Trenton Freedom Squeak Past Richmond, Remain Undefeated
TRENTON – There is stealing a game and then there is what happened Saturday night at the Sun National Bank Center. Shawn Leo’s 28-yard boot pulled victory from the jaws of defeat, as the Trenton Freedom remained undefeated at home with a 33-32 victory over the Richmond Raiders in Professional Indoor Football League (PIFL) action.
One member of the Freedom never doubted that there would be opportunities for his squad, even as things looked bleak.
“There is always an opportunity, especially in a game like this,” kicker Shawn Leo calmly said after the game. “It’s always going to be a close game; both teams are going to battle. I knew I was going to have an opportunity at some point.”
Richmond (1-4) held a 32-16 lead with 1:44 remaining in the game before Trenton (3-2) put together a comeback for the ages. Struggling quarterback Warren Smith (29-47-238, 3 td, 3 int) connected with Roger “Spider” Jackson for a 17-yard touchdown. On the play, Jackson caught the ball in play as he tumbled head-over-heels over the wall for the touchdown.
“Our offense was outphysical – ed up front for most of the game,” a spent Freedom coach Kevin O’Hanlon said after the game. “Warren (quarterback Warren Smith) spun out. You would see me holding him, asking him general questions just to calm him down. When he finally calmed down, we still were not winning the war up front. After Spider’s big catch, the O-line saw how he sold out and said ‘we can do the same.’ Once that happened, you saw what we can do. We are a great team, not good but great.”
On the ensuing possession, Richmond quarterback Phil Konopka fumbled the snap and Freedom linebacker Jerome Hayes recovered and breathed life back into the arena. Trailing by eight points, the Freedom needed a touchdown and a two-point conversion to force a tie and this was a start. Smith connected with Landis Williams five plays later for a three-yard score, but the conversion failed.
Williams lived up to his nickname with the way he clung to the loose pigskin on the onside kick, the ball skidded past three Raiders before the receiver pounced on it and gained possession for the Freedom with less than 30 seconds remaining. Aided by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, the Freedom moved into position for Leo’s kick.
“I’ve done it a million other times, it’s the same kick,” Leo said. “I’ve had one (game winner) in college at Westchester, we practice here all of the time, and it is the same kick.
As the offense sputtered, the Freedom defense kept the score from getting out of hand with some strong individual performances. Marques Slocum registered three sacks, and forced and recovered a fumble, while Gerrard Bryant tossed in 2.5 sacks of his own. Defensive backs Bryan Andrews and Dominic Joseph combined for 11 tackles and three defended passes.
“I think a lot of people need to understand that Slocum is a beast,” O’Hanlon said. “He is a man amongst kids, but Gerrard Bryant and William Hollis with their slight builds keep playing the game and opening things up for him. Teams can’t double either of them, because if they double team the nose (Slocum), here comes Jerome (linebacker Jerome Hayes).”
The Freedom put their undefeated home record on the line when they host the Harrisburg Stampede (2-3) in a special Mother’s Day matinee Sunday at 2 pm.
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