Quad City Steamwheelers Win 65-59 in a Wild Finish Over the Tennessee Valley Vipers
(Huntsville, Ala.) - With the Quad City Steamwheelers holding a 51-43 lead late in the fourth quarter, the final minutes turned into a wild affair that saw the Steamwheelers hang on to their lead and the eventual victory by a final score of 65-59. The "must-win" victory for Quad City also spoiled the home debut for new Viper head coach, Milt Theodosatos.
The fourth quarter melee began when Steamwheelers QB Tim Hicks hit WR/LB Tim Dodge for a touchdown and 58-43 lead. While Dodge would get the touchdown, the play did not go as planned. Viper DS Emmanuel Franklin intercepted the pass and fell to the ground as Dodge ran past him. But as Franklin tried to get up, he fumbled the football into the end zone and to the feet of Dodge, who immediately fell on the ball for the touchdown. The touchdown was Dodge's fifth of the night: three coming on passes from Hicks and a fourth on a running play in the third quarter.
The Vipers appeared to have an opportunity to respond afterwards, however, when they returned the Kimo Naehu kickoff to the Quad City 18. The Steamwheelers' defense stood strong, registering their second defensive stop of the half. One play later, Hicks hit OS Kris Peters for his Hick's seventh touchdown pass on the evening. The 35-yard strike extended the Steamwheelers' lead to 22 at 65-43.
Tennessee Valley refused to fold though, as Viper QB Chris Gunn hit OS Torrey Day for a touchdown and 65-51 ball game after then followed that score with a two-point conversion.
The Steamwheelers successfully fielded the following onside kick - however they fumbled the football on the attempted return and the Vipers fell on the ball. With new life for the Vipers, Gunn threw a ball up for Day. Quad City DB, Troy Graham and Day both went up for the football. Day came down with it and crawled into the end zone before anyone from the Steamwheelers could tag him down. The Vipers surprised Quad City by going for two after the 49-yard touchdown pass to make the game 65-59 with just 51 seconds remaining to play.
Jack Walker Jr., recovered and held on to the Viper's second onside kick attempt and the Steamwheelers were able to run out the clock to earn their fifth victory of the season.
The contest started in dramatic fashion as well, with the Steamwheelers scoring on their first play of the game. Hick's 45-yard throw to Dodge put the Steamwheelers up 7-0. Shortly after that, though, Day tied the game up on a 10-yard pass reception from Gunn to tie the game at 7-7.
The rest of the first quarter was almost all Tennessee Valley, with the Vipers sacking Hicks in the end zone and then scoring on a fake field goal attempt. With time running out in the first quarter, Wheeler QB Hicks threw a 42-yard bomb to Dodge to pull the Quad City squad within two, 16-14.
The Viper's WR/LB Ron Monteilh caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Gunn in the first few minutes of the second quarter to extend the Viper lead 23-14.
The Steamwheelers answered with a 40-yard touchdown catch by Peters, when the OS made an over the shoulder catch at the 10 yard line and then carried a defender on his back the final five yards and into the end zone to pull within two once again at 23-21.
Following another defensive stop by the Steamwheelers, Dodge gave Quad City the lead once again on a 24-yard touchdown strike, making the score 28-23. The Vipers responded, and re-took the lead, with a one-yard quarterback keeper by Gunn after a 27-yard catch by Reggie Glover.
The Steamwheelers took a lead into the locker room though, after Naehu nailed a 21-yard field goal with no time remaining in the first half.
The third quarter, historically a problematic period for the Steamwheelers this season, didn't seem to be a problem in this game as the defense set the tone early. On the first drive of the quarter, the Quad City defense held, forcing the Vipers kicker to attempt a 42-yard field goal. The attempt came up short. The miscue set up a long pass from Hicks and a leaping touchdown catch by Peters to extend the Steamwheelers lead to seven at 37-30.
After the Vipers scored to tie the game, WR/LB Jack Walker, Jr. caught a 37-yard pass from Hicks and was eventually hauled down at the 12 yard line. The play set up another touchdown by Dodge. Dodge, who hadn't had a rushing touchdown in two seasons, tallied his eighth rushing touchdown of the year on a 2-yard rush, giving the Steamwheelers a 44-37 lead.
On the next drive, the Vipers fumbled the football, but recovered their own turnover, deep in their own territory. Following a pass breakup by Graham, the Vipers were forced into a long field goal attempt. Peters returned the kick 20-yards to end the third quarter.
The fourth period saw Walker register a 19-yard touchdown grab by going up and over his defender in the end zone to extend the lead to 51-37 for the Steamwheelers. Walker ended the night just 14 yards shy of 1,000 for the season. When Walker passes that hallmark, the QC receiving corps of Peters, Dodge and Walker will be just the third group in af2 history to log more than 1,000 yards each in a season.
Vipers quarterback, Gunn, responded to Walker's challenge when he ran the football into the endzone to pull Tennessee Valley to within eight, 51-43 and set up the wild finish.
The two teams will meet again on July 8th at The MARK of the Quad Cities. The re-match will be the next game the Steamwheelers play as they have a bye week next week.
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