Overtime Again Unkind to Richmond Raiders

Interception in third extra period dooms Raiders in 69-63 loss to Panthers

(June 1, 2013) Working overtime is getting to be a habit for the Raiders.

Unfortunately, wins have not come as steadily.

For the third straight game, overtime was needed to decide a winner. In two of the three, both Raider losses, the game went to multiple extra sessions. Antwon Cutts’ interception of Warren Smith in the third overtime period sealed a 69-63 win for the Albany Panthers, avenging their loss in Richmond last month and muddying the PIFL playoff picture.

Panther quarterback Cecil Lester accounted for 10 touchdowns, including a 15 yard scramble in the third overtime that proved to be the winning margin. He threw for scores on each of the Panthers’ last four possessions of regulation after his interception to Kevin Allen was returned for a touchdown that put the Raiders up 28-21 late in the third quarter. From then on, the Panthers would tie the game after each time the Raiders scored to take the lead, including a 23 yard touchdown from Lester to Clenton Rafe with eight seconds left that tied the game at 49.

The Raiders had a chance to ice the game in regulation, taking over in a tie game with 3:49 to go. They milked the clock with an eight play drive, forcing Albany to call timeouts after the one minute warning to preserve time for a final possession. Gerron Bryant caught his third touchdown of the game with 36 seconds left to give the Raiders a 49-42 lead, but that left Lester and company more than enough time to respond.

Rafe opened the first overtime with a nine yard touchdown, and the Raiders evened things when Rodney Sledge ran in from one yard. Warren Smith found Hakeem Moore to begin the second overtime, but Rafe’s third straight touchdown sent the game to a third extra period.

The game started with an uno by T.C. Stevens, and on Albany’s second snap Lester was stripped of the ball and Preston Hines recovered at the Panther three. The Raiders had to settle for a field goal, but got stops on the next two Panther drives and built an 11-0 lead. Sledge figured prominently in the Raiders’ second touchdown drive, stringing together a nine yard reception then three straight runs culminating in a six yard score. The Panthers, as they would in the second half, scored with less than a minute to go in the first half to pull to within four points at 18-14. Fourteen seconds remained for the Raiders to get some points, but their touchdown plans were derailed by a penalty and they settled for a 34 yard field goal. The points were taken off the board after another penalty, and the ensuing 44 yard attempt was blocked. Later, Stevens would have an uno taken away via penalty. In all, the Raiders were flagged for 13 penalties, the Panthers just three – all of the five yard variety.

Bryant had three touchdowns and Hakeem Moore added one as he went over 100 yards for the third straight game. Herb Jones had 111 receiving yards, marking his fourth straight outing over the century mark. Smith passed for 299 yards and five touchdowns but had two interceptions. Brandon Sutton had two sacks, but Lester kept enough plays alive to move the chains – the Panthers converted 8 of 12 third downs and both of their fourth down attempts – and rack up 338 yards through the air and an additional 19 on the ground.

The Raiders (6-4), Panthers (5-4), and Lehigh Valley SteelHawks (6-4) are in a three-way tie in the loss column for second place (the SteelHawks play Sunday in Columbus). The road doesn’t get any easier as the Raiders will travel to Huntsville to face the first place Alabama Hammers (7-2) next week, followed by a home date with the Louisiana Swashbucklers, still very much alive in the playoff hunt at 4-5. The Raiders are 3-3 in their last six games following a 3-1 start and are in the middle of what is shaping up to be a wild dash to the end of the regular season.

Tickets are available for the home finale on June 15 through richmondraidersprofootball.com, by
calling 804-780-0430, or via Ticketmaster.