Early in the third quarter, down 48-17, it looked like lights out for the Pittsburgh Power. The Orlando Predators had come into the Steel City and kicked them up one side of the arena and down the other for 30 minutes.
As you may recall, however, a football game lasts 60 minutes.
In the second half, the Power surged (I don't know how many more corny electricity jokes I have left in me), and when it was all said and done, they had pulled off the largest comeback in Arena Football League history, shocking the Predators, 57-54, in overtime (I guess I had one left).
Just prior to kickoff, Orlando announced that Justin Roper would start at quarterback, instead of Collin Drafts, and it appeared to be a wise decision. Roper, who was recently acquired from the Chicago Rush, threw five touchdowns by halftime and a sixth early in the third quarter.
For a team that entered the game ranked last in scoring offense and averaging just 33.2 points per game, having 48 points on the board with 9:25 left in the third frame was quite encouraging. For a team that entered the game with an 0-4 record, having a 31-point lead at that point in the game was also quite encouraging.
But the momentum shifted in a huge way from then on out. Power QB Derrick Cassidy, filling in for an injured Andrico Hines, led his team down the field for a touchdown, and when Orlando got the ball back, Roper was immediately intercepted by DB LaRico Stevenson.
On the very next play, Cassidy was intercepted by Preds DB Eddie Moten in the back of the end zone, but Mike Washington forced a fumble that was recovered for a touchdown by P.J. Berry. Suddenly, the gap was closed to 16 points at the end of the third quarter.
Orlando's next drive stalled out on downs, and Pittsburgh responded with another touchdown--this one, a quarterback sneak by Cassidy. The two-point conversion attempt failed, but the deficit was down to 10.
The Predators started moving down the field in response, but Roper was intercepted by DB Chris LeFlore in the end zone, killing the scoring threat and giving the Power the ball back on their own 5-yard-line. About four minutes later, Cassidy hit Washington for a 19-yard touchdown pass, and after a missed PAT, the gap was down to four points.
Roper was intercepted by LeFlore again on the next drive, but Preds DB Travis Coleman immediately returned the favor, intercepting Cassidy on the very next play. Orlando was able to get a field goal out of the drive, extending its lead to 51-44 with under a minute left to play.
Cassidy only need 12 seconds, though.
In one play, he threw a bomb to WR Randy Hymes for a 33-yard touchdown, knotting the score up at 51-51. Orlando missed a long field goal attempt as time expired, and off to overtime they went.
Pittsburgh won the coin toss and deferred, giving the Predators the first crack at scoring in the extra frame. Roper dinked and dunked his team down the field, but the Power defense bristled when they needed to, and Orlando was held to a field goal, leaving the door open for the Power to pull off the improbable comeback on their possession.
And they blew that door off the hinges.
Berry set the tone, returning the kickoff 38 yards to Orlando's 19-yard-line, and on the very next play, Cassidy found newly-acquired WR/DB Christian Wise for the game-winning score.
Adam Markowitz of ArenaFan.com has a different perspective on the game, since he doubles as a sports writer and as a Predators fan. In his recount of the game, he indicates that this appears to be the third-biggest comeback--or collapse, depending on your perspective--in the history of professional football behind only the af2's Tennessee Valley Vipers' 34-point comeback against the Arkansas Twisters in 2001 and the Buffalo Bills coming back from 32 points down to knock the Houston Oilers out of the NFL playoffs in 1993.