Richmond Raiders Hammered by Big Returns

Long touchdowns on fumble, field goal runbacks spring Alabama to
16 point win

The Alabama Hammers used two long returns to build a 24 point lead and engineered a backbreaking touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter to stymie the Raiders’ hopes for a comeback, and clinched home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a 45-29 win in Huntsville Saturday night.

Both offenses struggled in the first half, and over 15 minutes of game time elapsed between touchdowns. The Raiders strung together three straight stops and trailed by just three points in the final minute as they drove to the Hammers’ three yard line. They were poised to at least tie the game, if not take the lead, right before halftime, and would receive the second half kickoff. But Rodney Sledge fumbled, Cortez Stubbs scooped up the loose ball, and raced 45 yards for a touchdown as the half expired.

The Raiders were down 24-7 in the third quarter and moved the ball to midfield before back-toback sacks pushed them to their six yard line. They were forced to try a 59 yard field goal, which landed in the hands of Charles McClain deep in the end zone. He weaved through traffic, followed a couple of blocks, and went coast to coast for a touchdown that put Alabama up 31-7. The Raiders’ defense held Alabama 14 points below their league-leading average thanks to a couple of sacks and limiting Russell Hill to a season low 45% passing (14 of 31). Coupled with an offense that found some consistency – scoring three straight touchdowns and getting T.C. Stevens’ third uno of the game – they rallied to within nine points with 6:13 to play in the fourth quarter. They needed a stop to have a chance at extending the game, but Russell Hill and the Hammers engineered a nine play, 45 yard drive that lasted until the one minute warning, when Hill connected with Larry Shipp from a yard out on fourth and goal. Alabama’s defense, which racked up six sacks, punctuated the game with their fourth takeaway when Warren Smith was hit in the pocket and fumbled on the Raiders’ next play.

Smith threw interceptions on the Raiders’ first possession of each half and finished with 202 yards and two touchdowns on 20 of 26 passing, and added another score on the ground. Hill threw for three touchdowns and ran for a fourth. Two of those scores went to Mico McSwain, one of which was a 40-yarder on which McSwain turned a screen pass into a big play with a sprint down the sideline.

The Raiders drop into a tie for third place with the Lehigh Valley SteelHawks. They hold the tiebreaker over Lehigh Valley, though, and will clinch a playoff berth with a win next week at home against the Louisiana Swashbucklers. Tickets are available through richmondraidersprofootball.com, by calling 804-780-0430, or via Ticketmaster.