Lehigh Valley has Huge Fourth Quarter to Make Playoffs

Bethlehem, PA: It was a win or go home situation for both teams at Stabler Arena Saturday night. It was a playoff atmosphere from the start in the growing rivalry between Richmond and Lehigh Valley. The Steelhawks (6-6) trailed the Raiders (5-7) 34-21 with 6:36 to play in the final quarter before putting up 30 points to beat the Raiders and make the playoffs.

The first half was all about defense and Steelhawks kicker Michael Barnard (4 FG, 4 UNO) . Barnard was responsible for all 11 of Lehigh Valley’s first half points nailing three field goals and two Unos. Both teams were very strong on the defensive side with the only touchdown of the half coming from Raiders QB Phil Konopko (18-34, 205 YDS, 4 TD 1 INT), on a pass to WR Daron Clark.

The game started off slow as Lehigh Valley and Richmond both came out with strong defensive stands throughout the majority of the first quarter. Steelhawks DB Dwayne Hollis (5 Tackles, 1 INT) intercepted Raiders QB Phil Konopka to break Lehigh Valley’s single season interception record, which ultimately lead to a successful Michael Barnard field goal to put the Hawks on top. Barnard followed with an Uno to make the score 4-0 after one quarter of play.

The Raiders started off the second quarter strong as Konopko quickly found Clark for a touchdown, followed by a defensive stop and a K T.C. Stevens field goal to put them ahead 10-4. Barnard came up big again for the Steelhawks connecting on his second field goal followed by his second Uno to bring the score to 10-8 late in the quarter. Richmond drove down deep into Steelhawks territory, but a missed field goal gave the Steelhawks possession with :08 left on the clock. This was plenty of time for Barnard to add on another long field goal, putting Lehigh Valley up 11-10 entering halftime.

The Steelhawks started the second half with possession, however the Raiders were the first to score as Konopko found WR Gerron Bryant (7 REC, 99 YDS, 2 TD) wide open for a touchdown to regain the lead 17-10. Barnard continued to keep Lehigh Valley in the game nailing another long field goal shortening the deficit to 17-14. The Steelhawks quickly regained possession, but Raider DB Tyrell Austin picked off QB Shane McSweeney’s (16-29, 161 YDS, 2 TD, 2 INT) pass giving the Raider’s possession on the Hawks 1-yard line. The Steelhawks defense gave its best efforts, holding Richmond to only a field goal, bringing the score to 20-14 heading into the fourth quarter.

On the first play of the fourth, McSweeney found WR Chris Schubert on a long touchdown pass to put the Steelhawks back on top 21-20. The Raiders quickly answered back, as Konopko found Bryant for the second time to take the lead back 27-21 with 11:36 remaining to play. Raiders DB Torez Jones intercepted McSweeney’s pass on the Hawks next possession, and Richmond capitalized with another touchdown giving them the largest lead of the game at 34-21 with 6:36 to play. Lehigh Valley wasn’t ready to give up hope on their season. McSweeney came out with two long passes setting up WR Troy Pascley to run it in for the score followed by another Barnard Uno, cutting the deficit to 34-29 with 3:31 remaining. On the Raiders first play, Lehigh Valley’s entire defensive line swarmed QB Konopko causing a fumble recovered by Steelhawks DL Tim Hume for a touchdown, quickly giving the Hawks a 36-34 lead with 2:00 on the clock. Richmond fumbled the snap on the first and third plays of their possession, and Lehigh Valley LB Cory Darby snatched the loose ball giving the Steelhawks possession with :51 seconds remaining. McSweeney threw a third down screen pass to Pascley who would break a few tackles and soar into the endzone solidifying the victory and playoff spot for the Hawks. Barnard put the icing on the cake adding his fourth Uno making the score 44-34 with :33 to play. A late touchdown pass from QB Jonathan Bane brought the game within three, but it was not enough for a comeback. The Steelhawks recovered the onside kick attempt and McSweeney added on a powerful touchdown run to the bring the lead back up to 10. The Raiders season came to end as the Steelhawks prevailed into the playoffs with the victory.

The Steelhawks will next play in the National Conference Championship against the Trenton Freedom, next Saturday, July 5th at 7pm inside the Sun National Bank Center in Trenton. The Steelhawks led the season series against their Conference rival, by taking two of the three games against them.

Categories: Steel Hawks

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