It was tough and emotional, but the Baltimore Mariners proved that there are four quarters in football as they gave the Harrisburg Stampede all they could handle, again, for a 58-55 victory, winning their fourth consecutive contest.
After torching the AIFA’s (American Indoor Football Association) best defense, D.C. Armor, for two weeks in a row and last week’s victory eliminated the Stampede (4-9) from post-season contention. So coming into Sunday’s game, the Mariners (8-4) knew that this game was going to be hard. “This was Harrisburg’s championship game because they aren’t going anywhere,” said head coach Chris Simpson. “We knew they were going to come out at us and play hard football. I knew that this was going to be a hard football game.”
It was like viewing a Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers game because of the physical play and the emotions on the field, especially in the first half with the Mariners receiving three personal fouls. The first two matchups between the Mariners and Stampede were in Harrisburg with the Mariners losing the first game on March 28th to a late field goal (37-34) and won the second contest by ten on May 2nd (37-27), so the bitterness was already there. “We just had to play Mariner football,” said Simpson. “We have a Mariner way, the discipline way. The guys understood that and in order for us to play our best football, we got to be discipline, we can’t have stupid penalties, mistakes, and things like that and that’s what we had in the first half because we got caught up in the emotions.”
After being down at the half, 32-34, in a back and forth game, the Mariners took control of the game entering the fourth quarter. Throughout the evening, Mariners’ wide receiver, Scorpio Brown (Morehouse), was doubled allowing receivers like wide receiver Aaron Yarbough (Virginia Military)open, who had three touchdowns catches (25, 2 and 9 yards). “We as a receiving core, we play our position and we read defenses and if they decide to double somebody, our quarterback (E.J. Nemeth from Sacred Heart who had four touchdown passes and rushed for a score) will find someone else and he did an excellent job hitting the open man,” said Yarbough.
With 5:38 left in the game, the Mariners had a 51-41 lead, but gave up to quick touchdowns to the Stampede, a 45 yard run with 4:20 left and a 30 yard touchdown pass with 1:00 remaining. With the league’s leading rusher, Mariners’ running back Isaiah Grier, who had a key 3rd down play midway through the 4th quarter setting up a score and a 9 yard touchdown run with 1:40 in the clock, the Mariners held on largely due their running game. “I live for that moment,” said Grier. “When the game has to be on my shoulders, that’s a dream game and I love the pressure.”
The Mariners clinched a playoff spot last after destroying the Armor and they take their winning streak down the road to Greenville, SC and face the South Carolina Force (6-6) on Saturday. The Mariners have one regular season home game left on June 27th against the Armor (3-9) and still have their sites on the division title (North). The Mariners needs to win their remaining two games and the Reading Express (9-3) to lose a game, who is ahead of the hometown team by 1 ½. The Mariners own the tie-breaker against the Express after defeating them twice this season.