The Dacia Vienna Vikings head into their 11th straight Austrian Football League semifinal game Sunday, July 14, when they take on the Prague Black Panthers who are entering the final four in Austria for only the second time in their history.
The two teams faced each other twice during the regular season with Vienna coming out the winner both times, 28-7 and 29-3. However, Prague enters the game on a four-game winning streak while the Vikings dropped the ECTC final two weeks ago to the Swarco Raiders.
Since taking over as head coach of the Vikings in 2004, Chris Calaycay has guided his teams to the Austrian Football League semifinals 14 times and advanced them to the Austrian Bowl 12 times, winning the title seven times. Meanwhile, the head coach of the Black Panthers, Petr Vitovec is facing his very first post season with a team he only took over partway through the season this year.
Vienna is coming off a 35-10 loss to the Swarco Raiders in the ECTC championship final two weeks ago. The Black Panthers advanced to the semifinal after beating the SonicWall Mödling Rangers 35-23 last week in the wild card playoffs.
For Vienna, QB Austin Herink has been outstanding and with Andrew Spencer now growing into the role of starting RB, the offense is beginning to click. Spencer tops the team and the league with an average of 12 yards a carry. WRs Bernhard Seikovits and Maurice Wappl lead a group of talented receivers.
Dacia Vienna wound up the regular season with a lopsided 66-37 win over the Traun Steelsharks and prior to that had earned a solid 27-21 win against the Danube Dragons. They had lost a tough one to the Swarco Raiders, 34-13, following a string of three wins. They downed the Mödling Rangers 55-28, Prague Black Panthers 28-3 and the week before they beat the Danube Dragons 10-3. In international play, Vienna earned a big win in European Club Team Competition (ECTC) action in Barcelona, Spain, where they downed the Badalona Dracs 38-8. With that victory, the Vikingswon the ECTC Central Division (after also beating the Triangle Razorbacks from Denmark on April 14) and will now play in the ECTC/CEFL championship game on June 30.The Vikings have had a pair of tough losses though, first losing to the Raiders 48-28 in the second game of the year and then, two games later dropping a tough 36-14 decision to the Graz Giants.
Vikings quarterback Austin Herink has put up respectable numbers so far having thrown for 2,339 yards and 21 TDs in 10 games. Bernhard Seikovits is his leading target with 801 yards receiving and eight touchdowns. Andrew Spencer, who has replaced the injured Islaam Amadu at running back, has rushed for 444 yards averaging 12 yards a carry. But virtually all those yards came in the final two games of the season. He is a factor for the Black Panthers to reckon with. Nevertheless, Prague’s defense topped the AFL against the run allowing just over 47 yards a game.
The Black Panthers won their final three games of the regular season and then beat the Rangers in the wild card round giving them a four-game winning streak entering this game. That streak included a tough 34-31 victory over the Danube Dragons, to earn home field advantage. The Rangers were the victims in the other two late-season wins as Prague pounded them 52-21 and 35-0.
Prague’s run game is the key and is the best in Austria and is led by running back Herbert Gamboa who was the runaway rushing leader in the AFL with 1,268 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. Last week in the wild card win over Mödling, Gamboa rushed for 235 yards and one touchdown. However, in the two losses to Vienna, he only gained a total of 124 yards. Prague quarterback Dylan Potts finished fifth in overall rushing with 637 yards and last week scored three rushing touchdowns while gaining 154 yards. On the year, he has thrown for 1,112 yards and 13 TDs.
Playing at home in Vienna, the Vikings are very difficult to beat and although Prague is definitely capable of knocking off the 14-time Austrian champion, Vienna has the edge.