Mariners Drop First Round Playoff Game to Reading Express 50-20
Baltimore, Maryland (July 2, 2009) – As Baltimore Mariners’ coaches, fans, players and staff gathered for one last post-game photo to close out the 2009 season, the Mariners’ Greg Justice stood before the group and said, “As a player, coach, and GM, I am very proud.” And he had every right to be. Despite the Mariners 50-20 loss to the Reading Express, which knocked them from the American Indoor Football Association (AIFA) playoff race, the second year team had just completed a remarkable turnaround from 4-10 expansion team to a 9-5 playoff team in just 12 months.
On this night the Mariners would be outplayed by the Express as their star quarterback, Rob Flowers completed 20 of 33 passes for 262 yards, including five touchdown strikes, while the Express defense held Mariners’ QB E.J. Nemeth to 8 of 23 passing for 115 yards and two late touchdown tosses. As the Mariners contingent gathered on the field at Sovereign Center, while disappointment was obvious on the face of many, the post-game gathering became a cathartic experience of sorts as players, coaches, staff, and fans hugged, shook hands, and exchanged thanks for a great season.
As a team, the Mariners experienced many high points during a season, which saw their win tally increase by five from the 2008 season. Highlights included a 2-0 record against the Express, the three-time defending North Division champions, a four-game win streak, in which they averaged 56 points per game, while clinching the organizations first playoff berth. Plus, a season-finale victory against the D.C. Armor, wherein they established team records for points scored and points against in a 70-22 rout. As a unit they also led the 14-team league in numerous categories including: rushing offense, points scored kicking, interceptions, interception return touchdowns, and turnover margin.
Individually there were many monumental performances. Running Back Isaiah Grier led the AIFA in rushing with 514 yards and finished second with 20 rushing scores. Nemeth established himself as the Mariners’ quarterback starting all 14 games and compiling 36 touchdown passes, 2,115 passing yards, and 13 rushing touchdowns. Nemeth also relied on a trio of receivers Scorpio Brown, Jamaal Stokes, and Aaron Yarbough who totaled 156 receptions, 1,848 receiving yards, and 32 touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Mariners played a ball hawking style, which was led by Defensive Back Armar Watson, who topped the AIFA in interceptions (17), interception return yards (295), and finished second with three interception return touchdowns. Fellow defensive back, Andre Letren tied a league record with five interceptions in the team’s final win against D.C., while DB Richard Johnson finished 25th in the AIFA, averaging 3.2 tackles per game.
The Mariners also had some league leaders among the special teams’ corps as Kicker J.R. Cipra led the league in kicking, scoring 191 points, and also led the AIFA in field goal attempts (63) and field goals made (34). Defensive standout Watson also made his mark on the league’s special team rankings as he topped the AIFA in missed field goal returns and yards.
With a cast of league leading stars and a team built on character and unity, the Mariners will now take a brief respite and start building for 2010 when they will resume their quest for a league championship ring.
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