Dacia Vienna Vikings pillage Projekt Spielberg Graz Giants to sweep Austrian title series

Norse raiders were once the bane of Europe, but no medieval peasant ever had to worry about an aerial attack quite as intimidating as the one that the Dacia Vienna Vikings used to lay siege to the Projekt Spielberg Graz Giants on Saturday. With two decisive victories already under their belts, the Vikings continued their pillaging on the field and swept the Austrian Football League’s Best of Five Championship Series with a 46-29 win in the third game to win their fifth AFL title this decade.

Vienna rampaged through a weary Graz defense all game long, racking up an astounding 609 yards of offence compared to just 245 yards for the Giants. At the helm of the raiding party was import quarterback Jadrian Clark, who threw for an incredible 464 yards while tossing five touchdowns for the second consecutive game.

The Vikings opened the scoring on their first play from scrimmage when Clark swung the ball out to receiver Yannick Mayr on the screen. The homegrown pass catcher turned on his unparalleled after-burners and raced 59 yards untouched down the sidelines for the longest play of the day. After a quick Graz three-and-out, Vienna came back on the ground. Running back Anton Wegan converted on fourth down with a 14-yard carry, then backed it up with a 12-yard dash on first down. Not to be outdone, his brother Florian rumbled for 22 yards of his own before punching it in from three yards out to make it a 14-0 lead.

Photo: Andi Bischof

The Giants began to show signs of life on their next possession. Recently signed quarterback Anthony Gardner, a former AFL MVP playing in his first game of the series after quarterback Hunter McEachern went down with a shoulder injury, shook off the rust and found the imposing Florian Bierbaumer for 36 yards. Wenzel Rock rushed from 33 yards out to put Graz on the board, but the extra point was blocked to make it 14-6.

A 41-yard catch and run from Florian Wegan put the Vikings in scoring position again on their next drive, but Leo Thosold and Elias Raiser combined to stuff Anton Wegan for a loss on fourth down to force a turnover. What seemed to be an early glimmer of hope for the Giants quickly blew up in their faces. Head coach Martin Kocian inexplicably tried a fourth down gamble from his own 25 and import Blake Nelson was held short by Alexander Watholowitsch and Leon Balogh. That set up Anton Wegan to match his brother and score a rushing touchdown of his own from five yards out.

Vikings QB Jadrian Clark #3 bursting through for a TD Photo: Dacia Vikings / P. Kramberger

After Jadrian Clark danced around the pocket to find a leaping Yannick Mayr for an 18-yard touchdown with 37 seconds remaining, it seemed that the Vikings would enter the half up three scores, but Graz had one more trick up its sleeve. Defensive lineman and occasional running back Blake Nelson took the 50-yard Dennis Tasic kick-off and raced all the way to the endzone, cutting the lead to 27-13 at the mid-way point.

The Vikings again marched the field to begin the third quarter but a series of unfortunate holding penalties led to a missed 40-yard field goal from Tasic. The Giants took full advantage and Gardner connected with Florian Bierbaumer for a 41-yard score on fourth down, beginning a whirlwind second half.

Vikings WR Yannick Mayr Photo: Dacia Vikings / P. Kramberger

On the next drive, Jadrian Clark twice found Daniel-Elias Schwam for big gains before connecting with Yannick Mayr for his third touchdown of the game. Graz failed to score on the ensuing possession but an illegal block penalty pinned the Vikings deep in their own end, allowing Blake Nelson to get to Clark for the safety, making it 33-22.

The Vikings found the endzone twice more in the fourth quarter, with Clark hitting Bernhard Seikovits with touchdown passes of 11 and 41 yards respectively, but had three other scores called back for penalties. In between, Gardner connected with Raphael Kamayli-Birjandi for a 45-yard touchdown strike of his own but the result was never in any doubt. The pillaging Vikings simply had too much firepower for the Giants to contend with and the much improved squad still fell to the axe with a final score of 46-29.

A testament to Vienna’s dynamic offensive attack, the voters couldn’t decide on simply one Offensive MVP for the series and the honor was shared between the Wegan brothers. In the deciding game, Florian Wegan rushed 11 times for 84 yards and a touchdown, while adding five catches for 66 yards through the air. Anton was close behind with 12 carries for 53 yards, a touchdown and a 15-yard catch. Star defensive end Leon Balogh took home Defensive MVP honors  with 3.5 tackles and a sack. Florian Grunsteidl and Luis Horvath also got to the quarterback.

Jadrian Clark’s gaudy passing numbers came courtesy of a few excellent receiving performances. Speedster Yannick Mayr scored a hat trick of touchdowns and racked up 133 yards on seven catches. The physical Bernhard Seikovits caught six passes of his own for 121 yards and two scores. Even third option Daniel-Elias Schwam had five catches for 96 yards.

Vikings WR Bernhard Seikovits #4 Photo: Dacia Vikings / P. Kramberger

Despite the loss, the Giants put forward several excellent performances in defeat. Anthony Gardner was 10 of 18 for 185 yards and two touchdowns in his first appearance for Graz, connecting with Florian Bierbaumer twice for 77 yards and Raphael Komeyli-Birjandi three times for 71 yards and a score each. Wenzel Rock had 11 combined touches for 64 all-purpose yards and a touchdown. Defensively, Leo Thosold led the way with 11 tackles and Fabian Weissina had a sack, but Blake Nelson truly stole the show with five tackles, a sack for a safety and a kick return touchdown.

With just two teams playing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be those who question the validity of the Vikings 2020 title. While it came under unusual circumstances, the taste of victory was not diminished for any involved and it came in spectacular fashion. The Vikings dazzled offensively with a crispness that would rival any team in Europe and when it came to entertainment, no fan can say the medals around their neck didn’t come at full value. Just like the Vikings of old, their raiding season is now over with plenty of plunder to go around and the rest of the Austrian league will have to spend the whole offseason figuring out how to repel the Vienna horde.

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.