07/08/2012 5:35 PM
CHICAGO – A pregame scuffle between the two central division rivals ignited all sorts of adrenaline for the Chicago Rush (9-7) but they fell in the final minutes to the San Antonio Talons (13-3) 61-54 Sunday afternoon in front of 7,679 fans at Allstate Arena. Defensive player of the game Victor DeGrate sacked Rush quarterback Russ Michna on back-to-back downs with under eight minutes to play to give the Talons the ammunition for their game-winning touchdown. A 20-7 scoring difference in the final quarter helped the Talons overcome a six-point deficit to clinch their first ever National Central Division Championship.
“It’s disappointing because of how much each and every guy in this locker room wants to win and make the playoffs,” Rush head coach Bob McMillen stated.
The game began on the Rush’s side when Reggie Gray fired the opening salvo five seconds in with a 56-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
Talons quarterback Aaron Garcia would not be fazed however as he threaded the ball with precision all night to the tune of 320 passingyards and 7 touchdowns. Tossing along the hash marks for a pass on a first drive third down began the scoring for the Talons when Jomo Wilson juggled, but caught the first of his four touchdowns. Interceptions by both teams on thenext two possessions derailed scoring opportunities as Kenneth Fontenette took a touchdown away from Jared Perry, while the Rush's Jorrick Calvin caught back up to Jason Willis to out jump him for his eighth pick of the year.
The Rush capitalized on the turnover by mixing up their looks offensively. Screens, pitches and passes set up a 2-yard touchdown run by backup quarterback Luke Drone, his twelfth of the year.
The second quarter introduced the second touchdown catch by Jomo Wilson. Despite using six plays inside the Rush nine-yard line Jomo Wilson edged his defender on third and goal with a crossing route to secure a 14-13 advantage. Using their first lead of the night the Talons defense preyed on Michna long enough for Devon Allen to coral him to the turf for the first of four team sacks. However, the mini rally of pressure couldn’t carry over to fourth and sixteen as Rush receiver Jared Perry snuck along the left side of the field to bring in the pass and walk in for a 36-yard touchdown.
Following the touchdown, a six-play drive lasted over five minutes for San Antonio ending with a fourth and eight at the Rush 24-yard line. Taking time to survey his options, Garcia found Jomo Wilson for their thirdtouchdown of the first half.
Not wasting anytime to retaliate Michna twirled his second touchdown pass of the game by hitting Jared Perry again, this time for a 28-yard score. An unsuccessful onside kick attempt from the foot of Joe Houston tallied seven easy points when Derek Lee waltzed into the end zone for the Talons to deadlock the game at 27.
Former Rush wide receiver Derek Lee notched the first score of the third quarter for San Antonio when he capped off an eight play, 47-yard drive with his first touchdown catch of the game. Not being discouraged, the Rush quickly recaptured flashbulbs when Jared Perry escaped a jersey tackle to scoot 39-yards for a touchdown grab. Teammate Marquis Hamilton showed off his talents on the ensuing kickoff by punching the ball out of the hands of Brent Holmes and into the waiting grasp of the Rush’s Semaj Moody. Using only one play, Reggie Gray caught a quick out, twisted the ankles of Fred Shaw, and strutted in for his second touchdown on the afternoon.
The aerial assault kept rolling as Marquis Hamilton took his special team talents to the offensive side by sprinting 29-yards to haul inMichna’s fifth touchdown pass of the night. However, Joe Houston’s second missed extra point of the night only gave Chicago a six-point lead going into the fourth quarter.
Talons kicker Stefon Demos ended up acquiring the jinx of Houston on extra points as he failed on his second of the game after Jomo Wilson caught his fourth touchdown of the night to tie things at 47 early in the fourth quarter.
The tie didn’t last more than 74 seconds as J.J. Payne snuck out of the backfield to catch a screen pass and bully his way 25-yards to the end zone. The touchdown at 11:18 of the fourth quarter marked the last score for the Rush on the afternoon.
Just like last week, a player haunted the Rush on a kickoff as Jomo Wilson moved his receiving talents to kickoffs and escaped tackles to bring the kick all the way to the Rush 14-yard line. His lengthy return afforded the Talons to score within three plays and tie the game back at 54with 8:54 left to play.
From there on out the Talons defense stiffened up sacking Michna twice and hurrying him on two other throws to force a turnover on downs.
The defensive stop could not have come at a better time as San Antonio fullback Chad Cook took a screen catch down to the Chicago 3-yard line to set up his own rushing touchdown. His first touchdown of the night not only clinched the victory, but officially eliminated the Rush from the playoff picture.
Chicago rookie wide receiver Jared Perry used his big night to push his season touchdown total to 30. His 120 catches and 1,668 yards put him in the top ten overall for receivers in the Arena Football League.
With the loss, the Rush will miss the playoffs for the first time in their eleven-year history. They continue the final two games of their season next weekend with a road game against the Milwaukee Mustangs on July 14th.
National Guard MVP – SA Jomo Wilson
Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Game – CHI Jared Perry
Riddell Defensive Player of the Game – SA Victor DeGrate
Cutters Catch of the Week – SA Jomo Wilson 3rd quarter touchdown catch
AFL Playmaker of the Game – CHI WR Reggie Gray
Spalding Highlight of the Game – CHI WR Reggie Gray 3rd quarter TD catch vs. Fred Shaw
JLS Ironman of the Game – CHI WR Marquis Hamilton (FF, Tackle, TD catch)