San Antonio asserts itself as a true title contender
“If we win the quarter, we win the game.”
This fourth quarter quote from Stallions quarterback Josh Woodrum perfectly summarizes how close Salt Lake came to upending the Commanders in Saturday’s prime time showdown.
The Stallions had multiple chances to take the lead, but San Antonio’s stifling defense proved to be too much to handle as the Commanders survived 19 – 15.
In a game that many thought would be a blowout, it was Salt Lake that started the scoring. With 9:17 remaining in the opening quarter, the Stallions kicked a field goal to take a 3 – 0 lead. That lead wouldn’t last long as the Commanders drove 75 yards on the ensuing drive and scored on a 21 yard touchdown strike from Logan Woodside to receiver Mekale McKay. The conversion attempt was no good, and the score was 6-3 Commanders.
The Salt Lake defense stiffened after allowing the early score, and the first quarter ended with the Commanders still in front.
Early in the second quarter the Stallions added another Bertolet field goal to tie the game 6-6. San Antonio reclaimed the lead just before halftime courtesy of a short Nick Rose field goal to make the score 9-6 Commanders.
It was at this point Alliance fans everywhere started to realize the Stallions would not be intimidated by San Antonio or their 30,000 rabid fans.
The teams swapped possessions after halftime before Salt Lake added another field goal. With 9:20 remaining in the third quarter, the game was tied 9 – 9. The remainder of the third quarter was relatively uneventful and ended with the two squads still deadlocked.
The fourth quarter is when the fireworks started.
The Commanders began the quarter with the ball on a 2nd and 2 from their own 18 yard line. A holding penalty turned 2nd and 2 into 2nd and 11 from the 9. A loss on 2nd down created a 3rd and 12 which saw San Antonio running back Aaron Green stopped for no gain. Then, San Antonio got some help from the Salt Lake defense as a roughing the punter penalty was called on defender Jordan Sterns which resulted in a first down for the Commanders. It appeared that this was the break San Antonio had been waiting for. But the Commanders failed to capitalize on the Stallions’ penalty.
San Antonio’s lucky streak ended when starting quarterback Logan Woodside was injured on the drive. On 3rd and 10 from their own 23, following the roughing the punter penalty, Woodside dropped back to pass, but was pressured by three Stallions defenders. He was driven to the turf by Utah alumni Sealver Siliga, and Woodside landed on his right shoulder. Woodside did not return to the game citing significant shoulder pain.
Woodside’s exit opened the door for backup quarterback Marquise Williams.
With the game still tied, Williams entered with 10:36 remaining. Relying primarily on his pure athleticism and shifty running, Williams brought a much needed spark to the San Antonio offense. The exclamation mark came when Williams found running back Trey Williams in the flats and raced 36 yards for the score. The Commanders successfully made the conversion when Williams found receiver Greg Ward Jr. in the back of the endzone to put San Antonio up 17 – 9 with 5:25 remaining in the game.
With the pressure building and the Alamodome rocking, Woodrum lead an impressive drive of his own for Salt Lake. In just over three minutes, the Stallions marched down to the San Antonio 21 yard line. It was here that Woodrum found Terrell Newby in the endzone to bring the Stallions within striking distance of the West Division leading Commanders.
With the game on the line and a 2 point conversion upcoming, somebody had to make a play to propel their team to victory. That somebody was San Antonio defensive back De’Vante Bausby. Bausby intercepted a Woodrum pass intended for Adonis Jennings and returned it 100 yards for 2 points. Those points proved critical as it prevented the Stallions from tying the game and ensured a field goal would be useless in the final moments.
Following the crazy turn of events, the Commanders assumed control of the ball on their own 25 yard line knowing they could end the game with a first down. The Commanders began the drive with back-to-back running plays which forced Salt Lake to burn two of its three timeouts. With 1:43 remaining, the Stallions needed a stop on 3rd and 3 to give their offense a chance.
On this pivotal down it was backup quarterback Marquise Williams who rose to the occasion. Williams secured the victory for San Antonio on a simple zone-read which allowed him to utilize his athleticism by keeping the football and dive ahead for the first down. The Commanders drained the final moments off the clock and secured the victory in front of an electric home crowd.
After the game, Commanders head coach Mike Riley stated, “It’s a great win for our team, and it was hard. We couldn’t find much going.”
Riley went on to praise the performance of his backup quarterback in the victory. “Thank goodness for Marquise tonight,” he said. “He went in there, was poised and made plays, and won the game for us.”
With the win, the Commanders place themselves firmly in control of the West Division with three weeks to go.
The Stallions, on the other hand, must win out and hope for losses by San Diego and Arizona in the final weeks to have any hope of qualifying for the postseason.
San Antonio will face the Hotshots next week while the Stallions will host the Fleet.
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