Last-second win lifts Richmond Raiders into second-place tie

RichmondRaidersIn another thrilling chapter to the Richmond-Lehigh Valley rivalry, the Raiders scored 22 unanswered points over the final 18 minutes to defeat the SteelHawks 38-37 and claim a share of second place in the PIFL’s National Conference. The rally was full of spectacular plays and timely stops, and wasn’t complete until a last gasp 51 yard field goal attempt sailed wide right.

The SteelHawks extended their six point halftime lead to 21 thanks to a Leavander Jones interception and return to the two yard line, and a sack on fourth down, both of which gave Lehigh Valley good field position and quick touchdowns. After an uno by Michael Barnard, it was 37-16 when Phil Konopka rallied his troops, completing an 18 yard pass to Daron Clark then finding Clark in the end zone from six yards, with Clark tumbling over the wall into the SteelHawk bench but holding on to the ball for the touchdown.

After the teams exchanged interceptions, Devin Jones sacked Adam Bednarik to force a long field goal attempt, which Clark returned 21 yards. Konopka struck quickly to Herb Jones for 28 yards to set up first and goal, but faced pressure on fourth and goal before finding Jones for a one handed catch to close the gap to seven with 3:18 to play.

Lehigh Valley quickly went three and out as the Raiders’ secondary kept everything in front of them and only allowed Bednarik a couple of short passes. Again Barnard missed a field goal, and the Raiders were 40 yards away from tying the game with 55 seconds to go. Konopka was sacked on first down and completed a short pass in bounds on second down, and after the Raiders exhausted all their timeouts they faced fourth and six. Konopka threw long, and Scooby Bryant extended to make the catch in the end zone, securing the ball as he fell to the turf.

T.C. Stevens added the extra point to tie the game with 13 seconds left, then nailed his third uno to put the Raiders up by one and force the SteelHawks to start at their five yard line. A short pass to Chris Schubert set up Barnard’s 52 yard attempt, and as the ball fluttered wide of the goalposts, the raucous Richmond Coliseum crowd was able to celebrate.

Stevens started the game with an uno, and Bednarik was flagged for intentional grounding in the end zone to put the Raiders up 3-0 early. As it would in the second half, the Raiders’ offense scored no points on their first two drives of the first half. Dwayne Hollis returned a missed field goal 57 yards for a touchdown to give Lehigh Valley a 10 point lead before Konopka and company scored two times to close out the half.

SteelHawk backup quarterback Shane McSweeney saw action in red zone situations, and had a rushing TD and one passing. Though the Raiders pressured Bednarik early, it was the SteelHawks’ defense who got consistent pressure all night long. They recorded a season high 7 sacks and came away with two interceptions. Former Raider Brandon Sutton had four sacks, while league leader Devin Jones had both of Richmond’s sacks.

Herb Jones had two touchdowns, giving him multiple scores for the third straight game, and led all receivers with 92 yards and 9 catches. Stevens had three unos for the second consecutive outing. The game was the third straight between the clubs decided by one possession, and the second in a row to come down to the last play. Both teams are now 4-5 and are tied for second place in the National Conference. The rematch in Bethlehem PA will be on the last week of the season.

The Raiders will return home on Saturday, June 21 against the Nashville Venom. Tickets start as low as $7, and are available on the Raiders’ website, www.RichmondRaidersProFootball.com, or by calling 1-855-GO-RAIDERS or 804-780-0430. Additionally, fans can contact the Richmond Coliseum box office or visit ticketmaster.com.

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