The Pittsburgh Maulers made things interesting down the stretch against the Philadelphia Stars. The late-night game may have been the team’s overall offensive performance, but a lack of stops saw the team lose 37-31 Saturday night.
The Maulers’ defense has been the team’s calling card throughout the season, but the Stars made mincemeat out of it in the first drive. A seven-play 47-yard possession, highlighted by a 22-yard run from running back Matt Coburn saw the team score in the opener. Coburn did the honors from one yard out.
Pittsburgh’s offense didn’t waver though, as they cashed in on their own score. Running back Madre London got the team in scoring position with a 23-yard burst, but it was wide receiver Bailey Gaither who found paydirt, rushing for a touchdown from three yards out.
The offense kept flowing for the Stars on the next drive. A huge return from Terry Wright set Philadelphia up on the Pittsburgh 37-yard line. However, the Maulers were able to get a stop, which led to a Luis Aguilar field goal making the score 10-7.
Pittsburgh’s Josh Simmons then told the Stars’ Terry Wright, “Anything you can do I can do better” when he returned the ensuing kickoff 68 yards for a Maulers’ touchdown.
Another long, dominant drive for Philadelphia followed for the team. The seven-play, four-plus minute drive saw the Maulers’ defense once again stiffen in the face of a potential score, forcing another field goal to put the score at 14-13.
The Maulers opened up a promising next drive. Matching the Stars with a seven-play drive of their own, the team found the ball near midfield. However, a bad pass by Troy Williams ended up in enemy hands, giving Philadelphia possession.
After a stout defensive stop by Pittsburgh, Philadelphia was forced to try another field goal. Lucky for the Maulers, the errant snap caused a fumble, which was covered by the black-and-gold.
Pittsburgh did not waste the great field position following the turnover. The team strung together another strong drive, resulting in a 17-yard touchdown toss from Williams to wide receiver Isiah Hennie.
Facing a 21-13 deficit, the Stars once again responded. Despite nearly fumbling the ball away for the second consecutive drive, Philadelphia found the end zone with quarterback Case Cookus finding his receiver Samuel Akem for the score.
With just 23 seconds left before the half, the Maulers put together what may have been their best drive of the season. Behind the arm of Williams, the team drove the ball to the opposing 31-yard line, allowing Chris Blewitt to knock in a 49-yard kick before time expired.
The second half did not stop off too kindly for the Stars, fumbling the ball on the opening kick, but they were able to recover. Just three plays later, Philadelphia wouldn’t be so fortunate with Cookus tossing his first interception of the game to safety Arnold Tarpley.
Pittsburgh and Philadelphia would ratchet up the defense as they traded four consecutive three-and-outs.
The Maulers finally were able to get some offensive momentum on their next drive, but couldn’t cash in as Chris Blewitt missed a 54-yard field goal.
The Stars then wasted no time with the positive field position as Cookus found former Cleveland Browns first-round pick Corey Coleman for a deep 56-yard touchdown pass.
Pittsburgh, down 27-24, could not answer in the fourth quarter’s first drive, surrendering the ball back to the Stars after a quick three-and-out.
A huge play from Philadelphia receiver Devin Gray opened up the next drive for the Stars. The speedster took a short pass from Cookus 56 yards to push the ball into Pittsburgh territory. From there, the team muscled the ball into the end zone as Coburn earned his second touchdown of the day.
Desperate for offense, the Maulers were able to muster an eight-play, 5:14-minute drive. Unfortunately, it didn’t bear any points, as they were forced to punt again.
With little time left, Pittsburgh’s defense stood tall again, forcing a punt with just over two minutes left.
Maulers return man Hennie gave the team life, taking the kick 70 yards back to Philadelphia’s one-yard line. Just one play later Garrett Groshek sealed the deal with a one-yard plunge, which made the score 34-31.
A risky call followed from Maulers’ head coach Ray Horton, as he elected to go for the alternative kickoff, a 4th and 12 play inside of an onside kick. The attempt was not fruitful with Williams being sacked on the play.
The Stars then took over at the Pittsburgh 25-yard line with just two minutes to go. The team drained the clock to 26 seconds before extending their lead to 37-31.
Pittsburgh would not be able to score a game-tying touchdown on the next drive, losing on a game-ending sack.
The team now slips to 2-4 on the year. Their next game is against the Houston Gamblers on June 3rd.