Defending champion Swarco Raiders face Ljubljana Silverhawks in Austrian semifinals

The defending Austrian champions, the Swarco Raiders will play host to the Ljubljana Silverhawks from Slovenia in the semifinals of the Austrian Football League at Tivoli Stadium in Innsbruck, Austria Saturday.

This is familiar territory for the Raiders who have won the last two Austrian titles and three of the last seven, and have played in the final for seven straight years.

Swarco finished second in the Austrian Football League standings with a 9-1 record. Their only loss was to the Vienna Vikings. The Silverhawks finished third with a 6-4 record. They defeated the Modling Rangers in the wild card playoffs last weekend to qualify for this game. During the only game between these two teams in 2017, Swarco had no trouble downing the Silverhawks 61-27.

However, Ljubljana has the leading passer in the Austrian Football League in Anthony Gardner who threw for 3,207 yards and 37 touchdowns in the regular season. In last week’s win over the Rangers he threw for an efficient 205 yards and two touchdowns. His two leading receivers, Matic Tomse and Eugen Semic, were the numbers one and three top receivers in Austria. Running back Ziga Zibelnik was the fourth leading rusher in Austria during the regular season and in the wild card playoff game, he proved why rushing for 152 yards and four touchdowns.

Swarco quarterback Sean Shelton is a veteran of both Austrian and European playoff action. He finished third in passing with 2,748 yards and 31 touchdowns during the regular season and he rushed for 450 yards and eight touchdowns. But he brings veteran leadership and savvy to this game. He won the Austrian title in 2016 with Swarco. His two top receivers, Fabian Abfalter and Sandro Platzgummer are always dangerous. Running back Tobias Bonatti is coming off a huge win with the Austrian Junior National Team as they beat France to capture the European Junior crown. Bonatti, who was named MVP of the game, rushed for 466 yards and seven touchdowns in the regular season.

Defensively, Swarco is led by linebacker Fabian Seeber, who finished as the second leading tackler in Austria.

Swarco enters the game as the heavy favorites but the explosiveness of the Silverhawks offense can be a factor.


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