A pass intended for Swashbuckler WR Jordan Rideaux is blocked by the Richmond's Maurice Thorne during Monday night's game, which the Raiders won to advance to the PIFL championship game against Albany. (P. KEVIN MORLEY/Richmond Times-Dispatch)
By Michael Phillips
RICHMOND, Va. — After a season of close contests, the Richmond Raiders’ Professional Indoor Football League semifinal game was another tense affair, coming down to the final seconds — and then lasting a little bit longer.
Thanks to a penalty on the final play, Louisiana got two chances to pull off a dramatic comeback, but the Richmond defense held on for a 56-50 victory, advancing to Saturday’s title game in Albany.
The victory sets up a rematch of the regular season finale between Albany and Richmond, which the Raiders won, 67-66.
The Panthers, who won the first contest of the season against Richmond, blew out bitter rival Columbus, 60-36, in Saturday’s semifinal to advance to their second straight league championship game.
The Raiders finished a perfect home season at the Richmond Coliseum (7-0) with two key field goal blocks from Michael Woodhouse, who has been vexing opposing kickers all year.
“Those two field goals I blocked are the six points missing off their board,” he said. “It’s about stepping up and making a play.”
Quarterback Antwon Young did plenty of that, accounting for a combined eight touchdowns on the ground and through the air.
In the game’s final minutes, though, the Swashbucklers (6-7) nearly foiled the evening. After trailing all game, they cut the lead to 41-37 by returning a Raiders’ missed field goal for a touchdown.
Richmond still could have run out the clock with less than a minute remaining, but two running plays couldn’t keep the game moving as one went out of bounds and the other for a loss, which automatically stops the clock.
All-PIFL kicker T.C. Stevens missed a 25-yarder, and Louisiana had 16 seconds to make a comeback.
“It got ugly for us,” Richmond defensive back RoShawn Marshall said. “But we’ve got a lot of guts on this team, and no matter what we’ll fight to the end.”
The Raiders needed that and then some.
Despite intercepting a pass with no time left, the play was called back for an illegal defense, and Richmond had to stop the Swashbucklers, who were 19 yards from a tying touchdown, one more time. Marshall was the one who did that, knocking down a pass at the buzzer.
That triggered a celebration from a noisy crowd of a couple thousand at the Coliseum.
“I’m excited for the people who came out,” Richmond coach James Fuller said. “The storms could have kept a lot of people away, but we had a good crowd, and they helped us.”
Up next is a battle between the league’s two best teams, with Richmond and Albany both 11-2.
After keeping a focus on Monday’s semifinal game, the Raiders are ready to embrace the next challenge.
“We can talk about it now,” Marshall said. “They’re a great team, and we respect them to the fullest, but they’re in the way.”