Third Time is a Charm: Trenton Freedom Defeats Lehigh Valley Steelhawks
TRENTON – Third time is a charm. The Trenton Freedom remained undefeated at home and finally defeated the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks after two losses earlier this season. Behind a balanced offense and up and down defensive play, the Freedom remained in first place with a 55-42 victory Saturday night at the Sun National Bank Center in Professional Indoor Football League (PIFL) action.
Quarterback Warren Smith started the game on fire. The Maine graduate connected on four of his first six passes and found Roger “Spider” Jackson (four catches 40 yards, 2 TD) for an early six-yard touchdown strike. Player of the game, William Hollis (2.5 sacks 3.5 tackles for loss, and a forced fumble) registered his first sack of the game as Trenton (6-2) held Lehigh Valley (4-3) scoreless in the opening quarter.
When Melik Brown (12 rushes, 30 yards, 3 TDs) barreled in from a yard out early in the second quarter, Trenton earned a two score lead. Lehigh Valley battled back behind a first-time starter at quarterback. Harassed on the opening drive, Shane McSweeny (16-19 for 213 yards and four TDs) found his rhythm. The elusive signal caller completed eight of his first nine passed and somersaulted in from a yard for Lehigh Valley’s first score.
“I knew he could run,” Freedom coach Kevin O’Hanlon said of McSweeny. “I love how he kept his composure because we were pounding him. He kept his composure and they began running the ball.”
Smith (21-30 for 172 yards, 3 TDs) drove the Freedom down the field and found an open JaQuan Smith streaking down the middle of the field for a 24-yard score. In a flash, McSweeny struck again, this time hitting a wide-open Brandon Renford (4 receptions, 62 yards, TDs) on a 40-yard strike.
“Our secondary didn’t play well,” O’Hanlon said after the game. “I should say our middle didn’t play well, even when we made the adjustment we didn’t play well.”
Lehigh Valley pulled within a touchdown on two quick McSweeny touchdown tosses.
Trenton kept the distance with Smith’s second connection with Jackson that ignited a 21-point run. McSweeny connected with Richie Martin (10 receptions, 127 yards, and 2 TDs) then Dwayne Hollis made it close with a long touchdown return of a missed Shawn Leo field goal.
Coach O’Hanlon showed frustration in assessing the play of his team.
“We are 6-2, but we are not playing like a 6-2 team. I think it is an easy fix. I just think this is a rivalry where we had to win, we wanted to win, we wanted control, but we won’t get away with that the rest of the season. We can’t win a championship playing like that; we have to fix it. There were breakdowns in coverages; we had problems with our safety. What really ticked me off was when they got a touchdown down here by splitting the guy wide and we still didn’t cover it. We told them where they would be. We told them,” he stated.
After getting that out of his system, first-year coach calmed down and shared what he told quarterback Warren Smith during the third quarter when the offense sputtered.
“I told him he was playing like a bum,” O’Hanlon started. “Then he started getting on my defense, so I told him when he starts hitting the open receiver he can start getting on my defensive guys and he turned it around, so I guess he gets to make some calls.”
After a bye week, Trenton takes on Harrisburg in the first of two road games. The Freedom then travel to Alabama before returning home for the final home game against the Georgia Fire on June 21st.
Check out the box score here: FreedomLehigh.
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