Silverbacks Season Ends With A Loss And Lots Of Promise
In finishing with the best record in the team's five-year history, the Miami Valley Silverbacks should they had finally learned what it takes to win during the season. After Friday night's 48-24 loss to the Cincinnati Gardens in only Miami Valley's second playoff game ever, the Silverbacks learned they still have some learning to do to win in the postseason next year.
Cincinnati took advantage of early mistakes to build a 21-0 first-quarter lead, and Miami Valley could never get closer than within two scores of the CIFL's top-seeded team the rest of the way.
"We had some mistakes," said head coach Brian Wells. "It was a little bit of everything."
After the Commandos needed just three plays to take a 7-0 lead, a low snap to quarterback Chris Stanford led to a fumble on Miami Valley's first play from scrimmage, which James Spikes recovered at the Silverbacks' 7-yard line.
Ray Jackson scored one play later, and Cincinnati led 13-0 before Stanford, filling in for the injured Kyenes Mincy, ever had a chance to get his hands firmly on the ball.
Another mishandled snap on a 43-yard field goal attempt gave Cincinnati possession at the Miami Valley 16 later in the quarter, and although the Silverbacks made the Commandos work for seven plays to score, Mauk's one-yard touchdown pass to Johnny Long put Miami Valley in a 21-0 hole after just 12 minutes of play.
"I'm lost," Wells said of the poor snaps. "I really don't know. Our snaps were good in pre-game."
Wells did agree going against the top defensive line in the league, including All-Big East nose tackle Terrill Byrd, may have been part of the problem.
"He's an unbelievable player," Wells said of Byrd. "The Commandos broke the league record for sacks in a season. They only got to our guy two or three times. We only had a problem getting to ball to the QB."
When Stanford did get the ball, he performed admirably in place of the starter Kyenes Mincy, who was out with a shoulder injury suffered in the regular season finale in Chicago.
After an 0-for-3 first quarter, Stanford finished 9-of-18 for 89 yards and had a hand in all four Miami Valley touchdowns, throwing three and rushing for another.
Stanford's favorite target during the season, Aric Evans, was limited to a late touchdown grab, but Melvin Bryan caught a team-best five passes for 56 yards and a touchdowns and Daniel Stover added two grabs for 25 yards and a score.
"They did a good job of taking 'AE' (Evans) out of the game," Wells said. "but Mel continues to evolve into a great receiver."
Running back Derrick Moss added 40 yards on five carries, his third-straight game of at least 40 rushing yards.
After an Austin Goss interception early in the second quarter, the offense moved 47 yards for a touchdown, scoring on a 16-yard pass to Stover, but Miami Valley missed on two opportunities to get any closer than 21-6.
A turnover on downs gave the Silverbacks a chance to score again in the final minute of the first half, but the Silverbacks could not pick up a first down.
More costly, another mistake to open the second half allowed Cincinnati to start pulling away.
James Frazier poked the ball away from a scrambling Stanford on the first play of the second half, and James Spikes recovered the loose ball at the Silverback's 15-yard line. Mauk found Brandon Boehm for a 12-yard touchdown two plays later, making it 28-6, Commandos.
"I thought, 'We get the ball to start the second half.' We get the ball, we drive and score. We saw some things that would let us score," Wells said. "Then we turn the ball over and they capitalized on it. That turnover to start the second half was probably the turning point of the game."
Stanford rallied Miami Valley back with a 15-yard scoring strike to Bryant, but Cincinnati countered with back-to-back touchdowns that expanded their lead to 41-12 into the fourth quarter. The teams traded touchdowns in the fourth quarter, with Stanford diving in from a yard out for one score and finding Evans for a 4-yard touchdown to complete the scoring in the game.
The disappointing result could not take away from the fact that Miami Valley seems to have turned itself around both on and off the field. The team not only finished the regular season with its first-ever three game winning streak, but also appears close to an agreement to play its 2011 home games at Hara Arena after two seasons without a full-time home arena.
The momentum from the end of the season was so great that Wells says he passed on a chance to augment his roster for the playoffs, a decision not even the loss could make him regret.
"Will White, Derrick Crawford and Ray Huff have performed well and Luke Scarborough has too," Wells said. "I would not feel right about bringing a guy like Terrence McKenzie over and sitting one of those guys."
"We have a good group of core guys and we're going to build on that."
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