Raiders Defeat SteelHawks, 66-64

Smith, Marshall lead Raiders comeback

 Team rallies from 21 points down to beat Lehigh Valley, 66-64

The Raiders rallied from a 21 point deficit and bottled up the Lehigh Valley offense in the second half en route to their second win over the SteelHawks in three weeks, 66-64 at Stabler Arena. Warren Smith threw for eight touchdowns and RoShawn Marshall intercepted Adam Bednarik on the ‘Hawks’ last two possessions to seal the victory.

Lehigh Valley held a 12 point lead at halftime but managed just one touchdown after the break. The Raiders’ defense, which utilized a defensive lineman and linebacker by committee approach, limited the SteelHawks to field goals to finish the third quarter, and came up with takeaways at the most important junctures in the game. The first came after the Raiders turned the ball over on downs after failing on fourth and goal from the one yard line, and the second came as Lehigh Valley was driving to the Raiders’ 15 yard line with less than a minute to go.

Early on, the game looked like it might turn into a runaway.  John Kennedy recovered a fumble when Warren Smith got hit in the pocket, and picked off Smith in the span of three drives.  The SteelHawk offense showed why it was the league’s most potent, racking up touchdowns the first five times they had the ball and putting up 51 points in the first half. When Adam Bednarik hooked up with Tom Gilson from nine yards out as the first quarter ended, it was 29-8 and the Raiders were reeling.

Smith quickly righted the ship, engineering a quick 25 yard touchdown drive, then throwing three straight TD passes to Jason Lovett, who finished with six receptions, five for scores, and 138 yards.  The Raiders drew to within a touchdown twice in the second quarter, but after Bednarik ran for his second TD, had to settle for a field goal on fourth and goal with four seconds left.

Hakeem Moore became Smith’s target of choice in the third quarter, hauling in touchdowns of 33 and 32 yards.  Meanwhile, the defense harassed Bednarik to the tune of just 5-for-15 and 50 yards in the second half. Lovett’s final touchdown brought the Raiders to within two, but Evan Selman’s second field goal gave the SteelHawks some breathing room. The Raiders were poised to take their first lead since the opening kickoff and drove inside the Lehigh Valley 10, but Smith was stopped short of the end zone on a third down keeper, and lost four yards on fourth down.

The SteelHawks had the ball, the lead, and the momentum, but lost all three in the span of three plays.  Marshall picked off a long Bednarik pass and returned it to the 10, and Smith hit Herb Jones on the next play to put the Raiders up by two with 4:16 remaining.  Lehigh Valley took more than three minutes off the clock and were poised to at least get a short field goal to take the lead, but for the second straight week, they turned the ball over in the final minute.  Marshall stepped in front of Bednarik’s pass at the five yard line, returned it to the 21, and two Rodney Sledge runs later, the Raiders had the win.

The Raiders set season highs in points and in total yards (361).  Smith ended with 327 yards on 18 completions with eight touchdowns.  Lovett and Moore each caught six passes for over 130 yards.  The Raiders moved to 4-2 and into sole possession of second place behind the 5-2 Alabama Hammers.

The Raiders will return home next week to face the Albany Panthers in a rematch of last year’s championship game.  Kickoff is at 7:00 pm, and tickets are available through richmondraidersprofootball.com, by calling 804-780-0430, or via Ticketmaster.

###