Austrian Football League kicks off 2019 season

The Austrian Football League kicks off the 2019 season this weekend with eight teams vying for the title.

The defending champion Swarco Raiders will face competition from the Dacia Vienna Vikings who almost pulled out a miracle in the 2018 Austrian Bowl, losing 52-49 on a last second field goal by the Raiders. Behind them are the Danube Dragons, Sonic Wall Mödling Rangers, Projekt Spielberg Graz Giants, Amstetten Thunder, Traun Steel Sharks and the Prague Black Panthers from the Czech Republic.

Dacia Vienna Vikings

The Vikings enter the season with a brand new quarterback as Austin Herink arrived this week to replace the gaping hole left by Kevin Burke who jumped to the Memphis Express of the Alliance of American Football.  The Tennessee-born 23-year-old Herink from East Tennessee State along with defensive back Dustin Rivas (Colorado Mes University) are the two import players brought in by head coach Chris Calaycay. Calaycay will add secondary coach to his duties as defensive coordinator this year.

Linebacker Dustin Illetschko (Germany’s Potsdam Royals) returns to the Vikings along with offensive lineman Aleksandar Milanovic (Helsinki Roosters). Top performers from 2018 including WR Bernhard Seikovits, Safety Luis Horvath and DL Leon Balogh will ensure Vienna is a contender again this season for the Austrian title.

Prague Black Panthers

The Black Panthers from Prague (Czech Republic) are back in the Austrian Football League with full focus under head coach Daniel Levy. The Black Panthers won their sixth straight Czech title in 2018 but now will focus on both the Czech and Austrian crowns. One of the biggest steps is the addition of Dylan Potts at quarterback. Potts has been a dominant force in Austria for the past two seasons with both the Danube Dragons and  Mödling Rangers.

The other two imports added to Prague’s roster are linebacker Herbert Gamboah and defensive back Matt Vinal. Returning players include WR Jakub Wolesky, linebacker Karel Augusta, D-liners Jan Simanek and WR Jan Stiegler .

Levy has won championship titles in the last two countries he has coached in,Brazil and the Czech Republic. Can he pull off a third this season in Austria?

SonicWall Mödling Rangers

Head coach Armin Schneider also holds the reins of the SonicWall Mödling Rangers in 2019. To replace the departed Dylan Potts, Schneider has signed Raleigh Yeldel, former quarterback for the Örebro Black Knights in Sweden. Yelldell will have WR Roman Namdar to throw to, one of the leading receivers in Austria in 2018. The Rangers added defensive power with the signing of EJ Parnell from Germany’s Munich Cowboys. The 6’3″, 295 lb, 26 year old Parnell spent the 2018 season with the Munich Cowboys of the German Football League where he recorded 40 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 4 sacks and a blocked field goal in helping Munich reach the playoffs for the first time in four years.

Swarco Raiders

The Swarco Raiders will just as formidable as ever as head coach Shuan Fatah has readied his troops to defend their 2018 title. He is accompanied as always  by offensive coordinator Lee Rowlands and defensive coordinator Kevin Herron.  Returning at quarterback is Sean Shelton, a perennial all star and in his fifth season with the team. WR Patrick Donahue has returned for his second season while former Clemson Tiger defensive back Darius Robinson joins the Austrian champions. All Europe RB Sandro Platzgummer is back to give defenses fits along with his brother WR Adrian Platzgummer.

Wienerwald Amstetten Thunder

The newest addition to the Austrian Football League, are the Wienerwald Amstetten Thunder under head coach Gerry Woodruff.

The key to the Thunder is quarterback Lukas Kerschbaummayr who was instrumental in the Thunder’s road to the Division 2 title in Austria. He will be joined by brother Stefan, his top receiver. Added to this mix is RB Patrick Poetsch who comes from the Solingen Paladins (GFL2). Poetsch was a member of Germany’s 2017 national team.

On defense, linebacker Christian Klemenz and defensive back Armin Cena are key players.

As a first year team in the tough Austrian Football League, the goal for the Thunder is to stay in the league according to player-president Thomas Temper.

Traun Steel Sharks

New head coach Jason Tiller, who was the defensive coordinator in 2018 made his first order of business the re-signing of quarterback John Uribe. He also brought back Felix Stadler. New DC Raymond Bonnell has bolstered the defense with  the signing of All Ivy League DB James Gales Jr. After a first year in Europe in Poland, the New York native Gales has moved to Traun, where he is reunited with his high school coach Tillery.

Project Spielberg Graz Giants

After finishing third in the Austrian Football League in 2018, the Giants have set their next goal to reach the Austrian Bowl. Head coach Martin Kocian along with his key assistants Michael Nitsch and Leonhard Summitsch are definitely aiming higher with the signing of quarterback Jake Dalton Kennedy (Wittenberg University). With former quarterback Brandon Gorsuch now serving as offensive coordinator, the Giants are expecting a much more high powered offense.

On defense, the Giants have reinforced with DB Dillon Dixon (Saginaw State).

Danube Dragons

Dragons head coach Stefan Pokorny and his assistant coaches Christoph Dreyer and Michael Hönig are also aiming higher for 2019. After reaching the 2018 semifinal where the Dragons were eliminated by the Swarco Raiders, Pokorny and his crew feel they can get past that hurdle this year.

To that end, they have brought back quarterback Chad Jeffries who had an excellent season. Jeffries finished as the second leading passer in the AFL in 2018 after throwing for 3,173 yards and 24 touchdowns and rushing for 650 and another three touchdowns. He led Danube to a 6-4 record helping them reach the Austrian semifinals, recording their best record since 2010.

Graphics: Igor Lazarevic


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