By: Adrian Beecher
Interviews conducted by Jr. Journalism Foundations Jr. Journalists: Chris Checchio and Zachary Rodriguez both 7th Graders at The Masters Academy.
Orlando FL- On Saturday night the Orlando Predators (5-8) defeated Pittsburgh Power (3-10) to gain their third straight win—holding their wild card position in the playoffs. The night started out at a slow pace but once Orlando LB Marcus Everett (#5, UCLA) grabbed an interception for a touchdown with 3:27 left in the first quarter to give the Predators a 14-7 lead, they never looked back.
During the first half, Predators QB Aaron Garcia (#8, Sacramento State) would go eleven of 20 for 123 yards and three touchdowns. He linked up with WR Prechae Rodriguez (#15, Auburn) on six receptions for 64 yards and all three of the offenses first half touchdowns. Predator Defense held strong throughout the first half allowing only 67 yards of total offense and 13 points. With Orlando leading 28-13 and only one second left in the half, Kicker Mark Lewis (#18, Florida International) nailed a 22-yard field goal with time expiring to give the Predators a 31-13 lead going into halftime.
After this score, Power QB Steven Sheffield (#12, Texas Tech) did everything he could to get his team back into the game going 13 of 19 for 131 yards passing and three touchdown scores in the second half.
The Power’s largest push came late in the fourth quarter when Sheffield completed a 16-yard touchdown pass to WR Mike Washington (#1, Hawaii) to put the Power within ten. They would then go for the two point conversion and convert with QB Sheffield running it in. This made the score 43-35 in favor of Orlando.
From this point on Orlando would maintain total control as Aaron Garcia drove down the field leaving only one minute left on the clock in a drive capped off by a 2-yard touchdown pass from Garcia to WR Maurice William (#11, Pitt). This gave Orlando a comfortable 50-35 lead and the defense would hold on the Powers next drive, forcing a turnover on downs and capping off the Predators third straight victory to stay alive and in charge of their destiny as well as the last wildcard playoff spot.
Prior to the game, Hungry Howie’s said that they would give away a million dollars worth of pizza if the Predators lost. The Jr. Journalism Foundation’s Jr. Journalist, Chris Checchio (7th grader, The Master’s Academy) asked Predators Defensive Back Dominic Jones in the locker room after the game, “Hungry Howie’s bet a million dollars worth of free pizza to give away to us fans if you guys lost, what do you think they should give us now that you guys won?”
Jones replied, ”They should give everybody free white t-shirts at the next home game for a white out.” Dominic finished the game on defense with three total tackles including one tackle for a loss of three yards. On special teams, he had three kickoff returns for a total of 74 yards for an average of 24.7 yards per return, and his longest return of 37 yards.
Predators Wide Receiver Prechae Rodriguez finished the game with an impressive eight receptions for 106 yards and three touchdowns. After the game, Jr. Journalism Foundation’s Jr. Journalist, Zachary Rodriguez (7th Grader, The Master’s Academy), asked Prechae, “How does it feel to play in front of such a great home crowd in the jungle?”
Rodriguez then replied by saying, “It’s just a blessing, this crowd has been with us through thick and thin. We can’t do anything but appreciate it we love you guys."
Jr. Journalist Zachary Rodriguez also spoke with Predators Head Coach Doug Plank and asked him, “How does it feel to have this important three game win streak against division opponents to keep our playoff drive alive?”
To this, Coach Plank replied, “I think it’s great because I feel like I’m starting to rank up there with Jay Gruden, who was the legend here for years and years. It’s just nice to start being mentioned in the same words as he is. I was so excited for our fans because this is only the second game we have won this year at home and to do it in front of them was very satisfying.”
The Predators head to Jacksonville next week to face off against the Sharks. In their previous meeting this year the Sharks came out victorious by a sly margin of 44-41. The Predators will be looking for redemption on Saturday, June 29th at Sea Best Field. Kickoff is set for 7:00pm and the game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.
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