Austrian Semifinals: Danube Dragons defeat Graz Giants to advance to championship.

The Austrian Football League semifinals wound up last weekend as the defending champion Danube Dragons qualified for their second straight Austrian Bowl by downing the Graz Giants 27-23.

With the win, the Dragons advance to face the Vienna Vikings in the final.

The game opened as a defensive battle from both sides as neither team was able to do much offensively. The Giants would get on the board first with a field goal to make the score 3-0.

This lead would not last. The ensuing kickoff resulted in a failed onside attempt from Graz, as Danube recovered it. With good field position, the Dragons would capitalize, and they took a 7-3 lead on a 35-yard pass from Alexander Thury to Mario Flores for the score.

Photo: Kunzfeld & Kunzfeld

After the Giants turned the ball over on downs, Danube got the ball back and extended their lead. This time it was on the ground after a 24-yard rush from Kevin Stanisi. Graz would answer with just 19 seconds left to go in the half. Quarterback Wyatt William Smith connected with Raphael Komeyli-Birjandi for an 18-yard score through the air giving Danube a 13-9 lead heading into the half.

The lead changed hands twice early in the third quarter as the teams traded touchdowns with first Graz jumping into a 16-13 lead on a nine yard touchdown reception by Jersey Eickhorst. The Dragons responded as Stanisi scored his second of the game after punching the ball in from the one yard line giving Danube a 20-16 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

The Danube lead did not last long as the Giants were able to answer again at the start of the quarter. Smith threw his third score of the game, this time to Jonas Dachs-Wiesinger for a 14-yard touchdown, taking a 23-20 lead.

Graz had a chance to get the ball back quickly on the next drive as they got Danube to a crucial 3rd and 5. However, Dragons quarterback Alexander Thury rose to the occasion and connected with Devin James Childress for a 68-yard score to retake the lead, 27-23.

Danube’s defense held strong the rest of the way, staging a late stand on their own 12 yard line to seal the win.

Austrian Bowl XXXVIII will feature a rematch of last year’s title game as the Dragons will face the Vienna Vikings on July 29 at NV Arena in St. Pölten. The Vikings upset the Prague Black Panthers in the other semifinal.

Noah Costantino is a student and football player at Baldwin Wallace University in Cleveland, Ohio. Fueled by his love for the game he looks to continue his knowledge of football at an international level. He is majoring in Communications with a