The Austrian Football League playoffs kick off this weekend with the Wild Card Round.
The Swarco Raiders finished the regular season in first place with an undefeated 10-0 record and earned a bye into the semifinals. Their arch rivals, the Dacia Vienna Vikings wound up second at 7-3 and also earned the right to play in the semifinals. The Vikings three losses came at the hands of Swarco to whom they lost twice, and the Projekt Spielberg Graz Giants.
The four teams battling it out in the wild card playoffs this weekend are the third place Prague Black Panthers, the Danube Dragons who finished fourth, the Giants and the SonicWall Mödling Rangers.
Saturday, July 6
Danube Dragons 4th (6-4) – Projekt Spielberg Graz Giants 5th (5-5)
This game could be interesting. Although Danube defeated the Giants both times they played each other, both games were close. The Dragons won the first on 12-10 and the second one 21-14. Danube enters the game after losing their final two regular season games. They dropped a 27-21 decision to the Vikings and then lost a close game, 34-31, to the Black Panthers. Meanwhile, Graz pushed the Raiders in the second last game of the year losing by a score of 37-30, and then demolished the Amstetten Thunder 42-10.
Both teams have excellent quarterbacks. Giants quarterback Jake Kennedy finished second in passing with 2,360 yards and a league-best 34 TDs. Chad Jeffries of the Dragons wound up fifth in the passing yardage ranks throwing for 2,233 yards and 24 touchdowns. Philipp Sommer of the Giants was the second leading receiver and finished with 855 yards while Dragons WR Phillipp Haun was 5th with 749 yards and 10 TDs.
The Giants were the second leading scoring team averaging 33.5 points a game while Danube allowed 18.5 points a game, second best in the AFL behind Swarco.
These two teams are as evenly matched as they come. This game is a toss up.
Sunday, July 7
Prague Black Panthers 3rd (6-4) – SonicWall Mödling Rangers 6th (4-6)
The Black Panthers won their final three games of the season, including a tough 34-31 victory over the Danube Dragons, to earn home field in the wild card playoff game. Prague defeated the Rangers both times they faced each other in the regular season, 52-21 and 35-0. They would have to be the favorites in this game as well.
The Black Panthers run game is the key and is the best in Austria and is led by running back Herbert Gamboa who was the runaway rushing leader in the AFL with 1,268 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. Prague quarterback Dylan Potts finished fifth in overall rushing with 637 yards. The Black Panthers topped the AFL averaging 217.3 yards rushing a game. They were also by far the toughest team to run against giving up a mere 48 yards a game. In the two games between these two, Prague averaged over 250 yards a game while Mödling had 80.
The Rangers enter the game on a five game losing streak. They lost twice to the Black Panthers, twice to the Swarco Raiders and once to Vienna. A rough stretch of opponents and games. Quarterback Tyler Bruggman who came in part way through the year, had a rough outing in the last game against Prague, a 35-0 loss, throwing for only 80 yards. In the final game of the year, a 31-20 loss to Swarco, the Rangers played Benjamin Bräuer at quarterback.
This one looks like a foregone conclusion.