Dacia Vienna Vikings secure Austrian Bowl berth with last second win over Projekt Spielberg Graz Giants

The Dacia Vienna Vikings have secured a spot in the 2021 Austrian Bowl after felling the Projekt Spielberg Graz Giants 21-18, scoring the winning points in the dying seconds of the game.

The Vikings will be making their fifth consecutive appearance in the title game on July 31st against the Swarco Raiders.

The Giants and their number one passing attack in the league took to the field first. It wouldn’t be long before quarterback Conor Miller (#18) got the number one receiver in the league Darrell Adams (#9) into the game. Miller hit Adams on a slant route at the 40-yard line and Adams would do the rest, shrugging off defenders with his 6’3″, 225 pound frame as he ran. A missed extra point kept the score at 6 – 0.

It would be not only Eystin Salum (#3) who played quarterback for the Vikings but also young Austrian, Nico Hrouda (#7) as Vienna looked to develop young talent. Although the drive started off strong with Salum and cannonball running back Florian Wegan (#26) pounding the ball through the Graz defense, it ultimately stalled in Giants territory.

Vikings DB Leonhard Gerner #21 hauling down Giants WR Darrell Adams #9 Photo: Andreas Bischof.

A shanked Graz punt gave the Vikings great field position after a three-and-out. Vienna capitalized on this with the young Hrouda hitting Salum on a 55-yard go route for the Vikings’ first score. The extra-point took them up 7 – 6.

Vienna’s strong running attack continued after another Graz three-and-out. They were able to get down to the Giants’ 17-yard line before shanking a field-goal wide to the left. Deep in their own territory, the Giants again went to the air, and with success. First Adams, who continued to find work in the middle of the field, and then wideout Florian Bierbaumer who raced 65 yards for the score. This time though, the Giants failed on a two-point conversion, a conversion play that would haunt them in the final scoreline.

On the following drive, more heavy runs from the Vikings paid off as they worked their way down the field. This time, they were incorporating Mitchell Paige, who was playing in place of Andrew Spencer. The pair were rotating throughout the season. Salum capped the drive off in his usual fashion by going airborne to put the Vikings back on top 13 – 12.

As the rain continued to fall, the Vikings continued with their effective ground game and Graz continued to dice the Vienna defense through the air. After hitting Philipp Sommer on a crossing route that went for 50 yards, Miller hit the same man again on a corner for the third Graz score. But a third failed conversion kept it at 18 – 13 to take the teams in at the half.

The second half started just the way the first did, with Vienna running the ball down the Giants’ throat and Graz slicing open the Vikings’ secondary through the air. On the second drive of the half, Graz was moving the ball, connecting with Bierbaumer for big gains. And then on a power-run play by Wenzel Rock (#26), the Vikings’ defense swarmed the RB and as he hit the floor the ball jarred loose which the referee controversially calling it a fumble. DB Sebastian Wimmer (#37) scooped the ball and ran 60-yards with a Viking convoy into the endzone to take the team up 19 – 18 midway through the third quarter.

Giants QB Conor Miller #18 getting tackled Photo: Andreas Bischof

As the ball got heavier due to rain, both sides began to feel their championship hopes slipping away. The game became a stalemate. Both sides’ defense continually shut the opposing offense down, forcing punt after punt until late in the fourth quarter. The Vienna special teams lined up for their periodical punt with Juwan Haynes (#20) back to return. The punt sailed high and forced Haynes to catch the ball in his endzone, instead of taking a knee he decided to try and make a play, it back-fired. It is never a good start when the referee starts with “Now this is important to understand” in an announcement; although he got to his own 20-yard line a block-in-the-back penalty occurred in the endzone leading to a safety. So instead of one point down and possession Graz now had to kick the ball back to Vienna three points down with two minutes left on the clock.

But the Giants stood strong, they were able to stop the Vikings offence on a fourth-and-one and get the ball back on their own 30 with one minute to go. Miller immediately went to work hitting his receivers all over the field. Balls caught in-bounds kept the clock moving however, taking precious time off the clock with no timeouts. With three seconds to go Miller launched an all or nothing ball into the endzone from the Vikings’ 27-yard line, but the ball was batted down along with the Giants’ hopes of getting back into the Austrian final.

Daniel Mackenzie is a Press Association graduate who works in journalism and communications in the third sector. Daniel began playing football for the London Warriors and Team Great Britain and has since played across Europe.