Richmond Raiders face SteelHawks in playoffs Monday night

The winner of Monday night’s game will advance to the PIFL Championship Game

(June 27, 2013) The Richmond Raiders (7-5) have claimed the #2 seed in the PIFL playoffs for the second straight year, and will host the Lehigh Valley SteelHawks (7-5) in a semifinal matchup. Two weeks ago in the regular season finale, the Raiders beat the Louisiana Swashbucklers to clinch a playoff berth. The Raiders edged the SteelHawks in both regular season meetings, and the postseason battle, on Monday night at 7:00 at the Richmond Coliseum, will determine one of the participants in the PIFL Championship Game.

Needing a win over the Louisiana Swashbucklers two weeks ago to qualify for the postseason, the Raiders used a couple of momentum-changing turnovers to get some separation, and avenged an earlier double overtime loss with a 61-45 victory. Late in the first half, the Swashbucklers were driving in an attempt to tie the game for the fourth time, when RoShawn Marshall intercepted a Chris Mitchell pass to set the up a Raiders touchdown and a 10 point halftime lead. Louisiana tied the game late in the third quarter. But on the next Swashbuckler possession, Marshall scooped up a fumble and took it back for a touchdown, extending the Raiders’ lead to 14 and effectively putting the game out of reach.

Warren Smith completed 29 of 36 passes including five touchdowns, and ran for two more. Hakeem Moore had 115 receiving yards (his league high sixth 100 yard game this year) and finished the season with a Raiders record 1175 yards. T.C. Stevens made all eight of his PATs, two unos, and a field goal to win Special Teams Player of the Week honors for the third time. Marshall ended up tied for the league lead with nine takeaways (seven interceptions and two fumbles).

The Raiders topped the SteelHawks in both regular season meetings. On April 13 in Richmond, an opening kickoff uno, a safety, and a touchdown spotted the Raiders a 9-0 lead. They extended the lead to 24-6 after a defensive stop, and when Warren Smith threw a 40 yard touchdown to Herb Jones on the last play of the first half, the Raiders took a 38-21 lead into the locker room. The SteelHawks fought back in the fourth quarter, scoring 18 straight points, but a two point conversion that would have made it a one possession game was no good, and the Raiders ran out the clock.

Two weeks later in Bethlehem, PA, the SteelHawks played lights out football on both sides of the ball in the first quarter, getting four touchdowns, an interception, and a fumble to race out to a 29-8 lead. The Raiders rallied with a 31 point second quarter and trailed by just 12 at halftime. They forced two field goal attempts in the third quarter and pulled to within five, then used a RoShawn Marshall interception to set up the go-ahead touchdown. The ‘Hawks drove to the Raiders’ 15 in the final minute, but Marshall’s second interception sealed the game.

In their last game, the SteelHawks got a sweep of the Albany Panthers by becoming just the third visiting team to win in Albany over the past four seasons. Neither team led by more than a touchdown in the back and forth affair. The Panthers had a three point lead and the ball in the final two minutes when Cecil Lester was intercepted by Chris Johnson. Lehigh Valley eventually faced a fourth and goal from the three with 12 seconds left. They decided to go for the touchdown, and Bednarik connected with Gibson for the game winning score. If the Panthers had won, they would have taken the second seed outright. But the SteelHawks’ victory created a three-way tie for second place, and the Raiders won the tiebreaker thanks to their 3-1 combined record against Lehigh Valley and Albany.

The semifinal matchup should provide plenty of offensive fireworks, as the teams combined for 243 points, 85 first downs, and 1308 yards of offense in the regular season meetings. The SteelHawks and Raiders are the second and third highest scoring teams in the league respectively and are 1-2 in total offense and passing efficiency. Lehigh Valley quarterback Adam Bednarik leads the league with 293.6 yards of total offense per game, while Raiders signalcaller Warren Smith was a 3,000 yard passer and trailed only Bednarik in completion percentage. Smith’s targets include first team All-PIFL wide receiver Herb Jones, who led the league with 95 catches, and Hakeem Moore, who along with Jones had over 1,000 yards. The SteelHawks’ Tom Gilson had 93 receptions, and Torieal Gibson was a 1,000 yard receiver and tied Moore with six 100 yard performances.

Monday’s matchup will be the Raiders’ second all time home playoff game. They defeated the Swashbucklers 56-50 in last year’s semifinal. The first 1,500 fans through the doors will receive a team photo.

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 Ford Box Office at the Richmond Coliseum or visit ticketmaster.com.