Errant snap turns tide as Swarco Raiders top Dacia Vienna Vikings

“God bless his heart, he has got to be the sickest man in America.”

Verne Lundquist’s iconic call of what would turn out to be Jackie Smith’s game-deciding dropped touchdown catch in Super Bowl XIII is the only sound bite in existence capable of conveying the appropriate empathy for a player who just let a game slip through his fingers. Vienna Vikings center Georg Marx now knows the feeling.

No football loss is ever the result of a single play, but there is little debate that when Marx sailed his snap over the head of quarterback Eystin Salum with his team just one yard away from a decisive lead late in the fourth quarter, it altered the outcome. As the Swarco Raiders celebrated a 27-24 victory, it’s certain no amount of kind words from teammates could secure a good night’s sleep for the sickest man in Austria.

While the bad snap proved the game’s defining play, it was just one element of another classic matchup between the pair of Austrian powerhouses. After a scoreless first quarter, it was the Raiders who struck on the first play of the second. Facing the blitz, Sean Shelton rolled right and found budding star Marco Schneider in behind the safety in man coverage for an easy 36-yard touchdown.

The Vikings put together an 11-play drive in response and Daniel Schwam made a leaping 28-yard catch to get his team past mid-field. Maurice Wappl converted a gutsy fourth down gamble and Eystin Salum weathered a roughing the passer penalty to keep the drive alive, finishing with a nine-yard touchdown to a wide open Schwam to knot it at seven.

Swarco RB Gabriele Pagnini #22 Photo: Swarco Raiders

The Vikings defense stepped up on the next series. Raiders running back Gabriele Paganini burst for a first down in Vienna territory but Leon Balogh ripped the football loose from behind and Oskar Kranich recovered. Pinned at their own 18-yard line by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, Salum went to work. Wappl turned a short crosser into 25-yards to get things started, Mitchell Paige added a 17-yarder and Florian Wegan rumbled for 21 on the ground. Salum bought himself time and finished with a 17-yard strike to Paige to take the lead.

After a pair of Vikings sacks to end the first half, Vienna kept the momentum rolling to start the third quarter. Paige again proved simply too fast for Christoph Nitzlnader, gaining enough of a step on his defender to receive a perfectly thrown pass from Salum for a 61-yard score to make it 21-7.

Given great field position thanks to a personal foul on the return, Sean Shelton began to claw back points for the Raiders. Marching 47 yards on 13 plays, including a gutsy 14-yard carry of his own, the veteran import put his team in position but almost lost it all on a dropped interception by Sebastian Wimmer. Ruben Seeber safely carried it in from two yards out the next play and the battle of wills truly began.

The teams traded three and outs for the rest of the third quarter but things shifted again early in the fourth. Romed Zangerle took a dump off from Shelton 18 yards on the first play and Leon Balogh came in late with the crown of his helmet. The all-star defensive end, already with four sacks on the day, was ejected and the Raiders took full advantage of the penalty. Visibly wincing from an earlier shot to the ribs, Marco Schneider put the defense in a bind with an out and up and brought in a 35-yard score to bring his team within one, but Emanuel Trinkl’s extra point was blocked to keep it 21-20.

The Vikings, aided by a late hit by Christoph Nitzlnader against Eystin Salum, responded by extending their lead to four with a 30-yard Dennis Tasic field goal and their defense forced a Raiders three-and-out on the next series. With a chance to clinch, Salum found Paige for 22 yards and Wappl twice for first downs to get the ball to the goal line. After Salum was stopped on the initial QB sneak, the team opted for the shotgun on attempt number two and Georg Marx’s nightmare became real, moving his team all the way back to the 30-yard line with the errant snap. Tasic’s 47-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Sebastian Schaar and the Raiders were suddenly in control of their own destiny.

Vikings QB Eystin Salum lets go a pass Photo: Swarco Raiders

With 2:34 remaining, Shelton was in his element. Calm and collected, he took advantage of pass interference calls against Nikolaus Huszar and Leonhard Gerner while moving the chains with Adrian Platzgummer and Marco Schneider. On the Vienna two-yard line with 12 seconds left on the clock, it was the former who played hero. The offensive line gave Shelton time to double-clutch and Platzgummer left Huszar flat-footed as he faked the whip and went slant for the game-winning touchdown.

The Vikings got two cracks at redemption, using a Davion Washington pass interference penalty to set up a last-ditch miracle lateral play, but the Raiders held firm, ripping a 27-24 victory out of the jaws of defeat.

It what became an aerial duel, Sean Shelton finished 24 of 36 passing for 238 yards and three touchdowns. Marco Schneider continued to be the difference-maker with nine catches for 117 yards and two scores, while Adrian Platzgummer had eight for 67 and the winner.

On the other side, Eystin Salum continued to show off his arm by completing 19 of 36 passes for 272 yards and three touchdowns of his own. Mitchell Paige made the most of his presence in the lineup with seven catches for 144 yards and two scores, Maurice Wappl had five for 52 and Daniel Schwam added three for 46 and a touchdown before departing with an injury.

The Raiders secure bragging rights with their second win in three games against the Vikings, but Marx can rest easier knowing Vienna managed to secure the AFL tiebreak with a combined score of 55-51 across the two in Austria matchups. If both clubs win out, the Vikings will hold top seed in the playoffs and the two rivals will be headed on an Austrian Bowl collision course.

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.