yards and a score. Wide receiver Philipp Haun had an excellent day, confounding the Swarco secondary, catching eight passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns. Felix Deutschmann added a field goal.

For Swarco, Sean Shelton threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 37 yards. Marco Schneider was his leading target with eight receptions for 88 yards and both touchdowns. Arno Christoph Schwarz kicked a 32 yard field goal as well.

The Raiders struck first though with Shelton mounting a nice, 10-play, 50 yard drive to the Danube 14 yard line which included a 31 yard reception down the sideline  by wideout Toni Rabensteiner . The Dragons defense stiffened and Swarco had to settle for the field goal from Schwarz.

With Jeffries and the Dragons offense unable to move the ball, Swarco took over again and in good field position just inside the Dragons side of midfield. Shelton engineered a textbook drive with the offensive line dominating the line of scrimmage. The final play of the eight-play drive was a touchdown pass to Schneider from eight yards out. Schwarz kicked the extra point and Swarco took a 10-0 lead, still in the first quarter.

Jeffries finally kicked the Danube offense into life on the next drive, thanks in large part to a beautiful 53 yard catch by Haun, that took the Dragons out of the shadow of the goal posts. Haun simply turned the cornerback around and beat him down the sideline. With the ball now deep in Raiders territory, Jeffries went to work and five plays later found Haun again for a six yard touchdown to narrow the gap to 10-7 early in the second quarter.

Swarco responded with Shelton marching his team down to Danube’s six yard line. Again the Dragons defense held but this time Schwarz missed a chip shot field goal.

Jeffries was unable to move his team outside of the 30 yard line on the next possession and Shelton and the Raiders took over at their own 40. This time, the Raiders quarterback was flawless, completing five out of five passes and carrying the ball once, finding Schneider for the second time for a touchdown, this time from five yards out, to extend the lead to 17-7 with a minute and a half to go in the first half.

The second half saw Danube stall again but the ensuing Raiders possession changed the entire complexion of the game. Shelton was picked off defensive lineman Jan Gebhardt and suddenly the Dragons had new life. Jeffries moved Danube into field goal territory and Deutschmann kicked a 35 yarder to creep closer, 17-10.

The next Swarco drive lasted just two plays as Rafael Belici fumbled the ball after a 17 yard reception and Jeffries and the Danube offense took over at their own 35. Jeffries calmly guided his team down the field, with Rhone carrying the ball behind an offensive line that was finally opening holes. Haun caught two key passes including the touchdown pass and suddenly, early in the fourth quarter, the game was tied, 17-17.

The turnover parade continued for Swarco as on the very next drive. otherwise sure handed Raiders receiver Toni Rabensteiner fumbled the ball at midfield and Danube took over at their own 44. Jeffries engineered a six play, 56 yard drive, capping it with a 25 yard touchdown pass to Haun and Danube took a 24-17 lead midway through the fourth quarter.

Still plenty of time for Shelton and the Raiders.

It took the veteran quarterback eight plays to reach the Dragons five yard line, but there the bend-but-don’t break Danube defense took over. Swarco had six shots at the end zone, which included two false starts, but finally, with 1:17 left on the clock, they were left stranded on the Dragons 19 yard line and had to turn the ball over on downs.

Jeffries ran out the clock and Danube earned their third victory over the Raiders in a decade.

The Dragons win does not change the playoff picture. Swarco will finish second in the standings and Danube third and the  two teams will face each other again, but this time in Innsbruck, on July 17 in the Austrian Football League semifinals.




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