Huntington Heroes 3-0 With Win Over Carolina

The new Huntington Heroes have few hold over players, a new ownership group, new coaches and many new players. While the former Heroes group had won ten games per year and advanced to the playoffs, this group of Heroes is breaking new ground with a 3-0 start, thanks to a 40-35 win over the Carolina Speed Saturday night. The Speed beat Huntington in two games last season.

The Heroes, led by quarterback Darnell Kennedy with four touchdown passes in the win over the Speed, are winning with good offense and great defense. Heroes safety Larry Thompson, who played at San Jose State and was an AIFL All-Star in 2007 for the championship team at Lakeland, Fla, had a blocked extra-point returned for two points and recovered a fumble. The defense allowed only one offensive touchdown by the Speed in the first half and stopped the Carolina team on fourth down at the six-yard line and at the one-yard line, forced three field goal attempts that were missed and blocked an extra-point, and a field goal as well but that was waived off on a delay penalty.

Carolina got off to a fast start when LaRoche Jackson returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and a 6-0 lead. But Jermaine Blakeley, the 6-foot-5, 325-pound nose guard/fullback came through to block the kick and Thompson returned the block for a two-point defensive score. Kicker Jason Cherry then hit the net between the goal posts for a rouge on the kickoff and Huntington was down 6-3. On the second play from scrimmage, Speed quarterback Tory Woodbury hit receiver Cornelius White who was then hit by Heroes defensive back DeLeon Raynor, Thompson recovered the ball and the offense was on the field for the first time at the Heores 19-yard line.

Three plays later, Kennedy found receiver Marcus Bryant for his first touchdown of the year from 14-yards away and with Cherry's extra-point, the Heroes took a lead they would not surrender the rest of the night, 16-7. Carolina's offense moved the ball down to the Huntington eight-yard line on its next series, but an incomplete pass, an offside penalty on the home team, a seven-yard gain to DeMarcus Fox, out of East Carolina, and then Odell Willis and Byron Cobb nailed Speed back Jimmy Bell at the line of scrimmage for the stop at the four and the ball was moved to the nine for an illegal forward pass by Bell as he went down. Kennedy went up top on the very next play, hitting Tario Frederick for a 41-yard touchdown and a 24-7 first quarter lead.

On the next series, Carolina moved the ball down the field as the first quarter ended. a scramble by Speed QB Tory Woodbury set Carolina up at the Heroes two-yard line with first and goal, but again the Huntington defense rose to the occasion. The Speed got five chances, thanks for an offsides on the Heroes, but on fourth and goal at the one, linebacker Eric Potochney and defensive back Otheese Wells stuck Bell again at the one-yard line and Carolina was turned away again.

One of the many calls the Heroes coaching staff disagreed with was on the next series. Kennedy hit Frederick from the one for a 22-yard gain, followed by a 26-yard gain to Bryant set the Heroes at the one with first and goal. Wilmont Perry, the 255-pound running back for Huntington, was stopped and down, but the referees did not blow the whistle and linebacker Tony George took the ball from Perry while he was on the ground at the one and returned the "fumble" for a 47-yard touchdown. Carolina tightened the game to 24-14 with the point after touchdown by George, who played at Florida and was a third-round draft pick of the New England Patriots in 1999.

Huntington would score on its next series on a 33-yard field goal by Cherry, and the Heroes led 27-14 with 3:17 to play in the first half. Back came Carolina, driving to the 12-yard line and Bell finally getting to the end zone on a beautiful run to the right where he gave ground on the first hit, gathered steam and scored where the goal line meets the wall and the score was now 27-21. Kennedy made his only bad pass on the very next series, throwing an interceptions to Carolina's Jamal Jackson at the one-yard line.

Carolina moved the ball to the Huntington 19 on a Woodbury pass to Fox in a play that gained 23-yards and should have run out the six seconds left in the half. Unbelievably, the officials put one-second back on the clock and allowed kicker Bruce Rienecker to attempt a field goal. The kick was blocked and return by Jermaine Blakeley for the Heroes but, with no flag on the ground, a delay of game was the call on Carolina and the Speed had one more chance to score. Rienecker's kick was way wide left and halftime saw the Heroes up by 27-21.

Huntington took the kickoff to start the second half at its own 20-yard line and moved methodically down the field. Perry barreled in from four yards out for his seventh touchdown score of the season and gave the Heroes a 33-21 lead. The PAT snap by Potochney rolled back to Kennedy, and was scooped up by Carolina's Hakim Pearce. Huntington kicker Jason Cherry made a score-saving tackle and kept the Speed from picking up what looked like a sure two-points.

Rienecker would miss another field goal after Huntington's defense stuffed the Speed over three plays from the Heroes three-yard line, missing again wide left. Huntington would also miss a field goal, from 26-yards, and with 18 seconds left in the third the score was still 33-21. To start the fourth, Rienecker missed his third field goal of the night, falling to just 1-for-9 in four games for Carolina, and the Heroes would miss their attempt on the next series, making Cherry 2-for-6 on the year.

The fourth quarter was like the first as both teams moved up and down the field. With a short six-yard touchdown on the next play by Bell, who also ran in the two-point conversion, Carolina tightened the game to 33-29 with 7:17 to play. The officials caused the Speed to lose a point when Rienecker's kickoff hit the net between the goal posts, but came out and was returned by LaMont Ransby, a former Western Carolina player picked up by the Heroes this week when Jesse Parker was injured, returned the ball to the Heroes 19. Not only should the Speed been within three but the Heroes should have been backed-up to its own five-yard line.

With Perry out with an ankle injury, J. Blakeley was at fullback. He gained one yard on first down, then Kennedy found Jay Jackson for 22 yards and Bryant for eight more and his second receiving touchdown of the game for a 40-29 Huntington lead. 4:39 remained to play.

The Speed took the kickoff, which sailed over the end wall, at its own 20-yard line. Woodbury hit Gerald Clark for 23 yards on first down, and the Speed was again in the red-zone against the Heroes. This time, Bell picked up five, Woodbury one and Bell the final yard for the touchdown and a 40-35 game. Woodbury's pass was off-target for the two, and Carolina would not get the ball again, although they came close. Jackson went up and took the on-side kick but the Speed was clearly offsides. On the re-kick, the Speed did not re-try the on-side but kicked deep.

Kennedy and Blakeley would run the ball, and the clock out, and the Heroes picked up the third win of the season and, more importantly, the second win in the division. Carolina fell to 2-2 on the season. The Heroes are back on the road this weekend with a trip to Reading, Pa., to meet the Express on Saturday night at 7 p.m. Coverage of the game will be on ESPN 930-AM, WRVC, starting at 6:45 p.m. with the pre-game show. All Heroes games are also available on pod casts after completion of each game at on the worldwide web.

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