Richmond Raiders Aim for Sweep of Panthers

Team’s playoff fortunes would be greatly enhanced with first-ever win in Georgia

(May 30, 2013) The Richmond Raiders (6-3) will begin a two game road trip Saturday night with a game against the Albany Panthers (4-4) that could go a long way toward clearing up the playoff picture and home field advantage for the first round. It will be a rematch of the game in Richmond on May 4 that started the Raiders’ current string of three consecutive games that have come down to the last play.

Last week the Raiders played their second straight overtime game, this time getting the win thanks to a RoShawn Marshall interception on the Columbus Lions’ first play of OT, and a Warren Smith to Hakeem Moore touchdown three plays later. Marshall finished with three picks, and Moore had 154 yards and three touchdowns. The duo were named PIFL Defensive and Offensive Players of the Week, respectively.

The Raiders overcame six turnovers and a 23-minute scoring drought, eventually tying the game with 19 seconds left. Columbus then drove inside the Raiders’ 10 yard line, and a touchdown saving tackle by James Carter at the one brought on the field goal unit. When Josh Smith’s kick sailed wide left, the Raiders had new life. Moore had over 150 receiving yards for the second straight game, and Herb Jones went over the 100 yard mark for the second consecutive outing. They now rank second and third in the PIFL in receiving yards with over 800 apiece.

A win on Saturday would be the Raiders’ first ever victory in Albany, and with it they would clinch a playoff berth for the second straight year. With a win and some help, the Raiders could all but clinch a home playoff berth. The top two teams stay home for the first round of the playoffs, and the Raiders currently occupy second place, ahead of third place Lehigh Valley and fourth place Albany. They already hold the head to head tiebreaker over Lehigh Valley, and would gain the tiebreaker over Albany. If the SteelHawks lose to the Lions Sunday afternoon, the Raiders would be two games ahead of both squads with two games to play. Under that scenario, only the performance of the Louisiana Swashbucklers (4-4, tied for fourth) could knock the Raiders below second place.

The last meeting between the Raiders and Panthers was one for the ages. Albany rolled to a 23 point lead by the last minute of the third quarter thanks to a couple of interceptions and a very efficient offense that scored touchdowns on their first six possessions. Following the sixth score, Raiders special teams stepped up when Joseph Jean-Pierre returned the kickoff 52 yards for a touchdown. Raibonne Charles forced and recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff return, and the Raiders offense was cruising. Thanks to a Panther turnover on downs and an onside kick recovered by Jean-Pierre, the Raiders completed a 28-0 run and were ahead by five.

Albany showed why they are the defending league champs, getting off the mat to put together a drive culminating in a touchdown with one minute to go. Their lead remained at just one point after a failed two point conversion, and the Raiders were able to get in position for a 25 yard field goal by T.C. Stevens with eight seconds left. Cecil Lester’s Hail Mary pass as time expired was intercepted in the end zone, and the Raiders escaped with a 51-49 win.

Following that game, the Raiders traveled to Louisiana where their tangle with the Swashbucklers wasn’t decided until the second overtime. The Raiders scored a touchdown but failed on the mandatory two point conversion, and the ‘Bucs answered with a TD and a two pointer to win the game, 68-66. Just for good measure, the Raiders had a chance to win their game in Columbus on April 20, but a pass went off Herb Jones’ hands in the end zone as time ran out. That makes four out of the last five games that weren’t decided until the final whistle.

Thanks to Warren Smith’s back to back 350+ yard passing games, the Raiders are in second place in total offense with 293 yards per game. They are scoring 50 points per game, good for third in the league, but will be tested by the PIFL’s best defense. Albany leads the league in total defense and scoring defense, yielding a mere 233 yards and 44 points per game.

Live coverage of the game will begin at 7:00 Saturday evening on the Raiders’ website, RichmondRaidersProFootball.com. Fans can also get real time updates on the Raiders’ facebook and twitter feeds. The Raiders will return home on June 15 for the regular season finale. Tickets are available from $7 through the Raiders’ website, ticketmaster.com, or the Richmond Coliseum box office.