Swarco Raiders outlast Danube Dragons to advance to Austrian Bowl XXXV

The Swarco Raiders had to dig deep against the Danube Dragons in the Austrian Football League semifinals, but they were finally able to put away the stubborn Dragons beating them 49-43 in a shootout.

The game was in doubt until the final minute of play. Every time it looked like the Raiders had built a comfortable lead, Danube would literally march down the field and score.

The difference was the Raiders trademark offensive explosiveness. When they scored, it was quick and from anywhere on the field. The time of possession was misleading to say the least. The Dragons held a two to one advantage: 32:46 to 15:14. In other words, Danube needed twice as long to score. That, and short fields for Swarco, ultimately made the difference in this game.

Swarco quarterback Sean Shelton was superb completing 15 of 17 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns. One of those incompletions was a drop. He also rushed for two touchdowns. Fabian Abfalter had four receptions for 63 yards and a touchdown while Sandro Platsgummer caught two passes for 56 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 125 yards and a pair of touchdowns while Tobias Bonatti rushed for 48 yards and a major.

For Danube, Chad Jeffries had an outstanding outing throwing for 318 yards and five touchdowns with Lukas Gold hauling in six passes for 156 yards and a touchdown while Philipp Haun had 73 yards in receptions and a touchdown, Byron Rhone 11 yards and two scores and Reinhard Knaus caught one pass for 10 yards and a touchdown. Rhone rushed for 122 yards and another score.

Swarco QB Sean Shelton Photo: Florian Mitteregger

The game actually started out slowly with the Dragons kicking a field goal to open the scoring after five minutes. Shelton capped a 61 yard drive with seven yard touchdown run to give Swarco a 7-3 lead but Jeffries came back with a drive that extended into the second quarter finding Rhone with a six yard touchdown pass to regain the lead, 10-7.

Swarco came right back with Darius Robinson returning the kickoff all the way down to the Danube 20 yard line and then Shelton moving his team to the three and plunging into the end zone to go back up 14-10.

This would be the script for the rest of the game.

The Raiders forced a Dragons punt on the next series and four plays later, Shelton connected with Abfalter for a 28 yard touchdown to increase the lead to 21-10.

Jeffries and the Danube offense then ate up almost seven minutes driving down to the Swarco two yard line. Rhone finished it off, bulling his way in to reduce the lead to 21-17 at the half.

A crucial fourth down stop by the Raiders early in the third quarter was a game changer for Swarco. The offense took over at their own 41 and two plays later, Shelton hit Sandro Platzgummer for a 59 yard touchdown strike giving Swarco a 28-17 lead, and a cushion they would need the rest of the game.

Jeffries and Rhone struck for a touchdown eight plays later from five yards out to narrow the lead to 28-24 midway through the third.

Shelton answered, and, thanks in part to a failed onside kick attempt and a facemask penalty, took over at the Danube 23 yard line. Five plays later, Platzgummer found a gap and ran 12 yards for a touchdown, extending the lead to 35-24.

This time it was Jeffries turn to score quickly, taking just three plays and just over a minute. He heaved a 62 yard touchdown pass to Gold to pull within four, 35-31.

Danube RB Byron Rhone Photo: Florian Mitteregger

The fourth quarter opened with a pair of scoreless possessions and with just over eight minutes left in the game, Swarco took over at their own 28. Platzgummer exploded, cutting back against the flow and racing 72 yards for a touchdown, upping the score to 42-31.

Jeffries then took his team on a 77 yard drive, methodically moving them down the field and hitting Haun for an 11 yard scoring pass to close the gap again to 42-37 with five minutes remaining.

Danube again gave the Raiders good field position thanks to another failed onside kick. From the Dragons 49 yard line, Swarco needed three plays, two rushes by Bonatti, the last for a 17 yard touchdown and the lead was again double digits, 49-37.

With three and a half minutes on the clock, Jeffries mounted another drive, this time seven plays, moving 69 yards in 2:41, capping it with a 10 yard touchdown pass to Knaus to move closer, 49-43.

But with a minute to go, Swarco was not going to make any mistakes, pouncing on the onside kick and kneeling the game out.

The Raiders are now one game away for completing a perfect season. They will play Austrian Bowl XXXV on July 27 where they will face the Dacia Vienna Vikings.


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