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Freedom Double Up On Wheeling

by Randy and Adam Snow

Originally posted on OurSportsCentral.com, Saturday, May 30, 2009


The Fort Wayne Freedom put on quite a show in the second half of their game against the Wheeling Wildcats Friday night (May 29) at the War Memorial Coliseum. The Freedom posted an impressive 84-42 victory and improved its record to 6-5 on the season.

A depleted Wildcats team that only dressed 12 players started out the contest by taking a surprising 14-0 lead, but once the Fort Wayne offense got into a rhythm, they put up 22 unanswered points and led 22-14 with under a minute to play in the first half. Wheeling tied the game at 22-22 when quarterback Jarrod Highberger connected with wide receiver Eugene Baker on a nine-yard touchdown pass and receiver Eric Wicks caught a pass for a two-point conversion. However, the Freedom came right back and answered with a 25-yard touchdown pass by quarterback Randy Hutchison to running back Luther Stroder. It was Stroder's third TD of the half.

Following an interception by Fort Wayne, the Freedom had one last scoring opportunity before halftime. Kicker Brad Selent lined up and kicked a 45-yard field goal, but the play was nullified by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Wheeling just prior to the kick. The ball was moved 10-yards closed, but Selent's 35-yard field goal attempt was wide left, leaving Fort Wayne with a 29-22 lead going into halftime.


"I have to admit, if I were Fort Wayne, I would be showing a little more urgency out on that field. The Wheeling Wildcats unfortunately were only able to dress 12 players for tonight's contest, which led me to believe that they would be fatigued early and that the Freedom would take full advantage of that. But, I was wrong.

The Freedom went down 14-0 early in the first quarter, and I was starting to smell one of the biggest upsets of the season coming along. Fortunately, Fort Wayne was able to answer by scoring 22 unanswered points offensively, and their defense began knocking players out of their shoes. If the Freedom team that showed up in the 2nd quarter of the game continues to play with this constancy on both sides of the ball the Freedom should win.

However, Wheeling has played some great football thus far, despite a few miscues. This game is not beyond their grasp. They have proven that, even with a sparse roster, they have the heart and determination to possibly steal this game from the Freedom. But Fort Wayne has momentum on their side and I can't see that being taken away."


"On paper, Fort Wayne should have had an easy time against the Wildcats, but I guess two straight weeks of no practices was beginning to show. I think Fort Wayne needs to keep giving the ball to running back Luther Stroder in the second half. He had three touchdowns in the first half, one rushing and two receiving.

With Wheeling playing short-handed, quarterback Jarrod Highberger is also handling the kicking duties for the team. Almost every one of his kickoffs has landing out of the field of play, resulting in a penalty and giving Fort Wayne great field position at midfield on almost all of their possessions."


On the opening possession of the second half, Freedom quarterback Hutchinson dropped a nice pass in to offensive lineman/tight end Keith Recker for a 7-yard touchdown.

Freedom defensive back Scott Heighland intercepted a pass on Wheeling's ensuing possession, returned the pick 15 yards for the score. Fort Wayne defensive back Paul Carter also intercepted a Wildcats' pass on the next possession, which led to a 7-yard touchdown pass to Freedom wide receiver Brian Jackson. Fort Wayne was now up 50-22 in the third quarter.

From that point on, Fort Wayne simply continued to wear down the Wildcats. Fort Wayne wide receiver Justin Wynn had a pair of touchdown catches and Luther Stroder also had two more touchdown catches giving him a total of five TDs on the night. Defensive back Scott Highland returned a second interception for a touchdown as well. Fort Wayne cruised to an 84-42 win.


"Second half momentum belonged to Fort Wayne. On every possession I could just feel the experience of this Freedom team dominate in nearly all aspects on the field.

The Freedom were able to put up 55 points in the second half and allowed Wheeling to only score 20. Even though Wheeling played with a lot of heart and determination there is no doubt in my mind that having only 12 men on their roster tonight played a factor in the final score.

By the end of the game it was very clear that Fort Wayne had tired out this young Wheeling team, sealing the victory. For the Freedom it was a huge team effort, but with quarterback Randy Hutchinson throwing 9 touchdown passes and the team scoring a total of 84 points it was an impressive victory."


"While Wheeling put up a good fight early on, the Freedom played the kind of football that fans in Fort Wayne have come to expect. Good weather and recent news reports of the team having financial troubles resulted in a smaller than usual crowd at the last home game of the season.

There is talk that next week's game at Miami Valley might have to be cancelled due to the Silverback not being able to secure their home arena for the game. That means that the Freedom could be idle for the next few weeks until they take to the road for their playoff game against the Marion Mayhem.

Fort Wayne defensive back Scott Highland had three interceptions in the game, two that were retuned for touchdowns. Quarterback Randy Hutchison tossed nine touchdowns in the game, which was a personal best. Four of them went to Luther Storder and two went to Justin Wynn. Nick Body, Keith Recker and Brian Jackson each had one touchdown catch.

The 84 points scored tied Fort Wayne with the Chicago Slaughter for the most points scored in a single game this season. Chicago beat the Milwaukee Bonecrushers 84-25 in week one of the season. The loss drops the Wildcats record to 2-9."


After the game, Freedom quarterback Randy Hutchison talked about his team's performance. "I knew we were going to be all right," Hutchison said. "We spread the ball nice around tonight, executed plays and put a lot of points on the board."

Freedom wide receiver Nick Body did not have the kind of night he usually has on the field and Hutchison knew why. "If you've been around football long enough you know that if one guy has a big game one week, opposing teams are going to know that and they're going to spy on him more. That's going to open up other guys and that's exactly what happened. Last week Body had five touchdowns and Stroder didn't get the ball much. This week, they went after Body and Luther was open all night."

- - -

Randy Snow is a freelance football writer from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Since 2003, he has covered the Arena Football League, arenafootball2, United Indoor Football, the Continental Indoor Football League, the Indoor Football League, the All American Football League and the Canadian Football League. Randy has been a member of the Arena Football League Writer's Association since 2005 and can be reached at randysnow22@yahoo.com. He also maintains the web site www.theworldoffootball.com and is the organizer of Operation Gridiron Airlift, which collects footballs and sends them to our troops serving overseas.

Adam Snow is a student at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, studying English and Journalism.


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