ELF: Vienna Vikings squeeze past Fehervar Enthroners to remain unbeaten

The Fehervar Enthroners came close to pulling off the upset of the year in the European League of Football against the undefeated Vienna Vikings but fell agonizingly short as the Vikings defense held strong in the fourth quarter and Vienna came away with a 21-20 victory.

The game opened inauspiciously for the visitors as a three-and-out from the Enthroners’ offense gave the ball to Vienna and quarterback Chris Helbig immediately made an impact. On first down, Helbig found Jordan Bouah deep for a 64-yard gain before the Italian wideout lost his balance and stumbled to the ground one yard short of the goal line. Two quarterback sneaks later, the Vikings were on the board with a six point lead; a blocked extra-point kept the score at 6-0.

Quarterback Kevin Doyle seemingly got the Fehervar offense moving with some good completions, but a mental error would bring the drive to an end; with pressure from all angles Doyle heaved the ball up on second down, eventually falling into a sea of purple as Exavier Edwards came up with the interception. Doyle would go on to show flashes of brilliance over the next drive, but no points would result from his efforts.

The two teams would exchange possessions for the remainder of the first period before things would eventually start heating up for both sides in the midst of the second quarter. Finnish running back Kari Pajarinen did the majority of the work for the Vikings before punching in a touchdown from a yard out to increase the defending champions’ lead by six. A Helbig-Bouah two-point attempt brough the score to 14-0.

The next drive saw a near-perfect 86-yard drive from Doyle and the Enthroners, ending in a quarterback sneak to put the Hungarian side on the board. Another blocked extra-point kept the score at 14-6. 

The Vikings immediately responded with a two-play touchdown drive, as Helbig hit Bouah down the sideline for a 38-yard score. A successful point-after made the score 21-6 as both teams entered the locker room for half time.

The second half opened up back-to-back drives ending in interceptions; Barnabás Gáspár perfectly undercut Jordan Bouah’s route on the sideline to give the ball back to the Enthroners who, soon after, were picked off by Christoph Kellner over the middle. Vienna were unable to do anything with the possession, punting the ball back after three plays.

Clearly playing with a ‘nothing to lose’ attitude, the Enthroners opened up the playbook. Running back Kende Rathonyi handed the ball off to Tavares Martin Jr. on a reverse, before Martin let the ball fly to Doyle, who came down with the catch for a Fehervar score. A failed two-point attempt kept the deficit at two scores, with the Vikings holding a 21-12 advantage.

Despite the main goal of Vienna being to maintain possession for as long as possible, the next drive came to an end when Helbig rolled to his left and carelessly lofted a ball looking for Florian Bierbaumer, but instead finding Enthroners’ linebacker Benedek Bodnár who made a terrific diving interception.

Doyle led the Enthroners on a successful drive into the redzone, before pulling up another page of the playbook; Doyle pitched the ball back to Rathonyi, who floated the ball to Tavares Martin in double-coverage. Miraculously, Martin came down with the ball to bring the win back into reach. Doyle found Martin for two points, making the score 21-20 at the end of the third quarter. 

After a Vienna punt gave the Enthroners the ball back, they managed to drive the ball into what most teams would call “field goal range”. With the game on the line, Péter Szőke shanked the kick right of the posts from 31 yards out. The teams exchanged punts for the remainder of the game, before a Leon Balogh sack as time expired would end the game, earning the Vikings a first-round bye in the playoffs.

A current student at Bournemouth University as well as a quarterback with eight years of playing experience. Brad's goal is to be a part of the growth of the game around the world through journalism and media.