Shuan Fatah, head coach of Austria’s defending champion Swarco Raiders is getting his team ready for their ninth straight Austrian Bowl Saturday, July 27, Austrian Bowl XXXV, against arch rivals, the Dacia Vienna Vikings. Fatah offers his analysis of the game and his team’s prospects.
Since 2010, these two teams have faced each other seven times in the Austrian championship game with Vienna having a slight 4-3 edge. They have played each other three times this season with Swarco winning all three games.
We asked Coach Fatah about past records, current records, strengths and weaknesses and as always his answers are thoughtful and sincere.
AFI: You have guided the Raiders to their ninth consecutive Austrian Bowl and eighth against Vienna. They lead the series 4-3. Does this make this more than just “another” Austrian Bowl or does it take on a bigger dimension?
Fatah: Every Bowl game is special and every time you can make it into the “Big Show”, you have accomplished something special. It is no different this time. We surely would like to tie the Austrian Bowl win series to 4-4 but that is secondary to us. It was a hard and long season for everybody involved and we are looking forward to finish this magical season in strong fashion.
AFI: This is your third game against the Vikings this year and you have won all three, the last one seemingly with ease (if you can say that). Does this change the mindset of your team?
Fatah: If you play the Vikings, you never change your mindset. You know you have to be ready for a true dogfight and you have to keep your mistakes to an absolute minimum. The Vikings are always a strong and well-prepared team, and we expect their absolute best performance on Saturday. We have prepared our team for this moment and will try to also bring our A Game on Saturday, because it will take a great effort and a laser-focus-effort by us to prevail in this match up.
AFI: What do you see as the biggest threat to deal with both offensively and defensively?
Fatah: On offense, the Vikings have shifted their focus to the running game mid season by moving Andrew Spencer into a prominent role as their RB. It will be important to keep him in check at all times and all game. But we also know, that they are capable of moving their approach back to a more pass heavy offense, so we prepared for both scenarios and we will see Saturday, what their final approach will be in this game. On defense they have one of the best defensive lines in the league, and it will be of utmost importance to protect our QB. We will also have to keep spreading the love on offense, and distribute the ball to as many of our playmakers as we can. We have a bunch of explosive players on offense and we must utilize them to the max. We have to move the ball and establish drives and make as few mistakes as possible on our way to the end zone.
AFI: You are one game away from a perfect season. Is that something that’s in the back of your mind?
Fatah: Not anymore. If you had asked me 3-4 weeks ago, then my answer would have probably been different. Now the only thing that matters is winning the Austrian Bowl. Anything else is just noise we have to tune out.
AFI: You have the highest scoring offense in Austria and last week against the Danube Dragons you needed it. The defense had trouble slowing down the passing of Chad Jeffries. Have you made any adjustments for this game?
Fatah: We surely analysed the film and made adjustments. But the Vikings are a totally different team. Every game has it´s unique story and challenges. The Dragons game had a different storyboard, which is not applicable to this game.
AFI: Your trademark is your offensive explosiveness. It was clear against last week. Is it something you can work on?
Fatah: We are constantly working on ALL three phases of the game. Otherwise you cannot keep your performance level high enough to win games. During a gruelling 16 game season this is paramount if you want to survive the inevitable lows during such a journey. We always try to take the roof off the top on every play. This is a Raider trademark we are working on daily. We try to hit you from every angle and we are not shy to throw the homerun on any given play.
AFI: You have so many players who can break a game wide open like Patrick Donahue and Sandro Platzgummer, not to mention Sean Shelton. Do you work on getting the ball into their hands?
Fatah: We are constantly trying to stay unpredictable and spread the ball out to all of our weapons. Outstanding players like Sandro Platzgummer, Patrick Donahue or Darius Robinson demand special attention. This helps to get other players into the game. For this to happen, every player has to be ready to be “The Man” at any given moment. This has to be practiced and stressed during game week, and that´s what Lee Rowland and his offensive staff are doing week in and week out.
AFI: Last week you had short fields which made a difference. Twice you started from within their 25 yard line thanks to your special teams. How much of a factor have they been for you?
Fatah: Statistically we are always having some of the best Special Teams in the league. This comes not as a surprise to us. We are investing a lot of time in the classroom and on the field for all special teams. If you follow our season closely, then you will notice, that we have won several games this year because of our special teams play. May it be just outstanding field position or 1 or 2 quick scores with any of our return units. This goes all back to our overall approach that you have to be solid on all three phases of the game to beat us. The goal is, that just shutting down our offense or scoring on our defense will not win the game for you. We will find a way to score on special teams if needed. We take pride in our special teams play, and it shows every week on game film.
AFI: Do you think of this as one of the biggest games of your career or do you try to make it like just another game? In other words, do you prepare your team mentally the same as you always do?
Fatah: I was lucky to be part of a Eurobowl Championship with the Berlin Adler in 2010. The Adler organisation had to wait 20 years to accomplish this feat. I was fortunate enough to bring the first Double ever (Eurobowl and Austrian Bowl) to the SWARCO Raiders in 2011, and now we are having a chance to win the Triple in back-to-back fashion. I would say this game is surely one of those mentioned before, but then, which National Championship Game is not?