CEFL: Super Sandro

Photo: Goran Milosavljevic
The Inn valley nestled softly in the Alps was not so peaceful tonight when SWARCO RAIDERS Tirol welcomed Triangle Razorbacks. Austrian team was playing for a place in SK CEFL Bowl XII, while the visitors had something to prove, first to themselves, then to the greater football family.

End score aside, as it did not accurately portray the balance of forces on the field, the game was a spectacle. There was a little bit of everything, great offensive plays, staunch defense, turnovers, and lots of points. That last item on the menu was the merit of two players most of all, both of whom pitched in with four touchdowns each. Quarterback Sean Shelton upped his performance from Wroclaw by one score, connecting with running back Sandro Platzgummer for 3 of them. The latter player added one of his own on a punt return, reproducing the feat from the kickoff play in Wroclaw.

Platzgummer will be the first one to admit that he has some big shoes to fill, thinking of Florian Grein and Andreas Hofbauer, team’s former star running backs. Nevertheless, judging by his performances this season, his feet are growing bigger each game, at the delight of football fans. There are players who can seemingly do it all, and he gives the impression to be one of that sort. Whether running the ball, getting open on passing plays, gaining yards after catch, blocking, returning, he’s a very versatile player. And he’s only 20 years old, a medical student at that. Tonight the viewers have wholeheartedly agreed, voting him the game MVP with a landslide.

The game itself started sloppy. Shelton was dishing out passes to Simon Unterrainer and Kyle Callahan, rushing for a big play himself. His team quickly got one ladder away from Razorbacks’ end zone, when he fumbled the ball on an option play. The Danes took over on their one yard line, with quarterback Peter Linneman going long to Oliver Holmlund and running back Geoffrey Lewis breaking free for a big play. That was all they could do though and had to settle for a punt.

Shelton was eager to recoup in the next drive, finding Kyle Callahan and Fabian Abfalter twice each, all for double-digit yards. Platzgummer’s rush put the ball on the rival 4 yard line, where Shelton picked up a low snap a screen-passed left to Sandro who strolled into the end zone. Thomas Pichlmann’s kick was true on the point after that time and all through the night.

Razorbacks attempted to get back, but Linneman’s 13 yard rush was all they could do, helped by SWARCO RAIDERS 15 yard penalty. Still, they took the chance when their drive stalled and went for the fourth down but did not convert. Shelton continued with long passes to Platzgummer and Callahan before stretching his legs for a run, but Razorback’s defensive lineman Mads Nielsen forced a fumble and his teammate Kaj Sørensen recovered it.

Linneman goes back in, completing a pass to Holmlund for a first down, rushing for a new one himself, Lewis adding another. After a three and out, the kicking unit tries for a 45 yard field goal but Torben Jørgensen misses wide left. From there Platzgummer racks up another 14 rushing yards but his team can’t muster a fresh first down and is forced to punt. Linneman plays hurry-up with two minutes in the half and targets Holmlund two times for 36 yards total, aided by Lewis’ 15 yard rush. They get near the red zone, before a penalty backs them off of it and they’re left with just enough time to attempt a 56 yard field goal which falls short.

Photo: Goran Milosavljevic

In the second half, Razorbacks get the ball again to try a different tactic. Testing Raiders’ front seven, they rush play after play, barely moving the chains. Linneman sees his opportunity and connects with his tight end Mark Nielsen for 24 yards. Lewis and Mathias Nielsen continue with the ground attack gaining big yards and getting into the Austrians’ red zone for the first time. Then, Linneman slings a pass behind his receiver which gets intercepted by Patrick Pilger.

Well rested and determined to stop allowing turnovers, SWARCO RAIDERS’ offense shifted into high gear. Shelton saw to that with a long pass to Simon Unterrainer and running the ball for 41 yards in two plays. Platzgummer joined him with another 15 yards of meandering through the defense. In the next play they connect again for a 12 yard touchdown. Kavon Joyce returns the ensuing kickoff but the ball is stripped from him and recovered by Arno Schwarz. The very next play, Shelton and Platzgummer continue where they left off with a 30 yard pitch and catch score.

Razorbacks’s next drive is more of the same, when Linneman completes a 12 yards pass to Holmlund, before he’s intercepted again, this time by Fabian Seeber. Shelton does better, locating Filip Vlajić in the end zone for a 30 yard touchdown. Danes next drive leads to nowhere and they have to punt again, this time Platzgummer jumping for the ball that bounced and takes off to the races looking for blocks by his teammates. His 95 yard touchdown puts the game to bed with the final score 35-0. A couple of more drives after that make no impact.

After the game, Sebastian Fandert, head coach of Triangle Razorbacks was not too disappointed with the loss: “We arrived yesterday after 20:00 hours, and we came exactly because of this experience, to play against the best team in Europe. We kept fighting throughout the game, we were well prepared, we get what we know, and in the end we ran out of gas a little bit. I’m proud of my team, we played a tough game and I don’t feel so bad, because we played good today.”

Shuan Fatah, head coach of SWARCO RAIDERS Tirol was more critical of his team: “First off, I have to tip my hat to Triangle Razorbacks. They played their hearts out and they did an awesome job. Their head coach and I go back a long time ago, we know each other from Dresden. I’m proud of the way he prepared his team, they gave us hell in the first half. We made mistakes, we didn’t finish drives, I think we had two fumbles and dropped balls, which was very untypical of us, but our opponents were forcing them too. I didn’t like the way we played and I told the team at half time that they better show up because it got to a point where it was concerning. The good thing about the Raiders is that I can get on the team and they respond. That’s what they did this time too and we had an awesome third quarter, got some breaks that we didn’t get in the first half and then we just sailed to the finish.”