Execution the key as Dacia Vienna Vikings HC Chris Calaycay looks forward to 14th Austrian Bowl appearance

Dacia Vienna Vikings versus Swarco Raiders. Winners of the 2020 Austrian title series against the 2019 Austrian Bowl champions. It might just be the best football rivalry in all of Europe.

Eight times since 2011, these two teams have faced each other for Austrian supremacy. They’ve split those matchups at four a piece, but no one knows that better than Chris Calaycay. Vienna’s long-time head coach will be logging his 14th Austrian Bowl appearance on the sidelines when the two teams clash again Saturday and he knows just what to expect.

“It’s going to be a close game. If you look at the three games that we played, there was an overtime game and two games decided in the fourth quarter, the last two in Innsbruck,” he says ahead of the fourth matchup this season.

“We’ve played each other a lot in the last couple of years, so as far as the surprise factor there’s always going to be some kind of special play or something that’s going to happen but what it comes down to is really cliché; the team that takes care of the football and plays great special teams.”

Should the Vikings do that, Calaycay might just claim his eighth Austrian Bowl title as a coach — he has three more from his playing days — but recent history suggests it will be an uphill climb. While the Vikings were the comfortable top seed heading into the playoffs and boast both the top-ranked offense and defense in the country, the Raiders have claimed two of their three matchups in 2021.

While those losses did nothing to Vienna’s place in the Austrian standings, the first defeat cost them a shot at a CEFL Bowl title. That stung, but the Vikings aren’t looking to past results for motivation. They’re driven by their own internal belief and winning is less about beating the Raiders and more about not beating themselves.

“We know as a team that we have everything that we need to win a championship, but we have to go out and do it. We have to execute,” Calaycay stresses.

“We went into those games feeling pretty good because we won the first one, then things happened in those games that you don’t want to see happen. I think we had three fumbles in the fourth quarter in the CEFL semi-final and then in the last game we were on the one-inch line to make the score 31-20 and we ended up fumbling the football and they drove down to score to win the game in the last second.”

Photo: Peter Kramberger

Don’t expect those mistakes to be repeated this weekend. Playing clean, fundamental football will be the recipe for success and that’s especially true on defense, where veteran Raiders quarterback Sean Shelton has the capacity to exploit the smallest error. He’ll take exactly what the Vikings give him, so no target can be left unaccounted for.

“The Raiders, they have a great short passing game. Sean does a great job of distributing the ball to his different receivers,” Calaycay says. ” It’s not a situation where you can say ‘we’ve got to stop Marco Schneider’ or ‘we have to stop Platzgummer.’ We’ve got to play great defense and we’ve got to get off the field on third down.”

Offensively, the Vikings possess a much more well-balanced attack than their opponents and that could prove crucial on Saturday. With rain and thunder forecast for Innsbruck during the game, the ability to lean on league leading rusher Florian Wegan and a powerful offensive line might be the difference.

Athletic quarterback Eystin Salum helps in that aspect as well and should the game demand a shootout, nobody has more game-breaking ability. He’s lined up almost everywhere for Vienna, even providing a home run threat at receiver when needed, and Calaycay has nothing but praise for his abilities.

“He came up as a defensive football player and then ended up playing quarterback, so he’s kind of had that mentality and he was first team all-conference in college football as a kickoff cover specialist. He’s just a great football player and I think he gets the respect for being able to do that. ”

“He can play a lot of different positions for us, how much I’m going to not tell you and let everybody in the football world know about” the coach says wryly, while acknowledging that the team’s ability to go deep with Salum out wide is about more than just the dynamism of their American starter.

“That doesn’t just say that something about Eystin Salum, it says something about our trust in Nico Hrouda, an 18-year old Austrian kid who’s got a huge future ahead of him playing quarterback.”

That’s something that’s true all over the field. While opponents might scheme for Salum or Wegan or even defensive sack artist Leon Balogh, no one man will win Vienna this game. All have played a role and after a tumultuous couple of years due to COVID, Calaycay has found himself thinking a lot about just how far all of them have come to get this chance to reach their ultimate goal.

“I think looking at the bigger picture of the whole thing is important. It’s important for our program,” he stresses.

“We’ve gone through a lot as a football community, as Vikings, over the last 18 months with the world in the pandemic and just being able to play and play in front of fans, getting to this point after really having a lot of question marks — whether we play a season, how we would play a season, how do we even get back on the field –, that’s special.”

Watch the 2021 Austrian Bowl live on AFI.tv. Dacia Vienna Vikings vs Swarco Raiders, Saturday, July 31, 19:00 CET (7 pm, 1 pm ET).

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.