Panthers improve to 9-1 with 48-42 win at Richmond

Photo by John Millikan

Photo by John Millikan

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond Raiders wide receiver Herb Jones had to think for a few seconds about the number of quarterbacks who have thrown to him this season.

The fifth, Antwon Young, made his first start Saturday against Albany. The beginning was coarse, the finish smooth, but it wasn't quite enough.

Richmond rallied from a 20-point deficit late in the third quarter to tie the game 42-42. But Albany scored with 1:58 left on Cecil Lester's fifth TD pass, a 15-yarder to Antwone Savage, and the Raiders couldn't match it while falling 48-42 before 2,505 at the Coliseum.

The loss dropped Richmond (4-6) out of the Southern Indoor Football League playoffs. The Panthers improved to 9-1.

The Panthers, who defeated the Raiders at the Civic Center last month, were led by Lester, who was 21-for-38 for 189 yards, five touchdowns and one interception.

Lester's top target was John Harris, who had 10 receptions for 87 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Also for Albany, Antwone Savage had five catches for 45 yards and two touchdowns; and Clenton Rafe, from Albany State, had five catches for 57 yards and one touchdown.

Demetrie McCray, who is also from Albany State, led the Panthers in the secondary with one interception.

Richmond started the season 4-1. But the Raiders lost Bryan Randall (knee), then Aaron Alexander (hip), Robbie Jenkins (clavicle) and Mike Potts (concussion).

Potts went down last week in a 50-48 loss to Carolina. Young, who played at Villanova and joined the team 1 weeks ago, played in the fourth quarter.

Young was working Saturday with a new center, Dwayne Delaney, because of another injury. Their first exchange squirted about seven yards backward. Young picked it up and was promptly buried at the 6-yard line.

The second exchange squirted about five yards forward. Albany linebacker Larry Edwards picked it up and returned it to the Raiders' 4, which turned into an easy Panthers touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

Another fumbled exchange at the Albany 3 cost the Raiders a chance to trim a 20-3 deficit.

"Just new chemistry we had to get over," said Young, who ran for 48 yards and two scores and completed 14 of 32 passes for 184 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

With Lester completing 14 of 18 passes for four TDs and converting third- and fourth-down opportunities, Albany seemed to be cruising toward a blowout with a 35-15 halftime lead.

The momentum changed in the second half. Richmond's defense, led by Lawrence Lewis, clamped down on Lester (21 of 38, 189 yards, 5 TDs) and allowed only 13 points.

Trailing 42-22 with 19 seconds left in the third quarter, Jonathan Summers returned a kickoff 58 yards for a TD.

Richmond got a stop. Young scrambled 14 yards for a score to get the Raiders within seven after Josh Smith missed the extra point.

Geoff Boyer missed a field goal for Albany. Young then found Redd Thompson for a 19-yard TD that tied the game with 3:59 left.

"We just ended up having that dog in us, wanting to fight back," said Jones, who caught six passes for 95 yards and a score.

Lester led a quick three-play scoring drive. Richmond's final possession ended on the Albany 20, when Young's fourth-down pass was batted into the stands with 19 seconds remaining.

The Panthers nearly gave the Raiders another chance with a fumble with 1.8 seconds left, but Albany recovered at its 10.

"Once we got it going, we started rolling," Young said. "We just ran out of time."