Vipers drop close game to Blizzard
The Tennessee Valley Vipers could not overcome a struggling offense and porous defense in the first half as they dropped a 37-35 decision to the Green Bay Blizzard. A second half comeback was keyed by the defense and kicking game but the offense managed only a field goal in the third quarter and fourth quarter comeback fell just short as the Vipers fell to 0-2, the Blizzard went to 1-1.
After managing only two field goals in the first quarter Gary Elliot jumpstarted the Vipers offense with a 36-yard kickoff return late in the second quarter. Quarterback Andy Hall hit Maurice Brown for a six yard touchdown with 1:10 left in the first half. A missed extra point left the Vipers down 17-12 at halftime.
Blizzard quarterback Shane Adler threw an errant pass while flat on his back that was intercepted by Vipers' Troy Graham. But again the offense could not convert. Quarterback Andy Hall was hit from the blind side and coughed up the ball that was recovered and ran back 27 yards for a touchdown by Anthony Crissinger-Hill. The extra point made the score 23-12 Blizzard at the half.* *
The* *Vipers offense failed to score a touchdown on three of four possessions in the first half. * *
Hall was under heavy rush all night, especially from his left side.
Demetrius Derico got the Vipers the ball back early in the second half with an interception. Again the Vipers offense could not convert and turned the ball over on downs at the six yard line.
Viper defensive end Eric Scott changed momentum late in the third quarter with a blocked kick and recovery at the Blizzard 11-yard line. The offense stalled again but kicker Nick Hayes converted a 23-yard field goal.
The Vipers first possession in the second half ended when a scrambling Hall was intercepted at the Vipers 22 yard line.
Andy Hall suffered his worst game as a Viper and ended up hitting only 11 or 29 passes for 92 yards. In the fourth quarter Head Coach Dean Cokinos inserted backup quarterback Brent Dearmon.
Dearman sparked the offense with three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. First he hit Pedro Holiday for 27 yards at the 9:00 mark. With 2:39 left he hit Agim Shabaj from 9 yards out. With 14 seconds left he hit Maurice Brown from 24 yards to bring the Vipers to within 2 points.
The Vipers defense stepped up in the fourth quarter and held Green bay to one touchdown. The Vipers outscored the Blizzard 20-7 in the fourth quarter.
Trailin g by eight points late in the fourth quarter the Vipers defense forced a kick after a key pass breakup by corner Troy Graham. Maurice Brown returned the kick to the 22 yard line and the Vipers took over with 23 seconds left. Brown then beat double coverage and caught a 24 yard touchdown pass with 9 seconds left to leave the Vipers 2 point down, 37-35.
The two point conversion failed when Agim Shabaj was stopped on a pitchout.
A last second Nick Hayes kick failed after a successful onside kick.
Dearmon, seeing his first action in arena football, was almost an unlikely hero. A native of Mobile, Dearmon also coaches defensive backs at Bethel College in Tennessee.
"My dad is a coach," Dearmon said. "My family was actually here last week and I didn't play in the game."
"Any time you lose its tough. It's a moral victory but it is still a loss. It gives up something to look forward to going into next week," Dearmon said.
Dearmon attributed the offensive struggles early in the game to the Blizzard defense.
"Their defensive backs and line played great against us early. We changed some blocking, changed some game planning and it opened some things up for us late," Dearmon said.
With the Vipers sitting unexpectedly at 0-2 Head Coach Dean Cokinos said he would stress consistency.
"After this game we have a lot of things to work on. The defense kept us in it but we got some things to work on offense. They got a lot of pressure on us early. I brought Brent is to change the pace of the game and he did a great job," said Cokinos.
Asked who would start at quarterback next week Cokinos was not prepared to say.
"We are 0-2 and we are not committing to any player right now. We got to evaluate all our positions and what we need to do to get better. We are going to stay the course of rebuilding this team. I said when I took over I was going to be consistent and we are going to stay with our plan and keep working hard to get better."
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