Vipers rally to beat Steeldogs
HUNTSVILLE -- Tennessee Valley Vipers coach Chris Williams entered Saturday night's game against rival Birmingham hoping some new additions to his team would help turn its season around. He got his wish. Backup quarterback Chris Gunn sparked a fourth-quarter comeback as Tennessee Valley beat the Steeldogs 21-17 before an announced crowd of 4,063 at the Von Braun Center. The Vipers improved to 2-5 while Birmingham fell to 3-4 in arenafootball2. "I didn't feel any pressure coming in," said Gunn, who entered the game in the fourth quarter. "I feel real confident in myself and my teammates." The Vipers won despite scoring the least amount of points in their history, breaking the previous record of 30. "We just fought to the end," Williams said. "These guys wanted it. It's a rivalry. They fought to the end. They never gave up. It's a tough rivalry. In games like this, you've got to fight to the end and that's what we did." "Conditioning and we wanted to have it," fulllback/linebacker Jermaine Blakely said of the keys to the fourth-quarter comeback. "We wanted it more than they did and that's how we got it." Tennessee Valley struck first when the Vipers' Johnny Anderson blocked a 49-yard field goal attempt by Birmingham's Alex Walls. Anderson then recovered the bounce and ran into the end zone from 8 yards out for a touchdown. Steven Lee kicked the extra point for a 7-0 Vipers lead. "Right there we just needed a big play," Anderson said. "I came through. I'm a veteran. I thank God for this win." The Steeldogs tied the score 7-all when quarterback Ryan Hawk muscled his way in from the 1 and Walls added the extra point. This capped a seven-play, 48-yard drive at 2:37 in the first quarter. Alvin Fite's 2-yard touchdown run gave the Steeldogs a 14-7 lead in the second quarter and finished a five-play, 41-yard drive. Walls upped the advantage to 17-7 on a 28-yard field goal with 18 seconds left in the first half. By halftime the Vipers had managed only two first downs and 33 yards of total offense while committing four turnovers, including two interceptions from quarterback Ryan Schneider. After a scoreless third quarter, Tennessee Valley got a defensive touchdown when Farouk Adelekan sacked Hawk, forcing a fumble which Stan Primus carried into the end zone from 7 yards out. Lee's kick cut the deficit to 17-14 with 12:45 left. Gunn entered the game and directed a five-play, 44-yard drive which gave Tennessee Valley the lead. He threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Heyward Skipper and the Vipers led 21-17 at 6:20. "We are on the same page in every route," Gunn said of Skipper. Gunn completed 5-of-6 passes for 50 yards and a touchdown and was named the Schutt Offensive Player of the Game.
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