Moniz throws seven touchdowns as Force defeat the Predators, 56-53
The Georgia Force and Orlando Predators met Sunday afternoon at the Arena at Gwinnett Center in an Arena Football League South Division matchup that was critical to the Force (8-8) and their postseason aspirations. While Georgia needed a win to keep pace in the division, Orlando (2-13) needed a win to avoid going winless on the road for the season. The Force scored first and never trailed as Bryant Moniz made his first start in front of the home fans and led Georgia to a 56-53 win over the visiting Predators.
The Force won the coin toss and deferred until the second half, opting to put their defense on the field first. Coach Dean Cokinos decision to kickoff quickly proved to be the right one as the Georgia D earned a stop on the Predators opening possession. Moniz connected with CJ Johnson for a 28-yard touchdown on their first possession and, after Carlos Martinez was good on the extra-point, the Force were on top 7-0 with 7:53 remaining in the opening stanza. The drive included a fourth and six that the offense converted that kept the drive alive. The Georgia defense stepped up again on Orlando’s next drive by keeping them out of the end zone and forcing the Predators to settle for a 19-yard field goal by Mark Lewis that cut the Georgia lead to 7-3.
Trying to catch the Force kick return team unprepared, the Predators attempted an onside kick and were unsuccessful. Moniz took advantage of the field position and hit Larry Shipp for a 12-yard score. Martinez was good on the PAT as the clock ran out to end the quarter with Georgia holding a 14-3 advantage.
Orlando scored their first touchdown of the game with 11:06 left in the first half when Chris Leak and Jarvis Williams hooked up. After the extra-point by Lewis the Predators were to within four, 14-10. ‘Mighty Mo’ led the Georgia offense on a four-minute drive that ended with Moniz connecting with Shay Hodge for a nine-yard touchdown. Martinez was good on the PAT and the Force extended their lead to 21-10. With under a minute to play in the half Leak found TT Toliver for an 18-yard score, and after the PAT the Force lead was 21-17. Orlando attempted another onside kick and again they failed, giving the Force the ball at the six-yard line. Fullback Benji McDowell tucked the rock and scored on a one-yard plunge that pushed the lead to 28-17 after Martinez was good on the extra-point. With less than 10 seconds left in the second half, Leak hit Glen Fox for a 13-yard TD. Lewis was good on the PAT and the first half ended with the Force holding a slim four-point lead, 28-24.
The third quarter saw Moniz toss three-yard scoring passes to Hodge and Mike Johnson while Leak and Fox teamed up for their second touchdown pass-and-catch of the game. Down 35-30, Orlando went for a two-point conversion to cut the deficit to three but was stopped short. Johnsons’ only catch of the game put the Force up 42-30.
With the final quarter underway, former Force fullback Mykel Benson scored on a one-yard run and Orlando was good on a two-point conversion to bring the Predators back to within four, 42-38. On Georgia’s next possession Hodge gave tremendous individual effort as he caught a short pass from Moniz and fought for a 34-yard touchdown. Martinez added the extra-point and the Force lead was back to eleven, 49-38. To their credit Orlando did not give in. Williams hauled in a six-yard pass from Leak and were successful on their second consecutive two-point try as Toliver carried the ball over the goal line.
With the lead at three, 49-46, Hodge pulled in his fourth touchdown pass of the game from Moniz, this time a 22-yarder that restored the eleven point lead, 56-46, with one minute left in the contest. Again the Predators fought back and scored when Benson carried the ball in for another touchdown, his second of the game against his recent teammates, with only 32 seconds remaining. Lewis was good on the PAT, and the Force found their lead back at three again.
Georgia once again recovered Orlando’s onside kick, but was unable to run out the clock after failing to advance the ball on back-to-back rushing attempts stopped the clock. Orlando took the ball with nine seconds to go and ran one play before bringing in Lewis to attempt a 43-yard game-tying field goal. The Orlando kicker got the ball in the air and on target, but Caleb Bostic was able to extend enough to block the kick as time ran out, giving the Force a well earned 56-53 victory in front of an excited and appreciative home crowd.
Moniz (21/29, 273 yards, 7 TD, 0 INT) was “excited to be in front of the home crowd for the first time” and the fans gave ‘Mighty Mo’ a warm welcome. Force fans have been anticipating Moniz becoming the starter since he was assigned and the anticipation had become frustration as the Georgia offense continued to sputter. The energy level in the arena was higher than it has been in weeks and that energy (and expectation) will continue to grow as Moniz continues to learn the AFL style of play and gains time running the first unit. Hodge gave a number of outstanding individual efforts in leading the Georgia receivers with ten receptions for 144-yards and four touchdowns, Shipp contributed six catches for 77-yards and a touchdown, CJ Johnson made three catches for 45-yards and a TD and Mike Johnson added a touchdown on his only catch of the game.
Johnson added 96-yards to his career total on six returns, moving him into 12th on the AFL career return yardage list. Martinez was perfect on eight PAT attempts. Last year’s league Kicker of the Year is now 85-for-96 in extra-points and rebounded from missing six of his first eight field goal attempts and is now 13-for-22, including nine of his last eleven.
Mario Norman (8.5 TTL) and Robert Durham (8.0 TTL) led the Force defense in tackles, while Bostic had 6.0 tackles in addition to blocking the three-point try that ended the game.
The Predators were led by Leak. The former University of Florida QB did not turn the ball over and was 30-47 for 314 yards and five touchdowns. Wide receivers Williams and Fox received the bulk of the receptions in the game. Williams caught 13 passes for 120 yards and two touchdown passes, while Fox hauled in 13 receptions for 135 yards and two touchdowns.
Orlando was led on defense by lineman Jason Peters and defensive back Travis Coleman. Peters and Coleman each were credited 5.0 l tackles.
The Force have a bye this week and will have two weeks to prepare for the Pittsburgh Power before their July 14th game at the Arena at Gwinnett Center. The game will be televised live on WSB's MeTV 2.2, channel 248 on Comcast and Charter channel 126. The game will also be streamed live on Ustream.
The Georgia Force are members of the South Division of the American Conference in the AFL. The Force play home games at the Arena at Gwinnett Center, located off I-85 on Sugarloaf Parkway in Duluth.