Venom Clinch Playoff Berth
NASHVILLE- WR Darrell Holmes scored three TDs, two of which on the ground as the Nashville Venom (6-4) defeated the Erie Explosion 61-38 in Professional Indoor Football League play. The victory along with Saturday's the Alabama Hammers' 41-39 defeat of the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks to secured Nashville to defend their 2014 PIFL title. Next week they travel to take on the Trenton Freedom in a game that could determine home field advantage for the first round.
"We told the team in the preseason that a bull's eye is on them," said Venom head coach Billy Back. We realized that we had to win out to get in. Alabama helps us out. Our goal is still the same. Playoffs have started in or minds already. We have Trenton on our minds now."
Against Erie, Nashville was in great field possession all game starting drives inside the Explosion five on two separate occasions. KR Mike Whittaker also returned three kickoffs inside Erie territory.
The first quarter stayed close. Nashville jumped out to a 14-0 lead on TD runs by Holmes and Stanlee Bradley. Erie then scored twice on TD passes from Mason Espinosa (26 of 51, 271 yards and five TDs) to C.J. Tarver (12 catches 150 yards and three TDs) to tie the game at 14 early in the second quarter.
After that the Venom went on a 34-6 run to close out the half. During that run Venom QB Charles McCullum (15 of 23, 182 yards and three TDs) threw TD passes to Holmes, WR Jordan Jolly (six catches for 85 yards and a TD) and Mike Whittaker (one catch for 30 yards and a TD). Kenny Veal returned an onside kick for a TD. Holmes also added a nine yard run.
"The team and coaching staff has shown confidence in me lately," said Holmes. We have a lot of weapons and it is hard to crack the lineup. We believe in the "next man up" concept. If one goes down, it is up to others to get it rolling. Tonight was my turn. Next week it could be someone else. When your number is called you have to be ready."
The defense played inspired ball all night. Veal played sensational at CB breaking up eight passes, getting eight tackles and recovered a fumble. The Venom defensive line was also stellar pressuring Erie Espinosa. The group ended up with three QB sacks, 10 QB hurries, two batted passes and two forced fumbles. As a unit, Nashville caused three key turnovers.
"We were short handed tonight in the secondary so we all had to step up," said Veal. "We made some mistakes but overall we got the job done. We want to win it all so we are in playoff mode. The line was awesome in getting pressure. That makes our job easier."
Before the game, Venom kicker Christian Reed suffered a lower body injury and couldn't kick. Emergency kicker Tony Yelk was summoned and kicked well going seven of nine in extra points. Yelk, an Iowa State University product, was kicking in only his second career indoor game. The first was with the Columbus Lions six years ago.
Another newcomer played well for well. Center Garrison Ushery mishandled two snaps early but was perfect the rest of the way. Ushery's play helps to solidify the offense line which has struggled all season due to less than solid play from the center position. The addition of Ushery allows Jeremy "Buck" Buchanan to move to his natural position of guard.
"He struggled early but once the jitters got away from him he was solid," said McCullum of Ushery. "He solidifying the center position helps the whole line. Now "Buck" is where he is supposed to be and "Ant" (Jackson) along with Stanlee can mesh together. I believe this line can carry us to another championship."
Images from this story
Darrrll Holmes of the Nashville Venom vs. the Erie Explosion
• Discuss this story on the Professional Indoor Football League message board...
Professional Indoor Football League Stories from June 14, 2015
- Venom Clinch Playoff Berth - Nashville Venom
- Alabama Hammers Get Enthusiastic Victory Over Steelhawks - Alabama Hammers
The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.