Thunderbolts Clinch South Division
The Lakeland Thunderbolts (11-2) beat the Montgomery Bears (5-9) to win the American Indoor Football Association Southern Division. This is the second straight southern division championship for the Thunderbolts. Lakeland beat Montgomery 72-56 to close out the regular season clinching the title and home field advantage for the playoffs. This is the fourth championship for head coach Teddy Keaton. "Our motto for the season is individuals win games, teams win championships and that was ever so true tonight. The defense had a bit of an off night but our offense was able to put the points on the board. We won the division championship because of our offense or defense raising to the occasion when needed to win the game. I am very proud of this team and their desire to win" Keaton said.
Kicker Steve Kratz opened the game with an uno kick putting the Thunderbolts up 1 - 0.
Lakeland opened the scoring with a one yard run by Elly Salamo at the 9:58 mark of the first quarter. Montgomery quickly countered with a Tyron Green 30 yard pass to wide receiver "Spiderman" Smith. Smith had 8 catches on the night for 136 yards and 4 touchdowns. The teams went in at half time with the Thunderbolts trailing 35 - 31. The third quarter had both teams trading touchdowns. A.J. Bennett caught two for Lakeland as did "Spiderman" for Montgomery. Going into the fourth quarter Lakeland trailed Montgomery 50 - 45. At this point Lakeland came alive and showed their championship style with the offense scoring 27 points and the defense holding the Bears to one touchdown with 23 seconds on the clock. Lakeland recovered the onside kick and back up quarterback Mike Peeples found A.J Bennett in the end zone for the finial score with seven seconds to go.
"The offense came out tonight determined to win and secure home field advantage. Our offensive line was outstanding in controlling their defense especially in the fourth quarter. Pogi put in a gutsy performance following a third quarter injury. Receivers Don Robinson and A.J. Bennett did an excellent job tonight" said offensive coordinator Kenny Johnson. Pogi went 29-18-0 for 225 yards and 6 touchdowns, Robinson caught 8 passes for 112 yards and 3 touchdowns, Bennett had 7 catches for 91 yards and 4 touchdowns.
"Montgomery is a very good team, one of the best we played this season. The defense had a shaky start but once we settled down and made adjustments we dominated the second half". "Our defensive line was persistent and pressured Green (Bears quarterback) all night. Branch, Horton and Royal had an excellent game" said Pat Dooley defensive coordinator. Horton had 4 solo tackles and a sac, Royal had 2 solo tackles and 2 sacks as did Branch.
The AIFA will announce the playoff brackets on Tuesday but it is expected Lakeland will play the Carolina Speed on Monday night June 11th. Ticket prices and the game time will be announced on Wednesday.
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American Indoor Football Association Stories from June 3, 2007
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