Quarterback and Defense Shine in Trenton Freedom Opening Win
TRENTON – Quarterback Warren Smith accounted for six touchdowns but it was the defense that stole the show Sunday at the Sun National Bank Center. The Trenton Freedom blasted the Richmond Raiders 52-17 in the organization’s first game.
Four plays into the game, Smith (17-20-170 yards, 4 TDs) found the end zone for the first time with 15-yard dart to Antoine Rivera.
The defense, led by linebacker Jerome Hayes, took over from there. On the opening drive, Hayes covered the field like a mad man. He punished receivers who dared run short routes and ran down receivers that broke initial tackles in the secondary. Hayes ended Richmond’s first drive with a recovery of a botched snap inside the five-yard line.
Smith scored his second touchdown of the game, this time on a 6-yard scamper.
“Our defense played lights out and offensively we just took what they gave us,” the quarterback said after the game. “I was a little surprised by the outcome but that’s why you play the game. Holding a team to 17 points in indoor football is unheard of.”
Defensive back Dominic Joseph added to the outstanding defensive effort on the next series when he stepped in front of an errant Malik White (21-32-248 yards, 2 TDs) pass and maneuvered his way 36 yards for a touchdown.
“I just knew that I couldn’t go straight, so I just started cutting it back and I looked to my left and saw all linemen so I had to give them a little dead leg.” Joseph joked after the game.
Smith tossed two more touchdowns before the half as Trenton (1-0) stretched out to a 34-0 lead before Richmond (0-1) got on the board with a TC Stevens field goal on the last play of the half.
Melik Brown scored the only points of the third period with a one-yard plunge, as the Freedom put the game out of reach. Freedom coach Kevin O’Hanlon spoke about necessary improvements before next week’s road game against the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks.
“I think we tackled poorly today in the secondary,” O’Hanlon started. “We have to get a little better in conditioning.”
Conditioning may have been the reason for his second point.
“I would have liked more points. I am not going to lie to you. Seventeen points is too many to give up, we left nine points on the field. I don’t think we finished well,” O’Hanlon said. “I think we scored 18 points (in the second half), that’s not too many. We gave up 14, we won the second half, but we didn’t dominate like we should have.”
The biggest red flag was an area O’Hanlon addressed at media day. He worried about his special teams unit as a lot of preparation went into the offense and defensive sides of the ball, leaving trepidation on the coach’s mind about specials. He knows improvements are needed in that arena.
“Our kicker,” O’Hanlon started. “We left 12 points on the field and we just can’t do that, there should be no returns and you saw what happened. We started having to defend the other side of our twenty. The field is short enough and we can’t keep doing that to ourselves.”
When asked about a possible roster move, O’Hanlon pulled no punches.
“Yes Sir,” O’Hanlon stated. “Always looking to improve and get better and I think that is something we have to do.”
When asked about the play of his dynamic quarterback, O’Hanlon smiled and said,
“Warren is the man.”
O’Hanlon then credited the signal caller for making great decisions on the field.
“Zero runs were called for Warren those runs were him making plays on his own. My heart went up in my throat a little bit especially when he made a cut and caught a flat (on a 40-yard touchdown run), but he regained his balance and off he went.”
After next week’s road game, the Freedom host the Columbus Lions Saturday April 19 at the Sun Bank National Center with kickoff scheduled for 7 PM.
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