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Maulers Start Season on a Sour Note, Fall to Breakers 22-15



Pittsburgh Maulers

After an abysmal 1-9 first year, the Pittsburgh Maulers made some significant changes this offseason. From hiring Ray Horton as head coach to add key pieces to changing their team colors, the Maulers wanted to improve off of their dreadful opening season.

But Maulers fans will need to wait a little longer to see improvement from the team, as Pittsburgh fell 22-15 to the New Orleans Breakers in a Sunday night thriller.

The Maulers came out swinging to start the game. Wide receiver Tre Walker fielded the opening kickoff but pitched the ball off to Bailey Gaither, allowing the wide receiver to charge downfield for a 41-yard gain. After ceding his opening kick return to Gaither, Walker needed a big play for himself. On third and 10, Maulers quarterback James Morgan lobbed up a pass to the left sideline. With little room to work, Walker made the catch while tiptoeing out of bounce for a 23-yard gain.

Despite the excellent early field position, the Maulers just couldn’t find the endzone on their opening drive. After a few stagnant plays, Pittsburgh was forced to settle for a field goal and the early 3-0 lead.

Like their opponents, the Breakers started off hot, before going stale offensively in their opening drive. With 8:13 left in the first quarter, Breakers quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson took a shot down the field, connecting with wide receiver Jonathan Adams for a 37-yard gain.

But the big play did not help the Breakers’ chances of scoring a touchdown. The Maulers defense remained stout, forcing the Breakers to settle for a field goal.

Neither team could get a true upper hand in the first quarter. The Maulers’ offense went completely flat, going three and out in their final drive of the quarter. The Breakers fared slightly better, as they scored another field goal at the end of the first.

But as the Maulers offense struggled, the defense stepped up. At the 13:39 mark in the second quarter, Maulers defensive lineman Olive Sagapolu rushed past the Breakers offensive line and sacked Bethel-Thompson. The Maulers ultimately earned four sacks throughout the game.

Quarterback Troy Williams came into the game to replace Morgan at the 10:29 mark, but he did not fare much better. The Breakers defense was relentless, giving Williams little time to make a play. Then on third down, Breakers defensive tackle Keonte Schad broke through the line to sack Williams, which forced a Maulers three and out with just over eight and a half minutes remaining in the half.

But the Maulers defense was ready to retaliate. After a long, bouncing punt, the Breakers were backed up into their own endzone. The Breakers tried to build space, as running back Anthony Jones took the ball with little room to work. But the Maulers defense was too potent. Jones batted through a few defenders, but Maulers linebacker Reuben Foster managed to strip the ball away from him. Linebacker Kyahva Tezino scooped the ball up and made his way into the endzone for a Maulers touchdown.

Tezino’s touchdown was the first real punch thrown in the game, as it gave the Maulers a 9-6 lead with eight and a half minutes remaining in the second half.

New Orleans needed some time to find an answer. With just over a minute remaining in the half, the Breakers offense found a rhythm, driving down the field into the red zone. But the Maulers defense once again stepped up, as they clamped down on the Breakers receivers to force a field goal.

The Breakers ultimately knocked down the field goal to tie the game at 9-9 with just over a minute remaining in the half. The Maulers had a chance to quickly score before the half, but failed and entered the locker room still locked in a stalemate.

New Orleans came out of the locker room with a long, sustained drive. Bethel-Thompson stepped up, completing four passes in the long drive. But the offense stalled in the red zone, as the Breakers were forced to settle for another field goal. Nonetheless, the three points allowed New Orleans to break the stalemate and take the 12-9 lead with 9:21 remaining in the third quarter.

As the third quarter winded down, the Breakers managed to find another field goal. After another sustained drive, the Breakers found themselves deep in Maulers territory. But New Orleans once again failed to capitalize, as they were forced to settle for the field goal to add to their 15-9 lead with 15 seconds left in the third.

Coming down the stretch, Pittsburgh desperately needed to score. Morgan reentered the game in the third to help lead the Maulers comeback, but it made little difference. The Maulers had an incredible chance to find the endzone at the 10:23 mark, as they drove to the one yard line. But Pittsburgh fell short on fourth down and wasted a key drive without scoring any points.

With 4:49 remaining in the game, Maulers wide receiver Isiah Hennie fielded a punt at the 23 yard line. Despite being surrounded by defenders, Hennie didn’t signal a fair catch, choosing instead to press his luck. Sprinting down field, Hennie dodged defenders on his way to a 77 yard touchdown. The Maulers missed the extra point, which left the game tied 15-15.

But the Maulers comeback was short lived.

Bethel-Thompson caught fire down the stretch, completing four passes to lead the Breakers into the end zone. The Breakers quarterback finished the drive with a two yard touchdown pass to Jones. The touchdown gave New Orleans a 22-15 lead with just over a minute left.

With the game on the line, the Maulers just couldn’t mount a comeback and fell to the Breakers 22-15