Mödling Rangers HC Josiah Cravalho excited to do things the Austrian way

When it comes to the everyday protocols and regulations associated with doing just about everything during the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re all guilty of becoming a little frustrated.

The extra steps, increased organizational workload and demanding precautions can be exhausting for even public health experts, but Josiah Cravalho doesn’t seem to mind.

“The new protocols, they’re actually wonderful because we’re able to participate with football now,” he says with a smile.

The head coach of the AFC Mödling Rangers will gladly trade mask-wearing, weekly testing and a mountain of paperwork for the chance to get his team back on the field.

The coronavirus pandemic stamped out what was to be Cravalho’s first year at the reins of the Austrian club and it’s not an experience that he wants to replicate any time soon. While the team has been gradually working its way to normalcy over the last year, Cravalho remembers the dark days after the last minute cancellation of the 2020 season.

“Life without football was a lot different. Those three months were the worst three months of my life,” he admits.

Others felt slightly differently.

“My wife would probably say otherwise. She found it was the best three months because she got to share this time with me that normally I would be spending on the football field,” Cravalho laughs.

His wife will have to entertain herself once again, because the coach is back doing what he loves and the Rangers are set to open their season Saturday against the Dacia Vienna Vikings, Cravalho’s former team. The Vikings were one of just two teams to compete in Austria last season, sweeping a title series against the Graz Giants in three games, but the Rangers opted out, fearing the increased injury risk from a hasty training camp.

Rangers HC Josiah Cravalho giving one of his players instructions during training camp Photo: Mödling Rangers

The team played one exhibition game in October against the Division 1 Carinthian Lions, but most of 2020 was spent trying to manage the ever-changing situation and roster turnover that came from the pandemic.

“Nothing worse could happen in your first year as a head coach than you don’t play any games. Guys are leaving, guys are coming back. You don’t know what you don’t even know. It wasn’t until a little bit before this December that I finally actually sorted out who’s playing, who’s not playing, who’s planning on playing, who’s going to be at practices,” Cravalho explains.

“It was a nightmare, but through it all we’ve learned what we can handle and it’s only made us better and stronger as an organization because of it.”

The Rangers have experienced plenty of staff and player turnover in the interim but by Cravalho’s estimation, they may be in a better place now than when they starting. The crew of coaches has developed over the year and is now larger to accommodate the demands of getting players up to speed, while the forced inactivity of quarantine has sparked a return to the sport for many.

“We had a lot of players that were injured, who weren’t going to be able to play last season, that are now coming back and players that had left the program that have decided to come back and play again because they found out that this is something they really missed,” Cravalho says.

He’s been bringing the new-look team along slowly in training camp, encouraged by the wealth of young talent at his disposal. In a league dominated by two of Europe’s premier organizations in the Vikings and Swarco Raiders, Cravalho admits that challenging for a crown right away might be unlikely, but his organization is building to topple those powerhouses.

“My biggest concern is that we’re out there and we come every week to compete. Win or lose, naturally it will matter, but we are in building stages,” he says.

The Rangers will have one advantage however. Rather than bring in an import passer like other teams, Mödling will start 24-year old local product Benjamin Brauer under center in 2021, potentially opening up the offence elsewhere.

“We’re going to stay with the Austrian way. It benefits us,” Cravalho explains.

“It makes it harder on other teams because now they would possibly have to defend two offensive imports and not just the one guy at quarterback, probably a guy like the running back we have and another skill position, which is sometimes a matchup nightmare.”

The strength of that strategy will be tested early against the Vikings and Cravalho has faith in his quarterback. He’s witnessed the growth of local talent over his 15 years living in the Vienna area and believes he’s recruited well enough to put his team near the top of the national standings, but Cravalho isn’t dwelling on the potential end results.

“I’m just excited for the chance to play football again,” he smiles.

Aren’t we all?

Watch Coach Cravalho and his Rangers play the Dacia Vienna Vikings, Saturday, March 27 on AFI TV.

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.