Power hold on for 11th straight win
DES MOINES, Iowa — The dream continued for the Power on Saturday night as they slipped by the struggling Iowa Barnstormers, 59-56, to capture their 11th consecutive Arena Football League win.
Power kicker Julian Rauch connected on a 22-yard field goal as time expired — his third game-winner of the season. The Power improved to 14-3, while the Barnstormers fell to 6-11 with their sixth straight loss.
“We pretty much knew that game was wrapped up when (Rauch) went out there,” Power quarterback Tommy Grady said. “He’s pretty consistent on big games and at the end of games. We’ve relied on him a few times, and he’s come through every time.”
Grady, who finished with 310 yards and six touchdowns, became the 10th quarterback in AFL history to throw for 500 touchdowns. He has 505 in his career.
“I was trying to throw one touchdown at a time when I started off in this league,” Grady said. “This is my fifth year now and stats rack up, and health is a big issue, and I’ve played with some great receivers and some great lineman. It’s a collective effort from all of those guys.”
It appeared the Power would roll after defensive back Virgil Gray returned a Hail Mary attempt 50 yards for a score as time expired in the first half to give the Power a 35-19 lead.
But the Barnstormers would not surrender, and Iowa receiver Darius Reynolds was unstoppable in the third quarter, catching three touchdowns from Carson Coffman.
The Barnstormers regained a lead they hadn’t had since the first quarter when Reynolds caught a sixth touchdown from Coffman early in the fourth.
After a quick counter from the Power, Iowa converted a rare field goal to give it a 50-49 advantage after the Power defense came up with three stops with Iowa on the 2.
The teams traded touchdowns, but Iowa kicker Ross Gornall missed his third point-after attempt, and the score stayed 56-56.
Masterful clock management down the stretch by the Power solidified a chance for Rauch to hit the game-winning field goal.
“We’ve got a gritty team, a team that accepts nothing more than winning games,” Power coach Ron James said. “But we’re just not pleased with how we handled the last two games on the road. We’re going to have to be in the road for the playoffs, and we’re going to have to play better.”
Reynolds was sensational, tying a franchise record with seven touchdown receptions.
The Power will play Philadelphia next week before facing Orlando in the first round of the playoffs.
T.J. Rushing is a freelance writer.