Richmond Raiders douse Georgia Fire, 72-53
Richmond Raiders Head Coach James Fuller often calls his defense the fire department, relying on them to extinguish opponents’ momentum. On Sunday afternoon, they put out the Georgia Fire, registering six sacks and three turnovers, as the Raiders turned an early deficit into a runaway win, 72-53 in Rome, Georgia.
Things didn’t start well for the Raiders, as the Fire returned two interceptions for touchdowns and recovered a fumble that led to a third touchdown, and led 21-8 early in the second quarter. But the Raiders started hanging on to the ball and finished the half with three straight Phil Konopka touchdown passes. Meanwhile, the defense made a momentum-swinging goal line stand after the Fire got a first and goal at the two yard line. Three straight runs netted negative seven yards and Georgia settled for a field goal. Konopka immediately responded with a 25-yard score to Daron Clark, and after the Fire went four and out, Konopka engineered a third consecutive two play touchdown drive.
Not to be outdone, the defense that had been increasing the pressure on Fire quarterback Chris Mitchell surrounded him at the two yard line and forced the ball loose, and Kevin Allen fell on it at the goal line for a touchdown with 17 seconds left that capped a 29-3 run to end the first half.
The Fire tallied just 53 yards of total offense in the half.
Mitchell was replaced by Cecil Lester to start the second half, and Lester immediately drove the Fire to a touchdown that brought them to within six points. Konopka responded with a touchdown of his own, and Torez Jones picked off Lester to allow the Raiders to maintain a two-possession lead. The teams traded scores to end the third quarter, then Lester was sacked for a nine yard loss on third and two, leading to a long missed field goal. Herb Jones’ third touchdown soon followed, and the Raiders were up by 23.
The Fire scored twice more, but the subsequent onside kicks were both recovered by the Raiders, leading to 10 quick points and a comfortable end to the game, which ultimately came after another stand by the defense and a Georgia turnover on downs.
Konopka finished the game 21 for 28 with 217 yards and seven scores. Each of the Raiders’ receivers (Jones, Clark, Derrick Hector, and Scooby Bryant) had at least one touchdown, and Kenny Jones added one on the ground. T.C. Stevens was perfect on nine extra points, made two field goals, and tacked on three unos. Devin Jones had three sacks, and Malik Cromartie
had an interception.
The 72 point outburst is the highest for the Raiders since scoring 74 in May of 2012, and the 19-point margin of victory is the most since March of that year. Herb Jones’ 97 yards are a season high, and Stevens’ 18 points scored kicking are a personal best and the highest total in the PIFL this year.
The Raiders’ next home game will be after a short turnaround on Friday, June 6 against the Lehigh Valley SteelHawks. 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.