ELF: Vienna Vikings face Barcelona Dragons in a battle of the unbeatens to decide top spot

This Saturday, the final two undefeated teams in the European League of Football (ELF) will battle it out as the 5-0 Vienna Vikings travel down to Barcelona to take on the 5-0 Barcelona Dragons.

Markedly differing expectations were placed on each team at the beginning of this season. In 2021, Barcelona finished the season with a forgettable 3-7 record with many arguing that Spanish domestic talent didn’t match up well against that of Germany’s.

On the other end of expectations were the Vienna Vikings who, despite losing to Raiders Tirol in the 2021 Austrian Bowl, ranked in the top three of most analyst’s power rankings. 

Fast forward a year and both Barcelona and Vienna boast complete games with both offenses and defenses ranking top five in the league. This has led them both to undefeated records.

Barcelona Dragons QB Zach Edwards Photo: ©Eric Ribe

The face of Barcelona is undoubtedly quarterback Zach Edwards. The St. Scholastica (NCAA, DIII) product has improved each week and is currently making a strong case for league MVP. His notable wins over the Rhein Fire and Hamburg Sea Devils have shown that the young true dual-threat quarterback can produce in the big games.

Edwards week-on-week improvement has meant he is rapidly climbing up the passing leaderboard. He currently sits at 1,445 yards and a league-leading 15 touchdowns. Edwards is complemented by Washington State wideout Kyle Sweet along with former CFL receiver and Frenchman Benjamin Plu and domestic standout Mario Flores.

For the Vikings, there is no face of the franchise. Quarterback Jackson Erdmann, Austrian linebacker Thomas Schnurrer, Italian receiver Jordan Bouah and safety Exavier Edwards are all household names in Vienna with each playing significant roles in the team’s success.

The key to the game will therefore likely fall on Jackson Erdmann’s inconsistencies as a signal caller. He has yet to play a bad game, but his numbers vary from three touchdowns in three weeks to four touchdowns in a game. They have had little in the way of stiff competition so far with the team steamrolling over opponents with little pressure falling on the shoulders of Erdman.

One key thing to remember with Erdmann though is that he won the NCAA Div. III Gagliardi Trophy in 2018, division three’s highest honor, as a junior. He was also a finalist for the award a year later. He took Saint John’s (NCAA, DIII) to the quarterfinals and then the semifinals in consecutive years. He comes from winning stock and there can be little doubt that he will utilize this experience come Saturday.

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.