The Pittsburgh Power returned to the Consol Energy Center Saturday night looking to turn things around after they lost to the Utah Blaze, 81-40 last week. Entering the contest, the Power were tied with the Cleveland Gladiators for the top record in the Eastern Division of the American Conference at 7-6. The Power’s opponent on Saturday, the Milwaukee Mustangs, were dead last in the division at 4-9 and are last in the league in passing. On paper, it looked to be an easy win before the flip of the coin for the Power. However, if games were decided on paper, there would be no reason to play.
The Power and Mustangs put on quite a show for the 8,227 fans in attendance for the “whiteout” contest. While the Power and Mustangs are on opposite sides of the standings, they entered play with a similar situation – both entered with new quarterbacks. For the Power, Bernard Morris was questionable all week and was dressed, but did not play. That left the recently acquired veteran Chris “Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace as the Power’s quarterback for the contest. For the Mustangs, Gino Guidulgli got the nod. In such a tight division race, the Power needed players to step up and win this game for them to keep up to par with Cleveland. Luckily for Wallace and the Power, he had some receivers who put their hands in the air, like they were some true players.
If you are new to the AFL, you may not have noticed anything different about this game, but for seasoned vets, this was a sloppy one. After a missed field goal by Paul Edinger of the Power, the Mustangs took an early 3-0 lead off the foot of Garrett Lindholm. Wallace directed his troops downfield with a 21-yard strike to Lonnell Dewalt. The Power struck again, when hometown kid Josh Lay picked off Guidulgli for a 29-yard touchdown to put the Power up 13-3.
After the Mustangs brought the score to 13-10, Wallace hit Mike “Joystick” Washington with a pretty 27-yard touchdown pass to put the Power up 20-10. After trading touchdowns back-and-forth, this is where the sloppy play started to get noticed by the players and the referees. It looked as if Josh Lay picked off a pass to stop a late first half push by the Mustangs, but the Power were called for their 9th penalty of the game. As the Mustangs regained control of the ball, they elected to go for a field goal to end the half. However, Terrance Carter of the Power wasn’t going to let them settle for 3 points as he busted through the line to preserve the halftime lead of 26-17.
The Mustangs opened the second half with a huge return by Kelvin Rodgers, before being called back for a holding penalty of their own. Guidulgli didn’t let it phase him as he connected with Dwayne Eley Jr. for a touchdown, making the score 26-24. The opening drive of the second half was big for the Power, who lately, can’t seem to score in the third quarter. The veteran Wallace, made a rookie mistake by trying to force the ball into the endzone and ended up having it intercepted by Milwaukee’s Andre Jones.
After the turnover, Milwaukee was able to advance the ball to the 1/2 yard line, but another penalty forced them to go back to the 5. Lonnell Dewalt stepped up and picked off Guidulgli to end the scoring threat. After the turnover, Wallace hit Jason Willis for a big gain, but Willis then fumbled the ball and Milwaukee recovered. After seeing review of the play on video over and over, it was clear that Willis was down and the refs got this one wrong.
“I don’t know if Willis was down or not, but he’s on our team so of course he will say he was down,” said Power coach Chris Siegfried after the game. “It’s a tough game to officiate and a fast game to officiate, but my thing is if he doesn’t let go of the ball at all, there wouldn’t be a reason to let the official affect the outcome,” Siegfried added.
After the turnover, Guidulgli hit Eley for an 8-yard strike, his second touchdown of the game, giving the Mustangs a 31-26 lead with 12:07 remaining. Wallace and the Power tried to answer, but came up short as they turned the ball over on downs. Guidulgli went on to hit Eley with a 33-yard touchdown, his third of the night, to push the score to 38-26. After a quick touchdown from Wallace to Irving Campbell cut the score to 38-32, the Power went for an onside kick, but were unsuccessful as the Mustangs started their drive on the Power’s 6-yard line.
With little time remaining, the Power defense rose to the occasion and stopped the Mustangs on fourth and goal. Milwaukee elected to go for the 16-yard field goal but missed wide left, giving the Power the ball with 1:41 remaining in the game. After a pass interference call, Wallace marched the Power down to the Mustang’s 14-yard line. You could say that this is where the game really began. With only 23 seconds remaining, Wallace fumbled the snap from Sione Ohuafi and Milwaukee recovered the ball. Unlike the NFL, teams in the Arena League aren’t able to kneel the ball, so the Mustangs were forced to run a play.
As the stadium started to empty, the unthinkable happened. Guidulgli took the snap and ran to the right off-tackle and fumbled the ball. Tyrrell Herbert of the Power recovered and just as all hope seemed gone, the Power were back in it and the fans started piling back into their seats.
“I get frustrated at the fans that leave the game early. We had 2 timeouts and we only had to stop their momentum once and we would get at least one chance to win this game,” Siegfried stated.
After Wallace looked for Campbell on a post route that sent him over the wall, the Power were faced with a 3rd and 16 with only 7 seconds left to play. Wallace took the snap, avoided pressure from the Mustang defense and scrambled to his right. The clock then struck zero and Wallace put it best.
“Lonnell (Dewalt) and I locked eyes and I motioned for him to go to the left. I threw the ball up for him to get and then got popped to the ground, helmet falling off and such. I know if you are playing at home and you hear an ‘ugh’, then that can’t be good. Laying on the ground, I heard the roar and I knew we won the game,” Wallace said with a smile.
And Wallace heard right. After an amazing scramble, Wallace threw a perfect 16-yard ball where only Dewalt could catch it that sent him over the wall and sent the Power away with a low-scoring 39-38 victory.
“Our guys never quit. The second half was ugly, but our guys showed some perseverance tonight. It was just an incredible game and the ending was worth all of the pain and suffering of the second half,” Siegfried told reporters after the game.
It was a big win for the Power as they remain tied with the Cleveland Gladiators after they crushed the San Jose Sabercats 82-21. The Power square off against the Orlando Predators next Friday in Orlando and hope to have starting quarterback Bernard Morris back.
“At this point, Bernard is probable for next week, but you never know. He has an AC sprain in his shoulder and also an ankle injury,” Siegfried said updating the status of the Power quarterback.
If Morris can’t go, coach Siegfried has all the confidence in the world in Wallace.
“We brought Chris in and he knows the game as good as anyone out here and he and Morris work great together. We need the veteran leadership and he takes control in the huddle and I’ll tell you what, he made a few huge throws,” said Siegfried about his quarterback.
As wide receiver Mike “Joystick” Washington said, the one thing they need to clean up is the penalties. The Power ended the game with 13 penalties for 73 yards.
“Man penalties, penalties, penalties, penalties. We shot ourselves in the foot with them and when you give up 72-yards from penalties, it’s basically giving away a touchdown,” Washington said.
If Morris can’t go, Wallace proved to the Power that he is more than able to handle the load. Wallace finished going 19-33 for 253 yards, throwing 5 touchdowns and 1 interception. Dwayne Eley led the way for the Mustang offense with 11 catches for 144 yards and 3 touchdowns.
The Power play three of their final four games on the road with their opponents having a combined record of 34-24, including the showdown with Cleveland in Cleveland July 15th. The Power (8-6) return back to the Consol Energy Center July 10th against the Arizona Rattlers (13-2).
About the Author
Written by Michael Waterloo
I'm currently pursuing my Master's degree in Communication and Journalism from Clarion University. I currently work for Ohio Valley Athletics where I serve as the West Virginia Football Beat Writer and cover West Virginia Men's Basketball as well. I'm a big Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers and Oregon Ducks fan. Follow me on Twitter at @MichaelWaterloo or visit www.ovathletics.com