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Maulers Offensive Woes Continue, Stallions Use Big Plays to Pull Away

The Pittsburgh Maulers (1-2) faced off with the Birmingham Stallions (2-1) in the night cap of the double header from Tom Benson Stadium in the Hall of Fame Village in Canton, Ohio. The Maulers were looking to carry over momentum from their first win of the season last week while the Stallions were looking to rebound from their first defeat.

Pittsburgh took the opening kick-off and marched deep into Birmingham territory, finally showing signs of a modern day offense. The drive, like many from the past few weeks, would fail to cross the goal line, and Coach Ray Horton would again turn to Chris Blewitt to salvage the drive with a field goal.

In the latter stages of the 1st quarter, Pittsburgh cornerback Mark Gilbert picked off Birmingham quarterback Alex McGough, giving their offense the ball in Stallion territory with a chance to make it a two score game. Again, the Maulers got it down to a goal to go situation, and again, Horton had to turn to kicker Chris Blewitt to extend the lead, this time the field goal was from 22 yards.

Chris Blewitt attempting the 27 yard field goal attempt.

Looking to kick start the offense, the Stallions again turned to the air attack. This time, it was cornerback Keith Gipson Jr. on the other end of a McGough pass for the interception, giving the Maulers the ball at the their own 15 yard line. The Maulers would once more take possession and meticulously work their way down the field into the red zone, looking to extend their lead. The 12 play drive would not end in the end zone however, with Blewitt again connecting successfully on a field goal attempt. This time it was from 27 yards out. Blewitt's three successful attempts at this point totaled 69 yards, which is not a good sign for the Maulers offense to not be able to have any success in the red zone.

The Stallions were finally able to evade the turnover bug and put together a scoring drive, cutting the Maulers lead to 9-3 with 1:45 left in the first half thanks to a Brandon Aubrey 37 yard field goal. The Maulers were forced into a 3 and out on the ensuing possession and the Stallions were able to retain possession with 2 time outs left and 1:12 left on the clock.

McGough connected on passes with C.J. Marable and Davion Davis for gains of 14 and 13 yards respectively. After a 4 yard gain on a QB keeper, McGough found Adrian Hardy for a gain of 12 to get the Stallions down to the Pittsburgh 13 yard line. McGough then connected once more with Davis, this time to get the Stallions down to the 5 yard line. On the final play of the half, McGough called his own number, rolling to his right and stretching the ball past the pylon before going out of bounds. After a successful PAT, the Stallions headed to the locker room with a 10-9 lead, despite Pittsburgh outplaying them for the first 30 minutes of game play.

The third quarter saw each team possess the ball once a piece, with the Stallions punting after their 7 play, 5:14 drive. The Maulers drive would last 11 plays, covering 6:11 of game play, and ending, how else? with a Chris Blewitt field goal. This attempt, his 4th on the night, was from 46 yards, to regain the Maulers lead 12-10.

Birmingham Stallions Quarterback Alex McGough prepares to take the snap.

The Stallions would take over possession with 3:27 left in the 3rd quarter and have the best drive of the day. 14 plays covering 75 yards and taking 8:55 off the game clock, ending with a McGough touchdown pass to Davis for 9 yards and the lead, 17-12. On that play, a 3rd down and goal situation, McGough did his best Houdini impersonation, escaping multiple sack attempts and extending the play roughly 15 seconds before connecting with a wide open Davis in the back of the end zone. Post game, Maulers coach Ray Horton shook his head when recalling the play and admitting there's not much else a defense can do on a play like that, given the amount of time the defensive backs had to cover their assignments.

The Maulers were able to answer the score with a touchdown of their own. On an option play, quarterback Troy Williams tuck and ran for 34 yards and the Maulers first touchdown of the night. Pittsburgh opted to go for two and were successful on a sweep run with WR Isiah Hennie. The conversion made the score 20-17 with 6:52 left in regulation.

The score wouldn't stay 20-17 for long, as Stallions return man Deon Cain took the kickoff off a bounce near the 7 yard line and returned it for a touchdown. After a successful PAT by Brandon Aubrey the Stallions had regained the lead 24-20. Pittsburgh wasn't able to muster anymore offense and would come up short. The loss drops the Maulers to 1-3, while the victory keeps the Stallions in striking distance of South Division leader New Orleans.



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