Raider Defense Strong Arms the Competition
In a game where defense was king as both teams combined for seven sacks, the Petillo Incorporated turning point of the game came down to a special teams play late in the fourth quarter that is never even practiced. With the field goal unit set up to kick the go ahead score, receiver Jordan Hallman who is also the holder, stated, “I looked at the outside contain man five times as I knew something may be up.” When Coach Michael Keefer gave the signal, Jordan scooped the snap sprinted right and hit receiver Evan Morrill for a picture perfect pass gaining the first down and setting up their go ahead score. It was from that point that the offense was back on the field.
The very next play, Quarterback Andrew Shoop hit tailback Sean Roth on a back shoulder fade put right where it needed to be, for the go ahead St. Luke’s University Health touchdown of the game, giving the Raiders the lead 13-6. Shoop, who finished the day 14-19 with 139 yards along with this touchdown pass, would withstand pressure all game and continue to rise up after each knock down. Shoop stated, “We felt like we were going to get man coverage. I tried to keep my eyes in the middle of the field to hold the defense, Josh Stenger, (offensive lineman), did a great job washing out the DE and when I stepped up I saw Sean had a step on the guy and I gave him a shot. Coach Bob Koehler made a perfect call.” Shoop came to the Raiders via Lafayette College, where he played four years, earning the starting job, his final two. He then went overseas to play in Prague and Sweden gaining valuable experience on a Black Panther Championship team adding an MVP trophy to his resume.
How we got to this point is the story of the game – defense. However, you would not have foreseen this as the game began. After a kick return by Brandon Jones of 30 yards the Raiders were set up on their own 40 yard line. They would use an 11 play – 6 min. 23 sec. 60 yd drive ending with a 24 yard Ian Ultsh field goal. Highlighting the drive was a 25 yard pass to Evan Morrill (5 catches, 65 yards) and a 10 yard pass to Mark Edwards (2 catches 20 yards) to set up a first and goal. They would be turned back by an intentional grounding penalty and a great tackle by KJ White (5 total, 3 unassisted) at the 8 yard line.
It was now time for the Strong to answer and they did. Using the respected arm of quarterback Jason Boltus, (11-23 for 91 yds and 1 td), the team moved the ball 60 yards in 8 plays in 5 mins. 36 secs. with the go ahead touchdown coming on a 4 yard slant to Damion Blue (4 catches, 12 yards and a td). Boltus would go 4-6 for 61 yards converting a vital 3rd and 8 with a pass to Zavon Watkins (3 catches, 42 yards) on this drive alone.
It was from this point that the defenses took over the game. Both teams would trade empty possessions with the Raiders moving as close at the Strong 32 before Ian Ultsh would miss the 46 yard field goal wide left. He led the team in the game with 7 points on 2 field goals and an extra point. Ian who consistently pins team deep on kick-offs and punts, handling all the kicking duties for the team stated, “I expected a stronger rush on the kick; when I didn’t get it, it threw off my timing a bit causing the miss.” The score would remain 6-3 at the half with the Strong holding advantage.
The third quarter would remain scoreless as both Joe Davis from the Raiders (6 tackles, ½ sack, 3 tackles for loss and one blocked pass), and two-way player Damien Blue from the Strong (6 tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for a loss) led their respective teams. It wasn’t until the final play of the quarter, a combined sack by #94 Dominique Harris (4 tackles, 1 for a loss) and Dasean Maddox (2 tackles, one for a loss) set up the pivotal fourth quarter.
The 9 play drive that carried into the fourth would end with a successful Ultsh 27 yard field goal to knot the score at 6. As the kick sailed through the uprights you could see the Raider sideline start to get fired up as on this drive the offense used 4 passes and 3 rushes before stalling on 10 yard line. Both, Cody Lamoreaux (9 carries, 25 yards) on the previous possession and Sean Roth (7 carries, 23 yards) on this one, continued to ground and pound yards against one of the stingiest defenses in the league.
For the Strong, it was tough sledding all day for the run game as it never seemed to gain any traction. All-World running back Rashad Burns was held to just 4 yards on 7 carries. Besides the opening drive of 61 yards, the Strong offense could only muster 9 positive yards the rest of the game. Their defense however, kept it close limiting the Raider offense to just 116 yards after the first drive for a combined total of 179. General Mamager / Defensive Coordinator Chris Gorman was quoted saying’ “Our defense played great and kept us in the game. Damion Blue, Dewayne Gordon, and Kj White all made key stops during pivotal drives. Even with our offense on the ropes most of the game, we still had a chance to win at the end, which is all you want.”
Head Coach Michael Keefer who came in undefeated against the Strong, winning 19-0 in a pre-season matchup in 2018 where the Strong would go on to be the number one team in the nation at 16-1 and earlier this season with a come from behind 24-21 win in Syracuse knew it was anyone’s game at this point prior to the winning score. Defensive Coordinator, Orin Marshman, whose defense, left up only 69 total yards in the game, was quoted as saying, “I really liked the way we rallied to the ball. We needed to stop them with multiple tacklers.” The Raiders had 41 total tackles, 27 of them of the assisted variety. The Raiders had 11 players registering multiple tackles in the game led by Davis. Included in the stats were 3 blocked balls – 2 by David Ogbonnaya (1 partial punt block and a pass block), and Joe Davis’s, truly a team effort. Both teams showed poise and respect for each throughout the game as penalties were at a minimum and did not factor into the final score. The Raiders and Raider Management wish the Strong the best of health during the remainder of the season.
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