Winning Austrian Bowl XXXIV caps brilliant season for Sean Shelton and Swarco Raiders

Editor’s note: Sean Shelton has just completed his fourth season as quarterback of Austria’s Swarco Raiders capping another excellent year with a last second victory over the Dacia Vienna Vikings in Austrian Bowl XXXIV. With the win, the Raiders completed a trifecta by also winning the Central European Football League championship as well as the CEFL/NEFL Superfinal. In addition, Swarco defeated Iowa’s Central College Dutch. This is Shelton’s third Austrian title since arriving and to him maybe the most satisfying. Read his account here.

I look up at the scoreboard , 48-48, 33 seconds left and one timeout. We were at the Vikings 29 and looking to get the ball a little closer to put our FG unit in better position to win the game. We call an outside run to the left, 2 yards. We hustled back to the line, 18, 17, 16. We run a zone read in which I pull and scamper down to the 20. I just sat there knowing that would have to be be good enough field position. 6,5,4 seconds. I continue to sit on the field, exhausted, both physically and emotionally. Shuan, our head coach, calls our last timeout with 3 seconds on the clock. I slowly get helped to my feet and walk off the field. I had never been so tired during a game. I just had no energy left.

I learned a lot about energy this season and how vital it is to success, how vital it is for preparation each week, and how vital it is for one’s ability to maintain focus. I also learned how difficult it is to sustain for a 17 game season, especially when those 17 games include 3 championships and took place in 18 weekends. I had used the last bit of energy I had on that final play.


I walk straight to the equipment table, grab a water, and squat down with my back to the field. I didn’t know if I wanted to watch the upcoming field goal attempt. The whole season depended on this one snap, hold and kick. Even though we had won both of our international championships during the season and finished first in the regular season rankings of the AFL, without the Austrian Bowl, our season would of felt incomplete. Sure, still a good season but also a huge missed opportunity.

I continue to squat, trying to catch my breath and manage my emotions. I just remember saying “just hit the kick” over and over again in my head. I finally muster up the courage to get up and join my teammates on the sideline just as the FG unit was getting set. “Just hit the kick”. Thomas Pichlmann aka. Der Fußball Gott, our Kicker, gets set and nods to the holder, Adrian Platzgummer. And there it was: snap, hold, and kick.

Swarco Raiders Thomas Pichlmann kicking winning FG in Austrian Bowl XXXIV Photo:

When the officials raised their hands after he nailed the kick, the sideline erupted. Players and coaches rushed Thomas and the rest of the FG unit. A frenzy of celebration broke loose. But I celebrated in a much different way. Kyle Callahan, our WR coach, came and gave me a big hug, and I cried. Now I know that doesn’t sound like much of a celebration but it was exactly what I needed. I truly became overwhelmed with emotions. An overwhelming sense of joy, pride, appreciation and relief came over me. This had never happened to me before in my 20 year career.

Previous to last Saturday’s game, I was always on the other side of the fence when it came to close, big games. Always close but just not quite enough so I felt great appreciation that I was part of a team that helped me get over that hump. I was filled with joy because this team cemented itself in Raiders history as one of the best teams ever. I was so proud that we played the most aggressive schedule in Europe and almost won every game. And a great sense of relief came over me because I knew that the season was over and it ended with the best football game I have ever been a part of.

I don’t know how it gets better than the 2018 SWARCO Raiders Tirol season, and maybe it doesn’t, but we are damn sure going to try to out-do it in 2019.