(ST. CHARLES, MO) In the high-scoring sport of indoor football, the River City Raiders utilized a stingy defense in order to claim a season-opening victory Saturday night.
In their Arena Pro Football (APF) debut at Family Arena, the St. Charles-based franchise held the Alabama Outlawz to a lone touchdown in the second half en route to a 45-34 triumph.
“It’s great to get this first game out, just for ourselves and for our fans,” said Raiders’ quarterback Kevis Hamilton afterwards. “It’s good to come out victorious against Alabama, who came to play, in order to see where we are at and what we can build on. We have our strengths and advantages and we have to build on that.”
In the 11-point triumph, the Raiders (1-0) trailed by three points at halftime but notched 20 points uncontested.
“I thought we played well enough to win,” assessed River City coach Greg “Chief” Moore following the game. “We made some mistakes early on. We allowed some easy touchdowns for them but we came back strong, took the momentum and the victory.”
Alabama (0-2) certainly provided fits for the swashbucklers in the first half. Outlawz kicker Justin Madison launched the opening kickoff through the opposite-end’s goal posts, an immediate solo-point snare within the parameters of the APF, and the visitors claimed the 1-0 edge.
River City quickly responded with its first play from scrimmage for an end zone strike as Hamilton connected with Jonnie King for a 45-yard touchdown reception. James Neal converted with a successful kick as the Raiders claimed a 7-1 lead with 14:03 left in the first quarter.
River City’s defense, paced by linebackers Kris Williams and Rodarious Whittier, defensive backs Tim Hamm-Bey and Bryan Lowery and linesmen Kevin Adams, Darrivs Ford, Bernard Quinn and Keenan Mace, stymied Alabama on their first possession, forcing them to attempt a 40-yard field goal – as punting is not allowed in the APF – midway through the first quarter. Alabama’s Madison went wide and short with the kick as River City maintained their 7-1 lead.
Alabama inevitably notched their first end zone entrance with 2:30 left in the frame as quarterback Anthony Speights connected with Vincent Hill for a 17-yard scoring pass that tied the game 7-7. The Outlawz fumbled the ensuing point afterwards and the stalemate remained.
River City’s Hamilton notched his second touchdown pass of the quarter near its completion, a 30-yard popper to Raiders’ returnee DeAndre Jackson, as the squad pushed the score to 14-7 following Neal’s clean kick afterwards.
In the opening drive of the second quarter, Alabama’s Speights pumped a 35-yard pass to wide receiver Tarruen Rhetta that resulted in six. Madison added an Outlawz’ extra point and the score was tied 14-14 with 12:36 left in the quarter. The right-footer again booted the ensuing kickoff through the goal posts and Alabama claimed a 15-14 scoreboard snare.
River City was forced to attempt a 41-yard field goal at the 9:05 mark and Neal’s short kick was fielded by Alabama specialist Eli Ward, who sprinted 49 yards for a touchdown that pushed the visitors’ lead to 21-14. The attempted PAT failed and the differential remained at seven points.
The Raiders chipped away at the deficit on its next drive and Neal successfully booted a 43-yard field goal with 4:36 left that narrowed Alabama’s lead to 21-17.
On their next possession, the Outlawz turned the ball over on downs and River City started its next offensive series at the 25-yard line with under two minutes left. Unfortunately for the Family Arena’s faithful, Hamilton’s screen pass resulted in an uncontested “pick six” for Alabama’s Hill. Madison added the extra point as the Outlawz pushed their lead to 28-17 with one minute remaining in the half.
River City was able to punch home an additional score deep in the frame as Jackson claimed his second 30-yard touchdown catch of the half from Hamilton with :47 left that shored the score to 28-23. In the PAT attempt, trickery ensued as lineman Bernard Quinn retained possession of the pigskin and rumbled a two-point conversion that sliced the Outlawz’ lead to three points.
By outscoring River City in the second quarter, 21-11, Alabama sported a 28-25 edge at intermission.
After both teams failed on their opening drives in a clock-chewing third quarter, Alabama was forced to attempt a 49-yard field goal with 3:20 left. In the game’s shifter, River City’s Jackson fielded the kick at his own three-yard line and proceeded to scamper 46 yards for the Raiders’ 31-28 scoreboard flip.
The locals’ lone score for the quarter resulted in their three-point advantage heading into the final frame.
After the Raiders’ Whittier intercepted Speights’ pass on Alabama’s opening possession of the fourth, River City, anchored by the offensive line of Anthony Jackson, Darrivs Ford and Lawrence Smith, produced a four-play, 23-yard scoring drive, finished by Hamilton’s 11-yard touchdown strike to Gary Johnson with under ten minutes left that widened the score to 38-28 following Neal’s successful kick afterwards.
The Raiders’ defense continued their stellar second-half work as Theo Alexander snared a 32-yard interception for another “pick six” with 5:14 left and Neal added the successful kick as River City widened its lead 45-28.
“The defense came to play,” assessed DeAndre Jackson of his squad’s game-clinching efforts. “We gave up a few early touchdowns on miscues. We fixed it on the drawing board (at halftime) and they basically had a shutout in the second half. Their camaraderie is getting greater and, in this game of football, it goes a long way, so I appreciate and want to give a big shout out to our defense.”
Hill claimed a another touchdown for Alabama with under a minute left but the Purple Powerhouse continued their second period lock down that included a 14-6 final frame en route to the Raiders’ 45-34 season-opening win.
In passing, Hamilton finished the night 11 of 18 for 148 yards and three end zone strikes. Jackson caught four passes for 74 yards and a pair of touchdowns while King snared 55 yards and an end zone snare.
As a grade, and with no curves to give, Moore gave his squad a “B-plus” Saturday and certain elements will be modified as the team continues their three-game home stand at Family Arena on Saturday, April 8 against the Florida Tarpons.
“We gotta go back and tweak,” he stated. “We start back at practice on Tuesday, tweaking the things that we have practiced to see what we need to work on.”
RAIDERS INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
Hamilton – Passing: 11-19, 148 YDs, 4 TDs
Jackson: 4-74, 2 TD
King: 3-55, TD
Johnson: 1-11, TD
Neal: 1 FG, 4-6 PAT, 7 PTS
For more information on the River City Raiders, go to their official website.
By trade, he is a six-time, regional Emmy Award-winning news videographer/editor for KTVI/KPLR-TV. By hobby, he is a writer for Arch City Media, dating back to February 2014. Emphasis is on featuring and promoting local women's sports, but will cover anything that is not reported by traditional media outlets. Also a contributor to local concert reviews.