Published: Sunday, April 29, 2007
Thunder falls to Wolves, 67-49
At halftime, Mahoning Valley trailed, 33-14.
By MARC THALER
MANCHESTER, N.H. Ryan Porter unleashed lightning bolts with his right arm.
Saturday night, the efforts of Manchester's quarterback thwarted the plans of the Thunder, which hoped to remain unbeaten.
Porter threw for 200 yards and seven touchdowns, leading the Manchester Wolves to a decisive 67-49 win against Mahoning Valley.
The loss dropped the Thunder to 3-1 on the af2 season. Mike Hold's squad started slow and faced an uphill climb for 60 minutes.
"The first half, it was huge. They jumped on us and we didn't respond," said Hold, whose team trailed 33-14 at halftime. "I thought we did better in the second half."
Porter is smooth
Porter was a four-quarter problem for Mahoning Valley's menacing pass rush. Taking advantage of tremendous field position all night, the Wolves signal caller was smooth in the pocket. He constantly eluded the opposition and went to work against the Thunder secondary.
Unlike the Thunder, the Wolves were sharp from the start. Their 19-point halftime edge resulted from timely TDs and, at times, good fortune.
After Manchester's defense forced a 3-and-out to start the game, Porter completed a six-play, 26-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wells for a 6-0 lead.
The Thunder managed very little on its second possession, turning the ball over on downs at Manchester's 24.
Manchester (2-2) upped its edge immediately. Porter eluded the rush and fired a 26-yard strike to Jarrail Jackson with 3:50 to go in the frame. Dylan Pohlman split the posts for a 13-0 Wolves lead.
Mahoning Valley responded on its next possession with a three-play scoring drive. Kenneth Johnson (13 catches, 130 yards, 2 TDs) entered the end zone on a 1-yard run for six points. Derek Schorejs kicked the point after to pull the guests within 13-7 with 1:07 remaining in the stanza.
Early in the second quarter, on fourth-and-goal from the Thunder 6, Porter found a wide open Adam Fichter, capping an eight-play drive. Pohlman's kick lifted Manchester's lead to 20-7 with 10:58 left in the half.
Just 42 seconds later, the Wolves lead ballooned to 20 points when the ensuing kickoff hit the crossbar and bounced out of the end zone. The live ball was picked up by Jesse Tupper, who motored in from 5 yards out. Pohlman's kick was good for a 27-7 edge.
Mahoning Valley cut into its deficit with 1:24 left in the second. After a missed Manchester field goal, the Thunder rolled 35 yards in four plays, ending with a Gauntt-to-Johnson 8-yard TD hookup, and Schorejs extra point.
But 26 seconds later, a failed onside kick by the Thunder set the Wolves up at the Thunder 10. Porter connected with David Bailey in the flat, who rumbled 10 yards for the TD and a 33-14 halftime cushion.
In the third quarter, Mahoning Valley pulled to within 11 points (39-28) on the strength of two TD drives, though the scores came after Porter tossed a 33-yard TD to Jackson. Tim Murphy (3 carries, 41 yards, 2 TDs) ran around the left end for a 35-yard score, Gauntt hit Johnson for a 20-yard strike, and Schorejs converted both kicks.
The Wolves pulled away in the fourth, starting with a Porter-to-Patrick Rouzard 28-yard TD, which extended Manchester's lead to 46-28. Nearly three minutes later, Murphy registered a 1-yard TD run, and the extra point by Schorejs made it 46-35.
But Porter and Rouzard burned the Thunder again. Rouzard crossed the goal line for a 5-yard TD reception with 9:04 to play. Pohlman's kick gave the Wolves a 53-35 lead before Gauntt (32-of-50, 331 yards, 4 TDs, INT) and Chris Archie (13 catches, 140 yards, 2 TDs) connected with 6:55 to go. The 21-yard TD and extra point resulted in a 53-42 contest.
Yet the Wolves applied more pressure just 14 seconds later. David Bailey returned a Thunder onside kick 10 yards for a score and the Wolves cracked 60 on Pohlman's point after.
Gauntt and Archie produced Mahoning Valley's final score on a 14-yard TD strike with Schorejs splitting the uprights. But with less than a minute to play, Fichter capped the scoring with a 9-yard run on second-and-goal.
"The question is, 'How do we respond [to our first loss]?' We'll see," Hold said.
Marc Thaler is a sports reporter for the New Hampshire Union Leader.