ThunderHawks Rally Falls Short of Revolution
Richmond, Virginia - They say it's not how you start, but how you finish. On Saturday night the West Michigan ThunderHawks, playing their first road game of the season, hoped and prayed that saying was true. In the end, however, their lethargic start, combined with an inspired effort from the host Richmond Revolution, resulted in a 45-39 setback in Indoor Football League action.
Producing only 16 points and 142 yards of total offense in the first three quarters of play, West Michigan (3-1) was still poised to pull off a monumental comeback in the game's final moments. Having already reeled off 23 consecutive points to pull within 42-39, ThunderHawks defensive back Cory Edwards (Grand Valley State) recovered Richmond quarterback Bryan Randall's (Virginia Tech) fumble with 1:59 to play at a very nervous Arthur Ashe Athletic Center.
Enter the one-man James Gang to save the day. As in Demarcus James. The speedy defensive back for the Revolution took matters, and footballs, into his own hands to secure victory for the hosts. First, he collected a ball initially tipped by teammate Daninelle Derricott (Marshall) for his team-leading fourth interception of the season.
Revolution kicker Chris Segaar (Virginia Tech) then kicked a 45-yard field goal on the ensuing drive, giving Richmond a still precarious six-point cushion with 58 seconds remaining. Hawks quarterback Brad Iciek (Grand Valley State), who spearheaded the guests' rally with a pair of touchdown passes and a diving scoring sneak of his own, faced a third-and-two from the West Michigan 15.
Chased from the pocket, Iciek then lofted a pass down the left sideline where James' leaping interception touched off a wild celebration for the hosts and several thousand fans in attendance. Richmond (4-1), wearing special pink jerseys that were auctioned off to raise money for local cancer patients, ran off the final 21 seconds to make if official and reclaim first place in the IFL's Atlantic East Division.
The contest's wild, entertaining finish could never have been imagined after the two teams wrestled through a slow-moving first quarter with the Revolution holding a 6-3 advantage. West Michigan held the ball for over ten minutes on their only possession of the quarter, a 14-play, 36-yard penalty-filled march resulting in a David Hendrix (Grand Valley State) 25-yard field goal after Randall started the scoring with a 6-yard scoring toss to Antwun Williams (Virginia State) at the 11:29 mark.
Richmond, perhaps still stinging from a tough 33-29 loss at Rochester a week ago, then found their wind in the second stanza. Taking advantage of great field position - the Revolution's average starting position in the first half was the ThunderHawks' 21-yard line - Richmond needed only 6 offensive plays to score on their final three drives of the half.
It took two plays for Richmond to go up 14-6 after Randall connected with Rodney Landers on a 7-yard touchdown pass and subsequent 2-point run by Brandon Isaiah (Virginia). That score was set up when Anthony Hailstock (Virginia State) blocked a Hendrix field goal try that ended up at the West Michigan 9-yard line.
After sacking Iciek for a safety just seconds later, the Revolution again took just two plays to go 30 yards as Randall hit a streaking Damon Thompson (Virginia State) on a 19-yard pitch-and-catch for a 23-3 bulge.
West Michigan finally found the end zone with 3:20 left on the second quarter clock as Robert Height III (Northwood) scampered in from four yards out to cut the deficit to 23-9 as Hendrix missed the P.A.T.
Randall found Williams two plays later on a 29-yard bomb and the hosts were breathing easy again, 29-9, despite Segaar returning the favor with a missed point-after of his own. Kicking conditions are difficult to say the least at the Revs home facility, as a notable drop in ceiling height on each end of the arena makes kicking the ball through the uprights nearly impossible, instead relying on the referee to judge whether the ball "would have" been good had it been able to finish its flight.
The ThunderHawks drove all the way to the Richmond 2-yard line as intermission approached but a Height rush lost three yards and a final pass to Height lost two more as time expired.
Richmond only had 90 yards of total offense at the break, but Randall's efficiency, four touchdowns on seven completions, made the stat irrelevant. Meanwhile, Iciek was warming up, hitting seven of his final 8 attempts, to go 13-for-21 in the first 30 minutes.
Iciek and the ThunderHawks, however, suffered a setback as the second half got underway. Stephen Cason (William & Mary) stepped in front of an Iciek pass and returned it to the Hawks 22-yard line.
West Michigan seemed to recover, though, forcing Richmond into a 4th-and-16 from its own 22, but Randall, after scrambling for several seconds, found Landers behind the defense for a 28-yard touchdown pass and a 35-9 lead.
The ThunderHawks then methodically plodded down the field and capped a 7-play drive with an Iciek to Nathan Fricke (Ferris State) 7-yard scoring toss to keep things interesting at 35-16 with just over five minutes left in the third quarter.
James then gave his team another short field with a kickoff return to the West Michigan 21-yard line. After a false start penalty, the Revolution cashed in as Travis Valentine (Virginia State) took a handoff and rambled 13 yards for a score and Richmond had what looked to be an insurmountable 42-16 lead heading into the final fifteen minutes.
That is when the ThunderHawks, averaging a league-best 56 points-per-game, came alive. Iciek hit Emmanuel Spann (4 yards) and Bryan Pray (45 yards) 1:51 apart to pull within 42-32 with 11:49 still remaining as the visitors added successful 2-point conversions on both scores.
Neither team scored for the next eight minutes until Pray made a sensation diving catch good for 24 yards to set up Iciek, who muscled his way over the goal line on a 1-yard quarterback keeper three plays later. Hendrix nailed the point-after to finish off the 23-point run at the 3:20 mark.
A bit of controversy ensued as Segaar's long field goal attempt caromed off the ceiling about 30 yards short of where the goal posts hung. As the ball fell toward the field below, the Hawks attempted to return what they interpreted as a missed kick. Whistles then blew, and following a conference among the five game officials, the field goal was awarded to the Revolution. The critical call gave Richmond a 45-39 lead, meaning the guests would need a touchdown instead of a field goal on their final drive.
Randall finished his outstanding day 16-of-25 for 194 yards and five scores without an interception. His favorite target was Williams who reeled in seven catches for 78 yards a a pair of scores. Thompson (5-72-1), Landers (3-48-2) and Isaiah (2-9-0) rounded out the receiving corps. Derricott led the Revolution with 44 yards rushing as Richmond outgained West Michigan 63-17 on the ground and 269-254 overall.
Derricott also paced the defensive effort with 12 tackles and 2 pass breakups. James had seven stops and a PBU to go with his game-saving interceptions and Cason also chipped in 7 tackles and a pick. Hailstock was also involved in seven total tackles.
The ThunderHawks got another solid effort from Iciek, who leads the IFL in passing yards-per-game, as he ended the night going 28-of-41 for 237 yards and three scores along with three interceptions. He rationed out the ball evenly to Pray (8-116-1), Fricke (8-55-1) and Spann (8-49-1). Height, one of the IFL leaders in all-purpose yardage, added 17 yards on 4 grabs, 20 yards rushing on 8 carries and 52 yards on four kickoff returns.
Defensively, newcomer Kelvin Brown (Grand Rapids CC) and linebacker Doug Emery (Ferris State) led a balanced effort with four tackles apiece while Amp Boone (Arkansas-Pine Bluff) and Edwards each added 3 stops.
West Michigan will return home to host Green Bay on Saturday, April 17th, while Richmond travels to Rochester for a Sunday afternoon matchup the following day.
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Indoor Football League Stories from April 11, 2010
- Maniacs Lose Spinner, Fourth Straight Game - Maryland Maniacs
- ThunderHawks Rally Falls Short of Revolution - West Michigan Thunderhawks
- Over a Cup of Coffee - OSC Original by Jerry Hewitt
- Chicago Slaughter Defeat Bloomington Extreme On The Road - Chicago Slaughter
- Hammerheads drop heartbreaker - Corpus Christi Hammerheads
- James, Revolution Hold on to defeat Thunderhawks - Richmond Revolution
- Roughnecks Drop Nail Biter To San Angelo, 44-35 - West Texas Roughnecks
- Amarillo Staves Off Corpus Christi - Amarillo Venom
- Slaughter Hold-Off Extreme, 50-43 - Bloomington Extreme
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