Playoff Bound Baltimore Remains in Hunt for Division Title
BALTIMORE, MD (June 14, 2009) – Led by four touchdown passes and a rushing score by Quarterback E.J. Nemeth and a key play by Defensive Back Richard Johnson, the playoff bound Baltimore Mariners stayed in the hunt for the American Indoor Football Association (AIFA) North Division title, by harnessing the Harrisburg Stampede 58-55.
Early in the contest it appeared Harrisburg would payback Baltimore for booting them out of the playoff race, as they held a 27-14 lead with 2:45 left in the first quarter. Johnson, however, completed a dazzling 47-yard interception return for a touchdown as time expired in the first period of play to decrease the Stampede’s edge to 27-21.
In two earlier defensive struggles the Stampede and Mariners, averaged 67.5 points per game as Harrisburg won 37-34 on March 28th and the Mariners won 37-27 on May 2nd; with both contests in Pennsylvania. The move to Baltimore for this match-up produced an offensive encounter as the two teams totaled nine touchdowns and 66 points in an electrifying first half of play, ending with Harrisburg holding a 34-32 lead. With the Mariners needing a win to keep pace in the North Division race, the Stampede seemed intent on bursting Baltimore’s title bubble.
The Mariners quickly got their title aspirations back on track as the AIFA’s leading field goal kicker, Baltimore’s J.R. Cipra, kicked his second field goal of the game to provide the Mariners the lead for good (35-34) at the 12:29 mark of the third quarter. Cipra added a rouge on the ensuing kickoff and Nemeth completed a 3-yard touchdown run to boost Baltimore’s lead to 43-34 with 8:30 remaining in the quarter. Harrisburg quickly fought back as Stampede QB Shayne Milligan completed his third touchdown pass of the day to cut the lead to 43-41 with 4:36 left in the third.
After a thirteen minute scoring lull for both teams, Nemeth connected on his fourth touchdown pass of the game, and third to wide receiver Aaron Yarbough, and Cipra added the extra point and his second rouge of the contest to increase the Mariner lead to 51-41 with 5:38 remaining in the game.
Harrisburg again bolted back with a Eugene Goodman 45-yard touchdown run to cut the margin to 51-47. Held in check for most of the day by the Stampede’s second ranked defense, Baltimore back Isaiah Greer gained his only touchdown of the day and 19th of the season to provide Baltimore with its final mark of 58 with just under two minutes left to play.
Harrisburg proved it had one more burst of energy as Milligan completed his fourth touchdown pass of the afternoon and added a two-point conversion run to cut the Mariner lead to 58-55 with 52 second left. Electing not to try an onside kick the Stampede kicked away, Baltimore retained possession, and ran the clock out to run their record to 8-4.
Now with just two weeks left on the schedule the Mariners trail the Reading Express (10-3) by 1½ games. Holding the tie-breaker after two early season wins against Reading, Baltimore now needs to win its remaining two games at the South Carolina Force on June 20th and home versus the D.C. Armor on June 27th. They then need the Stampede to defeat Reading in their contest on June 27th, in Harrisburg, for the Mariners to clinch the division title. Regardless of the outcome of the final games the Mariners will face the Express in the first round of the playoffs; with home field to be determined.
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