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Pittsburgh Power lose innaugural game to Philly in overtime

Pittsburgh welcomed a new brand of football to the Consol Energy Center. The best way to form a new rivalry is to open your inaugural season with a team from a city that Pittsburghers love to hate.

The Philadelphia Soul had the chance to open the Arena Football League history of the Power with a win in their first game at CEC, the way hockey’s Philadelphia Flyers christened the arena with a victory of the arena’s primary tenant, the Pittsburgh Penguins. If the inaugural game is a foreshadow to what football fans can expect, Pittsburgh has a new team to name the “cardiac kids.” With only nine seconds remaining, Paul Edinger’s onside kick was recovered and the offense got just far enough for Edinger to tie the game with a 35-yard field goal as time expired. Unfortunately, quarterback Bernard Morris’ third pick of the game was the game winner as the Soul won the game 58-52.

It did not take the Power long to make history. On their second play from scrimmage, quarterback Bernard Morris hit wide receiver Jason Willis down the middle for a 35 yard touchdown. The touchdown pass and touchdown catch go down in the books as the first in Power history. The Soul responded with a deep bomb of their own as quarterback Justin Allgood hit wide receiver Donovan Morgan for 46 yards on 3rd and 9 and the game was tied at 7.

On the Power’s second drive, Morris hooked up with wide receiver Mike Washington for 21 yards to give the Power a 14-7 lead. The drive took just three plays. After a defensive stop, Morris found Lonnell Dewalt from 14 yards out to pad the Power lead to 21-7. The Soul responded with a 10 play drive that ended with Allgood and Morgan connecting for a second time.

Duquesne’s own Joshua Rue bowled his way into the end zone from two yards out to give the Power their first ever rushing score and give the team a 27-14 lead, but a bad snap and kicker Paul Edinger was wide right. Morgan scored his third touchdown of the game, this time on the ground, and two yards later, the Soul cut the lead to 27-21.

A late first half Power drive was halted when Tanner Varner made an acrobatic interception of a Morris pass, which the Soul offense took to the three yard line. The offense could not finish off those final three yards and had to settle for an 18-yard James Paul field goal. The Power would lead 27-24 at the half.

The Soul would get the ball to start the second half and on a fourth down keeper by Allgood would take their first lead of the game. The seven play 39 yard drive would give the Soul a 30-27 lead after Paul missed the extra point. After the Power failed to score on their first second half possession, Allgood and Morgan connected for the third time on a one play 20 yard drive. The Soul added to their lead and had a 37-27 lead.

On the ensuing Power possession, it took just two plays for Morris to hit Dewalt for his second touchdown of the game. The Power would cut the Soul lead to three points, 37-34. The Soul regained their 10-point lead as Allgood and Morgan hooked up for a fourth time to start the fourth quarter. The Power kept pace as Rue rushed his way into the end zone for the second time to cut the lead back to three points, 44-41.

The Power defense had the biggest play of their young history as Terrance Reese stripped the ball from Larry Brackins to give the Power offense the ball deep in the Soul zone. Just one play later, however, Morris threw his second pick of the game as Tanner Varner caught the Morris pass off the wall, which is still in play according to AFL rules, giving the ball right back to the Soul.

The Soul would not waste the opportunity as Allgood found Morgan again, for the fifth time, and Philadelphia would take a nine point lead, after the missed extra point.

Morris found Willis for their second connection and a good two point conversion put the Power down by just one. The onside kick failed and the Soul took over. They tried running out the clock, but the Power defense held tough, giving the ball back to the offense with 32 seconds remaining.

The offense managed to score a late touchdown as Morris found Jason Willis for the touchdown, then found him again for the two-point conversion, making the score 50-49.

After a late safety by the Soul, gave them a three point lead, the Power got a regulation expiring field goal by Edinger to send the game to overtime.

Mike Brown’s overtime interception of Morris was all she wrote as the Soul won the first game ever at Consol.

The Soul lost defensive back Antonio Malone late in the fourth quarter with what a leg injury. No injuries to report from the Power.

On the ground:
 While neither team did much running, the Power did get two rushing scores from Rue, who finished with just three yards. The Soul did not run the ball much either, but they did a Morgan rushing touchdown.
Through the air: Morris looked good in the first half, completing 11 of 12 passes. His one miss was an interception that led to a Soul touchdown. He finished the first half with three touchdowns and wound up with five in the game, to go along with another second half interception. The back breaker was his interception in overtime, which won the game. He passed for 264 yards. Allgood lived up to his last name, completing 25 of 36 passes for five touchdowns, but more importantly, no interceptions. He finished the game with an even 300 yards and did not even need to take a snap in the overtime.

The AFL is all about scoring, but both defenses made big plays. The Soul got two picks from Varner, both leading to scores. The big play was Brown’s game winning interception to end the game in overtime. The Power defense caused and recovered a fumble and got a late stop to give the offense one last chance for late game heroics.

Edinger did not attempt a field goal until he made the kick that sent the game to overtime and finished six for seven on extra points. The Soul’s James Paul missed two extra points, but he made his only field goal attempt.

The choice of Donovan Morgan is obvious as he seemed to have the ball all game. He finished with five receiving touchdowns and a rushing score and had 191 total yards.

The Power welcome the Iowa Barnstormers to the Consol Energy Center on Saturday March 19.

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