Swarco Raiders dispatch Milano Seamen with impressive CEFL quarter-final performance

Sitting in the shadow of the Austrian Alps, it’s hard to fathom that anything could be more spectacular than the views at the American Football Zentrum in Innsbruck.

Once the Swarco Raiders took the field on Saturday however, snow-capped mountain vistas quickly became the second most impressive thing on display.

The 2019 Austrian Bowl champions left the Milano Seamen with plenty of time to sight-see, dispatching the reigning Italian champs by a score of 41-14 in the Central European Football League quarter-final. Five different Raiders found the endzone in a breathtaking showcase of execution and explosiveness that should have teams across the continent on alert.

The Raiders showed off their clinical efficiency on the first drive, an 11-play, 80-yard masterpiece from quarterback Sean Shelton that sliced through the Milano defense. Rafael Belici reversed field for 18 yards on a screen to take the team to the goalline and Shelton plunged in himself to finish the job.

Swarco Raiders WR Marco Schneider hauling in a TD pass from Sean Shelton Photo: Swarco Raiders

Their next touchdown wouldn’t require nearly as much work. Shelton opened the second quarter by finding Marco Schneider in behind coverage and the pint-sized receiver raced 54 yards to pay dirt. Milano looked to the arm of quarterback Luke Zahradka for a response but he overthrew Jordan Bouah on the ensuing drive, sending the ball into the gut of Vincent Müller for an easy pick six to make it 21-0.

Not satisfied with a three-score lead, the Raiders silenced the Seamen once again and Davion Washington turned on the jets to return their punt to the Milano 25-yard line. Pass interference by Jeremiah Johnson on an endzone shot to Washington moved them even closer and Marco Schneider struck again, hauling in a three-yard touchdown pass from Shelton with a somersaulting one-handed stab.

Big Sebastian Schaar popped the ball out of the hands of Ismail Lamamra on just the second play of the next drive and the Tirolean offense was back at it once again. Simon Pilger hauled in an easy 28-yard score right up the seam and the Raiders took a 35-0 lead into the half.

After a scoreless third quarter, Schneider added one final exclamation point to his outing, making a beautiful adjustment on a 53-yard bomb on the first play of the fourth. Shelton found Washington for a six-yard touchdown to complete the run of 41 points unanswered before a blocked extra point.

Zahradka finally broke the shutout with a 50-yard strike to Filippo Fiammenghi mid-way through the frame and Jordan Bouah added a six-yard touchdown catch, but it was little more than window dressing. The Raiders easily advanced to the CEFL semi-final with a 41-14 victory over the Italian visitors.

Veteran quarterback Sean Shelton had another banner day under center, completing 17 of 22 passes for 256 yards and four touchdowns, while adding 24 yards and a score on the ground. The real star was young Marco Schneider, who continues to make a name for himself as one of Europe’s most dangerous weapons. The playmaker caught three passes for 110 yards and two scores in spectacular fashion.

Swarco Raiders QB Sean Shelton Photo: Swarco Raiders

Simon Pilger had eight catches for 81 yards and a touchdown, while Davion Washington had the other score to go with his two pass breakups on defense. Italian import Alex Ferrari was the standout at linebacker with six tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks, while Vincent Müller added the pick six.

The overwhelmed Seamen struggled to find their footing throughout. Quarterback Luke Zahradka finished 21 of 31 passing for 166 yards, two touchdowns and one pick, with much of the production coming in garbage time. Filippo Fiammenghi led all targets with three catches for 101 yards and score, while Enzo Mensah put up nine tackles in a valiant defensive effort.

Milano will now return their focus to the Italian league, as the Raiders advance to the second round of games in the CEFL. They’ll meet Austrian rivals the Dacia Vienna Vikings in the semi-finals on May 29th, a battle that should be equally spectacular but far more competitive.

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.