Swarco Raiders return to form with solid semifinal win over SsangYong Danube Dragons

The Swarco Raiders entered their playoff semifinal game against the SsangYong Danube Dragons carrying the weight of two straight regular-season losses in the Austrian Football League, including an upset at the hands of the Dragons two weeks ago.

It left the Raiders with a definite point to prove in their semifinal matchup with Danube this past weekend. The Raiders took a stranglehold on the game from the opening whistle and never let up as they cruised to a 31-20 win.

There’s no denying that Danube had flashes and also scored a late touchdown to make the score look more respectable but the Raiders were in control for much of the game.

Raiders quarterback Sean Shelton completed 14 of 20 passes for a modest 145 yards. Marco Schneider was his favorite target with six receptions for 86 yards and one touchdown while Adrian Platzgummer had three catches for 20 yards and Rafael Belici two for 34. yards. Shelton was his team’s leading rusher with 18 carries for 108 yards and a score while Lukas Haslwanter carried the ball nine times for 55 yards and Davion Washington four times for 34 and a touchdown. Ruben Seeber scored a third rushing touchdown on a three-yard plunge.

For the Dragons, Chad Jeffries had a sub-par day throwing the ball with only nine completions on 22 attempts for 140 yards and no touchdowns. Lukas Gold caught four passes for 54 yards and Clemens Hareter had two carches for 46 yards. Running back Byon Rhone carried the ball 14 times for 143 yards and two touchdowns to account for half the Dragons offense. Jeffries rushed for 12 yards and one score.

Shelton set the tone on the first play of the game with a deep pass attempt to a streaking, wide-open Washington that was just out of his reach. Although Swarco was forced to punt on that first possession, the message was clear. ‘We didn’t come¬† to play conservative football.”

Photo: Benny Radauer/PGFotoTirol

The Raiders defense made an emphatic statement on the Dragons’ possession, forcing them back 12 yards in three plays. When Shelton got the ball back, he went to work, engineering a 14 play, 69-yard drive that ate up almost eight minutes, capped by a Ruben Seeber three-yard touchdown.

That seemed to fire up the Danube offense though and on the next drive, aided by a 52 yard run by Rhone, Jeffries marched his team down to the Swarco one-yard line and Rhone finished the drive off with a one-yard plunge. A missed PAT left the score 7-6 in Swarco’s favor.

On the very next possession, Shelton maneuvered the Raiders from his own 31 down to the Danube 16 yard line in six plays but was picked off on the goalline on a first and goal to snuff out the drive. On the very next Raiders series however, Shelton made no mistake, hitting Schneider on a 31-yard touchdown pass to widen the gap to 14-6.

It took Jeffries and the Dragons offense just three plays to answer with Rhone slipping up inside the left tackle and then rumbling 39 yards for a touchdown to narrow the lead to 14-13 with three minutes left in the first half.

Swarco wasted no time responding as on the very next drive, Shelton marched the Raiders from their own 31 down to the Danube one-yard line. He punched the ball in himself and Swarco took a 21-13 lead which they kept as the first half ended.

Both defenses stiffened early in the third with neither team able to mount consistent drives. Turnovers were also an issue as first Shelton was picked off just inside Danube territory and then Rhone fumbled the ball back on the very next Dragons play.

Finally, early in the fourth, the Raiders were able to start moving the ball again and Shelton guided his team down to the Dragons 27-yard line. Arno Schwarz kicked a 42-yard field goal to extend the lead to 24-13.

Again, the Danube offense stalled and turned the ball over on downs at the Dragons 38-yard line with plenty of time left. Shelton and the Raiders took advantage. Staying on the ground, the Raiders marched down to the eight-yard line in three plays with Luke Haslwanter and Shelton carrying the ball. Then, Davion Washington delivered the final blow, heading outside and then cutting inside a block to scamper into the end zone from eight yards out.

With just over three minutes left in the game, Swarco had a 31-13 lead.

With his back to the wall, Jeffries finally kickstarted the Danube offense on the very next possession, hitting a wide-open Hareter down the sideline for a 41 yard gain. Eight plays later, Jeffries punched the ball in himself from the two-yard line.

However, it was too little, too late with Swarco coming away with a solid 31-20 victory qualifying them for their 17th appearance in the Austrian Bowl where they will face arch rivals, the Dacia Vienna Vikings.

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