ThunderBolts Off to a Great Start
LAKELAND-The Lakeland ThunderBolts defeated the Palm Beach Phantoms, 60-37, in front of 2,036 fans at the Lakeland Center on Saturday night. Thunderbolts quarterback Jason Johnson had an impressive showing in this first game with the second-year franchise, throwing for three touchdowns and running for one in the first half alone.
The visiting Phantoms wasted little time taking a 7-0 lead after quarterback Jajuan Seider connected with Nakia Jenkins for 38 yards on Palm Beach's first play from scrimmage.
The ThunderBolts tied the game about three minutes later on a two-yard touchdown run by Perry Tisdale that was set up by a 14-yard scramble by Johnson. Lakeland's ground game was effective in giving the ThunderBolts their first lead of the season midway through the second quarter on a flashy seven-yard run by Johnson.
With a 17-14 lead, ThunderBolts fans did not get to celebrate for long. Seider again found Jenkins on a touchdown pass for 25 yards less than one minute after the Lakeland touchdown. Aside from the two long touchdown strikes, the ThunderBolts kept Seider under wraps for the remainder of the half by combining for three sacks.
The Phantoms took a 37-34 lead into half time due to a 41-yard interception return by linebacker Tyrone Higgins and a 28-yard kickoff return by James Johnson.
Lakeland quickly regrouped in the second half with a few of their own momentum-shifting plays, including a 43-yard touchdown pass from Johnson to Kenny Perry on the first play from scrimmage to reclaim the lead at 41-37.
Othesse Wells produced the game's most explosive play after returning a Phantom field gold attempt 57 yards to increase the Lakeland lead to 48-37. The Wells return was set up by a ThunderBolts defense that forced a deep field goal attempt and began to frustrate the Palm Beach offense.
Frustration led to desperation for the Phantoms after Lakeland forced a safety early in the fourth quarter. With the Phantoms down 53-37 late in the game, the ThunderBolts' defense finished with an interception by defensive back Chris Robichaud with less than three minutes remaining.
"West Palm was a team that we did not know anything about so we had to wait until the second half to make our adjustments," said Coach Keaton. "We came back and made adjustments and that is what football is all about."
The ThunderBolts play their next home game March 24 against the Florida Frenzy. Season Tickets are still available for the ThunderBolts second season of professional indoor football. Single game tickets are available at the Lakeland Center Box Office 863.834.8111 or at any Ticketmaster location 863.682.5300. All home games are played at the Lakeland Center. For more information call 863.688.Thor (8467) or visit our new office at 1628 South Florida Ave, Lakeland, FL 33803.
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