The Racine Raiders (3-0) faced their first test of the 2009 season Saturday night at Horlick Field as the Dubuque Bruisers (2-1) traveled to Racine to open the Raiders' 2009 North American Football League (NAFL) season.
The Raiders wasted little time. Running back Bryan Jennings, Jr., scored on an 11-yard touchdown run eight minutes into the game. The Ben Aguilar kick was good and Racine staked claimto an early 7-0 lead.
The teams battled back-and-forth, until Jennings scored on his second romp, an eight-yard touchdown run, with 9:11 to play in the first half, giving Racine a 14-0 lead.
Cornerback Donald Woodard, who just joined the Raiders this week following the indoor season, picked off a Jamar Jackson pass and returned it 75 yards for a touchdown with four minutes to play in the half, giving the Raiders a 21-0 lead.
With just under one minute left to play in the half, Jackson hit Marvin Mabry on a 45-yard touchdown pass. The kick was good and the Raiders' lead was cut to 21-7.
Less than 30 seconds later, Bruiser cornerback Adam Kaiser intercepted a Ron Ricciardi pass and returned it 40 yards to the Raiders' five-yard line. Two plays later, Jackson connected with Mabry again, this time on a seven-yard touchdown pass. A two-point pass attempt fell incomplete, following two penalties on the Bruisers. The Raiders went into halftime leading 21-13, but the momentum had switched in favor of Dubuque.
The Raiders came out in the second half and marched down the field. The drive eventually stalled and an Aguilar 42-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right. The Bruisers took immediate advantage of the opportunity, scoring on an18-yard touchdown pass from Jackson to Torrey Smith. Jackson ran in the two-point conversion and the game was tied four minutes into the second half.
The Raiders would respond, thanks to the third rushing score by Jennings, a 21-yard attempt, with 7:33 to play in the third quarter. Aguilar's kick was good and the Raiders led 28-21 and would never look back.
Defensive coordinator Alex Powell went away from using his normal defensive linemen on the line and switched to linebackers, allowing the Raiders to get more pressure on Jackson and neutralize his running ability.
Following a defensive stop, fullback Adam Chorazy pounded his way through Bruiser defenders on a three-yard touchdown run with 1:50 to play in the third. The Aguilar kick was good and the Raiders led 35-21.
Following another defensive stop, quarterback Virgil McNeil finished off a Raiders drive with a two-yard bootleg run to the right side. The Aguilar kick was blocked and the Raiders led 41-21 early in the fourth quarter.
On the next drive, defensive back Will Norwood tipped a Jackson pass and came down with the deflection himself. He raced 38 yards for his second interception return for a touchdown in two games. The Aguilar kick was good and the Raiders led 48-21 with 11:23 to play in the game.
Both teams recorded defensive stops. On their next drive, the Raiders got down to the 15-yard line. Aguilar came on to attempt a 32-yard field goal, but the Raiders ran a fake instead. Cornerback Eric Feest, who holds for kick attempts, rolled to his right and found running back Demetrius Thompson open in the end zone. The Aguilar kick was good and the Raiders walked away with a 55-21 victory and remain undefeated.
Jennings rushed for 103 yards, his second straight game over 100 yards. Sam D'Alie led Raiders receivers with three catches for 75 yards. The Raiders defense held Jackson to 222 yards passing and 28 yards rushing. They also forced five Bruiser turnovers in the game.
Running back J.R. Taylor was taken off the field in an ambulance following an apparent ankle injury in the third quarter. His status is unknown.
The Raiders are on the road next week against the Chicago Wolverines at Alonzo Stagg Field on the University of Chicago campus next Saturday at 7 p.m