Trouble, oh we got trouble,
Right here in River City!
With a capital “T”
That rhymes with “V”
And that stands for [Victory]”
-Meredith Willson, from The Music Man
After losing two games late in the season–at home–the SteelHawks were once again forced to go on the road to challenge for an arena football championship. The disadvantage of a road game in the AIF is tremendous–harder to get players schedules clear, long hours on a bus, and more.
Nevertheless, the SteelHawks remained perfect on the road in 2016 after a Monday Night Football win in River City, Missouri. It was a back-and-forth affair, with the margin of victory provided by a late deuce–special teams playing a role as we always say in a close arena game.
It doesn’t get any easier as the ‘Hawks will continue on the road to challenge in Michigan this Saturday–then versus a Southern Division team should they win.
Here’s the official team report:
The Lehigh Valley Steelhawks (7-2) propelled to victory in their first round playoff matchup over the River City Raiders (7-2) in a barn burner of a game, 54-52 this past Monday evening. The game featured six lead changes with the ’Hawks taking the final lead with one minute left in the game. The Steelhawks will be back on the road at the end of the week, heading to West Michigan to take on the Ironmen for a 7:00pm game this Saturday night for the AIF Northern Division Championship.
The first quarter featured lots of action but not a lot of scoring, each team only netting two touchdowns. On the first possession on the game, QB Jake Jablonski (63% completion, 329-7-3 yds-tds-ints) found WR Jerrell Young (9 catches for 122 yds, 3 tds) for a score to kick things off. The Raiders’ first possession was short lived, DB James Pitts (5.5 tackles, int) picked off their first throw to get Lehigh Valley the ball back. But less than a minute later, River City got an interception themselves and made the most of it, with QB Tarean Austin tallying his first of three touchdown passes. The Raiders extended their lead after another interception. The game would be tied up at the end of the first after Jablonski found Young for another score.
River City began to pull away in the second quarter, scoring three touchdowns and taking an eight point lead into halftime. RB Tyler Batts scored his first of four touchdowns and Austin threw two more scores. DB Ken Walton tallied his eighth interception on the season during the quarter. A WR Warren Oliver Jr. (6 catches for 48 yds) touchdown and a K Spencer Hotaling (5/5 PATs, 1/1 FG, deuce) 34 yard field goal were the ’Hawks only scores before half.
The Steelhawks began their comeback in third quarter. The defense only allowed one touchdown and came up huge when DL Tim Hume and Dante Holmes combined for a sack on fourth down to give Lehigh Valley great field position. By the end of the quarter, the Raiders lead had been cut to two.
The Steelhawks opened the fourth quarter with two straight interceptions on Raider possessions (John Williams III and Carl Fleming). With 4:45 left on the clock, LV would take get their first lead since early in the second quarter; with Jablonski finding WR Brandon Renford (6 catches for 79 yds, 2 tds) on a 12 yard touchdown catch. River City would tie it back up with three minutes left on the clock. As the clock hit the one minute warning, Jablonski found a wide open Young for a 37 yard touchdown. Hotaling would follow it with a deuce on the ensuing kickoff to put the ’Hawks up by nine. River City wouldn’t give up though, scoring a touchdown with 16 seconds remaining. Lehigh Valley would recover the onsides kick attempt and run the clock out from there. Final score: Lehigh Valley 54, River City 52.
Lehigh Valley did complete the Domino’s 50 point challenge in the win. For the next three days, Steelhawks fans can get 50% off menu priced pizzas at participating Lehigh Valley locations; just use the code SH50 when ordering.
West Michigan is the remaining North Division team after defeating the Myrtle Beach Freedom this past Saturday evening. Lehigh Valley will be in West Michigan this Saturday for the North Division Championship. In the south, Columbus and Florida advanced to the South Division Championship game; which will take place this coming weekend in Georgia. The winners of each division title game will advance to the AIF Championship game the weekend of June 18th, hosted by the city of the highest seeded team.