Danube Dragons cap unbeaten season with Austrian Football League crown

The Danube Dragons have been crowned the champions of the Austrian Football League (AFL) following their 51-29 victory over the Vienna Vikings.

This win completes a perfect 12-0 run by the Dragons this season that culminated in Austria’s highest football accolade, an Austrian Bowl victory.

The Dragons began as league favorites this year following the departure of the “A teams” of the two Austrian powerhouses, the Raiders Tirol and Vienna Vikings, to the European League of Football (ELF). 

In addition to the Raiders and Vikings departure from the AFL, six of the ten teams now comprising the league were in division 2 last year, setting the scene for favorable odds for Danube.

Danube Dragons QB Chad Jeffries threw for 164 yards and 2 TDs Photo: Alexander Forst

Like in much of Europe, the talent drain in Austria to the ELF was significant. But the Dragons had done a great job retaining talent with only one or two key players leaving; mostly notably wideout Philipp Haun, arguably the best player in Austria.

Veteran Danube quarterback Chad Jeffries opened the season against the Salzburg Ducks with some growing pains as new head coach Brett Morgan asked more of the Azusa Pacific (NCAA D.II) alumnus. But depth of talent and excellent coaching was enough to get the team through a halftime deficit and secure an opening week win.

And it was from here on out that the Dragons came into their own and dominate the rest of the league. Jeffries’ numbers started to shoot through the roof with the help of import wideout Cam Lewis as well as stingy defense featuring the likes of defensive backs Brain Peavy, Matthias Rebl and Paul Schachner.

As the weeks went by, the Dragons were reeling off impressive wins over Graz Giants, Vienna Vikings and Prague Black Panthers, all considered top tier teams in the league.

With the playoffs rapidly approaching and only one of their regular season games being decided by less than a touchdown, the Austrian crown felt like a sure thing for the Dragons. However, as the season was drawing to a close the team was struck with the unexpected loss of Lewis.

Danube WR Clemens Hareter #87 Photo: Alexander Forst

But for every cloud there is a silver lining, and for the Dragons this silver lining came in the way of Silas Nacita, arguably one of the most electrifying players in Europe in recent years. Although Nacita did not strictly fit the play style of the Dragons, he was too good of a prospect to pass up.

Nacita came in just days before their playoff game against the Telfs Patriots and immediately took over, rushing for three touchdowns and a 31-13 victory to earn the Dragons an appearance in the Austrian Bowl against the Vienna Vikings.

The first time the Dragons faced Vienna, it was an all-out offensive show from both sides with the game ending 57-42 in favor of the Dragons. It was a game in which Jeffries threw for 323 yards and four touchdowns on just 13 completions.

The championship game didn’t disappoint either. After a relatively slow start, the scoring exploded in the second quarter with both sides going on an offensive foray. But towards the end of the second quarter it was clear that the Vikings were going to have trouble keeping up with the Dragons who continued to pile it on.

Vienna Vikings QB Nico Hrouda #7 Photo: Alexander Forst

Jeffries had played the bigger role in the regular season while the dirty work was left to Nacita in the playoff win. But the two combined in the Austrian Bowl with Jeffries throwing two touchdowns, both to Nacita, and rushing for one and Nacita picking up a further three on the ground. 

This onslaught was too much to handle for the Vikings and left the Dragons gliding through the finish line with dominance, something that had been on show all season long despite numerous injuries and organizational challenges.

What the future now holds for the Dragons is unclear. Their performance seems to indicate that they may be better suited in a league with stiffer competition. This would clearly point towards the ELF and a rendezvous with the Vikings and Raiders. But for the meantime, the team will certainly be looking back on a perfect season and its first Austrian championship in over 10 years.

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.