The Richmond Raiders will renew their National Conference rivalry with the Lehigh Valley SteelHawks on Friday, June 6.
Second place, and the conference’s final playoff position, is at stake as two of the PIFL’s semifinalists from a year ago clash for the first time in 2014. The game will be on Healthy Kids Night sponsored by Bon Secours. Ticket specials including priority access to 2015 season tickets are available. Kickoff is at 7:00 pm at the Richmond Coliseum.
The Raiders have won two straight games for the first time since the end of last season, having defeated the Georgia Fire 72-53 on Sunday. Phil Konopka threw seven touchdown passes, including three to Herb Jones for the second straight game, as the Raiders broke the 70 point barrier for the first time since May 19, 2012. After getting down 21-8 in the second quarter, the Raiders ended the first half on a 29-3 run to seize a lead that they would never relinquish. On three straight possessions, the Raiders needed just two plays to score touchdowns, and Kevin Allen recovered a fumble on the goal line to cap the scoring in the half’s final seconds.
Devin Jones had 3.5 of the team’s six sacks, and 3.5 of the squad’s eight tackles for loss, and was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Week. T.C. Stevens made all nine of his extra points, two field goals, and three unos to set a league season high with 18 points kicking, and earned PIFL Special Teams Player of the Week honors.
The SteelHawks are coming off a 54-42 loss to the Columbus Lions, marking their fourth straight defeat following four straight wins to open the season. The teams traded touchdowns on their respective first two possessions and the score was tied 14-14 early in the second quarter. Following a Columbus field goal and an Adam Bednarik interception, the Lehigh Valley defense got a stop on fourth and three. That led to Bednarik punching it in on fourth and goal from the one to put the SteelHawks on top for the first and only time in the game. Columbus scored with 12 seconds left in the first half, and extended their lead after halftime. They shut out the ‘Hawks in the third quarter thanks to a fumble recovery and a turnover on downs, and ran off 17 straight points to take control. Shane McSweeney relieved Bednarik in the fourth quarter and led a touchdown drive in his first possession, but Columbus kept the pressure on, scoring two more TDs and picking off McSweeney to end Lehigh Valley’s chances of a comeback.
The teams instantly established a rivalry last season in Lehigh Valley’s first PIFL campaign. Though the Raiders won all three meetings, including a playoff game, the games were all intense battles that came down to the wire. The most exciting finish of them all came in the playoff matchup in Richmond. Every time the Raiders tied the game, Lehigh Valley would score right away to reclaim the lead. The Raiders scored with 30 seconds left to finally take a four point lead, but the victory wasn’t secured until a SteelHawk receiver was tackled at the two yard line as time expired to give the Raiders a 44-40 win and a berth in the PIFL Championship Game.
Both teams have run an offense by committee, as neither squad has a receiver with more than 450 yards or 9 touchdowns. Both probable starting quarterbacks, Phil Konopka and Adam Bednarik, are completing just a shade under 60% of their passes and have virtually identical passer efficiency ratings. The teams are tied for last place in sacks allowed, but the Raiders are first in sacks while the SteelHawks are seventh, meaning that the Raiders’ defensive front will try to squeeze Bednarik’s pocket and not allow him to extend plays. Friday’s winner will own at least a share of second place in the conference and have a leg up on the playoff position that comes with it with a head to head win.
Friday’s matchup will be Healthy Kids Night, sponsored by Bon Secours and Movin’ Mania. The Movin’ Mania mascots will be on hand to lead kids through an obstacle course on the field at halftime. Tickets are available in a buy 3, get 1 free package, as well as a family 4-pack which includes tickets, hot dogs, popcorn, and soft drinks all for one low price. Additionally, tickets are discounted when bought for the last two home games of the season (June 6 and June 21).
Anyone who buys tickets to both June home games will get priority access to 2015 season ticket reservations before the general public. Doors open at 5:30, so get to the Coliseum early for all the fun!
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.