Photo: Bernhard Hörtnagl www.fhb-photo.com
In Xenith CEFL Bowl XIV, Swarco Raiders Tirol have survived by the skin of their teeth against Calanda Broncos, and took home the championship trophy for the third straight season. The Raiders got the early lead, but the home team replied quickly and didn’t let up until the very last minute. Broncos QB Conner Manning played a perfect game with 5 passing touchdowns but it wasn’t enough for the win. The Raiders dug themselves out of a big hole with 4 scores in the last quarter.
Final games of Sportklub CEFL have staged some fantastic dramas in seasons past. Starting from SELAF Bowl II in 2007 (Belgrade SBB Vukovi – Budapest Wolves 28:27), CEFL Bowl VI in 2011 (Budapest Wolves – Belgrade SBB Vukovi 33:34), CEFL Bowl X in 2015 (Novi Sad Dukes – Belgrade SBB Vukovi 25:23) to the CEFL Bowl XI in 2016 (Projekt Spielberg Graz Giants – Belgrade SBB Vukovi 52:49). This one will be right up there in the pantheon of unbelievable epilogues.
Excitement has started on the opening kickoff when Raiders’ Darius Robinson received the ball and sprinted untouched to the finish line for first points, 0-7.
Broncos’ QB Conner Manning connects with RB Steffen Haenelt, who gets a few carries to boot and penetrates into opponents’ red zone. From there, Manning hits Adrian Sünderhauf for an equalizer 7-7.
Visitors’ offense gets on the field for the first time and Sandro Platzgummer advances to Broncos’ 10 yard line after two rushing plays. They can’t get any further than that and Fabian Abfalter kicks a field goal for another lead 7-10.
Home team takes to the field moving the chains with the assortment of short plays. They can’t convert on 4th down and the Austrians get the ball back on their own 20 yard line.
Raiders’ QB Sean Shelton constructs a long drive, getting into the Swiss team’s 10 yard line. He’s almost intercepted twice and the team tries for another field goal, but the kick is too low and gets blocked.
Manning is forced to throw as he doesn’t have a lot of time left to work with in the first half. His short passes find open receivers and he finally lobs it to Sünderhauf in stride for the first lead, 14-10.
In the final minute of the second quarter Shelton walks his team downfield, using all 3 timeouts. He pins Max Grey for double digit yards and the ball is on the Broncos’ 15 yard line. With 7 seconds left, Raiders go for the field goal but the kick goes wide right and the home team is ahead before the intermission.
The Swiss are attacking at the start of the third period. Manning screens to Haenelt and Tino Muggwyler, and goes long to Lukas Lütscher who escapes his defender and crosses the goal line, 21-10.
Raiders respond with Shelton firing passes to both Platzgummer brothers. Sandro runs to the 1 yard line and Shelton powers through to lower the score to 21-17.
Manning continues where he left off, linking up with Haenelt again for first down. Gray takes it within an inch close to the goal and Muggwyler pushes through for another raise, 28-17.
Robinson returns the ensuing kickoff to Broncos’ 25 yards. Shelton and the Platzgummers advance the ball to the 2 yard line and Sandro runs it in himself. Shelton converts the 2 over the ground to bring the gap down to 3 points at the start of the 4th quarter, 28-25.
The following Broncos’ drive is staged by Manning and Gray. Both first rush for big yards and then Manning finds Gray in the corner of the end zone to up the score to 35-25.
Yet again home team’s kickoff goes to Robinson who sprints it to the house for 35-32.
Manning drops a rainbow to Lütscher to get to the short field. As he’s chased from behind, Manning launches another pass to Gray on the goal line for 42-32.
The home team goes for onside kick and the Raiders are at midfield. Their no-huddle offense saves precious time as Sandro rushes for 20 yards and Shelton takes it to pay dirt 42-39.
The Broncos play 4 minute offense, running the ball and taking time off the clock. Gray grabs another pass for first down to keep possession of the ball. There are less than 2 minutes left as the Broncos punt to the Raiders’ 5 yard line.
Visiting team has one time out in their bag. Adrian Platzgummer moves the chains with two catches and saves time by stepping out. Shelton locates Robinson who’s open on the left sideline and the ball is on the Broncos’ 35 yards. Sandro runs for first down and Shelton pins Marco Schneider for 24 yards to retake the lead, 42-46.
Broncos get the ball back on their 20 yard line with 51 seconds on the clock and two timeouts left. Manning hits Sünderhauf and Gray ahead of the chains and calls a timeout. Lütscher and Gray play hook and ladder for another first down. At the Raiders’ 34 yards and with 12 seconds left, Manning lofts it to the end zone to Lütscher, but he catches the ball out of bounds. With 4 seconds on the clock Manning again goes to Lütscher one last time but the pass falls incomplete in the end zone and the Raiders are delirious.
As a game MVP, Darius Robinson was awarded a golden Xenith helmet for his outstanding achievement scoring two touchdowns on special teams that kept the Raiders in the game.