Canton, OH- Maulers Head Coach Ray Horton quickly pointed to the key difference in his team's close loss to the Stars Saturday night.
"Penalties" said the second year coach.
"I told the team this loss is on me because in a three point game we had twice as many penalties they had. Last week we had eight times as many penalties. That's a reflection on me that I didn't have my team more poised and more disciplined".
The Pittsburgh Maulers (2-5) hosted the Philadelphia Stars (4-3) at Tom Benson Stadium in a rematch from Week 3 where the Maulers took home the 21-13 win, their first of the season.
Entering this game, both teams desperately needed help on the offensive side. Although the Stars were on a two game winning streak, they received no red zone touchdowns in either. That streak snapped within the first three minutes of the game. Terry Wright took the opening kickoff 48 yards into Maulers territory setting quarterback Case Cookus and the offense in terrific position.
Seven plays later running back Matt Colburn II burst through the middle for a 1 yard score for his first touchdown.
Pittsburgh struck back with a score off a three yard rushing touchdown from Bailey Gaither.
Both teams took advantage of the new rule change on kickoffs which frustrated Stars head Coach Bart Andrus.
"I thought we gave up too much in the special teams game. It's like whack-a-mole, you fix things both offensively and defensively and something pops up on special teams" said the 29 year veteran coach.
Up 10-7, Maulers Josh Simmons took a 88 yard return to the house giving Pittsburgh a momentum shift in the back-and-forth contest.
Wright finished with 142 return yards in the first half. Simmons finished with 125 yards.
The Maulers scored 10 additional points within the last three minutes taking a 24-20 lead at the half.
The momentum swung back to Philadelphia during the opening second half kickoff where Simmons returned a big run before fumbling and Stars DB Armani Dennis recovered it.
Two drives later with over two minutes left in the third, Cookus found a wide open Corey Coleman for 56 yard touchdown pass.
"As the game played out, our offensive coordinator and Coach Bart trusted us what we saw on the field. I came to Case and told them we should go left side. We called up a play and striked up the band".
Colburn followed up the next drive with a three yard rushing touchdown, his second on the day to go along with 83 all purpose yards putting the game essentially out of reach.
"I told the guys I was proud of how they worked this week due to us having a short practice week. They came in focused. I thought both teams played well and gave fans an entertaining game".
The Stars are the only team in the North division currently on a winning streak now at three games and hold a strong lead on a playoff spot. The Maulers now on a two game winning streak sit one game behind the New Jersey Generals for the second playoff spot in the division.