Raptors Run Past Fort Wayne
by Randy and Adam Snow
Originally posted on OurSportsCentral.com, Monday, May 4, 2009
Coming off a much-needed 34-28 win last week over the Miami Valley Silverbacks, the Fort Wayne Freedom hosted the Rock River Raptors in the final game of a three-game home stand on Friday night (May 1). Going into the game, the Fort Wayne and Rock River defenses were ranked 2nd and 3rd respectively in the Continental Indoor Football League. However, the Freedom faced a Raptors team that was riding a three-game winning streak after starting out the season 0-4.
Fort Wayne got on the scoreboard first thanks to a 10-yard scoring strike from quarterback Randy Hutchison to wide receiver Nick Body, giving the Freedom a 7-0 lead.
Rock River answered on the next possession when Raptor running back J.R. Taylor cut through the Freedom defense for a 23-yard touchdown run. However, the PAT was blocked, leaving the Raptors trailing 7-6. On the next Fort Wayne possession, the Raptors defense more than made up for the blocked PAT by blocking a Freedom field goal attempt in the end zone for a safety, giving Rock River a one-point lead, 8-7 at the end of the 1st quarter.
The two teams each scored twice in the second quarter and Rock River held onto a slim 22-21 lead going into the half.
HALF-TIME ANALYSIS BY ADAM
"If there was one thing that I noticed during the first half, it was how well these two teams matched up against one another. However, both teams did have their noticeable differences.
Rock River has a ground game that they need to stick with. Every time a Raptors' running back touches the ball, they are averaging 4.6 yards per carry. However, they seem to be having some issues in the passing game, which is the exact opposite of Fort Wayne, who has passed for 62 more yards than Rock River.
Both defenses seem to be
playing their best football, so it's hard to say where the 2nd half could go.
Looking at the time of possession though, Rock River is holding onto the ball
nearly eight minutes more than Fort Wayne. If Rock River manages to keep that
up, they may have a slight edge. But with Fort Wayne and the threat of the long
pass in their
HALF-TIME ANALYSIS BY RANDY
"With Fort Wayne and Rock River having two of the best defenses in the CIFL this year, I was expecting a low scoring game. That's pretty much what it was in the first half. It was 14-14 until the final minute of the second quarter. Raptor kicker James Terry missed two field goal attempts and two extra points in the first half, which would have put the Raptors up by nine points instead of just one at halftime.
Rock River running back J.R. Taylor scored two touchdowns and had 42 yards on the ground in the first half. Freedom wide receiver Nick Body had two receiving touchdowns and 70 yards through the air, the longest going for 48 yards."
On the opening drive of the third quarter, Fort Wayne quarterback Hutchison was picked off by Rock River defensive back Justin Opengo. The ensuing Raptor drive ended with running back Brandon Wogomon scoring on a one-yard run. Following their first successful PAT of the night, the Raptors took an eight-point lead, 29-21.
Just when the Freedom began to look like they were falling apart, Hutchison and Body connected for their third touchdown strike of the night from 34 yards out, narrowing the game to a single point once again, but the Freedom still trailing 29-28.
Rock River didn't let the sudden score by Fort Wayne phase them. Raptor running back J.R. Taylor took a handoff and ran for a 32-yard score, helping the Raptors re-extend their lead, 36-28.
Closing out the 3rd quarter, Freedom quarterback Hutchison found running back Luther Stroder for a 21-yard touchdown pass. On the ensuing PAT however, Brad Selent's kick was blocked. The loose ball was picked up by defensive lineman Raptor Jon Kowalyshen, who returned it the length of the field resulting in a rare two-point defensive score. Going into the final quarter of play, the score was 38-34 in favor of the Raptors.
After a failed onside kick by Fort Wayne, Rock River took possession of the ball at the Freedom nine-yard line. Three plays later, Raptor quarterback Brian Ryczkowski ran the ball in from eight yards out, increasing the Rock River lead to eleven, 45-34 early in the 4th quarter.
Fort Wayne started the next possession in Rock River territory. From 16 yards out, Hutchison connected wide receiver Dan Musielewicz, who made an amazing grab in the corner of the end zone that sent him over the boards. On the following 2-point conversion, Hutchison's pass was picked off and the Freedom remained down by five, 45-40.
Rock River kicked a 30-yard field goal on the ensuing drive, giving them a 48-40 advantage. On the following drive, Hutchison found Body in the end zone for his 4th touchdown of the game, a 28-yarder. Attempting another 2-point conversion, Hutchison was again intercepted in the end zone. The Freedom trailed 48-46 with a little over two minutes remaining in the game.
After the kickoff, Rock River played cautious football, controlling the clock and using as much time as they could. But Fort Wayne showed that they had no intention of letting the Raptors escape so easily, holding Rock River to a 4th down field goal attempt that was no good. The missed field goal gave Fort Wayne the ball with 37 seconds on the clock, but they were all out of time outs.
With five seconds left on the clock, the game rested on the foot of Freedom kicker Brad Selent. But his 36-yard field goal attempt went left of the upright and the game ended in favor of Rock River, 48-46.
For the Raptors, it was their fourth straight win of the season, improving their record to 4-4. During the game, the Raptors set a new CIFL record for rushing yards in a single game, 181 total yards on 32 carries. Most of the credit for the record goes to running back J.R. Taylor, who had 19 carries for 104 yards, scoring three times and averaging 5.5 yards per carry.
On the other side of the ball, the loss was the fourth in the last five games for Fort Wayne. The team struggled to control the ball at times and had 14 minutes less in time of possession than Rock River. However, there was one bright spot for Fort Wayne. Nick Body re-captured the single-game receiving yards record. He caught nine passes for 163 yards with four touchdowns. Chicago Slaughter wide receiver Donovan Morgan accumulated 157 receiving yards two weeks ago in a game at Fort Wayne.
After the game, Freedom quarterback Randy Hutchison talked about the struggles his team has been going through. "Last year we won all these close games up in Kalamazoo," Hutchison said. "This year, we're just not finding ways to get it done. Defensively, we're banged up. We're playing two offensive guys on the defensive line. Hopefully, guys will be healthy next week."
POST-GAME ANALYSIS BY ADAM
"Indeed in the end it was the ground game that won the game for the Raptors. I was amazed at how easily the overall ground attack for Rock River pushed at the Fort Wayne defense, and that was surely the difference maker.
With two CIFL records being set here tonight, this surely was a game that any football fan would've enjoyed. However, one team has to win and another has to lose.
For Fort Wayne all I can say is that they can still make a push and possibly take home the title at the end of the season, even though their record doesn't show it. They indeed have the talent, but one can't dispute the amazing turnaround that Rock River has had this season. Losing their first four games and then winning the la four has them sitting at .500 and running red hot. If Rock River can run the ball like they did tonight I could see them being the dark horse team of the league."
POST-GAME ANALYSIS BY RANDY
"Fort Wayne had themselves in a position to win at the end of the game, but the Selent kick was off the mark. The offense completed several big plays and Nick Body was again the main target for Hutchison. If injured receiver Brian Dolph is able to return next week, Fort Wayne will have an extra weapon on offense.
Time of possession was key for the Raptors in the win. Their explosive running game ate up the clock, keeping the big-play Fort Wayne offense watching from the sidelines."
The Fort Wayne Freedom (3-4) travel to Milwaukee to take on the Bonecrushers (2-5) on Saturday, May 9. That same night, the Rock River Raptor (4-4) will host the Chicago Slaughter (8-0).
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.