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Power grab dramatic win |

Power grab dramatic win

Jerry DiPaola
| Sunday, May 15, 2011 12:00 a.m

Bernard Morris’ arm, the sure hands of Jason Willis and Mike Washington and — of all things — coach Chris Siegfried’s memory converged Saturday night at Consol Energy Center to lead the Pittsburgh Power to a dramatic 54-48 victory against the San Jose SaberCats.

The deciding score was a 31-yard touchdown pass from Morris to Willis with 14 seconds to go – thanks to Siegfried noticing a new guy, defensive back Chris Royal, in the San Jose secondary.

“We knew he didn’t have his legs under him,” Siegfried said of Royal, who just joined the SaberCats last week. “We felt we had a good matchup.”

Willis, who caught four of Morris’ season-high eight touchdown passes, ran by Royal and caught the touchdown pass with little resistance.

“I didn’t even get a chance to run my full route,” said Willis, who totaled six receptions for 88 yards.

Morris recovered nicely after hurting his back in the first quarter and throwing two interceptions and losing two fumbled snaps.

“The guys have a lot of fight in them,” Siegfried said. “Now they are starting to believe.”

The victory in front of a crowd of 7,333 was the Power’s third in the past four weeks and launched the Arena Football League expansion team (5-4) to within a half-game of the first-place Cleveland Gladiators in the Arena Football League’s American Conference East. The Gladiators lost to the Orlando Predators, 56-26.

The victory marked the midway point of the AFL season for the Power, who are off this week, but play six of their final nine games on the road.

When the Power open the second half of the season May 28 in Dallas, they may be without center Sione Ohuafi, who hurt his shoulder last night.

The SaberCats scored touchdowns on seven of their first 10 possessions, but the game’s outcome hung in the balance when the Power — trailing, 48-40 — turned away San Jose on downs on three consecutive drives late in the fourth quarter.

After the first stop, the Power returned the ball to the SaberCats two minutes later when Morris’ fourth-down pass missed receiver Craig Fulton Jr., who was open in the end zone.

After the second, Washington scored his fourth touchdown on an 18-yard pass from Morris with 2:30 left, but he couldn’t hold on to the conversion pass that would have tied the score at 48.

Overall, Washington finished with 12 receptions for 120 yards. Morris totaled 24 completions in 39 attempts for 263 yards.

When the Power defense stepped up a third time, it led to Willis’ decisive touchdown.

Then, on the last play of the game, the Power defensive back Royce Adams tackled wide receiver Burt Toler on the 3.

Morris looked like he might leave the game in the first quarter when he was hit hard by defensive lineman George Hypolite.

Morris remained on the turf for several minutes while trainers tended to him, but he didn’t miss a play.
He did throw an interception and lost a fumbled snap on his next two plays deep in Power territory, leading to two quick San Jose touchdowns. That erased the Power’s 14-0 lead and gave the SaberCats a 21-14 advantage at the end of the first quarter.

Siegfried was proud that his team was able to come from behind to defeat San Jose, which came into the game with a 5-3 record.

“They are first-class organization,” he said of the SaberCats. “But we are, too.”

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review pitt football reporter. You can contact Jerry at 412-320-7997, or via Twitter .

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