It may be early in the season in Austria but this Sunday’s match up between the defending champion and league leading Vienna Vikings and their arch rivals the Swarco Raiders is without a doubt highly anticipated and important, especially for the Raiders. Swarco needs the win to have any hope of finishing first or second in the league while the Vikings cannot afford the let the Raiders gather any more momentum.
The Vikings opted this season to play without any imports, which is tough to do in any league let alone the Austrian league. However, Austrian quarterback Alexander Thury has proven to any doubters that he is an excellent field general. He leads the league in passing with 995 yards in three games, throwing for 10 touchdowns against four interceptions.
He isn’t the only one performing at a high level as lanky receiver Stefan Postel leads all receivers in Austria with 303 yards receiving on 23 receptions while also scoring six touchdowns. His backfield counterpart, running back Islaam Amadu, is also tops in Austria rushing for 208 yards on 45 attempts.
In fact the Vikings lead the league in both total offense and total defense.
In the opening game of the season, Vienna took a 24-7 lead into the fourth quarter against the Raiders and then held on as Swarco scored two touchdowns to get within five points. But the final touchdown came with only 37 seconds on the clock leaving no time for a final score. Stefan Postel was a key factor in that game with 134 yards receiving and two touchdown passes while Christopher Kappel kicked two field goals and three PATs for the Vikings.
The Raiders meanwhile have split the quarterbacking duties between Sean Shelton and Kyle Callahan which can make it difficult at times for either of them to gain consistency. However, with the intense schedule Swarco is playing as they are also involved in the Big6 tournament and the Battle4Tirol, this may be warranted. Since Austrian teams can only field one import per game in the regular season Coach Fatah may well be rotating to keep Shelton sharp for the non-Austrian league games.
However, Shelton will get the nod for this game after his rocky start against the Vikings in the opener. Running back Fabien-André Gardener has gradually found a rhythm and come into his own. He will be a key to the Raider’s offense. In addition, defensive back Patrick Pilger has developed into one of the league’s top defenders. He leads the Raiders in tackles (12.5) and was named the Austrian’s league’s “Player of the Week “ last week.
The team has been on a roll since losing to Vienna and dropping their second league game to the Danube Dragons. Since then they have beaten the Stuttgart Scorpions, Dussesdorf Panthers, Graz Giants and the La Courneuve Flash, each one decisively.
“After the bumpy start to the season, the team is now running smoothly. We have won four games in a row, each one of them important,” said Shuan Fatah, head coach of the SWARCO RAIDERS Tirol. “The Vikings now await and that is always a big challenge for us. Every game against Vienna is very emotional. We want to do a lot better than the first meeting a month ago. ”
The game is on Sunday April 26 in Innsbruck but it will not be streamed as the club is only streaming Big6 and Battle4Tirol matches.