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Bandits to Face Freeze in AIFL Championship on Saturday

July 13, 2005 - American Indoor Football Association (AIFA) - Richmond Bandits News Release

RICHMOND, VA - Five and a half months in the making, it all boils down to a final 60 minutes on the gridiron.

Despite being the last team formed and filled in the inaugural season of the Atlantic Indoor Football League (AIFL), the second-seed Richmond Bandits will visit the top-seeded Erie Freeze this Saturday, July 16 to decide the rapidly expanding league's first-ever champion.

The winner of the title game, which will be played at the Erie Civic Center, will take home the Governor's Cup, the AIFL championship trophy.

Bandits' fans can follow all of the play-by-play action online as the game will be broadcast on the Internet at www.RadioRichmond.com.

"When you look at the goals and objectives we set out with in early February, we have accomplished just about all of them - with the exception of winning this championship," said Bandits' head coach Rik Richards. "This organization had the least amount of time to get things together, but here we are, one game away from the pinnacle. But to get there, we've still got a major uphill climb."

Things went according to script as the best two squads from the year, each boasting identical 10-1 overall records, advanced to the championship weekend after first round byes. Erie knew late last Saturday (July 9) that its ticket was punched into the title game by virtue of the 73-58 win over the visiting Canton Legends, the only team to get the better of the Freeze during the regular season.

Richmond protected its perfect record on the home turf, surviving to knock off the Johnstown Riverhawks, 50-40, this past Monday night at the Richmond Coliseum. The Bandits' ninth-consecutive win earned them a trip to the Great Lakes region and a chance to vie for the AIFL Championship. Facing the Freeze also bodes a little added incentive - a chance to avenge a Week Two loss in Erie, Richmond's only blemish on an otherwise spotless season.

Early in the second quarter of that April 23rd meeting in Pennsylvania, Bandits' starting quarterback Will Burch was knocked to the turf, suffering a separated left shoulder. His replacement, since turned starter, Robbie Jenkins struggled early, but kept Richmond in contention by completing nine of his 19 attempts for 134 yards and a touchdown.

However, his one miscue proved to be the difference in the game. Trailing by three, but driving late, Erie's Rashan Hall intercepted Jenkins and returned it 40 yards for the deciding score, 55-45.

The initial rematch had been scheduled for July 11th in Richmond, a date which the Bandits had circled on their calendars. Yet a league-wide schedule change limited the regular season meetings between the two to one, making Saturday's contest just the second time the teams have squared off.

"It was tough to lose to Erie early in this season. It was even tougher when we found out that we wouldn't get to face the Freeze again during the regular season. Once that announcement was made by the league, we knew that the only way we'd get to see those guys again would be in the championship," Richards said. "Coach (Mike) Esposito is a great football coach and a guy I consider a great friend. I know that he'll have his guys ready for this championship."

Richmond fans wishing to make the trek northward to follow the Bandits can purchase tickets by contacting the Erie Freeze at (814) 454-0200. The game will also be broadcast online at www.RadioRichmond.com.

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