Steelhawks Soar to Victory in Season Opener
The Lehigh Valley Steelhawks, intent on setting a new tone in 2012, did just that in their season opener yesterday in the Windy City as they defeated the Chicago Slaughter by a score of 30-28. The victory gives the Steelhawks the franchise’s first winning record in team history at 1-0 and sets the tone for the rest of the 2012 season.
The Slaughter came into the game at 1-0 after defeating the Bloomington Edge 54-30 in the IFL’s kickoff classic last weekend, and hoped to once again put the first points of the game on the board. The Steelhawks’ defense had other plans, as Chris Medina exploded up the middle on a field goal attempt by Chicago’s Chris Nendick and blocked the kick. Former Oregon Duck Marvin Johnson was there to then scoop up the loose ball and race into the endzone for the game’s first score.
Chicago was able to answer back on a Perry Patterson to Ernest Jackson touchdown to know the score at seven a piece. The Steelhawks regained the lead on the following possession courtesy of a John Halman 33 yard field goal.
A second Ernest Jackson touchdown gave the Slaughter their first lead 14-10, but new Steelhawks quarterback Dixie Wooten was able to march the team right back down the field, culminating in a passing touchdown to wide receiver Aaron Higdon to start off the second quarter. On the Slaughter’s next possession, cornerback and Lehigh University grad John Kennedy III intercepted a Perry Patterson pass in the end zone and returned it 39 yards to set up excellent field position with a minute remaining in the half. Wooten was able to once again capitalize, hitting WR Jeff Willis for a score to go up 24-14. Patterson responded quickly before the half on a TD to Daniel Dufrene to make the score 24-21.
“It was an exciting, back and forth battle in that first half,” stated Head Coach Chris Thompson. “We made some mistakes and were able to shake some of the jitters inside the locker room. I can’t say enough about how our guys all rallied around each other. We have a tight knit group here.”
Coming out of the half, the Steelhawks were able to force yet another turnover as linebacker Sam Maxwell stripped Tony Taylor after a ten yard gain, which was recovered by Marvin Johnson. The ‘hawks then went back to the running game with Veteran Ryan Leafey. On 4th and 2 from the Steelhawks own 13 yard line, Leafey found a gaping hole and took it to the house for a 37 yard touchdown. He finished the evening with 68 yards rushing on ten carries for an average of 6.8 yard per attempt.
The Steelhawks defense took over the rest of the game, often causing the Slaughter to go three and out on three possessions. A late Jackson touchdown score allowed them to get within two points with under one minute to play, but the Slaughter were unsuccessful on an on sides kick attempt and the Steelhawks were able to run out the clock to seal their first victory.
The team will return to the Lehigh Valley for a few days of practice before heading out to face the Cedar Rapids Titans next Saturday, March 3rd, in Iowa. Kickoff is slated for 7:05 p.m. (CST). For those who wish to view the game online, please visit www.b2livetv.com and look up the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks under the “TEAMS” Section. Fans unable to watch the games live can purchase a season viewing pass. Steelhawks 2012 home games will be broadcast live on Service Electric TV2 Sports.
The Steelhawks return to the Lehigh Valley for their home opener, on Sunday, March 11th at 4 p.m. to square off against the Bloomington Edge. Tickets for the game are still available and can be purchased by visiting www.lehightickets.com or the Stabler Arena Box Office at 124 Goodman in Bethlehem.