By Will Freeman
Pittsburgh Maulers 18
New Jersey Generals 29
Matchup in the North Division with the Generals already clinched one playoff spot while the Maulers need to win this game in order to stay in the hunt. The first score in the game came from the Generals running back Darius Victor with a 2 yard run thanks to a great setup from a big kickoff return from receiver Cam Echols-Luper and a extra 15 yards from a unnecessary roughness penalty. The Maulers then answered back with rushing touchdown of their own from their new starting quarterback Roland Rivers replacing Vad Lee from the previous week. The score at the end of the first was tied 7-7, but the second quarter was all Generals. The Generals first got another running score from Victor for 7 yards, a passing score from quarterback Luis Perez to star receiver KaVonte Turpin for 24 yards, kicker Austin Jones made a 50 yard field goal, but missed a PAT bringing the score at halftime 7-23 Generals.
The only lone score in the third was from the Maulers with now the league best 61 yard field goal from kicker Ramiz Ahmed. In the fourth quarter Victor got his third score with a running 1 yard touchdown to increase their lead, but the Generals went for a two point conversion and failed. The Maulers shortly scored after with a passing score from Rivers to receiver Isiah Hennie for 25 yards, and then got a successful two-point from a pass from Rivers to tight end Hunter Thedford. The Maulers instead of doing a kickoff went with the 4 and 12 conversion which was successful with a 18 yard pass caught by receiver Jalen McClensky. The Maulers were able to get into field goal range for Ahmed, but missed the 49 yard kick and ended anymore momentum for the Maulers with the final score 18-29 Generals. The Generals clinched the number one seed in the North Division while the Maulers are now out of playoffs for the remainder of the season. With possibility of a battle for last place in the division with the Panthers in Week 10.
New Orleans Breakers 9
Birmingham Stallions 10
Battle of the top two teams in the South Division and rematch from Week 3. Winner of this game will get the number 1 seed and loser more than likely will get the number 2 seed. This game was not the worst game this season, but it was the ugliest. Both teams defenses played well, but both offenses struggled with turnovers and both kickers missed field goals. The Stallions only touchdown in the game came near the end of the first quarter from quarterback J’Mar Smith to receiver Adrian Hardy for 27 yards. Breakers kicker Taylor Bertolet missed a 50 yard field goal in the second quarter, but was able to redeem himself making a 30 yard field goal to bring the score 3-7 Stallions. The Stallions defense on the next series intercepted Breakers quarterback Kyle Sloter by safety Tyree Robinson near the end of the half, but Stallions kicker Brandon Aubrey missed a 52 yard field goal to end the half.
The Breakers scored their touchdown in the beginning of the third quarter be a 3 yard run from running back Anthony Jones, but Bertolet missed the PAT taking the lead in the game 9-7. On the Stallions next offensive series Smith fumbled the ball and was taking out by Coach Holtz for Alex McGough, but then got injured on a 22 yard run and Smith cam back in the game. Smith’s throwing hand they got hit by a helmet and had to be taken out. With no other active quarterbacks on the active roster they had to go with wide receiver Marlon Williams as their emergency quarterback. Each teams kickers missed field goals until the final two minutes in the 4th quarter with Stallions kicker Brandon Aubrey getting a 29 yard field goal to take the lead by a point. The Stallions were able to survive by getting a interception from Kyle Sloter’s pass by cornerback Josh Shaw. That was Sloter’s third interception of the day. Stallions staying undefeated with the final score 9-10. Stallions have the number 1 seed no matter what and the Breakers can claim the number two seed by a Bandits loss on Sunday or beating the Bandits next week.
Michigan Panthers 24
Philadelphia Stars 46
This matchup in the North Division is for the second seed in the playoffs. If the Stars win they clinch and the Panthers are eliminated. If the Panthers win, win their next two, and hope the Stars lose their last two they clinched. The Stars made it look easy on their first drive with a passing score from quarterback Case Cookus to running back Matt Colburn II for 20 yards. Paxton Lynch started at quarterback for the Panthers and was intercepted by Stars safety LaDarius Wiley. The Stars quickly turned that turnover into points with a goal line running score by Colburn II. Bringing the score at the end of the first 0-14. The Panthers quickly answered back in the second quarter with Paxton Lynch’s own goal line score. The Stars scored quickly with a 5 yard passing score from Cookus to receiver Jordan Suell. The Panthers then scored 11 points with a 25 yard field goal by Cole Murphy, a passing touchdown from Lynch to tight end La’Micheal Pettway for 33 yards, and a successful two-point conversion run from running back Cameron Scarlett. Ending the half at the score of 18-21 Stars.
The third quarter started slow and was delayed with the injury to Panthers defensive end Tre Williams who had to be carted off the field, but he had movement with his hands and fingers. The first score in the third was a 38 yard field goal that came from Stars kicker Luis Aguilar to increase the Stars lead by 6. The Stars then increase their lead by 8 after their defense got another Lynch interception by cornerback Channing Stribling, with a 9 yard pass by Cookus to receiver Devon Gray, and a two-point conversion pass to running back to Colburn II to end the third with a score of 18-32. The Panthers woes continued after failing to convert a fourth down and a 51 yard passing score from Cookus to tight end Pro Wells. Just when it seemed that Panthers had momentum going done the field then Lynch fumbled the ball at the goal line. Then the bleeding just kept coming with a Cookus 79 yard running score. The Panthers were able to score again the final two minutes with a passing score from Lynch to Scarlett, failed on the three-point conversion with Lynch sacked by defensive tackle Cedrick Lattimore and failed on the alternative kickoff conversion to end the game with the score of 24-46. Stars cliched the second seed and the Panthers are eliminated. Still possible for a “Tank Bowl” with the Panthers vs Maulers in week 10.
Houston Gamblers 3
Tampa Bay Bandits 13
Matchup in the South Division where the Gamblers playoff hopes have already come to end, but the Bandits must win in order to keep them alive. The Gamblers were without three of the star players for this game. Quarterback Clayton Thorson, running back Mark Thompson, and receiver Isaiah Zuber. Kenji Muhar was the starting quarterback for the Gamblers. The first quarter was mostly a defensive back and forth until the Gamblers got into field goal range, but kicker Nick Vogel missed a 55 yard field goal. The first points scored did not come until the start of the second with Bandits kicker Tyler Rausa getting a 36 yard field goal taking the lead by three. The Bandits then increased their lead after their defense did a fourth down stop, a passing touchdown from Jordan Ta’amu to receiver Derrick Dillion for 7 yards. The Bandits defense soon after intercepted Bahar’s pass by safety Anthony Cioffi and increased their lead with a 33 yard field goal by Rasusa. The score at the end of the half 0-13 Bandits.
The Gamblers finally got on the board with a 44 yard field goal by Vogel. Then Vogel did an inside kickoff to recover his on kick for the Gamblers to get the ball back, but we’re not able to get anything from it with the Gamblers forced to punt. The Bandits got in field goal range, but Rausa missed the 47 yard field goal when it hit the upright post. The score at the end of the third quarter was 3-13 Bandits. The beginning of the fourth was a defensive battle with the Gamblers recovering a fumble by Bandits receiver John Franklin III and then the Bandits defense contain Muhar. The Gamblers intercepted Ta’amu by cornerback Bydarrius Knighten, but were unable to score within the final minutes. Final score 3-13 Bandits.
Week 8 games were all played in Legion Field due to a Garth Brooks concert at Protective Stadium. Legion Field is bigger than Protective Stadium so the crowd size was more apparent than usual on television. The North Division Playoff game is now set with the Generals vs Stars on June 25th in Canton, Ohio. In the South Division while the Stallions have the one seed the two seed is still up for grabs between the Breakers and the Bandits next week. The Breakers just need to win one of their next two games while Bandits need to win their next two.
Week 9 Picks
Generals vs Panthers Generals
Gamblers vs Stallions Stallions
Bandits vs Breakers Breakers
Stars vs Maulers Stars