Swarco Raiders stage dramatic 4th quarter rally to edge Calanda Broncos and win 3rd straight CEFL championship

The Swarco Raiders waited until their backs were against the wall in the fourth quarter before unleashing a four-touchdown explosion to finally defeat the Calanda Broncos 46-42 and three-peat as Central European Football League champions.

They were helped by the kickoff returning ability of Darius Robinson who scored two touchdowns on kickoff returns and returned another deep into Calanda territory.

With six minutes left, Calanda had shocked the Raiders, and the rest of the European football community, by taking a 42-32 lead.

Still they left too much time on the clock.

Swarco scored two late touchdowns and held off Calanda’s last desperate drive for the win.

Raiders quarterback Sean Shelton threw for one touchdown and rushed for two more while running back Sandro Platzgummer scored one touchdown on the ground and  Marco Schneider scored the winning touchdown late in the game. Game MVP Darius Robinson was the back breaker for the Raiders with his two kickoff return touchdowns.

Raiders KR Darius Robinson sprinting to the end zone Photo: Sergio Brunetti

For Calanda, Conner Manning was masterful, tossing five touchdown passes two each to Max Gray and Adrian Sünderhauf and one to Lukas Lütscher while Tino Muggwyler scored one on a one yard plunge.

Nevertheless, it was the Calanda crowd that was stunned into silence first as Robinson calmly caught the opening kickoff, took two steps right and then cut back and raced 75 yards to score.

Undaunted, Manning maneuvered the Broncos to the Swarco 14 yard line and then hit Sünderhauf to even the score at 7-7.

Shelton mounted a patented Raiders drive, moving the ball all the way down to the Broncos 10 yard line. However the Calanda defense stiffened, forcing Swarco to kick  a field goal to take a 10-7 lead.

Following a failed Calanda fourth down Shelton again engineered a drive, this time 80 yards, marching the Raiders down to the Broncos 10 yard line but this time the field goal attempt was blocked. Manning then took the Broncos down to the Swarco xx yard line and then lobbed a beautiful pass to Sünderhauf and Calanda went out in front 14-10.

Shelton & Co. responded on the next possession, with just over a minute left in the first half, driving down to the Broncos 15 yard line. Again, they were forced to attempt a field goal and again it failed, drifting wide right and Calanda delighted the home crowd by taking the 14-10 lead into the intermission.

The Broncos came out in the second half on fire with Manning moving the ball easily. He capped the drive with a 37 yard touchdown pass to Lütscher who had snuck in behind his defender and the Broncos suddenly took a 21-10 lead.

Unfazed, Shelton answered, mounting a beautiful 70 yard drive, taking the ball all the way down to Calanda’s one yard line and then finishing it himself, barging in to close the gap to 21-17.

Manning responded, marching the Broncos on a seven-play, 61 yard drive and then handing the ball off to Muggwyler who cut back to punch the ball in from the one and increased the lead to 28-17.

That lead was short lived though as Robinson returned the ensuing kickoff to the Broncos’ 25 yard line. Shelton and the Platzgummers advanced the ball to the 2 yard line and Sandro bulled his way in with Shelton making good on the two-point conversion and  the score was now 28-25.

Calanda Broncos QB Conner Manning threw 5 TD passes Photo: Sergio Brunetti

In this see saw second half battle, it was now Calanda’s turn and Manning and Gray combined to move the ball down to the Raiders 15 yard line. Manning then lofted the ball to the corner of the end zone and Gray hauled it in to give the Broncos a 35-25 lead with just under eight minutes left.

Again, Robinson spoiled the show for the host Broncos, gathering in the kickoff at his own 25 yard line and simply out sprinting Calanda defenders all the way to close the gap to 35-32.

Manning restored the 10 point lead on the next series, getting the ball off from the 35 yard line under enormous pressure,  finding Gray again to make it 42-32.

However, Calanda opted for the onside kick and Swarco recovered the ball at midfield. Relying on a no-huddle offense, Shelton finished the drive by taking the ball in himself to narrow the lead to 42-39 with four minutes left.

The Broncos kept the ball on the ground on the next possession, eating up the clock, finally punting it down to the Raiders five yard line with two minutes to go.

That was all that Shelton needed as he ran the two-minute drill to perfection, guiding his team down to the Broncos 24 yard line and then zipping the ball to Schneider to take the lead, 46-42 with 51 seconds left.

With two timeouts remaining Manning, undaunted,  hit Sünderhauf and Gray and then Lütscher and Gray ran the hook-and-ladder to take the ball down to Swarco’s 34 yard line with 12 seconds left. That was as far as they would go  and what would have been a Lütscher game-winning touchdown reception was ruled out of bounds.

With the win, the Raiders will now move on to face the ECTC winner, the Dacia Vienna Vikings in a Euro-wide championship final.

Photos: Sergio Brunetti

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