Fusion "D" Dominates in 52-34 Road Win Over Fire
The Fort Wayne Fusion went on the road to face the Louisville Fire in search of the first road win in franchise history, and they came back with a 52-34 victory that saw the defense come up big against the high-powered Fire offense.
The Fusion started out on fire, scoring on their first three possessions while forcing 2 defensive stops en route to a 21-7 lead. Though the Fire fought back to tie the game, the Fusion kept up the intensity and capitalized on 3 Fire turnovers to pull away in the 2nd half.
The scoring opened with a 16-yard TD pass from QB Blayne Baggett to WR Cesare Manning capping a 7-play drive. After the Fire evened the score at 7-7 on a 6-yard TD run by FB/LB Demetrius Forney, the Fusion struck in exciting fashion with another TD pass from Baggett, this time a 39-yard completion to WR/LB Mario Pratcher to give the Fusion a 14-7 lead. The Fusion defense would force a turnover-on-downs and Baggett would hit pay dirt again with a 23-yard TD strike to Manning to give the Fusion a 21-7 lead.
The Fusion seemed in total control until back-to-back turnovers let the Fire get back into the game. After the Fire scored to bring the score to 21-14, a misfire on a Baggett lateral pass was ruled a fumble, and the ensuing drive culminated in a 1-yard rushing TD by Forney, bringing the score to 21-21. On the next Fusion drive, Baggett would try to score quickly with a deep ball, but Fire DB Nate Green would pick off the long pass. The Fusion refused to lose their composure, however, and would hold the Fire to a FG attempt, which was missed and recovered by the Fusion. As the first half came to a close, Fusion K Kyle Hooper nailed a 34-yard FG to give the Fusion a 24-21 lead heading into halftime.
The Fusion defense kept it up in the 2nd half, and the offense would make the most of their opportunities. On the opening drive of the 2nd half, the Fire was marching down the field when Fusion DB Barry Drakeford picked off a pass from Fire QB Joel Steele and returned it 45 yards for a TD, extending the Fusion lead to 31-21.
The Fusion D would hold again on the next Fire drive, forcing an INT on 4th-and-2. The errant pass was pulled in by LB Tyus "The Hammer" Jackson, and the Fusion would capitalize on the turnover with a 2-yard TD run by Pratcher to give extend their lead to 38-21. The Fire would get on the scoreboard next, posting another TD to narrow the Fusion lead to 38-28.
The 4th quarter would see more of the same from the Fusion D, but it was the Fire D that stepped up first. Baggett would throw an INT in the end zone that would end the scoring chance for the Fusion, and the ensuing drive would see the Fire drive deep into Fusion territory. However, another stout defensive effort by the Fusion would force a 19-yard FG attempt, but the ball would careen off the right upright as the D would stand firm again.
The Fusion took over at their own 5-yard-line, and it would take only 3 plays for Baggett to connect once again with Manning for a 39-yard TD strike to give the Fusion a 45-28 lead. The Fusion D refused to let up, and on the next Fire drive they would force a fumble that was recovered by DL Ernest Bentz.
The Fusion would again make the most of the opportunity, as Baggett would hit Manning for a 30-yard TD that would put the Fusion ahead 52-28 with less than 2 minutes to play. The Fire would add a TD in the final minute, but the Fusion would come away with the 52-34 win.
Fusion QB Blayne Baggett played well, finishing the game 14-of-22 for 258 yards, 5 TDs and 2 INTs. WR Cesare Manning led Fusion receivers with 6 catches for 129 yards and 4 TDs. FB Joe Johnsonbaugh led the Fusion in rushing with 7 carries for 17 yards.
The win improves the Fusion to 4-7 on the season, and the loss drops the Fire to 5-5. The win also gave the Fusion a measure of revenge against the Fire, who came into Fort Wayne on May 11th and won 48-42 on a last-play TD as time expired.
For more information, contact the Fusion office at (260) 484-4095 or visit www.fortwaynefusion.com. The Fusion hits the road next week to face the defending American Conference Champion Green Bay Blizzard on Friday, June 22nd.
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