Predators defeat Pittsburgh 56-48, Advance to American Conference Championship
Sunday August 3, 2014
ORLANDO, FL – The 2014 South Division Champion Orlando Predators (12-7) defeated the third-seeded Pittsburgh Power (15-4), 56-48, in the opening round of the AFL playoffs on Sunday afternoon at CFE Arena. With the victory, Orlando advances to the American Conference Championship, where the team will meet the top-ranked Cleveland Gladiators (18-1) with an ArenaBowl XXVII berth on the line.
Holding a 49-48 advantage with 7:34 remaining in the game, Orlando regained possession following a Pittsburgh score and proceeded to wind down the clock with a methodical eight-play, 45-yard drive. Facing 3rd-&-Goal from the opponent’s one-yard line, QB Bernard Morris tucked the ball and punched it over the goal line to take a 56-48 lead with just over a minute remaining. On the ensuing kickoff, Mark Lewis dribbled a quick onside kick and DB Tanner Varner dove on the loose ball to secure the recovery and the victory.
Morris found the end zone eight times for the Predators, throwing for 221 yards and four scores while adding 44 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. WR Greg Carr posted a game-high 10 receptions for 97 yards and four touchdowns.
Pittsburgh got on the board first as WR Prechae Rodriguez managed to score from seven yards out after securing a reception on a ball that was pinned against his body and the back wall of the end zone. Orlando responded in dramatic fashion, as Bernard Morris shook free from several defenders before firing a four-yard touchdown pass to Carr in the back of the end zone on 4th-&-Goal.
The Power offense regained possession to start the second quarter, only to be denied by a stifling Predators defense. Orlando held Pittsburgh to four-and-out and Morris immediately converted the turnover into points off a five-yard touchdown run. Pittsburgh managed to gain a 21-14 advantage from there, as QB Tommy Grady led the Power to two unanswered scores off of touchdown passes to James Shaw and Tyrone Goard.
Orlando regained possession and managed to tie the game, as Carr made a spectacular one-handed touchdown reception in the left corner of the end zone from 10 yards out. After Pittsburgh went ahead 28-21 off a four-yard catch by Rodriguez, the Predators offense took to the field once again with 54 seconds remaining in the half and proceeded to drive down the field. Facing 4th-&-Goal with just five seconds remaining on the clock, Carr shook a defender and made a leaping two-handed catch in the back of the end zone to tie the game 28-28 at the midway point.
The Predators received to open the third frame and needed just two plays to score as Morris ran it in from four yards out following a 26-yard completion to WR Mike Rios. Orlando’s defense would execute a goal-line stand on the ensuing Power drive, forcing a turnover on downs. Three plays later, the Predators took a 42-28 lead off a seven-yard touchdown run by Morris. Pittsburgh managed to score off a 34-yard pass to Rodriguez a series later, but DL Earl Okine batted down the PAT attempt to keep a 42-34 advantage for the Predators.
Orlando turned the ball over on downs after failing to convert on fourth down during the ensuing series, but the defense would rise to the occasion. Two plays into the following Power drive, DB Eddie Moten picked off the pass attempt by Grady and returned it 33 yards into the opponent’s territory. On the next snap, Morris lofted a 14-yard touchdown pass to Carr to secure a 49-34 advantage early in the fourth quarter.
For a moment, Pittsburgh appeared to be engineering a late rally, beginning with a three-yard touchdown pass from Grady to Tyrone Goard. A missed PAT attempt gave the Predators a 49-40 lead, but Morris had his pass attempt intercepted by DB Brandon Freeman on the ensuing drive. Grady then found Shaun Kauleinamoku on a 31-yard touchdown completion and converted the two-point attempt to cut Orlando’s lead, 49-48. The Predators regained possession and proceeded to score before executing the game-winning onside kick to seal the victory.
The Orlando Predators will travel to take on the East Division Champion Cleveland Gladiators in the American Conference Championship next weekend in a nationally televised matchup. The Arena Football League is expected to release further details on Monday, August 4th.
RUSSELL ATHLETIC OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME
WR Greg Carr (Orlando)
RIDDELL DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME
DB Eddie Moten (Orlando)
J.LEWIS SMALL PLAYMAKER OF THE GAME
QB Bernard Morris (Orlando)
CUTTERS CATCH OF THE GAME
WR Greg Carr’s one-handed touchdown reception (4:29, 2nd Quarter)
AFL HIGHLIGHT OF THE GAME
Onside kick recovery to close out the game (0:54, 4th Quarter)
ABOUT THE ORLANDO PREDATORS
The Orlando Predators are heading into their 23rd season as Orlando’s most exciting and innovative professional sports franchise. Proud members of the Arena Football League, the Predators have achieved unprecedented success on the field. Orlando has advanced to the AFL playoffs a league-leading 19 times in their history while securing seven conference championships, including two ArenaBowl Championship victories in 1998 and 2000.