Silverbacks steal win from Wolfpack in wild finish

May 16, 2010 - Continental Indoor Football League (CIFL) - Wisconsin Wolfpack News Release

MADISON - Kicker Jason Cunningham went from goat to hero in a matter of moments for the Miami Valley Silverbacks on Saturday night.

With the Silverbacks down 18-16 against the Wisconsin Wolfpack and 6.8 seconds remaining, Cunningham's 32-yard field goal attempt was blocked, seemingly winning the game for Wisconsin. Yet the Wolfpack allowed the football to roll free after the block, while also giving Cunningham the chance to run to the ball and pick it up. Surrounded by defenders, Cunningham alertly lateraled the football backwards to lineman Derrick Crawford, who had a clear path to the end zone. Crawford scored as time expired, giving the Silverbacks a 22-18 victory.

The Wolfpack (5-2) was clearly confused about what to do after the blocked kick, as a number of players surrounded the football while it rolled free. The officiating crew ruled the ball was touched by the Wolfpack following the block, giving the Silverbacks (2-6) the opportunity to gain possession and advance the football.

Wolfpack head coach Jordan Kopac said he plans to review the game film to see what happened on the play and may make an appeal to the CIFL.

"I want to see what happened there," said Kopac. "They said we touched it, but I'm not sure we did."

Nonetheless, the fact the Silverbacks even had a chance to win the game was a surprise to the large crowd at the Hartmeyer Arena.

Miami Valley, having won just one game over the past two seasons, seemingly outplayed the Wolfpack much of the second half. Silverback quarterback Kyenes Mincy and running back Derrick Moss each ran the ball effectively, while the Miami Valley defense rendered defending CIFL Offensive Player of the Week Eric Donoval a non-factor for much of the night, despite Donoval scoring two of the Wolfpack's three touchdowns. The Silverbacks were able to sustain a number of lengthy drives and clearly held a time of possession advantage.

The Wolfpack scored first in the first quarter on a short Donoval touchdown run, giving Wisconsin a 6-0 lead after Tony Smidl's extra point went wide left. The lead expanded to 12-0 in the second quarter when quarterback Matt Schabert combined with Marcus Johnson for their third touchdown connection in two weeks. Smidl again failed on the point-after try, this time striking the ceiling before the ball went through the uprights.

The Wolfpack defense, currently the top-rated defense in the CIFL, held the Silverbacks scoreless until Mincy found the end zone on a quarterback sneak as time expired in the first half, making the score 12-7 at halftime.

Miami Valley took its first lead in the third quarter, 14-12, after Mincy found Aric Evans with his only touchdown pass of the night. The Wolfpack answered right back, though, as Donoval scored his second touchdown of the game on a swing pass from six yards out, giving the Wolfpack an 18-14 lead. Schabert, the reigning CIFL Special Teams Player of the Week, attempted a two-point, drop-kick conversion after the touchdown, but the kick fell short.

The Silverbacks were poised to retake the lead on their first drive of the fourth quarter, but a Moss fumble at the three was recovered by former Wisconsin Badger safety Josh Nettles, allowing Wisconsin to hold the lead.

The lead stood deep into the fourth quarter, despite the Wolfpack surrendering a safety when Schabert was called for intentional grounding in his own end zone, making the score 18-16. The Wolfpack had numerous chances to put the game away, including on its final drive of the fourth quarter, which stalled at the Miami Valley six-yard line just prior to the one-minute warning.

Following the turnover and with the ball still on the six, Mincy connected with Silverbacks' receiver Isaiah Cheatham on a 37-yard pass play to the Wolfpack seven. The Hartmeyer Arena crowd forced the Silverbacks to commit a pair of false start penalties after the big pass play, pushing Miami Valley back to the 17. Following the second penalty, the Silverbacks took their final timeout, setting up the game's stunning conclusion.

The Wolfpack now trail the Cincinnati Commandos by two and a half games in the CIFL standings after the Commandos defeated the Chicago Cardinals, 61-13, in Cincinnati tonight. At 8-0, the Commandos would have to lose their two remaining games, while the Wolfpack would have to win its three remaining contests, as well as a tiebreaker, to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Despite the loss, the Wolfpack remain one and a half games ahead of the Marion Mayhem and Fort Wayne FireHawks for second place, who both stand at 3-3 after a scheduled game between the two teams tonight was postponed due to issues related to the Mayhem's ownership group disassociating itself with the team earlier this week. The Wolfpack clinched a spot in the playoffs with its 44-18 win over the Chicago Cardinals in Villa Park, Ill. last weekend.

Four teams make the CIFL playoffs, with the top two seeds hosting semifinal games and the top remaining seed hosting the CIFL Championship Game.

The Wolfpack will try and bounce back against Chicago next Saturday. Kickoff for the second game of a three-game Wolfpack homestand is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Hartmeyer Arena with tickets available at wiwolfpack.com/store.

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