Although they started slow, Team Austria built momentum quickly and finally dominated Swedenin the gold medal final of the IFAF 2019 U19 European Championhips, shutting them out 28-0 Sunday evening in Bologna, Italy.
In front of a loud and boisterous crowd at Arcoveggio Stadium with Austrian and Swedish fans chanting back and forth, Austria simply outran, outmuscled and outhustled a Swedish team that had not faced this kind of speed and execution before in the tournament.
Austria jumped out to a 21-0 halftime lead and then cruised in the second half for the win.
The Swedes actually stuffed Austria on their two first drives but an unusual penalty call, “leaping the shield” against Sweden on Austria’s second possession, was the momentum changer. Austria had been forced to punt twice in a row to open the game and the second short punt would have given Sweden the ball on Austria’s 40 yard line with the momentum going their way.
One of the Swedish players attempted to leap over the blocking and was flagged for it. That penalty changed everything. Not that it would not have been a matter of time before the Austrians imposed their will on Team Sweden.
Instead of Sweden getting the ball in great field position in Austrian territory, Team Austria, who had been trapped on their own five yard line after a booming punt from Swedish punter Victor Wikstrom, (he was possibly Sweden’s best weapon on this night) took over at the 22 and the Austrian ground game took charge. Austria scored once in the first quarter and twice in the second while adding an insurance touchdown in the third. Their defense did the rest, giving the Swedes no room.
The speedy running back duo of Johannes Schutz (60 yds) and Lukas Haslwanter (67 yds) did much of the damage combining for 127 yards between them while quarterback Yannik Gruner(Tournament MVP) threw for 215 yards and two touchdowns on 8 of 13 passing. Wide receiver Marco Schneider caught six passes for 87 yards while Noah Toure pulled in one for 75 yards and a touchdown and Wenzel Rock one for 53 yards and a touchdown.
Swedish quarterback Viktor Ekberg had a night he would like to forget. Before leaving the game in the fourth quarter with an undisclosed injury he had completed just 3 of 12 passes for 14 yards and rushed for 41 yards. His backup, Ture NIlsson, did not fare much better throwing for 16 yards on 2 of 6 passing. Anton Stensson rushed for 29 yards and Victor Cimrell 24 as the Swedish offense was neutralized most of the night.
Austria opened the scoring following the momentum-changing penalty as Gruner marched his team on a nine play, 99 yard drive with Haslwanter and Schneider doing the most of the running. Schneider finished the drive off with a 12 yard touchdown run and Austria went out in front 7-0 late in the first quarter.
The second touchdown came quickly in the second quarter as Gruner, from his own 25 yard line, hit Toure streaking downfield and Toure out-leaped two defenders to come down with the ball and race to the end zone to increase the lead to 14-0.
With Sweden unable to move the ball, Austria needed just four plays. Gruner connected with Rock for a 53 yard touchdown four minutes into the second period and the Austrians led 21-0.
A fumble on a punt return by Austria (a rare mistake by the Austrians) gave Sweden the ball in excellent field position, on the Austrian 33 yard line. Nilsson, already in for a shaky Ekberg,moved Sweden down to the 10 yard line but a missed field goal left Sweden without any points.
Sweden got another break first forcing Austria to punt late in the first half and then blocking the punt, recovering the ball at the Austrian 37 yard line. Four straight incomplete passes from Ekbergended the drive. The Swedish defense then picked off a Gruner pass again giving the Swedesexcellent field position at Austria’s 32 with 50 seconds left on the clock. Two incompletions ended that drive.
Austria added another textbook touchdown early in the third quarter behind the running of Schutz.He carried the ball seven times on a 10 play drive, accounting for 51 of the 73 yards, finally scoring from seven yards out to boost the Austrian lead to 28-0.
After that, the Austrians seemed content to simply use up as many minutes on the clock as possible. The Swedish defense did not allow them out of their own end the rest of the game, but the offense simply could not take advantage.
The fourth quarter saw the two teams combine for five punts with Sweden stranded on the Austrian 31 yard line as time ran out.
This was Austria’s fourth IFAF U19 European title. The offensive MVP of the game was Johannes Schutz while the defensive MVP honors went to Swedish linebacker Alexander Nordgren.
Yannik Gruner was name MVP of the tournament earning a one week trip to the IMG Academy in Florida.