Cross-border heavyweights collide when Wroclaw Panthers visit Vienna Vikings

The European League of Football’s increased cross-border flavor will be on full display in Week 5 when Poland’s Wroclaw Panthers travel to Austria to take on the Vienna Vikings in a battle of former national heavyweights.

Both teams have transformed themselves into ELF contenders, as the Vikings are undefeated through four weeks and the Panthers sit just one win out of a wild-card playoff spot at 2-2.

Wroclaw might well have been atop their own division as well, were it not for a narrow overtime loss at the hands of the Hamburg Sea Devils last week. That game was the first appearance for the team’s new quarterback Slade Jarman, and he should only get more comfortable this week. Brought in as a replacement for the injured Justice Hansen, Jarman threw for 259 yards and three touchdowns in his debut but was also sacked five times and tossed two picks.

Photo: @hjirgal

It will not be an easy second test for the fresh-faced import either, as the Vikings‘ veteran defense have embraced their new challenge in the ELF. A defensive backfield led by Luis Horvath and Benjamin Straight will look to exploit the new quarterback, as will do-it-all import Exavier Edwards — who added three offensive touchdowns last week. Thomas Schnurrer remains steadfast in the middle of the defense, while Leon Balogh and Dominic Siegel will provide the pressure in his face.

Of course, Jarman has more than enough weaponry to contend with that defense. Import receiver Malik Stanley currently sits fourth in the league with 380 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, while Przemyslaw Banat and Jakub Mazan each has game-breaking ability. French running back Phileas Pasqualini can’t be ignored either, with 199 yards to his name this year.

Vienna has their own potent offense, led by big armed quarterback Jackson Erdmann. Last week it was Italian speedster Jordan Bouah who broke out with a 161-yard performance, but Spanish tight end Adria Botella Moreno is getting a larger share of the target since the season-ending injury to big man Florian Bierbaumer. Brothers Florian and Anton Wegan add a dangerous backfield threat to take the pressure off Erdmann.

Wroclaw RB Philéas Pasqualini #7 Photo: Łukasz Skwiot

They’ll certainly need that element against a loaded Panthers defense, headlined by lockdown import defensive backs Darius Robinson and Jamaal White. They’re aided by safety Goran Zec, while Dutchman Semmie Radji leads the pass rush with three sacks this season. Add to that a linebacking corps that includes Lars Steffen and former Edmonton Elk Maxime Rouyer and the Vikings will have their toughest test yet.

Which group will get the better of the other is anybody’s guess, but the result is sure to have serious implications for the eventual ELF playoff race.

J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.