Power storms past Iowa to clinch franchise’s 1st playoff berth
The Power’s 57-27 victory Friday night against the Iowa Barnstormers appeared routine. Except for one important fact: The victory earned the Power a playoff berth for the first time in the franchise’s four-year existence.
Coach Ron James was proud of the victory, but he is more interested in how the team will respond the rest of the season.
“You want confidence,” he said. “You don’t want cockiness. We are not going to break our arms patting ourselves on the back.”
Snapshots from the historic victory at Consol Energy Center were not unfamiliar to anyone that has paid attention this season.
• The Power (11-3) have won eight in a row — every game since a loss in Cleveland on April 26.
• Power quarterback Tommy Grady threw seven touchdown passes, giving him 86 for the season. He completed 24 of 31 passes for 334 yards, moving him into 13th place on the Arena Football League’s all-time list with 21,693 yards.
• Defensive backs Brandon Freeman and Andre Jones each recorded an interception for a team total of 30 that leads the league.
• And refusing to be ignored, linebacker James Bryant posed for the Consol Energy Crowd after recording a sack with defensive lineman Maurice Fountain. The defense was dominant, holding the opponent under 35 points for the sixth time and recording its league-high fourth safety.
Despite holding the Barnstormers to one touchdown after halftime, Bryant wasn’t happy.
“They shouldn’t have scored at all,” he said.
He also angrily responded to what he called repeated cut blocks and holding this season by opposing players.
“I want somebody to play us head-up,” he said. “Man-to-man. You play heads-up football with us, you are going to lose. You are going to get blown out of the water.
“I talked to the officials about it, but the officials aren’t going to (anything).”
The good news is the victory moved the Power to within a game of first place in the American Conference East, at least until first-place Cleveland (11-1) plays the Soul in Philadelphia on Saturday. The Power, who had an announced crowd of 6,657, have four games left in the regular season — only one at home (July 26 against the Soul). The Gladiators will have five after Saturday’s game.
The Barnstormers managed to keep the outcome in doubt in the third quarter, rallying to within 28-27 on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Carson Coffman to wide receiver Darius Reynolds. The Power kept the Iowa drive alive by committing four penalties in six snaps that resulted in first downs, including two holding calls and a pass interference against Freeman.
But Grady immediately stretched the lead to 35-27 on a 9-yard scoring toss to Rodney Wright.
The Power struggled early in the game, but rallied to take a 21-20 lead at halftime.
The Power failed to score on their first possession after Freeman returned an interception 26 yards to the 6, but they responded with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Grady to Rodney Wright to forge a 7-7 tie at the end of the first quarter.
Grady also hit Shaun Kauleinamoku with a 24-yard scoring toss, and fullback Tommy Taggert scored from the 1 with 10 seconds left in the first half.