Octavius Day had an injury that had prevented his playing early on, but his first game came at the perfect time for the Huntington Heroes (4-1). The Heroes were coming off the first loss of the year, 57-38, against the Reading Express in Pennsylvania last week. The Huntington team was out-scored in the second half by a 41-10 margin, but Heroes head coach Teddy Keaton thought his team was ready to go even before the game with the Erie River Rats (3-2), who have now lost two in row, to Reading and at Huntington, with open week in between those games.
"We had a great week of practice," said Keaton, "and I think the team was ready to show everyone we are a better team than we showed last week. Day is an exciting player, and having him allows us to sit a receiver each week and keep them all four fresh down the stretch." Receiver Tario Frederick (21 catches for 285 yards and six touchdowns) sat out this contest, and Marcus Bryant and Jay Jackson will get an off-week during the next two games.
Keaton is in his first season as the head coach of the Heroes but 51-8 over the last five years in indoor football. He coached the Lakeland Thunderbolts to the 2007 AIFA championship, and has a number of players from that now defunct franchise who are making the Heroes a team to be reckoned with.
A perfect example of that would be Huntington defensive back Larry Thompson, who picked off his fifth and sixth passes of the season, setting up the offense for 14 points to end the second quarter to give Huntington a 27-17 lead. Thompson was an AIFA All-Star with Lakeland in 2007, and appears to be headed down that road again through five games.
Also coming up with an interception was defensive back Otheese Wells, another Thunderbolt player from last season. DB DeLeon Raynor created a turnover for the second consecutive week by taking the ball away from Erie's Javon Johnson in the third quarter on a kickoff return after kicker Jason Cherry hit the first of two second half field goals (35 and 37 yards, going 2-for-3 on field goals to improve to 5-of-13 for the season). The turnover, four total for Erie, led to Darnell Kennedy finding Day for his third score of the night from 23 yards out to extend the lead to 37-24 midway through the third period.
Kennedy was another player unhappy with his performance against Reading when he threw three second half interceptions. Kennedy, who was compared to Alcorn State's Steve McNair (who now plays for the Baltimore Ravens) when the Heroes QB won the SWAC Player of the Year Award in 2003, was outstanding. He hit 13-of-23 passes for 180 yards and four touchdown through the air. The former CFL quarterback, who spent time with Calgary and Toronto, had his best rushing game of the season by picking up 41 yards on six carries and scoring three touchdowns.
His second score, coming with 7:30 to play in the game, followed a 20 minute delay when Erie lineman Ron Idoko went into the stands after a cup of beer was dumped onto his helmet while in the Erie bench area by some fan out of section 16 at the Big Sandy Superstores Arena. The former Pitt lineman reported had thrown water from the bench area into that section of the stands where the Heroes fans were vocally riding the visitors. The Huntington Police and BSSA employees eventually quieted the crowd, got Idoko to come back down the the field and then moved the River Rats to an area beyond the end zone for the remainder of the contest. David Dinkens, a former Morehead State quarterback and who is now a receiver for Erie, also climbed up into the stands with Idoko, but fortunately no one was hurt in the incident. Keaton apologized to Erie and the league on behalf of the Heroes organization for the actions of one or two Huntington fans.
As the teams lined up for the play after the dust-up, which was set off by Wells' interception, the Erie defense took the field with only seven players on the field as Kennedy took the snap at Huntington's own 10-yard line. Kennedy was pressured once again (he was sacked twice on the evening) but stepped up in the pocket and then took off up field on a scramble. Heroes receivers Day, Bryant and Jay Jackson threw blocks as soon as they realized Kennedy was running, then 330-pound offensive tackle Chandler "Goose" Blakely came upfield to throw a final block and allowed Kennedy to go for 40 yards and a score. It was the long run of the year for the Heroes, the second-longest play (Frederick's 41-yard TD reception from Kennedy being the long play on offense) and Kennedy's official total of 41 yards rushing more than tripled his seasons total of 13 yards rushing after the first four games. His other scores were from the two-yard line both times.
Other new Heroes who played well included Tarrance Rhodes, a linebacker from Missouri Valley College who was very active on defense and special teams. Charlie Rollins is listed as a linebacker, but the 5-foot-9, 205-pound player out of Miles College stepped in at running back when Perry's arch injury acted up again. He carried four times for seven yards, Perry had four for 11 yards and J. Blakely ran once for four yards, giving the Heroes, one of the AIFA's top rushing teams, a total of 63 yards on the ground. The Huntington defense held Erie to six carries for a zero net on the night.
Huntington moved to 4-1 with 54-24 win over the Erie River Rats on Friday, April 11, and will host the Canton Legends next Saturday at 7 p.m. File photo is from heroesindoorfootball.com web archives.
Huntington will next face a true thorn in the side of the Heroes franchise when the Canton (Ohio) Legends come to town next weekend. The Heroes are 0-5 over the past two seasons against the Legends, losing by an average of 65.2 points per game for Canton to just 47.0 points per game for Huntington, including a 76-43 blowout in last year's first round of the playoffs.Game time is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 19, and all Heroes games can be heard on ESPN 930-AM in Huntington, home or away. For those outside the Tri-State area, you can download a pod cast of the game at www.wrvc.am, the website of ESPN 930-AM. Marshall baseball will also be hosting UCF at Appalachian Power Park that day at 1 p.m., and that game as well as Friday's 7 p.m. tilt and Sunday's 10 a.m. game can be heard on ESPN 930-AM
ERIE 3 14 7 0 -- 24
HUNTINGTON 6 21 10 17 -- 54
Erie-1 Huntington-0 E -- J.R. Cipro, kickoff rouge (one point), 15:00.
Erie-3 Huntington-0 E -- Safety, Darnell Kennedy sacked in end zone by Roosevelt Benjamin, 13:30.
Erie-3 Huntington-6 H -- Octavius Day 23-yard pass from Darnell Kennedy (Jason Cherry kick failed), 2:00.
Erie-10 Huntington-6 E -- Robert Hammer 1-yard run (J.R. Cipra kick), 12:25.
Erie-10 Huntington-13 H -- Octavius Day 12-yard pass from Darnell Kennedy (Jason Cherry kick), 9:55.
Erie-17 Huntington-13 E -- Darmel Whitfield 17-yard pass from Jarrod Highberger (J.R. Cipra kick), 6:25.
Erie-17 Huntington-20 H -- Darnell Kennedy 1-yard run (Jason Cherry kick), 0:27.7.
Erie-17 Huntington-27 H -- Marcus Bryant 14-yard pass from Darnell Kennedy (Jason Cherry kick), 0:00.
Erie-24 Huntington-27 E -- Javon Johnson 24-yard pass from Jarrod Highberger (J.R. Cipra kick), 13:33.
Erie-24 Huntington-30 H -- Jason Cherry 37-yard field goal, 10:07.
Erie-24 Huntington-37 H -- Octavius Day 27 pass from Darnell Kennedy (Jason Cherry kick), 7:13.
Erie-24 Huntington-40 H -- Jason Cherry 37-yard field goal, 14:05.
Erie-24 Huntington-47 H -- Darnell Kennedy 40-yard run (Jason Cherry kick), 7:34.
Erie-24 Huntington-54 H -- Darnell Kennedy 2-yard run (Jason Cherry kick), 0:12.5.
Erie / Huntington
First Downs 10 / 11
Rushes-Yards 6-0 / 15-63
Passing Yards 181 / 180
Total Yards 181 / 243
Passes Att.-Comp.-Int. 33-20-3 / 23-13-0
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 / 0-0
Penalties-Yards 4-35 / 2-15
Rushing -- Erie: Jarrod Highberger 3-(minus 5), Robert Hammer 3-5/TD. Huntington: Jermaine Blakely 1-4, Wilmont Perry 4-11, Darnell Kennedy 6-41/3 TD, Charlie Rollins 4-7.
Passing -- Erie: Jarrod Highberger 33-20-3, 181 yards/2 TD. Huntington: Darnell Kennedy 13-23-0, 180 yards/4 TD.