Force defeat New Orleans on the road, 55-48; clinch post season spot
Monday July 23, 2012
The Georgia Force traveled to New Orleans for a Saturday night Arena Football League pairing that would determine which of the teams was guaranteed the opportunity to continue their chase for the AFL championship. Georgia battled back from a six-point deficit at the half to defeat New Orleans by a 55-48 final and lock up a postseason appearance for the second consecutive season.
New Orleans seemed in control in the first half but two costly turnovers, both coming near the Force goal line, at critical junctures kept Georgia close and cost New Orleans scoring opportunities that may have put the game out of reach before the third quarter had even started, instead only six-points separated the combatants as the half came to an end with the VooDoo holding a 34-28 advantage.
Georgia received the kick to open the second half and embarked on a 10-play, 46-yard drive that produced the first of two Force third quarter touchdowns. Bryant Moniz (17/36,175 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT) directed the drive and finished it off by carrying the ball in from four-yards out. After Carlos Martinez was good on the extra point the Force were up 35-34 and had controlled the ball for eight-minutes.
On the ensuing kickoff Martinez delivered a perfect onside kick that bounced off a defender and into the Force end zone, where Martinez made the recovery himself for the touchback. It was at this point that the VooDoo began to “come apart”, as described by the VooDoo broadcast team, which resulted in Georgia’s second TD of the quarter. Larry Shipp (3 R, 68 yards, 1 TD) carried the ball in from the 7-yard line on a toss and Georgia was up 42-34. Shipp rushed for 18 yards on three carries in the game.
Georgia controlled the ball for almost twelve minutes, scored 14-points and held New Orleans scoreless in the third stanza. Coach Dean Cokinos
was successful keeping the New Orleans defense off balance by running everything in the playbook, including a double-pass that saw Moniz toss the ball to Mike Johnson
who then aired it out to Kevin McAlmont
for 25 yards to setup the Shipp TD run.
The Georgia defense stopped New Orleans on their first possession of the final quarter, however the Force offense was unable to widen the gap and gave the ball back after being held on fourth and four from the New Orleans 16 with just over seven minutes remaining.
Kurt Rocco (22/30, 254 yards, 6 TD, 1 INT) brought the VooDoo back to within a point when he connected with Chris Duvalt (10 R, 116 yards, 3 TD) for a 17 yard TD with 7:32 left in the game. Georgia pushed the lead back to seven after Moniz found Benji McDowell for a nine yard score but after the PAT was botched, New Orleans was only one score down, 48-41. It took Rocco about three minutes to even the score when he found Courtney Smith for a nine yard scoring pass with 1:25 to go in regulation time. New Orleans attempted an onside kick that Georgia recovered at the 12-yard line. Moniz carried the ball in from the 7-yard line for his third rushing touchdown in the game and extended the Georgia lead to 55-48 with: 47 left on the clock.
The outcome was still in question as Georgia attempted another onside kick, this one recovered by the VooDoo at the Force 9-yard line. With the tying score only nine yards away, Rocco was stripped of the ball from the blind side by Matt Marcorelle and Jerry Turner covered the loose ball for Georgia to close out the win.
Georgia’s CJ Johnson had another solid all-around performance that saw him carry the ball twice for six yards and a TD; catch six balls for 33 yards and return four kicks for 103 yards, including another one for a touchdown, his fifth of the season. Josh Bush pulled in 10 receptions for New Orleans for 123 yards and two scores to balance Duvalt’s effort on the other side.
The Force defense was led by Quiento Burrell (5.5 TTL, 1 FR), Tracy Belton (5.0 TTL, 1 INT) and Robert Durham (4.0 TTL). Turner contributed a sack and two fumble recoveries while Marcorelle may have made the biggest play of the game, but did not record a tackle. Alvin Jackson (7.5 TTL) led the New Orleans D with Gladel Brutus and Demar Robinson both making 6.0 TTL.
The difference in this game was turnovers and Georgia was +4.
The Force, VooDoo, and Tampa Bay Storm
entered Week 20 with 8-9 records, all trailing the Jacksonville Sharks
(9-8) in the American Conference South. The Sharks won their game against Pittsburgh, 64-39, to finish the regular season 10-8 and win the division. By winning, Georgia
(9-9) becomes the No. 3 seed and will face the No. 2 seeded Sharks in Jacksonville next Saturday in the opening round of the playoffs
. As a result of their loss the VooDoo were forced to wait for the result of the Tampa Bay-Spokane Shock
(10-8) game, being played in Washington state, to find out if their season was to continue past Saturday night. The Storm controlled their own destiny; a win would put them in as the No. 4 seed and knock New Orleans out, however a Tampa loss would mean the VooDoo would fill that slot and would make the trip to Philadelphia next week to take on the top seeded Soul (14-3). Philadelphia doesn’t play until Sunday night, when they will face the playoff bound Utah Blaze
(12-5) of the National Conference, but have secured the top spot as a result of their 14 wins.
The Storm lost 63-53, so New Orleans gets in the back door and will travel to Philly next week.
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.
Mike began his third season reporting on the Georgia Force in March, 2012. Coverage includes weekly game previews and recaps, exclusive interviews and AFL news. Mike has been a Gwinnett County resident (the home of the Force) for two decades and provides coverage of the counties other pro sports franchises, the Gwinnett Braves (Braves Triple-A affiliate) and the Gwinnett Gladiators (ECHL, player development deals with both the Phoenix Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres) as well.
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