Swarco Raiders reach 8th straight Austrian Bowl, beat Ljubljana Silverhawks

The Swarco Raiders downed the Ljubljana Silverhawks 45-27 Saturday at Tivoli Stadium in Innsbruck in front of a crowd of 3,850 spectators to advance to the Austrian Bowl for the eighth year in a row.

However, the Silverhawks did not make it easy for them. In fact they made it downright difficult.

The Raiders relied on a superior ground game gaining 238 yards rushing compared to Ljubljana ‘s 94 and rushing for four touchdowns. And yet, the Silverhawks offense held a huge edge in time of possession (34 minutes/14)  and first downs (30/16).

Swarco quarterback Sean Shelton took what the defense gave him though managing the offense efficiently, throwing for only 175 yards, but handing the ball off to running back Sandro Platzgummer who gained 148 yards rushing and scored three touchdowns while also catching a touchdown pass. Shelton also rushed for 87 yards and another touchdown.

Silverhawks quarterback Anthony Gardner showed why he led the top passing offense in the Austrian league throwing for 310 yards on 29 of 55 passing, and three touchdowns. It was a short-passing, ball control offense that the Raiders had trouble at time coping with.

In the end, Swarco figured it out.

Following a tentative first quarter which saw the Raiders take a 3-0 lead, Swarco erupted for three touchdowns in the second quarter with Platzgummer scoring the first of  his three rushing touchdowns and Shelton finding Fabian Abfalter and then running a touchdown in himself. In between, Gardner finally got the Silverhawks offense kicked past first gear, engineering a 14 play, seven minute drive, taking the ball in himself for a touchdown.

Swarco led 24-7 at the half.

Ljubljana came out swinging in the second half as Gardner connected with Eugen Simic from 26 yards out less than two minutes into the third quarter to close the gap to 24-13.

Shelton returned the favor driving the Raiders 65 yards in seven plays, throwing to Platzgummer to restore the three-score lead, 31-13. Gardner responded with another clock-eating  five minute drive, marching the Silverhawks down the field, 77 yards in 10 plays, throwing a 20 yard touchdown pass to the league’s top receiver, Matic Tomse, to narrow the lead again, to 31-19.

Then the Ljubljana  defense stepped up their game, getting a crucial stop, handing the ball over the Gardner.. This time he capped a 61 yard, 11 play drive with a touchdown pass to Ziga Zibelnik, to pull within four points, 31-27 with nine minutes still left in the game.

That was as close as it got though. With Swarco’s defense holding the Silverhawks to only five more first downs and the offense stepping up scoring twice more, the Raiders took charge, finishing the game by sacking Gardner.

The Raiders now move on to meet the winner of the other semifinal between the Dacia Vienna Vikings and the Danube Dragons.

Raiders head coach Shuan Fatah was not surprised by how close the game really was:

 

“If someone was surprised by their strength, it was not us. They have the best offense in the AFL, the best quarterback and the best receiving corps. Anthony Gardner made enough plays for an entire season today. They came within four points of us. Then we managed two quick scores which was too much for them. This was a really, really tough game.”

 

AFI
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