Vipers Reach ArenaCup with 45-35 win over Manchester
The Tennessee Valley Vipers have made an improbable run to the arenafootball2 championship game.
After an 0-3 start this season, the Vipers beat the Manchester Wolves 45-35 on Saturday night for the American Conference title before 4,881 fans in the Von Braun Center. The Vipers (13-6) advance to the ArenaCup to play the winner of Amarillo vs. Spokane for the af2 championship.
"It's just great," Tennessee Valley coach Dean Cokinos said. "Got to give these players credit. They've been warriors all year."
Alonzo Nix caught 10 passes for 197 yards and three touchdowns. Quarterback Kevin Eakin completed 18-of-27 passes for three TDs and 250 yards with two interceptions.
"We started fast tonight," Nix said. "We slowed down, but we got it together at the end."
Travis Blanchard had seven carries for 20 yards and two touchdowns. On defense he made five tackles, a fumble recovery and three pass breakups.
"I think we got out on them early," Blanchard said. "And we've been talking all playoffs about getting off to a good start."
The Vipers took the opening kickoff and marched 45 yards in five plays, capped by Eakin's 26-yard touchdown pass to Nix. Nick Hayes kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
After a turnover by Manchester (11-8), the Vipers went up 14-0 on Eakin's 23-yard pass to Nix. Tennessee Valley took advantage of another Wolves' turnover which led to Eakin's 41-yard bomb to Nix for a 21-0 cushion after one quarter.
Manchester answered with a nine-play, 45-yard drive finished by quarterback Brian Jones' 2-yard run. Connor McCormick added the extra point.
But the Vipers went 47 yards in five plays, capped by Travis Blanchard's 8-yard run for a 28-7 lead. Jones threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Emory Sammons to get the Wolves within 28-14 at halftime.
Blanchard put the Vipers up 35-14 with his 5-yard run but Tennessee Valley led 35-21 after three quarters.
The Wolves closed within a touchdown after a five-play, 30-yard drive finished by Jones' 32-yard pass to Dan Oliphant at 8:12 left.
Hayes kicked a 24-yard field goal for the Vipers with 52 seconds remaining. Tyrell Elston added a 10-yard touchdown run
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