LIVESTREAM Austria: Projekt Spielberg Graz Giants @ Dacia Vienna Vikings, Sept. 26, 16:00 CET (10:00 ET)

While earlier this year they were simply ecstatic to be playing at all, the Dacia Vienna Vikings enter Saturday’s third matchup with the Projekt Spielberg Graz Giants hoping it will be the last game in an unusual Austrian season. Holding a 2-0 lead in the Austrian Football League’s Best of Five Championship Series, the Vikings have a chance to end it and be crowned champions in front of a home crowd. Still, the team isn’t feeling any added pressure to perform.

“No, not at all. There’s no pressure,” says star import defensive back Andrew Spencer. “I feel like we are a very confident bunch in the way we practice and take the field. As the late Kobe Bryant said, the job’s not finished so we’ve got to give it our all.”

The confidence is merited, especially on the defensive side of the ball. In back to back decisive victories, the Vikings have shown the ability to both harass the quarterback and smother his options down-field.

“I believe that our defense right now is playing at a high level together and when we’re doing that, it doesn’t matter who the opponent is,” says Spencer. “Our main focus is execution and if we execute, we are pretty tough to stop.”

Projekt Spielberg Graz Giants @ Dacia Vienna Vikings, Sept. 26, 16:00 CET (10:00 ET)

That stifling defense faces a brand new challenge in Game Three. After a shoulder injury knocked promising Graz quarterback Hunter McEachern out of the series, the Giants signed veteran pivot Anthony Gardner to take over. The import brings an impressive resume that should challenge Vienna’s dominance. In 2017, Gardner was the AFL MVP when he played for the Ljubjlana Silverhawks, passing for 3,722 yards and 42 touchdowns. The last time he faced the Vikings, Gardner went down swinging and threw for 422 yards and three touchdowns completing 74% of his passes.

“We know Anthony and his strengths. He was the AFL MVP in 2017, is mobile with a good arm,” admits Vikings head coach Chris Calaycay. “But we will focus on our game: our pass rush, our run & pass defense.”

Gardner’s arrival is also good news for the Giants‘ top offensive weapon Florian Bierbaumer. The hulking receiver was a near non-factor in Game Two, despite racking up over 200 yards in the series opener. Gardner can sling it and Bierbaumer should be fed early and often. That creates a nightmarish size mismatch for almost all Vienna defenders.

Vienna will take the field with a potent passing offence of their own, led by import quarterback Jadrian Clark. While the offence struggled out of the gates in Game One, Clark provided an aerial showcase in the rematch and found himself on the bench by halftime having already secured the game with five touchdowns. Through two games, the former GFL quarterback has completed 70% of his passes, 39 of 56, for 468 yards and 8 TDs. His vast arsenal of offensive weapons includes top receivers Bernhard Siekovits and Yannick Mayr, as well as the multi-faceted Wegan brothers in the backfield. It’s enough to scare any defense, but Clark expects fierce resistance from the Giants.

“I expect them to give it everything they have. They aren’t a team that is just going to roll over and let us have it,” he says. “They played a full four quarters in both game one and game two, they are a strong opponent so we are going to have to go out and give it our all.”

Graz head coach Martin Kocian also has high hopes that his re-vamped squad will show marked improvement.

“Game 3 is an another opportunity for us to get better and become a better fooball team. Due to some injuries, we had to restructure our team, but our focus stays the same,” Kocian says. “We want to get better every day, we want play better in next game then we have played in last one and we want to bring series back to Graz.”

That is something the Vikings are trying to avoid and head coach Chris Calaycay is wary of the potential trap game after two decisive victories.

“We know that we will step on the field Saturday to fight for the championship. That is always something special for a team. But we haven’t won yet,” he emphasized. “The intensity and the focus during the course of this practice week was high – that’s the level we want to have going into Saturday’s game.”

Watch the game live here. Projekt Spielberg Graz Giants @ Dacia Vienna Vikings, Sept. 26, 16:00 CET (10:00 ET)

Dacia Vienna Vikings Roster (Click image to enlarge)

Projekt Spielberg Graz Giants Roster (Click image to enlarge)

Update: Hunter McEachern has been replaced at QB by Anthony Gardner

 

JC Abbott
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.
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